A Little Visit… Three Days in Prague & Five Things I Loved

Lauded as one of the top cultural centers of Europe, and a city almost unparalleled for architecture and beauty, I have always wanted to see Prague for myself. I have long held a romantic nostalgia for Prague thanks to Hollywood using the city’s medieval streets as the backdrop for intrigue and romance.

As an American, much of the city’s architecture is older than my entire country.Prague — or Praha to the locals — suffered far less damage and destruction than most European cities during World War II, making it a showcase of the best preserved European architecture from the past centuries. And the downtown city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a designation of cultural significance for the world. So it was a shoe-in that I would head to the Czech Republic on my round the world trip. I had already planned to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia, so Prague would require just a short train ride.

sunset from up high in prague of charles bridge

Dusk in Prague on a three-day visit to the “City of a Hundred Spires.”

But as my travels moved into Eastern Europe, other travelers warned me that the city doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s not the first time travelers have said this — sometimes others claim a town has lost its authenticity: it’s too busy, too slow, or just too something that they don’t like. But each person is unique, so I decided I would continue on toward Prague, I would find all the interesting things to do, dive into the food scene, and wander the maze of streets. I would discover for myself if Prague was, in fact, the destination of a lifetime and a must on any round the world itinerary, or an overrated touristy city glamorized by Hollywood.

Arriving in Prague

spires at sunset in pragueMy train from Slovenia arrived in the late evening, which was not an ideal introduction to Prague. I prefer to enter a new city late during daylight — this is one of the ways I stay safe as a solo female traveler, plus, darkness is just not ideal for locating transportation and then plodding through the streets of a strange city with my 45 pound backpack strapped to my back since the hostel is almost never precisely where I think it should be.

When you exit the main train station, there is little information available about getting around. Although I cautiously used a taxi (again, nighttime and all, but there are some taxi con-artists to be aware of), it’s a short walk downhill into Old Town, or it’s easy to take the metro, too. If you have a smartphone (I didn’t on our first visit!), load the maps onto your phone and use that to walk. Like most transport hubs, I faced a few predatory cabbies stalking me as I searched for the official taxi stand, but they left me alone once I found a low-key driver, handed over the address, and dumped my bags into the trunk. My hostel was a bit outside of Old Town, so the private transport was pricier than I anticipated, but still worth it. Since Uber is in Prague now, I wouldn’t hesitate to summon one as soon as my train arrived and avoid the entire mess. (It is a great option from the airport, too).

Best Places in Prague’s Old Town

What a gorgeous city. I mean, it’s huge — the city itself is massive, but the bulk of tourism centers on Old Town. Staré Město is small and easily navigated as a tourist. It’s a section of Prague filled with delightfully narrow cobbled paths. Lanes wind through towering buildings, each one ornately decorated with spired Gothic and baroque architecture.

One fellow traveler recommended that I always remember to look up. What good advice!

Old Towns buildings all have some sort of ornate decoration along the top edges. Eroding carvings of a beautiful woman emerge from a stone wall of one building, while a wandering minstrel is juxtaposed on the very next. (There is even a seven-foot tall statue of Sigmund Freud hanging from one building!) The city is a fascinating hodgepodge of architectural styles: art nouveau, neoclassical, cubist, renaissance, gothic, baroque. And although I can’t readily identify the differences between each one, the varied styles make for a never-ending parade of impressive buildings.

The beauty of the buildings is a feast for the eyes for even the least art-inclined. History has carved itself into every corner of Prague. Life and humanity spanning hundreds of years is visible in the worn stone steps that lead to Prague’s castles and churches.

old town prague

Vibrant and old, it’s this contrast that makes Prague so interesting.

Even busy touristy areas shine above the chaos. The Charles Bridge teemed with tourists just as expected, but the bridge still oozed charm. This current crush of tourists is simply the latest incarnation of this bridge’s journey through history. It’s the latest incarnation of a bridge, stones, and carvings that existed before me and will continue after me as well. So when I passed the busking musicians and artists offering cheesy caricatures of young preening couples engaging in some incredibly showy PDA — I simply smiled and continued my stroll.

