Rebekah and I have always wanted to explore Eastern Europe, and Prague was the top city on our list. Prague, the City of a Hundred Spires. When we found a cheap flight to Prague using frequent flyer miles, we didn’t think twice about booking the flight!
After much planning, we decided to spend four of our ten day European trip exploring the Czech Republic. We also wanted to see the Czech Republic beyond Prague, so we limited our time in Prague so we could travel 4 hours south by train to the picturesque Czech town of Český Krumlov. This decision left us with two full days in Prague. Looking back, two days is theoretically enough time to catch the Prague highlights, but we moved quickly to cover so much ground. You could have easily spent a week in Prague, including short day trips to see the surrounding countryside complete with small castle towns.
To make the most of our time, we researched the destination beforehand so we could spend our time on the ground enjoying. Rick Steves 2014 Prague & the Czech Republic Guidebook was a most helpful resource. I highly recommend this book for traveling in the Czech Republic.
Before we jump into what we did, let’s take a look at the city of Prague itself.
Prague is actually four distinct towns clustered along the Vltava River. Over the years, they have merged into one city, but each district has its own character and charm. Understanding these areas will help immensely when finding attractions and using public transportation. When walking the streets of Prague, consider how each area is linked to its neighbors. For example, the renowned Charles Bridge spans the Vltava, linking the Old Town with the Little Quarter. Realizing these were two separate towns at one point in history brings everything into focus…so that’s why there are gate towers on both ends of the bridge! Once upon a time, walking across this bridge meant leaving one domain, and entering a completely different country.
The Old Town – On the east side of the Vltava River, the Old Town features the Old Town Square, complete with the Astronomical Clock, Týn Church, and crowds. Just north of the Square is the Jewish district, full of Art Nouveau façades.
The Castle Quarter – High on the hill west of the Vltava River, Prague Castle looks down on the other three towns. At its center, Saint Vitus Cathedral reaches into the sky. The castle is a very popular tourist area, but make sure to take a stroll after sunset for a pleasant night cap. This castle is best described as a collection of churches, squares and palaces which form the imposing walls.
The New Town – On the east side of the Vltava River, the New Town features Wenceslas Square where the Czech people gathered during the Velvet Revolution, resulting in independence from the Soviet Union. The wonderful concert venue, Municipal House, and the Alfons Mucha museum are some of the top sights.
The Little Quarter – In the shadow of Prague Castle on the west side of the Vltava River, the Little or Lesser Quarter is full of old-world charm. Stroll the narrow streets that all seem to lead uphill to the castle above.
Below is a sampling of our favorite experiences from Prague. Over the next few weeks, we will discuss each in detail.
- Monday (5/4) – Hotel Hastal Prague Old Town – Our comfortable and cheap hotel located in the Old Town.
- Tuesday (5/5) – Old Town Square – Fight the crowds of tourists to see the Old Town Hall with its Astronomical Clock and the Týn church.
- Wednesday (5/6) – The Slav Epic – A superb collection of 20 paintings by Czech artist Alfons Mucha that traces the heritage of the Slavic people.
- Friday (5/8) – Czech Beers – Czechs brew delicious beer! After all, it is the national drink. We look a bit more in depth at the Czech beer culture as we sip a few of the local brews.
- Monday (5/11) – Foreigners in a Local’s Pub – Rebekah and I drink a pint in the Golden Tiger Pub, and experience a true local’s pub in Prague.
- Tuesday (5/12) – The Music of Prague – Home of Dvořák and frequented by Mozart, Prague is home of great concerts and venues.
- Wednesday (5/13) – Prague Castle – Prague Castle is a collection of courtyards, churches, and royal palaces. In particular, we explore the Castle Square, St. George’s Basilica, Old Royal Palace, the Lobkowicz Palace and the quaint Golden Lane.
- Thursday (5/14) – Saint Vitus Cathedral – Rising from the center of the Prague Castle complex, Saint Vitus Cathedral is a religious and national landmark for the Czech people. Oh yeah, and it has stunning stained glass!
- Monday (5/18) – Veshyrad Park – After hitting some touristy spots, Rebekah and I strolled along the ramparts of this old fort, now occupied by locals looking for relaxation complete with a great view of their city. At its center, a national cemetery holds the remains of some Czech heroes.