Starting Our Central Europe Trip In Prague
Prague was the first stop on our spring trip to Central Europe. We landed in Prague and spent 5 days on our own as we explored the city. Then we joined our small group tour with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) for 14 days and travelled from Prague to Budapest. Most people on our group tour only had an extra day or two. We were glad we booked some extra time. There were so many things to do in Prague when we visited for 8 days.
Settling Into Prague
We landed and did the long walk to baggage “reclaim”. The carousel had started to roll by the time we got there. And our “Priority” bags were off almost right away. We were glad we didn’t dawdle on our way down.
Once I got my international SIM working, it was easy to call an Uber. It was about a 20 to 30 minute drive into the downtown area. We got a little view of Prague on our way to the Sheraton Prague Charles Square. We were still building points and loyalty with the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) Program. So we decide to stay here even though we needed to change hotels when our formal land tour began.
We were very happy that our room was ready when we arrived at 11am. Our two storey suite had enough room to let us unwind for the 5 nights we had in Prague before our tour began. When David found his requested pillow already in the room, we were happy to have put our preferences on the booking.
After we were settled in we had a quick nap. Then our tour guide Vashek met us at the hotel. We wanted input on what to see in Prague that would not duplicate what we would see with him. He had some great suggestions on things to do in Prague for our 8 day visit.
1) Take A Tour
There are many different ways to take a tour in Prague. Several different Hop-On-Hop-Off tour companies were available. Within the older parts of Prague, the routes used the smaller van-style buses. We often start a visit to a city with a bus tour. But this time we chose to wander on our own.
The most unique thing we saw was the ability to tour around Prague in replica old cars. A wide variety of old cars were used around town. It looked like a really fun way to see an area of the city. If you are an old car aficionado, you will love to check out the detail on some of the cars.
We chose to walk or use the public transit system to get around Prague. Both the subway (Metro) and trams covered all the major areas we wanted to visit. There were many trams at the stop close to our hotel. We probably used the #22 the most to get to the Prague Castle side of town.
Taking a tour is one of the things to do in Prague to give you an overview of the city. But we were totally able to wander on our own around this city.
2) Check Out The Varied Architecture
As we wandered around Prague, everywhere we looked there was yet another fascinating building to look at. Prague had largely been spared during the world wars so there was not major re-construction needed. However, many of the buildings were turned over to the state during the communist era. When the buildings were restored to former owners, many had a lot of work to do to restore the buildings to their former glory.
There was such a mix of architectural styles in Prague – Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and even some that looked like Art Nouveau. The historic tourist sites offered interesting details inside and out. Churches and bridges added yet more to the architectural mix.
So many of the buildings were works of art. Some buildings were decorated top to bottom. Others had interesting details you didn’t want to miss. Still others were decorated in the unique sgraffito style we saw for the first time in Prague.
One day our tour guide was very excited when he found a former Baroque palace that was open to the public. After we finished with the group for the day, we want off to visit the Colloredo Mansfeldsky Palace. We found the cafe on the ground floor before we ascended to the gallery.
There was an art exhibit in the building. But we only wanted to wander from room to room. Most of the building was in poor shape. Until we hit the large ballroom. It took our breath away. And was definitely worth a visit. Check out to see if the building is open for some kind of exhibit when you visit Prague.
As you walk around, make sure to look at the buildings and architecture of Prague. This is not to be missed. We saw so much we had to write a separate blog to do it justice. There are cobblestone streets everywhere in Prague, so stop to look and take pictures. But enjoying the architecture is certainly one of the great things to do in Prague.
3) Wander In The Gardens
It was an early and hot spring when we landed in Prague. Everywhere we went, we found flowers in bloom. So different from the grey and cold we left behind in Toronto. While we visited Washington DC to catch the cherry blossoms, we were still happy to see spring in full bloom. There were a lot of small parks around. The park by our hotel was a favourite spot for people to sit and enjoy the sun and flowers.
There are several botanical gardens around Prague. There is a big garden up by the Prague Castle. The main botanical garden is located by the zoo. One day we wanted a quiet afternoon so we headed to the botanical garden at the Charles University close to our hotel. It was easy to see that this garden was used for study. There were signs everywhere showing what was in the garden beds.
As we walked in the gardens we enjoyed the views. We sat like the local on the benches and just enjoyed the great day. There were also two greenhouses on the property. There was an extra fee to visit both greenhouses.
