Prague did not take long to win us over! We found the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic very charming, very historic, and very walkable.
The magnificence of the historic center of Prague contrasts dramatically with the drab and uninspiring Soviet era city expanse which surrounds it. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, that central city core spans both sides of the Vltava river, covering a HUGE area, larger than any other “old town” we know of anywhere. It is divided into five main districts, each of which is fascinating to explore.
Layered in history, Prague has been inhabited since the Stone Age, with recorded history dating back to at least the time of the Romans. The many buildings and monuments of this historic city, however, cover the period following the first establishment of Prague Castle in the ninth century up until the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the first world war. Amateurs of architecture will revel at the awesome number of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical structures all over the city.
Discovering the history of the Holy Roman Empire and the events of the twelfth to the fifteenth century, when Prague was at its zenith, was a new and fascinating experience for us. Thankfully, the center of Prague was almost entirely spared by the bombings of the second world war and you can walk thru centuries of history by simply strolling the streets of this very well-preserved city.
We divided our tour of Prague into six different areas, each worth at the very least a half-day of touring and each with its unique character and history.
1. Prague Castle and Castle Hill
Prague Castle is not only the oldest but also the largest palace complex in the world. It’s been more than a thousand years since construction first began back in 885 on top of what seems to be the highest hill in Prague. So make sure to wear your walking shoes – there’s a lot to see!
2. Lesser Town and Charles Bridge
Lesser Town is the district on the slope leading from Castle Hill down to the Vltava River. A quieter area filled with embassies, government buildings and rich mansions, and much more.
Pedestrian-only Charles Bridge was built in the fourteenth century over the Vltava River between the Lesser Town and the Old Town districts. The solidly-built stone bridge has been used for almost 800 years! It is guarded by towers at each end and lined with statues from various periods.
3. Kampa Island
Kampa Island, located next to the Lesser Town of Prague just south of the Charles Bridge, is an oasis of calm and beauty right in the middle of the city. Kampa Island has been voted the second most beautiful city island in the world. Well worth a visit.
4. Old Town
The Old Town district of Prague is the area covered by Prague in medieval times and used to be surrounded by a wall and moat, both of which were demolished when the “New” Town was created in the fourteenth century.
5. Jewish Quarter
Jews have been a significant part of the history of Prague almost since the beginning of the city. They accounted for 20% of the population of the city at the beginning of the second world war. As in so many other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, the Germans successfully exterminated and wiped out the thriving Jewish population of Prague. About 250,000 Czech Jews died in the Holocaust, and today there are only about 5,000 Jews in Prague.
6. New Town
That the “New” Town district of Prague goes back to the fourteenth century underscores the illustrious and long history associated with the city of Prague.
Eating fabulously in Prague
Eating in Prague is as memorable an experience as the architecture and history of the city. Here are some of our very enjoyable dining experiences (with more to come) in this up-and-coming culinary destination:
Best of Prague: Piano Nobile at historic Villa Richter!
Field Restaurant for the best of Prague gastronomy!
Mlynec Prague – The art of gastronomy in the Old Town!
Cafe Savoy – The best brunch in Prague!
Getting around Prague
Sometimes, walking is not a practical option. Because so many areas of the historic center are pedestrian, cars have to take a circuitous route to get to most destinations. We used the Uber car service, recently introduced in Prague, when we needed transport by automobile and were totally satisfied with their service, and even more so with the cost, which never exceeded US$7.
Prague is one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. Come prepared for throngs in areas such as the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle but know that you can visit the many other attractions of the city at a leisurely pace. BonVoyageurs highly recommends a walk through history in Prague!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for more Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Quebec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe, places like Paris France, Nice France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), Tuscany and Florence in Italy, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!
Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says
You’ve summarized the various Prague neighborhoods that we loved during our winter visit last year. Kampa Island would be a dreamy place to live, even if only for a while. There are so many hidden places to explore in the Castle and Old Town districts that we felt a stay of a month (on Kampa Island or in Novy Svet, ideally) would hardly be enough.
Paula McInerney says
Love walking a discovering things in a city and Prague is one very appealing city
Thanks for bringing back some great memories. I spent time in Prague a few years ago, and loved every second. Would love to go back again one of these days.
Lisa Chavis says
What a timely piece for us as we head to Prague tomorrow by train! We’ll be there for a week, so will definitely be visiting some of your suggestions, especially Old Town and Kampa Island. We’re also very excited to try some of your recommendations for Eating Fabulously in Prague. Thanks so much for sharing!
Anita @ No Particular Place To Go says
If we had a bucket list Prague would be at the top! I’ve drooled over pictures of this amazing city for years and your post only whets my appetite. Amazing architecture, history and a place filled with a fascinating history and culture. Hope to visit one day SOON!
Carole Terwilliger Meyers says
I’ve never been to Prague, but I like that you break it up into half-day sections for touring. That makes it feel more doable.
Irene S. Levine says
How great that you were able to use Uber in Prague at such a reasonable price! Love Uber!
Sand In My Suitcase says
Sounds like walking is the way to see Prague! (And we love walking.) But perhaps it’s best to visit in shoulder season if you want to avoid crowds?
Andrea Gerak says
Hi, yes, walking is definitely the thing to do. Prepare for cobble stones, though, literally.every.where.
I have spent quite some time here and the summer is indeed too crowded, but even then, you can get up EARLY in the morning and discover pretty much everything where you don’t need to enter a door, you will hardly meet anybody in the streets.
The Gypsynesters says
Thanks for a great look at one of our favorite cities. Prague is truly magical.
Suzanne Fluhr says
We did an all day walking tour of Prague when we visited 10 years ago. We covered all the areas you recommended (because sometimes we boarded a tram during the tour). However, we did not visit Kampa Island and after reading your post and seeing the photo, I am now retroactively sorry.
Oh, a very nice summary of the pearls of my home town!
I would further recommend you to maybe take a tour of David Cerny’s sculptures (and end it in Krasny Ztraty at Naprstkova street), where you can meet the author himself 🙂
What a great suggestion! We will definitely try to take that tour and meet David Cerny next time we are in Prague!
Andrea Gerak says
Greetings from Prague! From a beautiful historical building just below the Castle, overlooking the town…
Prague indeed is a top destination in the world, you must visit!
However, after Margitsziget (Margaret Island) in Budapest, and Stockholm which itself is build on several islands, I don’t see Kampa as something really special.
Czech food – of course, you will be treated great at such gourmet places. Otherwise, “normal” Czech kitchen is quite boring, they don’t have many special dishes that could be distinguished from what you get in Austria, Germany or in some cases, Hungary, except for a few kinds.
Other than that, one thing I would most highly recommend in Prague is live music, especially classical, jazz and this lively cafe house Gypsy music which is so particular to Central Europe.
Great post and information. I love bridges and would love to see Charles Bridge. I can’t believe it’s over 800 years old. Crazy. Enjoyed the pictures.
LOVE Prague! Plus, it’s really cheap compared to other European cities. I especially love getting out of the city to Kutna Hora to visit the famous bone church – the inside is decorated with the skeletons of up to 70,000 plague victims! Truly incredible but incredibly creepy…
Do you recommend visiting Prague during Winter?
Rusha Sams says
Loved all the sites you mentioned in the post, but what’s not to like in Prague? It was one of my all-time favorite surprises — I knew it would be pretty, but had no idea it would be so stellar in so many ways. And thanks for the info on Uber. We walked just about everywhere, and that’s another thing I loved about Prague!