Travel Guide: Prague

Travel Guide: Prague

In recent years Prague has shared the spot-light with some of Europe’s biggest hot-spots among the likes of Paris and Rome, and there’s little wonder why. Visitors from across Europe and the world alike come to saunter through the Renaissance streets to experience some exquisite examples of art and culture. The city achieves a harmonious balance between classical and modern, Gothic and Baroque buildings playing host to some of the trendiest boutiques and bars in Europe. Prague is a city which oozes romanticism in fairy-tale settings throughout its picturesque streets. Undoubtedly, it deserves it’s spot as one of the top European cities.

 

The Geography

Czech Republic in relation to the rest of Europe, ©lahistoriaconmapas.com

Prague is the medieval capital city of the Czech Republic; a country right in the centre of Europe and the setting off point into the east. The landlocked country shares a border with Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria.

Prague city map with most of the top attractions

As for the city itself, it splits into 2 sides, east and west. Both ends are split between the Vltava River which runs through the centre of the city. Prague as a whole is quite compact with all the city’s highlights being within a comfortable walking distance of each other.

 

Getting There

Flights

[To be updated following COVID-19]

Trains

Prague is connected directly to a number of cities and countries throughout Europe. A total of 3 capitals are within 4-5 hours from the city and run every 2 hours, which include Berlin, Bratislava and Vienna. Direct trains also travel further afield to cities such as Munich (5hrs 30 mins), Budapest (6hrs 30 mins), Kraków and Hamburg (both seven hours away)

Prague also has a number of direct night trains heading to Kraków, Minsk, Moscow, Warsaw and Zurich. It is also possible to travel by train from much further afield in Europe however a few transfers are required. Here are some examples of timing and pricing:

Vienna: 3hrs 56 mins£6.50

Berlin: 4hrs 5 mins£16.50

Budapest: 6hrs 26 mins£25

Paris: 10hrs 36 mins (2 changes)£56.50

London: 13hrs 10 mins (3 changes)£116

 

Bus

As always, travelling by bus through the country will be the cheaper alternative. Prague’s main station, Florenc, is equally well connected to the rest of Europe by a number of bus companies, such as Eurolines and Orangeways. There are several buses that run direct to a number of cities in neighbouring countries, such as Zurich, Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Bratislava and Budapest to name a few. For destinations further afield such as Paris, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, buses run less often and will most likely require a transfer. It’s even possible to find companies that will travel as far as Norway, Sweden and further afield.

The city is also well connected to others throughout the Czech Republic via state run and private bus companies such as Student Agency. They connect to such cities as Brno, Cheb and Krumlov.

 

Getting Around

Prague has the unique feature of selling tickets that allow unlimited use of the city’s entire range of public transportation for a select period of time. That includes every metro, bus and tram line. Tickets are available at metro stations, newsagents, Prague Airport Terminals 1 and 2, Public Transport Information Centers and the main train station.

These are the types of tickets available for travelling in Prague:

  • single tickets valid for 30 minutes – (24 CZK)
  • single tickets valid for 90 minutes – (31 CZK)
  • 1 day pass (24 hours) – (110 CZK)
  • 3 day pass (72 hours) – (310 CZK)
  • 1 month pass – (670 CZK)

 

Bus

Prague has about 130 bus lines which run every 6-8 minutes during peak time and operate between 4:30 am – midnight. During off peak times the waiting time extends to 10-20 minutes and 15-30 minutes on weekends. The city also has a few night buses (number 501-513) that run every 30-60 minutes from midnight until 4:30 am. The bus network operates beyond the limits of the Metro and trams, thus covering much more ground.

Keep an eye out for bus stations marked with the letter M. These represents stations that you’re able to transfer onto the metro. Most bus lines terminate their journey at metro or trams lines to better allow onward travel.

Subway (Metro)

Prague metro map, ©skyscrapercity.com

Prague’s metro system covers a big proportion of the city centre across its three metro lines: Line A (Green), Line B (Yellow) and Line C (Red). The most used line is Line A, as it passes the city’s most popular attractions as well as connecting to bus number 119 which goes to and from the city airport. The metro operates from 5 am until midnight and runs every 2-3 minutes during peak times, and between 4-9 minutes after 7pm.

