For a first time visitor there are a few essential things to do in Prague.
In our minds Prague might very well be the most spectacular city in the world.
While most people associate Prague with stunning views of Prague Castle beautiful architecture is not the only thing this city offers. Prague posses a wildly eclectic mix of history, culture, ambiance, nightlife, and affordability that sets it apart from any other city we have ever spent a substantial amount of time in.
We have spent a good deal of time in Prague over the last 4 years and we put together a bit of a list, not ranked in any particular order, of top things to do in Prague for a first time visitor. Every single item on this list is either free or as close to free as you can get. Everything on this list should be done at least once.
Walk Across Charles Bridge
When we think of things to do in Prague one of the first activities that comes to mind is taking in the views from the Charles Bridge. This is an unforgettable experience that will doubtlessly stay with you for years to come.
Walking across the Charles Bridge is an absolute must for first time visitors of the city. Yes the bridge will be crowded with other tourists, but so what? We lived in Prague for over 9 months and visited the bridge countless amounts of times, never getting sick of the views. And neither will you!
The famous Charles Bridge spans the Vltava river and connects Old Prague Center to Mala Strana. The bridge is protected by imposing three Gothic towers and is home to thirty Baroque-style statues and statuaries.
The Charles Bridge is remarkable both day and night, and draws a large amount of tourists and merchants in all but the quietest hours of dark. Make sure you enter and climb the Old Town Tower Bridge for amazing landscapes, like the one above.
Stroll across the Charles Bridge during the day to take in the views, and return at night for the magical atmosphere, musical performances, and the sight of Prague Castle shining brightly against the nighttime sky. It almost feels like Disneyland for grownups.
Explore Prague Castle
Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, and is perhaps the most renown of all of the city’s many landmarks.
Set atop a hilly vantage point overlooking the Vltava River, the castle is a staggering work of architectural design. Its twin spire church, St. Vitus Cathedral, is especially impressive. Sporting an abundance of arches, gargoyles, and massive Gothic spires that soar into the sky the cathedral IS what everyone pictures when they think of Prague castle.
The park around the castle is peaceful, green, and well kempt. A walk amidst the leafy pathways while marveling upwards at the castle on a sunny day makes for an unforgettable experience.
If it is your first time visiting Prague then you will, doubtlessly, be spending a lot of time in the vicinity of Prague Castle.
Take a Step Back in Time in Malá Strana
After you are done exploring Prague Castle take a walk down the hill to the Mala Strana neighborhood. Marvel at the historic cobble stoned streets and the spectacular facades of the centuries old buildings.
No matter what season you visit the city walking this neighborhood is one of the top things to do in Prague, so you are likely to run into many tourists on the main streets of Mala Strana. Don’t be afraid to jump off the main thoroughfares to turn into a side street and follow your curiosity. There is much to be discovered in this gorgeous neighborhood beyond overpriced food and cheap souvenirs.
Old Town Square
Prague’s Old Town Square is one of the most spectacular squares in Europe (it’s probably also one of the few that are actually shaped like a square, but that’s neither here nor there).
The square has seen centuries of history with some of it’s Gothic buildings dating back to the 14th century.
The Old Town Hall Tower, constructed in the early 1400’s, sits imposingly in the middle of the square. The tower is among the highest in the Old Town and houses one of Prague’s most identifiable icons, the Astronomical Clock.
Dozens of tourists flock to the clock every hour on the hour to see the mechanical relic put on a small show. We can honestly say that sticking around for the dancing mechanical dolls is not really worth your time, if you are in a rush to discover the city, but it’s an amusing sight to see once in your life.
Stroll Around Wallenstein Garden
Wallenstein Garden (Valdštejnská jízdárna in Czech) is a fabulous Baroque masterpiece situated near the base of Prague Castle. It is not the most secluded and serene of the many gardens and parks in the neighborhood, but it’s one of the more stunning. Worth visiting for the views of Prague Castle alone, the park is home to Wallenstein Palace, a serene Koi pond, and some sweet statues.
And oh yeah, a white peacock or two. As always, please don’t feed or touch the animals, and enjoy the incredible beauty of this wondrous garden!
Have a Beer. Or Three. Or Five.
The Czech Republic has the highest per capita consumption of beer in the world. The country has an absolute love affair with beer. And why not? They make damn fine brews.