Getting outside in the parks and green spaces is one of the things to do in Prague if you are looking to relax.
4) Head To Vysehrad
We took the Metro (subway) to the stop at Vysehrad. We had a general sense of where we needed to go when we reached ground level. But the signage was pretty poor. It was a good thing we had our offline map app on our mobile phone.
When we walked in through the main gates, we found the path that led to the castle walls and walked around on top. There were great views from the walls. Far below we saw the river. At some point we knew we would be headed down.
Every now and then we got a glimpse of the towers of the St Peter and St Paul Church. And then we finally came to the gate to the Church. There was a small cemetery outside the church. Around the cemetery were two long rows of porticos. The ceilings and walls were all decorated. It reminded us of the long porticos that Bologna in Italy is known for.
There were large tour groups crowding the church so we did not go inside. Afterwards we realized that it was almost noon. It would have been fascinating to hear the bells chime from inside of the church. Later on our trip, we got the chance to climb the St Pierre Church towers in Geneva right as the bells tolled!
We found the path beside the river and looked out. Then we slowly walked down to the river level. A visit to Vysehrad is certainly one of the things to do in Prague
5) Walk Along The Riverfront
We took several opportunities to walk along the waterfront. There were restaurants with a view in several spots. On the stretch of riverfront under Vysehrad we found a large market with many stalls. We ate and drank our way down the riverfront! On the weekend, it was busy with both locals and tourists. Families enjoyed being down by the river.
As we walked along the riverfront, we got a great view of many of the major buildings in Prague. From almost everywhere in the city you got a view of the Prague Castle and the St Vitrus Cathedral. On the other hill on that side of the river, we saw the Petrin Tower. The Petrin Tower was a great spot to start our Prague visit with a great panoramic view. The river was definitely a busy spot!
The National Theatre is located close to the riverfront. We got our first view of the gleaming dome from our hotel. But we also saw it from different angles from the waterfront. Take time to walk around slowly and admire the statues and carving. And don’t miss Marilyn Monroe in the piazza behind the theatre.
We made sure to seek out the Dancing House. I had seen this house in many photos before we arrived in Prague. It was definitely one of the sights along the riverfront to see.
A walk along the riverfront is definitely one of the things to do in Prague.
6) Take A Boat Ride On The River
If you want to go out on the water on your own, there are several spots between the locks where you can rent a boat. The boats came in several designs. Depending on your mood you could rent a pedal boat, paddle a kayak or even try stand up paddle boards. It’s all about the experiences and making memories.
For a short ride on the Vltava River, there are ferry boats that cross at several points along the river. These are covered by public transit tickets or passes.
If you want to do a longer boat cruise along the Vltava River, there are many different boat options in many sizes. In Prague, our tour group took the Prague Venice Tour. It was a day trip so we missed seeing Prague all lit up at night. But we did an amazing night river tour when we visited Budapest to see the city lights.
We also got a short tour of the canal system in Prague. We first saw the canals when we were in the Lesser Town and headed to walk the Charles Bridge. The canal tour was somewhat reminiscent of our canal cruises in Copenhagen and again in Amsterdam. People stood on the bridges as we passed and waved.
We were happy that a boat cruise was one of the things to do in Prague that we got to experience. Had we not had such a great night view from our hotel, we definitely would have booked a night cruise. The jazz boat was on our list. But will have to wait for a return visit.
7) Cross the Charles Bridge
One day we headed to Lesser Town under the Prague Castle. From the St Nicholas Church we walked along the cobblestone street to the Lesser Town Tower to walk the Charles Bridge.
The Charles Bridge is the major tourist bridge in Prague. On the bridge we found musicians and artists. The statues along the bridge provided a great foreground for the sights of Prague.
We left the Charles Bridge on the other side through the Old Town Tower. A walk across the Charles Bridge is one of the iconic things to do in Prague.
8) Explore The Old Town Square
The Old Town Square is located by the Jewish Quarter in Prague. Each time we visited it was very crowded. The big attraction in the Old Town Square was the Astronomical Clock. We were disappointed to find that the clock was being cleaned. All we found was an image of the clock on the scaffolding. This would happen again when we went to see the Astronomical Clock in Bern!
On one end of the square we found the Jan Hus Memorial. There were benches all around the statue and people were enjoying the hot early spring. On one side of the Old Town Square the spires of the Church Of Our Lady Before Tyn stood high.
