In the US and around the world, travelers think of Paris, London, or Rome when they think of a European city to visit, but my personal favorite is Prague. It’s not only more beautiful than all the other cities I’ve visited, but it also is the most authentic.
Its cultural significance stems from its long history as an Imperial capital city, when kings and emperors, musicians, writers and artists have called Prague home. And, since its beginnings in the 9th century, Prague is the only major European city not to be destroyed by bombs in war.
Prague straddles the Vltava River in modern day Czech Republic. The historic central area is easily walkable, and has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.
My Favorite 6 Places to See in Prague
1. Old Town Square:
The open cobblestone square began as a marketplace for merchants from all over Europe. King’s processionals to the elaborate palaces, public executions, and widespread rallies have taken place in Old Town Square since the 11th century.
The great Astronomical Clock built in 1410 is fascinating. Its Apostle and skeleton figurines dance at the top of each the hour, and large crowds gather to watch the show.
At Christmas and Easter and other special times of the year, market stalls dot the Square with merchants selling traditional crafts and foods like Trdlnik (warm cinnamon pastries) and roast pork pulled from an open-air spit, Czech beer and mulled wine.
For a bird’s eye view of the square and Prague’s Old Town, venture up the Old Town Hall tower.
2. Josefov, the Old Jewish Quarter:
The Old Jewish Quarter sits near the Vltava River, a ten minute walk from Old Town Square. The Jewish presence in Prague dates back for more than one thousand years, but Hitler’s drive to exterminate the Jews crushed the thousand-year legacy within four years’ time. Josefov and nearby concentration camp, Terezin, remind us today of the struggles Jews in Prague faced during WWII.
A small patch of ground in the Old Jewish Cemetery contains over 12,000 tombs on the surface, with tens of thousands more entombed in countless layers underneath.
Tours of the Synogogues and the Old Cemetery in the Quarter are available year round.
3. Charles Bridge:
For me, Charles Bridge is the heart of Prague. It is a place like no other in all the world.
For centuries, the Charles Bridge served as the only bridge across the Vltava River. Some stories say the bridge was first built with whatever materials the locals had at the time, including straw and eggs. When the original structure washed away, the Charles Bridge was rebuilt in stone in 1355.
Today, thirty-one statues line the darkened stone bridge, each one with a story from former religious times.
Walk the Charles Bridge at daybreak or dusk, when the tourist crowds are thinner. The view of Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge is breathtaking, so be sure to have your camera ready.
4. The Lobkowicz Palace:
The Lobkowicz Palace is located at the northeast end of the Prague Castle and has one of the most impressive collections in Europe. The Lobkowicz Collections display family treasures from more than four centuries, including the Canaletto painting of Lord Mayor’s Day, Beethoven’s manuscripts of the 3rd, 5th, and 6th Symphonies, armor, and more.
Plan to spend an hour or two for the audio tour, then enjoy lunch at the Lobkowicz Palace on the balcony overlooking the city before listening to the live chamber performance inside the Palace, offered every day at 1 pm.
Plan to walk the rest of the extensive grounds within Prague Castle, including Golden Lane, and St. Vitus Cathedral. Link to photos and what to do in 3 Hours inside Prague Castle here.
5. The Libraries of Strahov Monastery:
Experts claim the two libraries of Strahov Monastery to be among Europe’s most beautiful libraries. The collections of centuries of books below exquisite ceiling frescoes are worth seeing up close and in person.
After you see the libraries, wander through the gates along the Monastery’s east wall, and find the best panoramic view over Prague.
6. Prague-style entertainment:
Prague offers opera, symphonic, and performing arts in all of its beautiful theaters at an affordable price. Before the show, enjoy one of Prague’s excellent emerging restaurants.
My favorite in Prague is Terasa U Zlaté Studně (Terrace at the Golden Well), reached via a cobblestone lane tucked in the hillside just below the Castle. The view from the terrace, over the glistening spires of Prague’s skyline, is unsurpassed.
Plan to see a ballet in the National Theater, worth the cost of the ticket just to sit in the beauty of the theater. At Christmastime, the National Theater offers a special version of the Nutcracker with a Dickensian twist.
One final note before you travel to Czech Republic, don’t forget to learn a few words in Czech to use while you’re there… please, thank you, and beer. For more on 5 Czech words to know when visiting Prague, click here.