For the average sightseer though, the subway is almost unnecessary. All the top attractions are with walking distance from each other. For seeing the city’s attractions, you’ll practically only need to use two subway stations: Malostranská or Staromestka.

 

Tram

Extent of Prague’s tram network, courtesy of nycsubway.org

 

The tram network is far more extensive when compared to the bus and metro, covering vast areas of the city and extending into the suburbs. The daytime trams operate between 4:30 am to midnight every 8-10 minutes or 4 minutes for the most popular routes. There are even night trams that run the graveyard shift between midnight and 4:30 am and run every 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Some useful tram lines for travellers are number 9 that run from Wenceslas Square via the National Theatre towards the Lesser Town, and numbers 22 and 23 from the National Theatre via the Lesser Town towards Prague Castle.

 

Attractions

The attractions the Prague provide are some incredible examples of preserved history and a unique look into how a medieval capital would have run so many years ago. Many of the attractions are dedicated to unique periods of history that shaped the city and exudes its undeniable cultural flair.

 

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Prague Castle at sunset

Built in 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty, Prague Castle is arguably one of the biggest highlights the city has to offer. It also has the distinction of holding a Guinness Book of World Record as the biggest castle complex worldwide. The UNESCO World Heritage site contains examples of Roman and Gothic influenced architecture, representative of the periods of time for which this mighty piece of history has survived through.

 

Details:

Getting There: There are a number of entrances to choose from. If going by tram, the stops include Královský letohrádek, Pražský hrad and Pohořelec. As for the metro head to Malostranská or Hradčanská on Line A.

Entrance Fee: 350-250 CZK plus additional tickets for other exhibitions and tours.

Open: 6am-10pm for the castle complex.
Times vary for the historical buildings; Summer – 10am-6pm, Winter – 9am-4pm

 

Strahov Monastery

strahov monastery prague

The gorgeous colours of the Strahov Monastery

Not only is the Strahov Monastery a landmark for the city, but also considered one of the most important in all of the Czech Republic. Founded in 1140, the monastery holds the record of being the oldest Premonstratensian monastery in the region of Bohemia. It was constructed along the road which leads to the castle for the express purpose to place guards. This is where the monastery gets its name, from the Czech word “strahovat“, translated as to stand guard.

strahov monastery prague

Although the grounds of the monastery themselves are a marvellous site to behold, the true treasures are within its walls. A particular highlight is the Strahov Library which holds spectacular examples of medieval manuscripts as well as religious and philosophical texts. The oldest, originating from the 9th century is the Book of the Gospels which is written on parchment.

strahov monastery prague

The monastery is also home to a number of agricultural buildings such as the Strahov Brewery which was functional up until the early 20th century. Additionally, the ever growing Strahov Picture Gallery has been expanding its collection of Central European Gothic and Baroque art since the 1830s.

 

Details:

Getting There: To get there, take the metro along Line A to Malostranská. From here take tram number 22 to Pohorelec.

Entrance Fee: Strahov Library: Adults 120 CZK, Family (2 adults and 3 children) 200 CZK, Photo Permission 50 CZK, Video Permission 100 CZK

Strahov Library and Gallery: Adults 200 CZK, Family (2 adults and 3 children) 300 CZK, Photo Permission 80 CZK, Video Permission 150 CZK

Open: 9am – 5pm (closed 12pm – 1pm)
Closed 24th/25th December and Easter Sundays
Telephone number: +420 224 373 368

 

Museum of Alchemists and Magicians

The alchemist bar

This unique little museum memorializes a time in history when the wonders and mysteries of alchemy enthralled the some of the period’s greatest intellects. A time when science as we know it today was considered kin to witchcraft. Countless eccentrics searched for the answers to nature’s most allusive questions, including the relentless search for the Eternal Youth Elixer and the Philosopher’s Stone. This museum is evidence of that very exciting period in history.

The reconstructed alchemy laboratories hidden at the top of a spiral tower have remained on display since their discovery. This UNESCO world heritage site is one of the oldest buildings on the original street Haštalská number 1. Sadly it’s the only surviving building following the demolition of the Jewish quarter during the 19th century.