Three days in Prague is enough to eat all the things and see a whole lot, too. I recommend budgeting time into your days to simply relax, shop, and wander in Old Town, as it was a real highlight.

petrin park

Views over the city on my walk uphill through Petrin Park in Prague.

Planning Your Three-Day Itinerary for Prague

Above is covers the five real highlights you should slot into your trip no matter the length, but if you have three days in town, here is an itinerary that takes in all the highlights while leaving plenty of time to explore your own interests, too.

Day One: Take a free walking tour of the city (there are many). Most end near Prague Castle, so buy a ticket and explore. Be sure to visit the castle and St. Vitus Cathedral, too. Once done, wander the picturesque streets of Mala Strana, the “lesser quarter” and find lunch, coffee, etc. Then continue your meandering through Mala Strana, finding the Lennon Wall (tourists can add to it!). As late afternoon hits, wander into Petřín Park for sunset — hike to the top through the shady paths, or take the funicular. Enjoy the sweeping views of sunset before taking the funicular down to the bottom. Dine in Kampa, it’s not a far walk from the base of the park and there are many options.

Day Two: Head to Old Town and plan to spend hours here. Wander past the Astronomical Clock (seriously impressive), and perhaps have your morning coffee and croissant in the busy town square. The Mucha Museum was my favorite, but there are others in town, too. After the museum, head to the Jewish quarter nearby and continue your wanders, museum visits, and history lessons. Buy lunch and make a picnic of it at Letna Park nearby (just across the river) and enjoy gorgeous views. Then either head back to change, or go straight to your meeting spot for a beer and tapas tour that offers local insight from your guide alongside the chance to sip the best drinks in the city. This will start your evening off, and you can head to additional beer spots (recommendations below), or home for the night.

Day Three: Venture a bit further in the city today. Head south to Vyšehrad Castle, then walk along the river back to town. If food is your thing, consider scheduling a food neighborhood tour for the afternoon, which will take you to  hidden spots and provides a lot more backstory and tasty eats. Otherwise, visit any of the other museums you find interesting (there’s everything from a KGB museum to a Kafka one on offer). And if you need some shopping time, head back to the antique places in Mala Strana, or the souvenir shops in Old Town.

Where to EatLehka Hlava offers fantastic vegetarian fare near the Charles Bridge; Maitrea is a sister restaurant with a large menu and convenient for Old Town wanders. Country Life offers a veggie buffet and it’s one of the best values for budget food in the city, even if you’re not vegetarian. Vegetarian food is tricky at general restaurants and markets, but the Czech sweets are phenomenal and I collected several memorable favorites.

Where to Drink: For a large beer selection and a hip vibe, head to Lokál Dlouhááá (it has local Czech food too, but the beer menu stands out). The Prague Beer Museum (multiple locations) also has an enormous selection of beers on tap. For wine lovers, Vinograf can be pricier than some places but is a good bet.

Where to Stay: There are a lot of options on neighborhoods, each one with a different vibe and convenience factor. The city center/Old Town is Prague 1, while Letna (Prague 7) is adjacent and walkable. Both of these have mid-range prices to astronomical. If you are on a tight budget, most of the affordable guesthouses, Airbnbs, and hostels are in the other neighborhoods. Consider that Vinohrady (Prague 2) has a good vibe while Žižkov (Prague 3) is funky and fun. I consistently find good guesthouses and hostels through Agoda, but for longer visits always use Airbnb.

vltava river, prague

My Five Favorite Experiences:

  1. The Mucha Museum: I recently discovered Alfons Mucha and I thought the works were simply stunning. It’s well laid out and a great stop if you like his art — I enjoyed it more than I expected.
  2. The Charles Bridge: Artists and kitschy knickknacks converge on this bridge with a unbelievably gorgeous backdrop of the river and castles all set off with the tinkling music of roving buskers. It’s charming and a must for any visit.
  3. Prague Castle: You just have to visit this, even on a tight budget. The views over the city and the river are worth the price alone.
  4. Wandering the neighborhoods: Put away your map and just wander through the streets of Old Town and Mala Strana. Get very, very lost and explore until you find a little nook and cranny pub. Sit down, have a Czech beer. Then, pull out the map and navigate back to the next item on your to-see list.
  5. Beer!: Czechs drink a whole lot of beer, and taking either a formal tour or a self-guided tour of pubs and brews is a highlight for any beer-lover.

