Golden Lane built in the 16th century, takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. | iStock
Whether you love history and architecture, appreciate modern art and design or enjoy culinary treats in chic eateries, one of the tours listed below will take you to places that will show you Prague at its best, from the city centre full of historic gems to exclusive new hot spots showcasing the modern face of the capital.
Prague is one of Europe’s most enticing cities, and it owes its charm to centuries of dramatic history. Prague Castle, towering above the Vltava River, has witnessed eras of development followed by devastation and neglect. From Romanesque rotundas to stern Gothic churches, Prague has retained something from every key European epoch of design. During the turbulent 20th century, the City of a Hundred Spires avoided destruction during World War II (WWII). Central Europe’s jewel also survived more than four decades of economic decay during the Communist rule. Following the 1989 Velvet Revolution, and the fall of the totalitarian regime, an influx of cash and renovation brought new life to the birthplace of Franz Kafka and Martina Navratilova. Here’s our pick of the best tours to take in the city.
A cruise on the Vltava River offers fantastic views of the city’s most admired sights such as Prague Castle, as well as historic areas of the Old Town and the Lesser Town. You will pass under several bridges linking the two sides of the city’s historic heart, including the iconic 14th-century Charles Bridge built of stone, mortar and – legend has it – eggs. You will also catch a glimpse of some of Prague’s modern architecture features such as the Dancing House, and the nearby apartment block where former Czech President Václav Havel used to live during most of the communist period. This family-friendly tour will also give you an opportunity to get familiar with the layout of Prague’s city centre.
Walk in the footsteps of the kings of Bohemia who passed along this route on their way to the coronation in the St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. The tour begins in front of Municipal House, one of the city’s finest examples of the decorative Art Nouveau architecture, where in 1918, Czechoslovakia was proclaimed an independent country. It goes on through the Gothic Powder Gate, the city’s first entry points, to reach Old Town Square, featuring the famed Astronomical Clock. A walk through the Old Town will take you past the birthplace of the writer Franz Kafka before you reach Charles Bridge, best enjoyed early in the morning to avoid the crowds. On the other side of the river, the tour continues through the Lesser Town up to Prague Castle, offering staggering views of the city along the way.
To explore the world’s largest castle complex, take a tour that will take you to all the important sites such as at the former seat of Bohemian kings and the office of Czech presidents. You will discover the secrets of St Vitus Cathedral with the royal tombs, the Romanesque St George Basilica as well as the castle palaces that have withstood centuries of Czech history. You might stop for a beer or snacks at the Vikárka restaurant, a favourite of former President Václav Havel, or visit the picturesque Golden Lane with servants’ tiny houses. A quick visit to the nearby Strahov Monastery is also a must, home to one of the world’s most exquisite libraries.
During WWII, Prague was the capital of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, a part of the German Reich. Along the route, you will see the former Prague headquarters of the feared Nazi secret police, the Gestapo. The city was the backdrop of one of the most daring scenes of the war when British-trained Czech and Slovak special agents parachuted into the Protectorate and assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, a top-ranking Nazi and the most powerful man in the occupied Czech lands. You will visit the assassins’ last hiding place in a church, the site of their last stand against Nazi troops.
For more than four decades, Prague was the capital of one of the satellites of the Soviet Union. This tour provides an insight into those times, from the Stalinist years of the 1950s, through the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, until the peaceful 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended the Communist rule. You will walk through a tunnel built as nuclear shelter for factory workers, and explore a mausoleum that once hosted the mummified body of the country’s first Communist president, complete with the preparation room and cold storage on top of a hill. The tour will also take you to the site where a young student set himself on fire to protest the Soviet invasion of 1968, as well as the street where police violence against a student protest march in 1989 triggered the Velvet Revolution.
The Jewish community of Prague has contributed much to the city’s religious and cultural environment. Find out more about the legendary Rabbi Maharal, the creator of the mythical Golem. Visit the places of worship, including Europe’s oldest working synagogue. Stroll through the Old Jewish cemetery in the heart of the former Jewish ghetto and learn about the modern history of the local Jewish community, from the Holocaust to the post-war Communist persecution.
One of Prague’s most famous residents, the German-Jewish writer Franz Kafka, spent most of his short life in the Josefov area of the Old Town, the former Jewish Ghetto. You will see the building where he was born, where he went to school and university and the place where he met his wife. You will also pass the literary salons, the synagogues and the mysterious winding, narrow streets that inspired some of his works. The tour includes a short reading from his work. You’ll also learn about the city’s rich Jewish history and Prague’s multicultural environment in which Kafka played such a significant role.
One of the things Czechs are famous for is beer, having crafted both the original Pilsner and Budweiser. If you want to taste some brew but don’t want to miss out on Prague’s historic gems, the Beer and Baroque tour offer a combination of both. Sample a variety of refreshing Czech beers and hear all about the turbulent history of Prague. Enjoy tasty Czech tapas, such as pickled sausage, and get insider knowledge about the best places to drink the nation’s favourite brew.
Most Prague dwellers gladly avoid the crowded centre of the city, and on this tour, so can you. The itinerary includes the lovely 19th century Parisian-style residential neighbourhood of Vinohrady with the remarkable TV tower, the nearby formerly working-class quarter of Žižkov, now home to many bars, cafes and bistros, as well as the trendy area of Vršovice. You will explore several local design shops, original boutiques, galleries and parks, and stop for a cup of coffee or a jug of beer in some of the cafes and bars rarely visited by tourists. This area of Prague is a hipster’s paradise, showcasing how the newly thriving and successful Central Europeans party and dine now that their country is a successful member of the European Union.
The Guided Tour of the Holešovice District begins just a few tram or metro stops away from the city centre. The unpretentious neighbourhood of Holešovice has in recent years undergone a transformation from an ordinary area into a trendy one with galleries and modern architecture. You will see the Veletržní Palác, a striking functionalist structure and home to the National Gallery’s modern art collection, a former slaughterhouse-turned-marketplace, DOX, one of Prague’s best contemporary art galleries, and more on this off-the-beaten-track tour.
Secret Food Tours Prague lets you avoid the tourist traps and explore the culinary mysteries of Czech cuisine in the heart of Prague. Enjoy traditional Czech soups, potato pancakes and some signature dishes such as goulash or beef in cream sauce with dumplings in eateries frequented by locals. Then wash them down with the world-famous Czech beer in the environment of historic Prague. This Secret Food Tour of the city will lead you to tasty hidden spots and welcome you to the dining scene of locals.
Czechs are proud of their beer, and rightly so. Prague used to be home to several large breweries but only the Staropramen brewery has survived to date. On your self-guided tour, you will explore the brewery complex in the industrial-turned-trendy district of Smíchov, sample four types of beer produced there and experience the beer-making process with the guidance of the local brewmaster. You will also learn about the Czech beer culture and the revival of the craft in recent decades.