 

Details:

Getting There: The closest stop is Šporkova which can be accessed by bus number 194 and tram numbers 15, 20 or 22.
Entrance Fees: Adults – 170 CZKFamily – 390 CZK
Open: 10am – 8pm
Address: Jánský vršek 8, 118 00 Malá Strana, Czechia
Telephone number: +420 257 224 508

KGB Museum

This is listed on every must-do list for Prague as a quirky interlude from the other medieval themed sites. Despite its incredibly small size for a museum, it holds quite a reputation. This unassuming little building became the first place to hold KGB artefacts from the soviet era. Some of the unique pieces found within include Lenin’s death mask, Beria’s radio and KGB laboratory equipment. The main attraction of the museum is a photo exhibit on the once Soviet gripped capital of the Czech Republic. This also includes contributions from the Czech secret service and the KGB. Due to the very personal nature of the tiny museum, visits can only be done as a part of a private tour which start at a designated time.

 

Details:

Entrance Fees: 14-18 EUR for a tour
Open: 10am – 5pm (closed Mondays)

Address: Vlašská 591/13, 118 00 Malá Strana, Czechia

Telephone number: +420 257 224 508

John Lennon Wall

John Lennon wall prague

Once an unassuming concrete slab across the road from the French Embassy, today the Lennon Wall is decorated with artwork inspired by the late Beatles front-man. This began following his tragic 1980 assassination when an unknown artist painted the very first portrait with accompanying lyrics upon the wall. From then on the wall has become a medium of free speech and opposing oppression stemming from worldwide causes.

The freedom of expression which this wall provided came in a critical point in Czech history. The country’s strict communist reforms brought with it a significant amount of anger and resistance, to which the wall became a prime and fitting outlet. These creative expressions were frequently met with violence between oppressed students and local authorities whom at one point faced-off across the nearby Charles Bridge.

These days the wall undergoes constant re-design that come with the global affairs at the time. Current events such as Hong Kong’s fight for democracy and global warming have been the inspiration for modifications to the wall.

 

Details:

Getting There: Although close to a number of other attractions, there are a number of transport routes which pass by. Starting with the tram, take numbers 12, 15, 20 or 22 to Hellichova before walking the rest of the way. Otherwise you can take bus numbers 120, 176, 194 or H1 to roughly the same area.

 

Charles Bridge

Charles bridge prague

The Charles Bridge

This is the iconic image when it comes to Prague. Charles Bridge is a Gothic stone bridge which connects the Old Town and Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and the point at which the entire city gravitates around. Its construction was commissioned in 1357 by the Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. In charge of the construction was architect Petr Parléř whose other works include the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle.

charles bridge prague

The statues along the Charles Bridge

Being such a tourist hot-spot, here you’ll also find the regular punters trying to grab some tourist cash. These include the likes of artists, musicians and caricature painters who themselves are as much a part of this bridge as the statues along it. Some statues receive more attention than the others, accumulating queues of tourists awaiting their photo ops and the bright shine of polished metal from years of lucky touches.

One such statue is that of St John of Nepomuk, whom according to folklore was thrown into the river following his fatal torturing, at which point one of the bridge’s arches collapsed. As it was unable to be repaired, one of the men working on the bridge made a deal with the Devil, in return for successful completion of the bridge.

 

Details:

Getting There: To get there, take the metro along Line A to Staromestka, or otherwise take tram numbers 2, 17 and 18 to the stop of the same name.

 

Museum of Medieval Torture

Implements of torture on display

Here’s another site not mentioned in most “must-do” lists. However, the selection found within and its proximity to the tourist centre makes it worth while. Here you’ll find 100 or so exhibits, historical artwork and artwork depicting the method of torture. With 3 full floors of attractions there’s plenty to observe and ponder over.

 

Details:

Getting There: The museum is directly next to the eastern end of Charles Bridge. Take the metro along Line A to Staromestka, or otherwise tram numbers 2, 17 and 18 to the stop of the same name.

