A Weekend in Prague + Karlstejn Castle
“If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among pearls.”
Prague is an absolute must see on any Eastern European itinerary! It’s becoming increasingly more popular but is still an affordable destination away from the hustle and bustle – and the costs – of Western Europe. The list is endless of things to do and see in Prague, plus it is super walkable so you can see a lot in a little amount of time. We spent about 2 days in Prague and got to see most of the highlights within the area of Prague 1 (the main district) that we wanted to see, although you could definitely spend more time within the outlying districts. If you need more recs or advice, make sure to check out the official tourism website. After you have your list, you can check out some of our favorite things to do and see in this beautiful city!
We came from Krakow to Prague, half by a Czech Transport bus into Ostrava and the rest by train, and it was one of the best we traveled on in Europe. The train was comfortable, clean, and came stocked with lots of good snacks and drinks for CHEAP! We got some bites to eat and beers for around $3 due to the low exchange rate with USD and Czech Koruna. The main train hub is very central and close to everything we did in Prague. You can also come by plane and by car but the train is such a great experience that we recommend it as your first option.
where to stay
There are 10 main “districts” of Prague, a bit like how Budapest is set up. Most of the things you’ll want to see and do are located within the district of Prague 1, which includes the Old Town and the Castle area. We recommend staying close to the Old Town and using that as your home base to explore Prague 1. We stayed at Hostel Prague Tyn super close to the main square, right behind the Tyn Church. Another good area is the other side of Prague 1, near the castle, although you’ll have to walk across the Charles Bridge a few times to see the Old Town.
what to do
There is a lot to see in Prague just within the first district, enough to enjoy for a couple of days. If you have more time, there is definitely more to explore in the outlying districts, but since this is what we know – these are the things were talking about to visit!
Old Town Square
There’s always so much to see in the Old Town Square! Lots of musical performances, walking tours, and characters to people watch. We saw so many talented musicians in the square and it’s a fun area to grab a snack and walk around, especially if the weather is nice!
Gallery of Art Prague
The Gallery of Art Prague is located across from the Town Hall in the OT Square and features a local artist gallery downstairs and some permanent exhibits upstairs from Salvador Dalí, Alfons Mucha, and Andy Warhol. We opted for the ones we knew and headed upstairs to check out some originals from some of the art greats – although in our opinion we don’t love Andy Warhol so we stuck to the other two exhibits. Although it’s paid admission, it was a fun place to check out some art before heading into the rest of the square.
Town Hall + Astronomical Clock
Also in the main square you will find the Old Town Hall – consisting of the the Town Hall, the Old Town tower and chapel, and the very famous Astronomical Clock, an interesting and colorful bohemian time telling calendar. Every hour on the hour from 9 am to 11pm you can view a very interesting processional called the parade of the apostles from the clock. You can watch it from the street or you can buy tickets to the Town Hall tower and watch the show from above. You can start a walking tour here, which you know we always recommend in any city! We did do a walking tour in Prague and got to learn so much from our guide about the Czech history and culture. We 10/10 recommend to get some more in depth history.
You’ve most likely seen the Charles Bridge in any picture of Prague. It’s the oldest bridge in the city and it’s very photogenic! It connects the Staré Mesto (Old Town) to the Mala Strana (Lesser Town) where you will find the Prague Castle. It’s a beautiful walk across the bridge at day or night, but most especially at night time when you can see the 30 statues of saints lit up on the side rails. If you make it across the bridge during the evening, make sure to grab yourself a cup of mulled wine to keep you warm!
The Church of our Lady before Tyn is a beautiful Gothic style church that is hard to miss when in the Old Town. Its organ is the oldest in Prague and the interior is a beautiful Baroque style cathedral. Admission is a voluntary donation, although the views from outside are just as good as inside.
Old Jewish Quarter
One area of town we really didn’t get to explore much was the Jewish Quarter, including the Old and New Jewish Cemeteries and the Jewish Museum. Hitler actually loved Prague and had an idea during the Holocaust that he wanted to keep the city and the Jewish Quarter as a museum of an “extinct race”. Luckily he didn’t succeed in this venture, but due to his love of the city – it was a lot less damaged than most of the major bombed out cities in Europe. We did get to explore a bit of the Old Cemetery on our walking tour and learned that due to lack of space, there are many generations of people buried in one plot. Some graves contain 12 layers of tombs since they ran out of land area to bury their dead and many of the tombstones have been destroyed over time.
Franz Kafka Memorial
Okay, we’ll be honest when we say that we had no idea that Franz Kafka was such a big deal in Prague. We learned from our walking tour that he was a Czech author who compiled many famous literary works that the Czech people are really proud of – hence a lot of statues and a museum about him.
