With districts as engaging as they are unique, it can be challenging to decide on the best area to stay in Prague. From the fairytale sights of the Old Town to the hip, artsy vibe of the outskirts, here is a guide to the very best of Prague’s neighbourhoods.
Always top of the list of things to do in Prague is a visit to Staré Město (Old Town). This fairytale destination attracts millions of eager devotees year after year, where almost every building looks as though an architectural savant with a penchant for Gothic splendour designed it. The majority of the city’s main attractions are located here, from Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock through to the Jewish Quarter and the famous Bethlehem Chapel of Jan Hus. A plethora of restaurants, cafés and bars vie for attention, although this doesn’t seem to have driven the prices down that much. SmetanaQ, Cafe Jericho and Kafe DAMU are definitely worth checking out.
The English translation of its name (Lesser Town) could not be further from the truth. Malá Strana is every bit as iconic as Staré Město, with the magical Prague Castle overlooking the quarter in truly regal fashion, and is connected to Prague’s Old Town via the historic Charles Bridge, one of the Czech capital’s main attractions. The area below the bridge on the Malá Strana side is packed with restaurants and cafés ready for your order. The homely charm of Café Kafíčko, for example, offers a delightful atmosphere without inflated prices. The Baroque Wallenstein Palace is the epitome of ‘magnificent’, while the churches here are among the most photographed in Europe.
Established in 1348, Nové Město was the youngest of the five boroughs that initially made up Prague proper. This still makes it immensely old in modern terms, but Prague’s ‘New Town’ is an endearing mix of past and present with a little bit of future sprinkled on top.
Charles Square is the biggest square in the city, while the iconic Wenceslas Square (which is more of a boulevard) has played host to some of the most important moments in Czech history, most memorably the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The renovated National Museum stands proudly at the top of the latter, home to a wide range of historical and natural artefacts and one of the most extensive taxidermy collections in the region.
Vinohrady was once covered in vineyards (the literal meaning of ‘Vinohrady’), but some stunning architecture has since replaced those vines. This is arguably the most international of the neighbourhoods surrounding the city centre – something that should definitely be taken as a positive. Vietnamese food, Japanese bistros, Irish pubs and Parisian cafés – they are all waiting in Vinohrady. Here you’ll also find some of Prague’s most elegant architecture and the impressive Náměstí Míru Square.
Most guides to Žižkov start by mentioning how this was once a nondescript, working-class part of town – those days are long gone, and the district now has plenty to offer visitors. The controversial yet iconic TV Tower – once ranked the second ugliest building in the world – is found here, and while David Černý’s famous baby sculptures have been removed, the tower remains a fascinating attraction.
Žižkov is named after Jan Žižka, a one-eyed warrior from the 15th century who never lost a battle, and the Czech hero is buried at the National Monument in the neighbourhood that takes his name. It is a bit of a trek up to the statue on Vitkov Hill, but it is a must-visit for anyone with an interest in Czech history.
It might not yet be the most fashionable neighbourhood in the city, but keep an eye on industrial Smíchov. Nobody will be surprised to see cafés and restaurants soon taking over the smokestacks and warehouses. Smíchov might not have a wealth of tourist hotspots found in other areas of the city, but this working-class charmer on the west bank of the Vltava will surprise you.
Third wave coffee lovers should make a beeline for Kavárna Co Hledá Jméno, a darling little café hidden away near the Anděl transport crossroads, while the Staropramen brewery is just a short walk away.
The contemporary arts centre MeetFactory moved to Smíchov in 2002, and now hosts a packed schedule of live music, exhibitions, theatre and everything in between.
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was particularly fond of this corner of Prague 6, and many remnants of the Communist period remain here. The Hotel International, for example, is arguably the most iconic piece of brutalist architecture in the city.
Dejvice is largely residential, but don’t let this deceive you – this is one of the best parts of the city for cafés, bars and restaurants. Kavárna Kabinet has refreshing local beers and convivial charm in spades, while AvantGarde remains one of the most stylish restaurants in Prague.
Prague’s coolest district? That is what many say about Holešovice. The mass of alternative bars and cooler-than-cool cafés is light years away from its past as the city’s meatpacking district. Letná Park is undoubtedly a highlight. This verdant expanse above the Vltava offers stunning views of the city, while the summer beer garden is one of the best in Europe. The Výstaviště exhibition grounds are nearby, offering a fascinating glimpse into Prague’s past as one of the great Habsburg cities. Holešovice is also a major creative hub, with a number of alternative studios and theatres showcasing somewhat unorthodox art. Some of the most acclaimed are Bio OKO and Studio ALTA, which specialise in arthouse cinema and contemporary dance, respectively.
At the turn of the century, Karlín carried a reputation for being a grim part of town. Floods decimated the area in 2002, but the years since have seen a remarkable resurrection for this Prague 8 neighbourhood. It now carries the elegance of Vinohrady and the charm of Žižkov while retaining its own distinctive character, and boasts a bevvy of fantastic bars and cafés. Try out Můj šálek kávy – one of the city’s great cafés – or dine al fresco at Karlínské náměstí, which is among Prague’s best picnic spots. Work off your food with a stroll between Invalidovna and Křižíkova.
Vršovice has followed Žižkov and Holešovice in their journey from a working-class neighbourhood to an uber-cool hub of colourful bars and cafés. All the action centres around a small street called Krymská, a street described in 2017 by The New York Times as one of the best in Europe. Sběrné Suroviny (literally ‘scrap materials’) is an excellent no-frills option for anyone after a beer or three.
Two of Prague’s major football teams are located in Vršovice. Slavia Prague is one of the city’s ‘Big Two’ (along with Letná-based Sparta) and play their home games at the hulking Eden Arena, while Bohemians 1905 has a far more intimate stadium – buy tickets to a match here to enjoy football in a fun and inclusive atmosphere.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Diana Bocco.