Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

With only two days to spend in the beautiful and fascinating city of Prague, I was keen to cram as much as possible into my limited time.  I’d been warned that the endless supply of winding cobbled streets, ancient Gothic-inspired architecture and red rooftops would have me feeling like I’d stepped into the pages of a storybook.


Church of Our Lady Before Tyn PraguePrague's beautiful Church of Our Lady Before Tyn can be viewed from above from the Old Town Hall tower.

 

Having previously visited the Czech town of Cesky Krumlov, I was prepared to be blown away by the city’s beauty - and I was. 


Here’s how I spent my 48 hours in Prague.

 

Day 1

Charles Bridge

We arrived in Prague after an overnight flight from Reykjavik so, after a quick shower and breakfast at our Prague hotel, we set off on foot to explore the city.


Our visit stop was Charles Bridge, one of the most well-known landmarks in Prague. Until 1841, it was the only crossing over the Vltava River and during this time, its connection between the Prague Castle and the Old Town made it a critical trade route from eastern Europe to the western European countries.


Charles Bridge is still the city’s most popular crossing point today and it heaves with people all day long.  Try to visit very early in the morning (just after dawn) to avoid the crowds or you’ll find yourself weaving between the vendors and artists who set up camp to sell their wares along Charles Bridge.


Features of the Gothic style bridge are the 30 statues of saints and other religious figures that line each side of the bridge, and the magnificent Old Town Bridge Tower which heralds your arrival at the Old Town.


Later in our visit we walked across the bridge at 10.30pm and it was still crowded with folks out enjoying the warm summer night.

 

Charles Bridge PragueCharles Bridge is one of Prague's most recognisable sights. 

The Castle complex and St. Vitus’s Cathedral

Castles are a real attraction for many visitors to Europe - including me - and when a city has a castle as grand and austere as the Prague Castle, it’s not something you’ll want to miss. 


The castle grounds boast not only the Prague Castle, but the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, and St. George’s Basilica.

 
Prague Castle is reportedly the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying a staggering 750,000 square feet— and for those who love a little mystery, the Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within its walls, hidden away in a secret room.


You could spend hours in the castle precinct but if you’re conscious of time, as we were, a wander around the exterior will give you an appreciation of the scale of this huge complex.  The castle grounds and Royal Palace are both open daily.  (Check opening times here )


Well worth a look is the changing of the guards which takes place on the hour from 9am to 6pm each day at the Castle gates 


Heading down the New Castle Steps away from St. Vitus’s Cathedral and the Royal Palace, we found ourselves in a jumble of cobblestoned alleys leading back down towards the river.


There are plenty of cafes here so we grabbed a bite to eat, and then spent some time browsing the shops for souvenirs and a special keepsake to take home.

 

Prague Castle at sunsetPrague Castle dominates the skyline of the city and is spectacular at sunset.

Petrin Hill

Continuing along the street named Karmelitska Ujezd we arrived at Petrin Hill, named for its expansive area formed mostly of rocks (many were even used as early construction materials for stone buildings in the city). This a popular recreational spot across the river from the heart of Prague.


There are plenty of things to do here including just relaxing on the lawns but most tourists head to the Petrin lookout tower, a 63-metre high tower designed to resemble Paris’ Eiffel Tower. The Petrin funicular whisks you to the top in no time where you’ll get fantastic views over the city. 


Walking back downhill, you can enjoy stops at the Mirror Maze, and the Hunger Wall a medieval defensive wall originally built to fortify protection around the castle.

 

Petrin Hill PragueThe Petrin Hill Tower was modelled on Paris's Eiffel Tower.

The onion-domed Cathedral of St. Lawrence, a Romanesque church later reconstructed in a Baroque style, is also worth a visit.


Prague Old Town

After our visit to  Petrin Hill, we  headed back towards Charles Bridge and across the river to see some of the top highlights in the Old Town. This is where the cobbled stone streets of Prague really come alive, dotted with quaint little shops, cafés, and restaurants.

 

The Astronomical Clock and Town Hall Tower

The Astronomical Clock is an iconic sight in this area and was one of my ‘must-sees’ in Prague. It is a 600-year old clock with multiple dials representing the sun and the moon, the months of the year, and various saints. It also features figurines of Catholic saints as well as a skeleton representing death which, on an hourly basis, moves to strike the hour. 


Unfortunately for me, it was being renovated (for the first time in 600 years!!) when I was in Prague, and was encased in scaffolding so I was unable to appreciate the intricate clock face first hand.


The Astronomical Clock can be found in Old Town Square, mounted on the outside of the Town Hall’s Tower and I highly recommend you head to the top of the tower for unparalleled views of the city sprawling before you.


