The Best Experiences in and Around Prague

The Charles Bridge on the Vltava River – Prague has history, culture and scenery in abundance
The Charles Bridge on the Vltava River – Prague has history, culture and scenery in abundance | © Alexander Spatari / Getty Images
Dinah Spritzer-Richter

The year 2023 is upon us, so why not make this your year to visit Prague? The Czech capital and its surroundings have a unique charm and historic beauty that attract millions of visitors every year. These are the must-do activities in and around the city to help ensure your trip to the capital of the Czech Republic is an unforgettable one.

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From Prague Old Town and trendy residential neighbourhoods to the ancient castles and rock formations that lie beyond the city borders, Prague has something to offer every taste. Follow the old Royal Route through the heart of the historic centre, learn about the effects of Stalinism, enjoy some of the best brews in the country and find out why Czechs excel at ice hockey.

Saddle up for the world’s oldest horse race

Every year, on the second Sunday of October, the historic industrial city of Pardubice awakens to the thundering of hooves and the roar of a gleeful crowd. The Grand Pardubice Steeplechase is one of the world’s oldest and most challenging horse races, drawing thrill-seeking spectators from around the globe. The city is an hour and a half’s drive from Prague and makes for a great day trip from the capital. After the exhilaration of the race, check out the Unesco-protected National Stud Farm of Kladruby nad Labem, famous for breeding rare Kladruber horses. Or, if you’ve had enough equine action for one day, amble through the historic centre of Pardubice and take a tour of the fine art on display at the grand Pardubice Chateau.

Charming castles and curious châteaux

The Czech Republic is a haven for beautiful buildings – think ancient ruins steeped in history, elegant châteaux set in immaculate grounds, and fairytale castles built in a variety of head-turning architectural styles. Whether you want to stroll through the pretty gardens of Kroměříž Castle – a Unesco World Heritage Site – or feel minuscule next to the largest Renaissance castle in the country at Litomyšl Castle, many of these architectural landmarks are within easy reach from the capital, and are a must-visit for those who like to spend their time ogling beautiful buildings.

Stroll across Charles Bridge to Prague Castle

Whether it’s your first time in the Czech capital or you’re an experienced Prague visitor, this stroll is a must. Start in the Old Town, cross the fabled Charles Bridge spanning the Vltava River and ascend to Prague Castle along the route the kings of Bohemia took to attend their coronation in St Vitus Cathedral. This stroll involves a fair amount of walking, but the views are well worth it.

Take a river cruise on the Vltava River

One of the best ways to see Prague’s top sights is from the Vltava River. You can pick up a boat cruise from the New Town embankment and follow a route past the Smíchov neighbourhood, under the medieval Charles Bridge. Other boats go along the river as far as the zoo. All of them offer breathtaking views of the city’s spires. This particular cruise offers a luxurious buffet on board, while on others you may simply get a glass of wine or beer. The live jazz music cruises are particularly romantic.

Explore the Bohemian Paradise area

An hour or so northeast of Prague, Bohemian Paradise is as magical as its name suggests. A centuries-old source of inspiration for international artists, writers and thinkers, the area combines bizarre rock formations in Krkonoše National Park with dense pine forests, majestic castles and timber-cottage villages. A day’s hiking here reveals some remarkable sights, from the imposing ruins of Frýdštejn Castle to the ancient rock towns of Hrubá Skála.

Old Town stroll

Back in the day when Prague consisted of five independent boroughs, the Old Town was the most affluent and imposing among them. Take a stroll through the maze of little cobbled streets and alleys, explore the majestic Old Town Square, climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower and observe the medieval Astronomical Clock. You can also enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of beer in one of the plentiful cafes, pubs and bars. Take a walking tour of the city and learn all about the history and culture of Prague from your knowledgeable guide.

Old Town mysteries at night

Centuries of history have left deep traces in the Czech capital. Legend has it that at night, some of the historical characters come to life and haunt the streets that are bustling with life during the day. Visit a gothic church, a medieval cemetery and more on a night-time walking tour in Prague Old Town.

Explore Prague’s Jewish heritage collections

Prague’s monuments and museums dedicated to Jewish heritage comprise one of the largest such collections in Europe. The Jewish Museum explores the cultural significance of Jewish heritage in the city, evidence of which is just as prevalent in Prague’s many Jewish neighbourhoods and synagogues. For a fascinating if sobering journey through Jewish history in the Czech Republic, Prague Jewish Quarter is a superbly preserved ghetto and remains a beacon of Jewish architecture, traditions, customs and stories.

Vítkov Memorial

One of Prague’s most peculiar sites, the Vítkov National Memorial, offers a journey through the turbulent modern Czech history, from the formation of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War I to the fall of communism in 1989. Built in the 1930s as a memorial to the Czech and Slovak soldiers who fought for independence, it was turned into a mausoleum for Czechoslovakia’s first communist president, Klement Gottwald. The building’s observation deck offers spectacular views of the city from an unusual perspective.