There is SO much to see and do across Charles Bridge on the other side of Prague. We recommend at least three quarters to a whole day spent on this side of the river. Here are a few options of things to see!
Prague Castle Complex
You can’t visit Prague without making your way up to the Castle Complex. It’s hard to miss seeing from most areas of town, but especially Prague 1 where we spent most of our time. Although we didn’t actually go inside the castle itself, you can take a few tours within different buildings of the castle complex and learn its history. The Prague Castle is touted as the largest ancient castle complex in the world and just walking the grounds is a great way to take in some of the Czech culture. There’s some great views of the Old Town, fantastic eatery stands, and ancient buildings to marvel at while in the complex.
St. Vitus Cathedral
You will find St. Vitus Cathedral within the Prague Castle complex and it was actually one of our favorite cathedrals that we saw on our trip, especially the gargoyles found all around the church’s perimeter. It is free admission and worth the trip inside to see the stained glass windows reflect the sunlight onto the cathedral.
Wallenstein Garden is a hidden little gem in the middle of the Lesser Prague area. It’s quiet, peaceful, and absolutely FREE. If you get a sunny day, this place is a perfect spot to spend an hour strolling around, especially since there won’t be a lot of tourists here.
This is a no brainer, Petřín Hill is one of the best areas to watch a sunset during your evenings in Prague. You can climb the observatory tower (for a fee) or you can just enjoy the greenery in the many gardens, including everyone’s favorite – the rose garden!
Letná Park was our favorite area to watch the sunset. You can see both sides of Prague 1 and the Charles Bridge and it makes for a perfect dinner time picnic area away from the city. There is also a beer garden not far from the city overlook in case you need a drink and dinner with a view.
Day Trip to Karlštejn Castle
If you have an extra day, it is worth it to see the Hrad Karlštejn, a quick train ride from Prague. The castle is tucked in the quiet little town of Karlštejn, at the very top of a hill with a nice stroll through the town’s shops and restaurants. It has some really interesting history about King Charles IV who built it and it’s just a fascinating look into daily life back in the 1400-1600’s. If anything, the train ride and town itself is a charming and quiet break from Prague. Tickets range from $14 to $40 USD depending on the tour you choose. We went with the basic tour and we were really impressed with all we got to see and learn.
where and what to eat + drink
While in Prague, you must try all their different cuisine! Our first night, we tried pork knuckle at a place near the main square. A lot of the food we tried was tasty, unique, and so inexpensive.
◊ Trdelník – You will see these little tasty desserts sprinkled all around the town and you need to buy one for every meal! It is a scrumptious pastry made from dough that is wrapped around metal sticks, grilled to golden brown perfection, and then rolled through sugar and almonds. They are most often handed to you fresh and hot, straight from the grill, and ready to be devoured!
◊ Absintherie – It doesn’t matter where you go in Prague, you HAVE to go visit an absinthe bar. We found one called Absintherie and it was an experience! Our bartender recommended the absinthe to try and it might have had a scorpion in it – but it was a pretty cool experience.
◊ Peklo Restaurant – The literal translation of Peklo is “hell” or “inferno” but this place is anything but that. Our camera was out of batteries so we don’t have any pictures of this place, but please do yourself a favor and take our recommendation to go here! It’s tucked up in Strahov hill, where you even have to descend into a cave to get to the restaurant. It is part of one of the oldest monasteries and has a garden terrace attached to the vineyard that is perfect for a wine and cheese platter in the sunshine! It was such a quiet place to eat away from tourists!
◊ Panorama Express Cafe – It’s all in the name with this one. This little express cafe has amazing panoramic views of the streets below the castle and onward views across the bridge back into Old Town. We ordered cappuccinos here, although we should’ve opted for a glass of wine with this view!
◊ Giallo Rossa – This was one of the more “hip” places we ate in Prague and was a really good option for a late night meal. Since it was a pizzeria, we opted for its speciality and split a pizza in the upstairs area. We thought it was a really filling meal for a cheap price and good atmosphere.
◊ Choco Cafe – If you need something warm to put in between your hands, Choco Cafe has got you covered. You can customize your drink with your pick of chocolate and the right amount of milk to chocolate ratio and of course you have to top it off with a handmade dessert!
◊ U Lilie – We randomly found this place in the Old Town for lunch that had good meal deals and mulled wine, so we had to inspect. It was filling, cheap, and unique food!
◊ Cafe Ebel – This was a little cafe we found around the Old Town to sip cappuccinos and planning for the next couple days of our trip. They had lots of yummy homemade baked goods and a large cafe to sit and hang out!
Prague was one a one of a kind place! We would love get back there and explore some of the outlying districts that might be untouched by many tourists. Do you have any recommendations for this beautiful and well preserved city? Let us know in the comments below!
Til next time,