Hailing from Vancouver British Columbia, our latest guest author Theresa Ladner shares her best tips on what to do in Prague when you only have three days in the city.
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It's home to 1.26 million people and has a temperate climate with warm summers and chilly winters. Armed with this knowledge, I expected the city to feel a bit like my own hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.
I was so wrong. The thing that hit me first upon arrival was the history; the city is steeped in it. Vancouver is a fresh-faced tween compared to Prague's hale and hearty senior citizen. The architecture and the people remember much.
We were travelling as part of a tour group which was helpful for a Prague first-timer, and we also had a lot of time on our own to explore.
What to do in Prague
Here's what to do in Prague for three days!
Day One in Prague
What was in principle three days in Prague, was more like two full days and an evening. We arrived late in the afternoon and were whisked away to our hotel a half block from Wenceslas Square.
Wenceslas Square is technically a 60 by 750 metre boulevard lined by hotels, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. It was originally Prague's horse market and has been used by the residents for hundreds of years for everything from celebrations to anti-communist uprisings.
At the top of the square sits the National Museum and at the bottom end of the square you enter the Old Town.
Prague's communist history
After a quick meeting, those who chose to went out for an orientation walk; mostly Wenceslas Square and a bit into the Old Town.
Our guide, Martina, had no qualms about telling us about life under the communist regime. And spoke of many stories about how the Soviets ruined beautiful buildings and avenues to make way for tanks and ugly “brutal soviet architecture”.
She told us about having to smuggle money into East Germany to buy shoes, and having to throw away her old shoes and scuff up the new ones so as not to be caught having brought more money than allowed across the border. And she explained how her family saved coupons to buy her a coveted pair of jeans.
Martina taught us about the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and how much the Czechs admired Vaclav Havel, the architect of much of the turnover from communism to democracy and the new Czech Republic's first president.
It was fascinating to hear this from someone who's been there, firsthand.
Afterwards we chose to have dinner at U Provaznice (which translates to “At the Rope”) between the Old Town and Wenceslas Square. The food was hearty, tasty, and very filling.
Day Two in Prague
After an early bedtime, we were up in the morning for a tour to Prague Castle and its environs. After a quick security check we were through to the castle proper. Prague Castle is not a castle in the sense of it being a single building with turrets and towers.
It is a huge (7 hectares or 18 acres) conglomeration of palaces, St. Vitus Cathedral, churches, the President's state offices and apartments, a monastery, museums, and art galleries gathered around three main courtyards.
We entered St. Vitus Cathedral and were impressed with the Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1344 and it took close to 600 years to complete. We enjoyed the gorgeous stained glass windows, the soaring arches, and the imposing entrance with its rose window, high towers, and gargoyles.
We then went for strudel and coffee at the Lobkowicz Palace Cafe which has a superb view of the city from the balcony. Then we proceeded to exit the castle from the east gate and then wended our way down through the castle vineyards and gardens to the Malá Strana (Little Town) and then across the Charles Bridge.
The Charles Bridge is a pedestrian only bridge that crosses the Vltava River. King Charles IV had it built in 1357 and it was the only means of crossing the river until 1841. Today it is full of vendors, artists, and 30 baroque statues.
Foremost of these statues is Saint John of Nepomuk, who was thrown from the bridge in 1393 because he reportedly refused to divulge the secrets of the Queen's confessions to her husband, King Wenceslas IV. He was subsequently canonized as a martyr.
Beside the bridge I was able to watch one of the many trdelník vendors doing what they do best. A trdelník is a Czech treat made from dough, wrapped around a stick, grilled over coals, and then rolled in sugar or some other tasty topping. Delicious.
We made our way through the Old Town to the Old Town Square which features the world's oldest working Astronomical Clock. It was installed in 1410 and has three main components: the astronomical dial, displaying the sun, moon, and other astronomical details; the “Walk of the Apostles”, hourly moving sculptures; and a calendar dial.
Czech food and bar hopping
As we were on our own for the afternoon, we grabbed lunch at a local brewpub, U Supa, and then debated what to do on our free evening. We decided to do a self-guided bar crawl. Yes, we are hovering around age 50, but that shouldn't stop anyone from having fun!
We started at Black Angels Bar in Old Town Square, a little underground place with leather chairs, stone walls and ceilings, and talented bartenders. Next was Bed, a silly conceit with beds instead of chairs. Anonymous Bar was next; hard to find, but worth it. My drink was served in an IV bag that dripped into my glass!
Then we had to take a cab to Beekgeek, a great little place with many beers on tap and in bottles. We cabbed back to the town centre and came across Billiard Centrum MSK, where I proceeded to lose several games of pool. It was definitely time to call it a night after that.
Day Three in Prague
It turns out that getting around by transit in Prague is quite easy. After our delicious buffet breakfast at the Hotel Grandium, we took a tram to Pet?ín Park and took the funicular up the Pet?ín Hill (318 metres) to the Pet?ín Lookout Tower. If you buy a day pass transit ticket, the funicular fare is included.
The Pet?ín Lookout Tower was built in 1891 as a mini version of the Eiffel Tower. It stands 60 metres tall and you can climb the 299 steps or take the lift. We took the lift.
The views from the top are incredible; you can see much of the city from this vantage point.
We walked halfway back down the hill and stopped at another gorgeous viewing spot at the Restaurant Nebozízek and felt obligated to sample a local beer.
Beer in Prague
Since we were on the subject of beer we decided to hop back on the tram to go to the Prague Beer Museum for the beer experience tour. It's a small place, but very informative if you are interested in the process and history of Czech beer. After the self-guided tour you are invited to sit in the 13th century cellar and sample some local brews (included in the ticket price).
That evening the whole group went to Salm Palace by Prague Castle for a Czech dinner. Local food, wine, and a musical duo made the night fun. Salm Palace is located across from the Presidential Palace entrance.
We had to leave Prague the next morning and I feel that although we touched on many of the highlights of the city and a few places less travelled, there is so much more that we didn't have time to experience. I suppose that gives us an excuse to return.
About the author:
Theresa Ladner is a mostly stay-at-home mom who drags her husband off travelling as much as possible. When she's not travelling or momming, she likes to write or experiment with cookery and speak about herself in the third person.
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