Go on a Golem hunt

Search for the Golem in Prague’s Jewish quarter. According to legend, Rabbi Loew created the giant and terrifying artificial being from clay during the Renaissance era in order to protect the city’s Jewish community. When the Golem got out of control, he deactivated the monster and stored his huge body in the attic of the Old New Synagogue, the oldest functioning Jewish shrine in Europe. Explore the history of the Jewish community of Prague, and see the grave of Golem’s creator in the Old Jewish Cemetery.

Revitalise in Europe’s medical spa capital, West Bohemia

When it comes to wellness, the Czech Republic is a hotspot for healing techniques, often at very reasonable prices. You’ll find that balneology – an age-old bathing therapy in which the body is cleansed and healed using thermal mineral water – is a focus of many spas. Ancient traditions are paired with modern techniques to ensure maximum relaxation, providing the perfect opportunity to rest and recharge after time spent exploring the many nearby castles. Check out the spa city of Teplice, between the Krušné Mountains and the Bohemian Mid-Highlands, for a selection of different spas you can visit.

Classical music concert at Lobkowicz Palace

Czechs are very proud of their classical music heritage, and Prague has a wide choice of venues to hear the masterpieces of Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Leoš Janáček and other famous composers. Classical music concerts are held at the Lobkowicz Palace in the Prague Castle district, at the Municipal House, or in some of the many churches in the historic centre of the city. If you feel like an even more regal experience, check out performances at the Rudolfinum Concert Hall, the National Theatre or the Estates Theatre, where Mozart’s Don Giovanni premiered in the 18th century.

Learn all about the Cold War

Experience the grim times of the Cold War when Prague was one of the capitals of the Warsaw Pact. Learn about the Stalinist era of the 1950s, and about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Visit a nuclear bunker, explore the Museum of Communism and see some of the sights of the Velvet Revolution that toppled the communist regime in 1989.

Live like a local

In recent decades, several of Prague’s residential neighbourhoods just outside the city centre have undergone major transformation from shabby, poorly kept areas, into trendy zones with fashionable eateries, chic cafes and expensive apartment boutiques. Letná – on the left of the Vltava – and Vršovice – to the south of the centre and on the right bank – are places to visit if you want to experience the vibrant thrum of the new, more fashionable local scene.

Savour local flavours

In recent years, many restaurants in Prague have reinvented typical Czech food, which used to be seen as outdated and too heavy. Avoid the tourist trap restaurants and enjoy a new take on some Czech classics such as fried cheese, beef in cream sauce, and pork knee with dumplings.

Take a traditional Czech cooking class

Explore Prague’s food markets and stock up on delicious ingredients, before using your freshly bought produce to cook up a traditional Czech feast. Some popular Czech dishes are easy enough to make, and if you want to take home a special souvenir from Prague, why not make it a recipe that will amaze your family and friends.

Explore the Czech beer scene

No visit to the Czech Republic is complete without beer, arguably the country’s top product. There are dozens of large breweries and hundreds of craft brewers all around the country, including the capital, so when you want to sample some, make sure you go beyond the mass-produced commercial brands. There are hundreds of pubs in Prague that will help you navigate through the world of Czech beer.

Enjoy the Czech nightlife

Since the wild 1990s saw the return of artistic freedom to the country, and a major influx of influences from abroad, Prague has built up a lively club scene offering anything from electronica and rap, to jazz and folk music. Some of the best clubs are located in the very heart of the city, others are in former industrial sites that can be reached by public transport. Or you can take a tour of some of the trendy clubs in the capital.

Complete Czech’s Unesco trail

Thanks to its long and layered history, the Czech Republic is home to a whopping 14 Unesco World Heritage Sites, which is twice the world average. Many magnificent monuments call the historic centre of Prague their home, but venture just an hour east and discover the medieval city of Kutná Hora. Once the seat of Wenceslaus II’s royal mint and a prospering royal city throughout the 14th century, this colourful city offers curious travellers a glimpse into an unfamiliar era.

Support local hockey teams

Czechs love hockey, and the country has a thriving professional league. If you are here during the season and feel like watching some fast action on ice, Prague has one of the most modern hockey venues in Europe, home to the legendary Sparta Prague hockey club. Catch one of the home games against long-time rivals Brno or Kladno. Prague also has a number of ice rinks with skate rentals that you can visit all year round.

Three-hour Prague Segway tour

Whizz around the streets of Prague on this three-hour Segway tour of the city and visit many of the capital’s treasures, some of which you may not even know exist. From the historic Břevnov Monastery, founded in 993CE, to Ladronka Park, this is the ideal place to glide around on two wheels. You’ll be able to experience the natural beauty of the city while also getting top tips from your host on the best places to eat, drink and chill that are off the beaten track.

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