On one corner of the Old Town Square we found yet another Nicolas Church. There were concerts given in this church. So make sure to check out the schedule.
All of the various tours could be picked up from this point – large hop on hop off buses, small tuk tuk rides, segway tours and even horse and carriage rides. If you were a new bride, you could pay to use the horse and carriage for your pictures.
One of the things to do in Prague will be to head to the Old Town Square. Hopefully the Astronomical Clock will be open for viewing when you visit.
9) Head High For A Great View in Prague
One of the first things we often do in a new town is to find the high point to get a panoramic view. In Prague we started with a visit to the Petrin Tower. From there we got our bearings and saw many of the key points around the city.
From our vantage point at the Petrin Tower, we got yet another view of the Prague Castle and the St Vitrus Cathedral. One day our tour group was up early for a visit to the Prague Castle before the crowds descended. The castle grounds are massive and provide yet another set of interesting buildings. St Vitrus Cathedral was stunning inside.
At several points on our walk around the Prague Castle, we got views out over the city of Prague. By then we were able to pick out so many more recognizable points.
Getting a high panoramic view is one of the first things to do in Prague. It will entice you to explore this beautiful city.
10) Eat And Drink In Prague
Before we visited Central Europe, we were on a low carb diet for 6 weeks. So much of the food in the Czech Republic was heavy, with rich sauces. We had dumplings with almost every meal we had. They were indeed yummy but not at all low carb. Occasionally when we travelled on our own, we did find salads with lots of veggies. But this was rare on our trip from Prague to Budapest.
As with much of Europe, beer and wine was often cheaper to drink than soda pop or bottled water. The Czech Republic is known for being a beer drinking country. So David tried different local beer brands. On one of our tour days, we actually spent some time visiting the Budwar Budweiser plant in Czech.
Of course we couldn’t leave Prague without a visit to an absinthe bar. It is still quite legal in the Czech Republic. After our taste test, I understood why it might be banned in some places. We had a great taste test in the most interesting Green Devil’s Absinth Bar in Prague.
There were lots of yummy desserts to try. Apple strudel became one of my favourites. But everywhere we went we were tempted with the local Trdelnik treats. Even better when we found good coffee and even afrogato (espresso with gelato).
Eat and drink your way around the city. This is definitely one of the things to do in Prague. But be prepared for a lot of pork and little veggies. If you need special food in Prague, make sure to do your research in advance. Or follow our lead and find the markets!
And Don’t Forget To Have Some Fun
There we a lot of tourist spots to visit in Prague. Everywhere we went there was another great view to be had. But we also found ways to have a little fun.
Being a good Apple geek, we stopped when we saw the Apple Museum in Prague. This museum houses the largest private collection of Apple’s products you can find anywhere.
When we walked through the Old Town Square, we stopped and watched the kids play in the bubble stream. I really wanted to play too!
David was usually the one moving out ahead of me. He was always on the lookout for something new to photograph. When I caught up with him one day, he had found the perfect spot to wait.
Everywhere we walked we seemed to find a Thai massage parlour. The prices seemed so cheap that we almost got drawn in. But when we looked at the intro price, it was clear that this would barely get you a quick rub. But it would have been a fun spot to recover a bit from the walking.
No matter which of the things to do in Prague that you choose, remember to have some fun!
Lots To See And Many Things To Do In Prague For 8 Days
We enjoyed exploring for 8 days and found lots of things to do in Prague. We booked a little extra time to allow us to recover from the travel. And to be able to explore at our own pace before we joined the group tour from Prague to Budapest. You can probably see most of Prague in about 5 days if you are staying in the city.
Many people do a day trip to Cesky Krumlov. Our group tour took us to Cesky Krumlov for 3 nights. We got a great chance to explore the city and use it as a base to explore the countryside.
We found such a variety of things to do in Prague. It is a beautiful city with lots to see. Head high to Petrin Tower or explore the Prague Castle to get panoramic views. Cross the iconic Charles Bridge. Walk the city streets and take your time. The buildings and architecture offer so much beauty. Walk along the river or take a river cruise to see the sights on both sides of the Vtlova River.
Try the absinthe in a local bar for one taste of Prague. Or find lots of way to sample the local Czech beer. Settle down on a patio and just enjoy the view. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you want. Find one of the things to do in Prague that matches your mood and desires – and enjoy!
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