A series of sloped ramps, rather than stairs, lead visitors to the top of the 41-metre high tower.  (A lift is also available.)


The red rooftops of Prague stretch out before you from the Tower whilst the Church of Our Lady before
Týn, a Gothic church whose sharp towers (more than 80m high) dominate the skyline of the Old Town, is right in front of you.


The Old Town Hall is also home to the Prague’s main Tourist Office.

 

Prague view from town hallThe views over Prague from the Old Town Hall tower are spectacular.l

Wenceslas Square

Before we called it a day, there was still time to visit Wenceslas Square. Located in New Town and only a fifteen-minute walk from the Old Town, Wenceslas Square is technically a long boulevard, and is often used for demonstrations and large public gatherings. Most notably, it was the site of the 1918 reading of the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia.


At the end of its stretch stands the Czech National Museum, which (apparently) boasts an impressive collection in both its Natural History wing as well as its Historical Museum.  By now it was after closing time so we weren’t able to see the collection for ourselves.

 

Wenceslas Square PragueA statue of King Wenceslas stands at one end of Wenceslas Square.

Day 2

Dancing House

Prague isn’t just a place of ancient historical buildings; you can also find more modern architecture so after breakfast we set off to see some. The best example of this is undoubtedly the Dancing House, whose twisted design resembles a pair of dancers and is often referred to as the Fred and Ginger House.


Though its interiors are not entrance-worthy (it houses the Prague offices of a Dutch insurance and asset management company), its outside is dazzling and a stark contrast to the gothic and art nouveau buildings that make Prague famous.

 

Dancing House PragueIt may be just an ordinary office block but the exterior of the Dancing House is pretty impressive.

Heydrich Terror Memorial

In this corner of Europe, World War II memorials and museums are commonly found, and Prague is no exception. We were lucky to be told about a special museum when chatting with some fellow hotel guests at breakfast and as we were nearby, we decided we had to visit.


Underneath the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, only a few minutes walk from the Dancing House, is the Heydrich Terror Memorial. This small museum tells the story of the Czech resistance in the Second World War, in particular the cornering and subsequent deaths of the paratroopers sent from London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the primary architect of the German Holocaust.


Though a sobering visit, both the Cathedral and its museum make for a fascinating foray into a dark but historically significant chapter of Europe’s history.


The museum was free to enter and the story of the paratroopers can be followed on large boards around the museum.  You can also visit the crypt where the paratroopers spent their last hours before their hiding spot was discovered.


After our visit to the museum we needed to lift our spirits so we walked alongside the Vltava River back towards Charles Bridge.  With summer in full swing there were plenty of places to stop and sit outdoors at a cafe for a coffee or something to eat. 


We enjoyed a delicious all-day breakfast at Cafe Bella Vida overlooking the river which was busy with weekend traffic. 

 

View of PraguePrague's Vltava River is spanned by numerous bridges which makes getting around the city easy.

 

Gardens below Prague Castle

Continuing on, we made our way past Kampa Park and emerged near the entrance to the Palace Gardens under Prague Castle (address Valdštejnská 158/14, 110 00 Malá Strana)


Here there are several connected gardens all boasting beautiful architectural design complete with stone staircases, terraces providing sweeping views of the city, and even pavilions. 


The Italian-inspired architecture sits among the vibrant greenery of the gardens to create a beautiful integrated garden which often hosts city events such as concerts. 


On the day we visited a wedding was taking place and the newlyweds stood alongside us on the highest terrace as their photographer snapped away.  


With the red rooftops of Prague spread out before me, this is was probably my favourite viewing spot in the city. 


There was just time to grab some lunch before our afternoon’s sightseeing.

 

Prague skyline viewThis view of Prague's skyline from the upper terrace of the Palace Gardens was my favourite.

 

Walking tour of Prague Old Town

We headed back across Charles Bridge and into Old Town for a walking tour of the older parts of the city.  (We were kindly hosted on a two-hour walking tour by Prague Tourism.)


After meeting our friendly and knowledgeable guide at the Town Hall we set off for a fascinating walk around Prague.  Among the sites we visited were the Estates Theatre, St. Jacob’s Basilica (which is adorned with magnificent frescoes and boasts an organ with 8,277 pipes), and the Jewish Quarter. 


Tours with a local guide are a great way to learn more about a city and our guide had us captivated with facts and figures about Prague for the whole two hours.  We definitely learnt more about the city in that short time that we would have from reading any guide book.


