The capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is truly one of Europe’s most enchanting city breaks and seems to never go out of style. From its fairy-tale like architecture and quaint cobbled squares, to Pilsner filled pubs and musical acts strumming along the streets, Prague has plenty to keep visitors entertained. Here are some expert tips to help you pack as much as possible into just 48 hours in Prague.
A great way to start your 48 hours adventure in Prague is a visit to its most popular attraction. Prague Castle – in Czech, Pražský hrad, is not only one of the city’s most iconic sights, but according to the Guinness World Book of Records, the largest ancient castle in the world. Roughly 570 metres long, the castle was built in the 9th century and grew capriciously over the centuries, with the different monarchs making their own additions; which resulted in the eclectic mixture of styles we see today. Within its walls lies a varied collection of historic buildings, among them the striking St Vitus Cathedral, but also many museums and galleries. Golden Lane, a quaint medieval street inside the castle complex, was once home to the famous writer Franz Kafka.
Admission Prices: Choose three different types of circuits, depending on the number of attractions and/or exhibitions you wish to visit. Visit the castle’s website for more information.
Opening hours: The complex is open from early mornings (5-6am, depending on time of year) to late evenings (11pm-12am); however there are shorter opening times for the different buildings inside. Check the castle’s website to find out more.
Close to Prague Castle, you’ll find the Strahov Monastery, a focal point for the beer enthusiasts. A beautiful Baroque complex worth visiting in itself, this monastery has been brewing since the turn of the 14th century, and with surprisingly good results. Three solid unfiltered varieties of its St. Norbert beer are available all-year round: the St. Norbert IPA, a top-fermented British influenced Indian Pale Ale; the amber, a bottom-fermented all-malt lager; and a dark lager, brewed based on a recipe from Munich dating to the first half of the 19th century.
After you had your fair share of beer, make your away downhill via Nerudova (i.e. Kingsway or Kings Road), a picturesque street filled with many souvenir shops and restaurants, where you can stop for a quick lunch. What’s particularly interesting about Nerudova is the amount of house signs, and the famous people who used to inhabited them. Before house numbers were introduced in 1770, each house in Prague was identified by a sign, such as the ‘at the two suns’ house (no.47) where a famous Czech poet and journalist, Jan Neruda lived; or the ‘at the three fiddles’ house (no.12) which used to house three Czech families who made their living making violins.
Continue downhill through Malá Strana, for a short walk past the Lennon Wall. Built in the 1980’s, upon the former Beatle’s death, this symbol of freedom served as much as a memorial to the beloved musician, as an expression of rebellion against the communist regime. It’s a massive wall and is permanently changing, as many local and visiting street artists make their contributions; but the main message – hope for a better world, still remains. If you’re lucky enough you might even catch some budding musicians playing Beatles tunes along the wall.
Another fun activity to do is strolling along the infamous Charles Bridge. You’ll find a gauntlet of street musicians, painters and other hawkers along the extension of the bridge, all beneath the ‘gaze’ of the impressive baroque statues lining the parapets. At the Staré Město (i.e. Old Town) end of the bridge, look over the downstream parapet at the retaining wall on the right and you’ll see a carved stone head known as Bradáč (i.e. Bearded Man). This funny figure is in fact a medieval marker used to let city dwellers know it was time to head for the hills, when the River Vltava level rose above it!
Top Tip: For a unique take on Charles Bridge, choose between a boat tour or rent one of the many tread boats (shaped like swans) on the Vltava river.
Old Town Square
Finish off your day at the Old Town Square admiring its impressive mix of gothic and baroque architecture. Be sure to keep a look out for St Nicholas Church, the Týn Cathedral (with the two mythical Gothic Spires) and finally join the crowds rounding up at the historical Old Town Hall with its world-famous astronomical clock dating back to 1410. Every hour, on the hour, the clock literally comes ‘alive’: a figure representing death rings a bell and inverts his hourglass, quickly followed by the 12 Apostles who parade past the windows above the clock, ‘nodding’ to the crowd. At the end, a cock crows and the hour is rung. This is one of Europe’s best-known attractions and a ‘must-see’ for any visitor to Prague.
