Prague has this majestic feel. The city itself is as beautiful a city as I've ever seen. It is impeccably clean, especially considering that most cities around Europe are covered in graffiti. Walking the streets you can just feel the historical aura that the city possesses. And, of course, there is no shortage of things to do in the city itself.
Previously my top three favorite cities in the world were:
San Diego, California, USA
Now, with my discovery of Prague, Czech Republic, my top three favorite cities in the the world look like this:
Prague, Czech Republic
Sorry, San Diego, California!
Please read the following carefully:
1. ALWAYS HAVE CASH because some establishments in the city only accept cash. When getting cash from ATM's in Prague, DO NOT ever accept money exchanges from anyone on the street (they tend to hang around the ATM's looking for tourists to scam). They will be giving you an old Belarus currency that is no longer in use and looks similar to the Czech Koruna. It is to your advantage to make ATM cash withdrawals with local Czech bank ATM's rather than the popular Euronet ATM's (blue and yellow colored ATM's) that will give you a terrible fee and or exchange rate.
2. Stores and restaurants around the city accept both Czech Koruna and Euros. Personally I just preferred to make it the local currency.
3. Tip your waiters and waitresses! This is a common practice in the Czech Republic, unlike other European nations.
I never even bothered with the public transportation. Staying at a place in the heart of the city makes seeing all the sites within walking distance. The beauty of the entire city also encouraged me to walk because around every corner is another block of architecture that is more beautiful than the next.
If you do prefer to use the public transportation, there is an extensive tram system as well as buses. You'll need to use the bus to get to and from the airport if you are flying in and out of Prague. The tram cards come in either a 30 minute (costs 30 Czech Koruna), 90 minute and 24 hour usage.
Where To Stay
I cannot recommend staying in the Wenceslas Square area of Prague, enough! It's the most central area of the city and, as mentioned previously, makes walking to all the sites you'll want to see, very walkable. Wenceslas Square has a lot of historical relevance to Pragues history and is popular with the cities foot traffic. This square is also where you'll find no shortage of shops and restaurants.
That being said, I would recommend walking merely just a few blocks away from Wenceslas Square as the prices of food and alcohol will drop. The price difference will not seem significant for a short period of time but over four or more days, it does add up after all.
If you pack your days full of sightseeing I recommend AT LEAST four days in Prague. If you want to take your days a little be easier, then I would definitely recommend more than four days. Staying in Wenceslas Square is the perfect and most convenient place to stay in Prague.
Old Town Square (Czech: Staroměstské náměstí)
Here's where the history of Prague really pops. Old Town Square was founded in the 12th century, for God's sakes!
This is where you'll find the big crowds of tourists. If you're wondering why there are so many people crowded in one particular area by a tower with a clock, it's because that's the world third oldest astronomical clock, and the oldest still in operation. Believe it or not was installed all the way back in 1410 and has only stopped working twice. Ironically both times it stopped working, the city of Prague flooded. Or so the folklore goes.
At the top of every hour from 9am until 11pm, the 12 Apostles appear out of two blue tiled windows and look out at the crowd below with looks of disgust. Death rings the bell with the appearance of each apostle signifying we are all sinners and death is always near. This is an absolute must in Prague, at least once!
The Church of Our Lady before Tyn, a Gothic church that dates back to the 14th Century, is likely the most noticeable building in the square. Entry into the church is allowed but be aware that the hours are a bit odd because it is closed for an hour or two midday.
The next church in Old Town Square is the St. Nicolas Church, which is a Barroque church that dates back to the early 18th Century. Entry to this church is free and inside you'll find a magnificent chandelier.
If you want to do a free walking tour of Prague (I highly recommend it!!!), this is where the companies start their tours. The tours are free, as in, there is no company charge when you book them, but, it is up to you how much you want to tip your expert tour guide.
Walk Across Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge in Prague is one of the most important and historically significant bridges in the world. Dating back to the late 12th Century, this bridge has seen and been through a lot. Remarkably it has stood the test of time. It is very much worth a walk across (or maybe even more than just one!). While walking across the bridge be sure the admire the statues that make up the bride. On the bridge you'll find local artists and performers.
Just outside the center city you'll find the Orthodox Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Around back you can find an exhibit to the Czechoslovak resistance fighters who assassinated Reinhard Heydrich.
Maybe his name doesn't ring a bell, but he was one of the architects of Hitlers, "Final Solution" A.K.A, the Holocaust. He was critically injured by two infamous Czechoslovak resistant fighters who were trained by British Special Operations. Heydrich died of his injuries a few days later while a massive manhunt was underway in Prague to find the men who went through with this bold assassination attempt. The two men, Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš, as well as their fellow soldiers who helped them pull this off, were eventually located in a crypt of this church days later. They fought to fend off the Nazi's who were trying to kill them for a few more days but ran out of ammo and food and were eventually killed. The Nazi soldiers tracking them down attempted to flood the crypt at one point after several were killed trying to storm the crypt.
It's really an incredible story of how resistance fighters bravely killed Hitler's third in command and were aided by a local Orthodox Church. The exhibit is free and you can walk into the same crypt these heroes died in.
St Nicholas Bell Tower (Czech: Svatomikulášská městská zvonice)
This Bell Tower is attached to St. Nicholas Church, which is across Charles Bridge in an area of the city referred to as, "Lesser Town." The Bell Tower was once a fire watch tower and you can visit the two (very cramped) living quarters inside the tower. In the upper levels of the tower there is an exhibit about how the tower served as a spy post for the State Security Service during the communist rule of Czechoslovakia. There are two observation decks which provide wonderful views of the city of Prague.
I do not recommend this Bell Tower for anyone with that suffers from mobility issues and claustrophobia. The long and winding staircase is steep and at the top the staircase gets very tight. It is also recommended that persons ascending the staircase be in moderate shape as the climb is 215 steps.
Museum of Communism
This museum is a must if the topic of the Communist rule of Czechoslovakia interests you. The Museum is really detailed and has a lot of fascinating relics and memorabilia displayed throughout it. The displays are in chronological order which means it ends with the massive protests against Communist rule and how the Czech Republic and Slovakia gained their freedom and then split into two countries, as we know them today.
Prague Castle (Czech: Pražský hrad)
Prague Castle is an integral part of the cities history. It dates all the way back to the 9th Century. It became the home of Czech rulers, and, today, is the home of the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic as well as the Prime Minister.
It is important to note that because of this, you will have to go through security to enter the premises.
The grounds of the castle itself is free to everyone during operating hours. Only an entrance fee and ticket is required to go inside the castle. I opted to not go inside the castle and stuck with just walking around the complex and entering the free part of St. Vitus Cathedral. The views of the city are stunning.
Prague Castle is up a pretty steep hill that requires ascending lots of steps. People with mobility issues and who are severely out of shape will have a tough time getting to Prague Castle.
As previously mentioned this is a high traffic area of the city and a great place to stay. You'll find everything you may need here as it's the central area for shops and restaurants. Make sure to take a look at the National Museum when it is beautifully lit up at night. The outer walls of the National Museum also have white spots on them. That's because those used to be bullet holes from the Red Army that are now patched up.
The locals are very friendly and almost everyone is completely fluent in English. I never had any issues considering how difficult the Czech language is, because people were comfortable using English.