Prague has one of the most charming skylines I have ever seen; it’s for this reason that so many guides like mine include recommendations to get higher views and visit during the sunset magic hour. There is no chance that you won’t find beauty in Prague. Even though it’s a big city (and I don’t love big cities, as a rule), it’s fun, historic, and interesting. There is never a shortage of activities, which makes it an ideal spot to spend at least three days. Although I don’t want to live in Prague, the city has earned a place on the itinerary for any trip. Whether you’re on a weekend break or an epic trio through Eastern Europe, Prague only enhanced my trip with its beauty and European charm.

Need More Information?

Guidebook: If you’re just visiting Prague, the DK Eyewitness guide is best, but if you’re exploring other areas, go with the Rick Steves Prague & Czech Republic.

Backpacking the region? I have free travel guides covering Ljubljana, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and stories of my time in Cesky Krumlov.

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9 Responses to A Little Visit… Three Days in Prague & Five Things I Loved

  1. Greg August 27, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Hi Shannon,

    I enjoyed your review of Praha…..to me the most beautiful city in the world! I was there in October of 2007. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to return this October and this time spend more time. I was overwhelmed by the architecture, the beauty and even the general lay-out of the city is amazing. The only thing I can say is, being a big city, the people were not very friendly, keeping to themselves. Take care.


    • Shannon August 28, 2009 at 5:00 am #

      I think I would agree with the unfriendly bit – it was really more that they just had no interest in interacting with you if you were a tourist. Enjoy it in October!!

  2. Jason August 27, 2009 at 6:49 am #

    Yes, Dubrovnik would have been a great stop over, lots of history (you can still see the scars from the Bosnia war on the Wall). Also, if you love fresh seafood like I do then you would have been treated with an amazing variety of Dalmatia seafood cuisine. Aside from Dubrovnik, we also visited Split and Island of Brac(Bol) last year and we loved Bol more than Split. Purely for the Bol’s tranquility and picturesque views.

    Anyway, I am heading to the airport tomorrow to fly over to Prague, any recommendation or tips on visiting Cesky Krumlov?


    btw I’m on twitter if you get a chance to swing by http://twitter.com/AMJle

  3. Jason August 26, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    Hi Shannon,

    I love Prague and been there twice already and looking forward to visit a third time this Friday. This time I’m looking to explore the outskirt of Prague like Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov. I keep coming back to Prague for several reasons, cheap and tasty beer and food. Prague’s history and Renaissance architecture have always intriguing to me and I can never get tire looking at them. With that said, I do agree with you that Florence is one of my favourite cities and I would live there in a heart beat. My wife and I went there for our honeymoon in 2004 and fell in love with the city. Great food, wine with lots of museum and gallery to feast your eyes. Florence is only an hour away from Adriatic coast which is so temtpting to take a ferry to my second favourite city, Dubrovnik.

    Love your blog., great work.

    • Shannon August 27, 2009 at 4:29 am #

      Thank you for stopping by the site! Florence for your honeymoon must have been just wonderful – Now that you say that about Dubrovik though I feel bad that I skipped it. Yikes! I didn’t want to try to cram in too much, but now I am thinking I should have made it over there – esp since I was in Mostar :-( Next time though!

  4. Dave and Deb August 19, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    Very good read and nice to hear that the city does live up to the hype. I still want to go to Prague one day even though it is becoming very popular. So, I will make sure to reference this article again to recheck your top 5 sights. It looks beautiful

    • Shannon August 20, 2009 at 4:14 am #

      That’s the biggest thing about Prague – it’s just so darn pretty and that’s what takes it out of the “just another capital city” category – can’t wait to see what you guys think when you get there :-)

  5. Nina August 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm #

    A treat to read – to share – and to imagine – as usual!
    : )

    • Shannon August 17, 2009 at 5:24 am #

      Thank you Miss Nina :-)

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