Entrance Fees: ~8 EUR

Open: 10am – 10pm (closed Mondays)

Address: Křižovnické nám. 194/1, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia

Telephone number: +420 222 221 972

Astronomical Clock

astronomical clock prague

The astronomical clock in the evening

Here’s another iconic image of Prague and one of the most significant site the city has to offer. The immaculately designed 600+ year old astronomical clock is consistently surrounded by herds of eager individuals hoping to witness the changing of the hour. As the clock strikes the hour, this sets in motion the procession of the Twelve Apostles; miniature figurines which change with each strike of the bell.

 

Details:

Getting There: The closest stations are yet again the same as you would get for the bridge. For the metro take Line A to Staromestska and trams number 2, 17 and 18 to the stop of the same name.

Address: Staroměstské nám. 1, 110 00 Josefov, Czechia

Telephone number: +420 775 400 052

 

Old Town Square

Old town square prague

The Old Town Hall

Directly next to the Astronomical clock you’ll find the old square with immaculate examples of architecture on either side. The Old Town Square is the centre of Prague’s historic district. Along with the nearby Astronomical clock, there’s also the Old Town Hall. This particular town hall is unique in the regard that its a number of interconnected medieval buildings rather than a single modern monstrosity.

 

Details:

Getting There: The old square is directly next to the astronomical clock, therefore if you need to travel there directly, you can yet again use the same stops. For the metro take Line A to Staromestska and trams number 2, 17 and 18 to the stop of the same name.

Address: Staroměstské náměstí, 110 00 Praha 1- Staré Město

 

Old Jewish Cemetery

Following the destruction of a once prominent Jewish Quarter during the 19th century, it left the area with very few surviving remnants of Jewish culture. Nazi occupation also resulted in an enormous amount of destruction, though the Old Jewish Cemetery was one of the few things left untouched. Though it wasn’t for the morality, as it was intended to be used as a “Museum of an Extinct Race”, a historical document of the Aryans extinction of the Jews.

This particular cemetery is one of the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds worldwide and amongst National Geographic’s ten most fascinating cemeteries to visit. It is believed that up to 100,000 bodies were put to rest within. Space in the cemetery was in such high demand that bodies had to be layered atop each other, in some cases 10-12 coffins deep. Jewish customs forbid the removal of old graves so they’ll simply remain there as the development continues around them.

 

Details:

Getting There: Take tram number 22 to the closest stop at Staroměstská or bus numbers 207 or 194.

Address: Široká, 110 00 Josefov, Czechia

 

Accommodation 

Naturally for a booming cultural capital of Europe, there are more than enough different options available.

Hotels

There is a fair selection of hotels on offer around the city centre at decent enogh prices.

Hostels

Hostels are even cheaper than typical European standards, starting around a decent £6. An enormous amount of budget hostels are congregated right in the city centre directly next to some of the city’s hot-spots. There are plenty on offer which gradually begin increasing in price all the way to some of the fancier options capping off at around £20.

The vast selection of hostels available across Prague for less than £20, courtesy of hostelworld.com

 

Cuisine

For the sweet toothed amongst you there are plenty of options to push you ever deeper into diabetes. The top of the list has to be palačinky, which are thin pancakes very similar to the French crepes but prepared with a different method. Typically their served with such sugar rich treats as jam, fruits and/or cream. Those with a vain attempt to be healthy can opt for an alternative filling of meat and cheeses.

Continuing with the theme of heart-clogging treats, why not try a traditional Slovak treat of trdelník. Though it originates from Transylvania, the sugar dusted treats are sold on mass almost everywhere in the city. The cone shaped dough is served warm with a variety of filling to suit your preference.

For those looking for a substantial meal, the Czech Republic is the place for you. The majourity of their meals are heavy in order to keep warm on a cold day. No better example of this is vepřo-knedlo-zelo, with a serving of roast pork, bread dumplings and stewed cabbage. For those looking for a quick bite on the go, why not sample some grilované klobásy: grilled sausages wrapped in a roll and serves with a selection of sauces.

If you haven’t quite hit a cardiac arrest yet, some smažený sýr will certainly do the trick. A mouthwatering piece of deep-fried cheese served with fries or a salad for those pretending to be healthy.