The glorious city of Prague is one of Europe's great cultural and artistic capitals. Experience immaculately preserved castles, churches, and synagogues, a rich musical tradition, and hearty food and drink.
Prague was spared from bombing raids during World War II, which means that its medieval old town has some of the best-preserved architecture in Europe. The winding, maze-like streets reveal new sights and sounds around every corner, whether it's a string quartet playing a Mozart concerto or vivid reminders of Prague's once-thriving Jewish population.
Despite Prague's high-culture reputation, it is a modern city with a friendly populace and surprisingly affordable prices compared to other major European destinations. You'll find cheap hotels, great prices on antiques and collectibles, and local restaurants that serve traditional rib-sticking Czech cuisine.
Prague is a premier vacation destination that will appeal to both experienced and new travelers. You'll find all of the art, culture, and fine dining of cities like Paris or Berlin only on a smaller, more accessible scale.
This iconic span across the Vltava River is the main pedestrian route from the Old Town to the Little Quarter. The bridge provides unparalleled views of Prague's architecture at any time of day, but a stroll around dusk, when the street lamps cast evocative shadows, is a fairytale experience not to be missed.
This neighborhood in Prague's northeast corner was home to a thriving Jewish population in medieval times. Must-see attractions are the Gothic Old-New Synagogue, which is the longest-standing Jewish house of worship in Europe, and the Old Jewish Cemetery. Look for the symbols on the tightly packed tombstones that represent the deceased's family name (hands for Cohens; stags for Hirsches) or occupation (tailors were identified by scissors).
It's not hard to find a concert in this music-mad city, whether you stop to listen to street musicians busking in Wenceslas Square or attend a performance of Cosi fan Tutte at the Prague National Theatre. Average ticket prices are Kč500, which is much more affordable than other parts of Europe.
Prague's citizens are a religious people, but the only thing they revere as much as their saints is beer, which is called pivo in Czech. The city's pubs offer a variety of locally brewed specialty beers, but be sure to ask for a pint of Pilsner. This brew, which is made just outside Prague, is known for its golden color and strong hops flavor.
If you are visiting Prague during the spring or summer, take advantage of the many boat tours along the Vltava River. You'll get a good overview of Prague's history, and scenic views of city landmarks like the medieval Prague Castle and the sinuous Art Deco Dancing House, aka the "Fred and Ginger" building.
Prague has a fairly mild climate from March through November with average temperatures of 70 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you book a hotel room during the summer tourist season, you may pay much higher rates. Prague is much more affordable and less crowded in late spring and early fall. Those who are willing to brave the snow and cold of early winter will find Prague's Christmas markets in Old Town Square enchanting.
Most international visitors will arrive via Václav Havel Airport (PRG), which is six miles west of the city. After you arrive at the airport, the easiest and cheapest way to get to downtown Prague is via the Airport Express Bus, which shuttles passengers every 30 minutes. The tickets are Kč42 online or Kč60 at the airport. If you are planning to go to another part of the city, you can hire a shuttle bus or taxi. The price will depend on your destination, but it is usually around Kč400-800. There are also several public bus routes that run to nearby subway stations. The tickets, which are sold in time increments from 30 minutes (cost: Kč24) to three days (cost: Kč310), are purchased at vending machines near the bus terminal.
You can get a train to Prague from almost anywhere in Europe via Czech Railways, RegioJet, and Leo Express. There is also a high-speed RailJet that operates daily between Prague and Vienna. Most trains will arrive at the central station or Hlavni nadrazi in the New Town neighborhood. Once you've arrived, you can take the subway to your destination or get a taxi, but be aware that some of the cab drivers charge astronomical rates to foreign tourists.
Prague is easily accessible by car from anywhere in Europe with several major highways leading into the city including the D8, which runs between Prague and Germany, the R6, which runs between Prague and the spa town of Karlovy Vary, and the R7, which takes travelers to Václav Havel Airport. Czech authorities require that international drivers purchase a pass, known as a vignette, before traveling on expressways. The vignettes can be purchased at border crossings, post offices, and gas stations. The cost is Kč310 for a 10-day pass.
Eurolines, Ecolines, Student Agency, and OrangeWays operate international buses to Prague's Florenc station, but these routes are frequently booked up months in advance by locals who take advantage of the cheap rates. The simplest way to get to Florenc station from Václav Havel Airport is via taxi or shuttle bus.
The city has an abundance of hotels, which makes even luxury suites quite affordable. You can book a room at the elegant Pachtuv Palace in the Little Quarter for around Kč2,700 per night. The baroque mansion (the former owner once allegedly kidnapped Mozart until he wrote six sonatas for him) offers friendly service and large rooms. For a cozy atmosphere, stay at the Lokal Inn, which offers antique-stuffed rooms and homemade cooking.
Hradcany - the highest point in Prague also offers some of the top historical attractions. Watch the hourly changing of the guard at Prague Castle, tour the Loreto, a magnificent shrine to the Virgin Mary, and browse through contemporary art in the winding alley Novy Svet.
New Town - this large neighborhood in Prague's southwestern quadrant houses many of the city's top hotels and restaurants. Don't miss the chance to visit the magnificent Wenceslas Square or the peaceful Botanical Gardens. You can also kick back and relax with a cappuccino and newspaper in a cafe.
Little Quarter - the baroque mansions in this central neighborhood have hardly changed since Mozart walked these streets in the 18th century. The best-preserved examples of baroque architecture are Wallenstein Palace and Gardens and the St. Nicholas Church in Little Quarter Square. The literary-minded can visit the home of writer Franz Kafka on the Hergetova Cihelna.
The best and most affordable way to get around Prague is by using the extensive subway, bus, and tram systems. The tickets are sold in time increments at vending machines and local shops, and one ticket is good for all three forms of transport. A ticket valid for 30 minutes costs Kč24.
There are dozens of taxi companies that operate in Prague, but some cabbies will drive up the rates on foreign tourists past the Kč28 per mile price that is legally allowed.
The narrow streets and limited parking make it difficult for visitors to drive in Prague, but Hertz and Sixt car rental services do operate out of the airport and prices start at around Kč700. Be aware that parking laws are stringently enforced in Prague. If you are in violation, your car may be towed or your tires clamped.
Prague is a shopper's paradise with high-quality collectibles selling at very affordable prices. Head for the Royal Route outside Prague Castle for many of the city's best antique shops, where you can pick up everything from Soviet Army medals to baroque furniture. Many of the high-end boutiques in Wenceslas Square offer the region's famed Bohemian glass and porcelain.
There are three Zabka supermarkets in central Prague that are much like American grocery stores, although the prices are somewhat cheaper with milk costing Kč69 and bread costing Kč19. However, if you want an authentic taste of Czech food, visit the Prague Market in Holesovice where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, and sweets.
If you want to eat like the locals, stop by one of Prague's outdoor sausage stands where you can get a Czech hot dog and mulled wine for Kč0.45. Prague also has many inexpensive cafes and restaurants around Wenceslas and Charles Squares where you can get a hearty lunch of fried pork and dumplings and wash it down with a cold beer. Those in the market for high-end fare should visit La Finestra in Cucina in the Jewish Quarter for cutting-edge Italian Cuisine.