After our tour concluded, we spent some time wandering at will around the cobbled streets.  It was late Saturday afternoon by now and the streets were coming alive with revellers - many of whom were young, intoxicated Brits on Bucks’ and Hens’ weekends.  Their antics, whilst mostly harmless, did seem to impose on the beauty of Prague.


It’s a shame, because Prague oozes charm and character, and these folks are not likely to remember that about the city.  (TIP:  Avoid visiting at weekends in summer if you don’t want to share the Old Town with young Bucks and Hens.)

 

Prague Old TownOur walking tour, which included Prague's Old Town, was informative and enjoyable.

 

Dinner at Hotel U Prince

After returning to our hotel for a rest and a shower, we made our way back to the Old Town for a special dinner.


I’d seen photos of the view from the Hotel U Prince’s terrace restaurant and decided that would be the perfect way to end our stay in the city.  An email a few months before our visit resulted in a table reservation and we arrived on the night to find we had what is probably the best table of all!


Hotel U Prince is located just by Old Town Square and from the rooftop terrace you look directly at the towers of the Town Hall and Church of Our Lady before Týn.  On a warm summer’s night it was a fantastic location to enjoy a meal at what is regarded as one of the best rooftop restaurants in the world.  


Our meal was delicious and our waiter was attentive and friendly.  Just a tip: Ladies, or those with a small appetite - the meat skewers are MUCH larger than they look on the menu.  It was a very generous serve which I couldn’t do justice to.


If you plan on dining on the rooftop terrace, reserve ahead as tables do book out in advance.  There is also seating downstairs - both inside and outside.   

 

We ended our final day in Prague with a late evening walk back across Charles Bridge to our hotel, soaking in the beauty of the Old Town Gate and Prague Castle lit up at night.

 

Dinner at Hotel U PrinceWe had the best table in the house for our dinner at Hotel U Prince.

 

The Prague Card

It’s worth considering purchasing a Prague Card when you visit the city.  Prague City Tourism kindly provided me with a 3-day card which entitled me to free or discounted entry to many of the city’s attractions.  The card also includes free public transport and special rates on river cruises, excursions and shopping.


Some of Prague’s top attractions that are covered by the Prague Card are the Castle complex including Old Royal Palace and St. Vitus’ Cathedral, Prague Zoo, Petrin Hill Tower (and the funicular), the Jewish Museum, and Old Town Hall, including the tower.


Prague Cards are available for durations of 2, 3 or 4 days.  Click here to check prices.  

 

Street near Prague CastleThe cobbled streets around Prague Castle are full of artisan stores, souvenir shops and restaurants.

 

Where to stay in Prague

Many visitors opt to stay in or near the Old Town when they visit Prague but I chose to stay on the other side of the river closer to Petrin Hill at Hotel Julian (click here to check prices).


The hotel was in a good location close to a tram stop, although we chose to walk everywhere in Prague.  Allow at least 20 minutes to walk to Prague Castle, 30 minutes to Charles Bridge and 40 minutes to the Old Town (we are quite fast walkers).


Our room was beautifully furnished with a king size bed, couch and chair, desk, TV, safe, free WiFi, tea and coffee making facilities and mini bar. The bathroom featured a full size bath with overhead shower and luxurious towels.


A European-style buffet breakfast was included in our room rate, and the welcome drink on arrival was a nice touch.  The hotel also has a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a drink and watch the sunset over Prague Castle.


Click here to check prices at Hotel Julian 

 

Hotel Julian PragueHotel Julian was a perfect base for our stay in Prague.

 

Getting to Prague

Prague International Airport is serviced by flights from all over Europe and around the world.  Emirates and Qatar Airlines fly directly to the Czech capital from the Middle East, whilst Czech Airlines and many other European carriers offer regular flights to and from the city.

 

Prague can also be reached by train from Berlin and Vienna with good connections onwards to other European destinations.

 

If your time in Europe is very limited, it is also possible to do a day trip to Prague from Vienna (more details here). 

 

Prague Old Town Tower at nightCharles Bridge looks pretty at night.

 

Further reading: How to spend a day in Cesky Krumlov

 


Prague Fun Facts

According to Prague City Tourism,

  • There were 7,652,761 visitors to Prague in 2017
  • 70.5% of these visitors stated their main reason for visiting Prague was for the architecture, history and sightseeing
  • Prague Castle was the most visited site in Prague in 2017 with 2,377,627 visitors
  • 91% of tourists visiting Prague in 2017 stayed in hotels
  • 58.6% of Prague's tourists in 2017 were from Europe with just 1.2% coming from Australia and New Zealand

 

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How to spend 48 hours in Prague