Prague offers so many opportunities to sit down and have a cheap cold pivo (Czech for beer) that anyone visiting would be remiss not to try at least a pint. Find yourself a nice spot with a good view, either by the river or in a square somewhere and order one of Prague’s many world renown beers.
Regardless of where you consume your beverages drinking beer is definitely on the list of things to do in Prague. Na Zdravi (that’s how you say cheers in Czech)!
A Night Out in Prague
Bars, cafes, lounges, beer gardens, jazz bars, pub crawls, dance clubs, underground clubs, casinos, strip clubs…Prague has ever singly type of venue you can think of when it comes to nighttime entertainment.
As a first time visitor you probably won’t venture outside of the Center much, but trust us when we tell you that Prague’s nightlife extends well beyond the confines of Prague 1.
When in the center start off with a beer or mixed drinks at Chapeau Rouge (pictured above), which is a famous three floored bar/club/underground music venue right near Old Town Square.
Or check out U Vejvodu Pub & Beer Hall Restaurant. It’s got a great relaxed atmosphere, you can get a pint of Pilsner for under $1.70, there are always pretzels on the table, and the bartenders seem like they’ve been around for ages.
Most clubs don’t start going till about 1:00 AM, but if you get there before midnight there is rarely a cover charge. Let loose…just leave your valuables locked up in your hostel/hotel/rental apartment.
We have experienced absolutely zero crime during our time in Prague. However, as with any other location, pick-pocketing and petty theft does occur, so use common sense whilst enjoying your night out.
Letna Park River Views
Like a delicious pastry (which the city is full of), Prague is easy on the eyes and leaves you wanting more. Head to Letenske Sady (Letna Park) for a unique view of the River Vltava and all of its bridges.
Perched above the city on a hilltop in a tranquil park you can snap as many incredible pictures of Prague as your heart desires. Just be sure to go when the weather is nice to capture the city in all of its glory.
For more incredible views of Prague head to Petrin Hill, or if it’s a nice day take a trip to Riegrovy Sady .
Bonus Tip – There is an awesome beer garden in Riegrovy Sady that is open from April to mid-October. We have spent many an evening there, and absolutely love it.
International and Vegan Cuisine in Prague
Prague seemingly never stops giving and it’s certainly the case when it comes to food. Not only do you have countless options when it comes to Czech delicacies, the city also offers a surprising abundance of international cuisine. From Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, fusion, Italian, and Spanish, you never have to look to long to satiate whatever ethnic culinary craving you might have.
Additionally, the city has a growing vegetarian scene with over nearly 30 vegan restaurants alone.
Arts and Culture in Prague
What kind of art are you interested in? Whatever the answer, Prague probably has a museum devoted to it.
From a museum devoted to the history of the city, to sculpture, contemporary art, classical, textiles, to museums devoted to time-measuring techniques, transportation and photography, to sex and torture, there is something for everyone.
The streets of Prague are filled with sculptures and art installations that are, of course, free. Our favorites include a giant stainless steel sculpture of a pregnant lady kneeling in Hlavni Mesto, the alien babies crawling up and down the TV Tower, the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at the base of Petřín Hill, and the giant transforming Franz Kafka head.
Additionally, Prague has a National Theater, Ballet house and Opera house. Whatever your cultural desire may be you’ll be able to satisfy it here. It’s safe to say that lovers of cultural exploration will find a ton of things to do in Prague.
Visit Karlstejn Castle
Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire not once but twice, from 1346 to 1437 and then again in the late 15th century. Karlstejn Castle was initially built to house and guard the Crown Jewels of the Empire. A great little day trip outside of Prague, this magnificent castle is a a mere 40 minute train ride away.
A round trip ticket should cost you 99cz and trains depart just about every 30 minutes. Keep your eyes open on the train, the Czech Republic has some gorgeous country side to gaze at as you zoom by.
The John Lennon Wall
Right across the river, via the Charles Bridge, behind a small church courtyard lies the John Lennon Wall. This dazzling vibrant homage to the famous poet, singer, and song writer is a living art project. Go and pay tribute, and maybe leave a mark of your own. Drawing on the wall is encouraged.
After you are done you can cross the small bridge near the wall to have a snack at the Beetles Cafe. It’s a bit overpriced but contains many riveting pieces of memorabilia bound to delight fans.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Exploring outside of traditional tourist zones can be a challenge when you visit a city for the first time. Thankfully Prague has a great public transportation system of trams, metros, and buses to make getting around the city very easy.