Get a panoramic view of the city by heading up to the Žižkov Tower, a unique transmitter tower built in the late 1980s to early 1990s, which stands on top of a hill in the district of Žižkov, from which it takes its name. Boasting an unconventional architecture, the tower consists of three tubes with a double steel wall, which in turn support nine ‘pods’ and three decks. Six of the pods are open to visitors, the highest of which are observation rooms standing 93 metres (305 feet) tall, allowing a 360° view of the metropolis. Recent “additions” over the years, also include a permanent art installation by Czech artist David Černý, consisting of several sculptors of babies crawling and which are attached to the tower’s pillars; a restaurant; and, since 2013, a luxury one room hotel with private access via its own spiral staircase.
Admission Prices: An adult ticket to the observatory rooms will cost you 180 CZK or roughly £5/€7/$7.50, and children from up to 14 years old 100 CZK or £3/€3.70/$4.15.Under 3s go free. Family saver ticket options are also available.
Opening hours: The observatory is open every day from 8am to 12am.
The Dancing House
Alternatively, start your day bright and early with a stroll along the right bank of the river Vltava, and make a stop to take a photograph of the acclaimed Dancing House, also known as Ginger and Fred (after dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers). There is also a restaurant on the seventh floor suitably named, Ginger & Fred (what else!). The building itself is a bold design by architects Frank Gehry (the same Gehry of New York’s Guggenheim museum) and Vlada Milunič, and was built in the mid 90s. The curved lines of its narrow glass tower clutched against its upright and more formal neighbour must have generated some controversy back in the day, but it’s surprising how well this modernist building actually fits in with its traditional neighbourhood.
Museum of Communism
Hop on a tram, a top-experience in Prague, towards Wenceslas Square; and make a small detour to the Museum of Communism. This is a great one for history buffs. Housed in an 18th century aristocrat’s palace (we appreciate the irony!), the museum basically tells the story of Czechoslovakia’s years behind the Iron Curtain. The way of life in socialist Czechoslovakia is well conveyed in a collection of photos, varied items and videos. There are also rare photos of the Stalin monument that once stood on Letná terrace and its subsequent destruction when the regime fell.
Admission: an adult ticket will cost 190 CZK or £5/€7/$8. Children under 10 go free.
Opening hours: Open every day from 9am to 9pm.
One of the main squares and the heart of the business and cultural communities in the New Town area of Prague, Wenceslas Square is named after the patron of Bohemia, St Wenceslas. Less a square than a boulevard, the square has the shape of a very long rectangle, in a northwest–southeast direction. At one end, it is dominated by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum; at the other it runs up against the border between the New and the Old Town. Over the years many historic events and demonstrations also took place here: the Nazis used the street for mass demonstrations in the 1940s; in 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union; and in 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, large demonstrations (with hundreds of thousands of people or more) were held here.
From the National Museum in Wenceslas Square take the A (green) metro line towards Staroměstská, and from there a short 5 min walk will take you into the Jewish Quarter. The quarter is also know as Josefov, after Emperor Joseph II, who emancipated the Jews with the Toleration Decree in 1781. Its turbulent history dates from the 13th century, but fortunately, most of the significant buildings were saved from destruction, and today still remain as a testimony to the history of the Jewish people. There are six synagogues, including the famous Spanish Synagogue; the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery, the most remarkable of its kind in all of Europe. Today, these historical sights, except the Old-New Synagogue – the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe, form what is called the Jewish Museum in Prague. Interestingly, the Jewish Quarter is also the birthplace of the celebrated writer Franz Kafka, who is commemorated with his very own statue on Dusni Street.
Admission Prices: An adult ticket will cost 300 CZK, £8/€11/$12.50 and includes admission to all the Jewish museum sites. The Old-New Synagogue requires a separate ticket. Children under 6 go free.
Opening hours: The museum’s visitor sites are open all day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays from 9am to 4.30pm. Check the museum website for opening times of the Old-New Synagogue.
Where to Stay
On a Budget
Situated close to Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky), this modern 3 star offers a great location for exploring central Prague. All rooms at the Central Hotel Prague come with free WiFi, satellite TV, safety deposit box, private bathroom with hairdryer and free toiletries. Double room from CZK 2,221 or €82/£60/$94 including breakfast and WiFi.
See all our hotels in Prague.
Prague from Powder Tower – image by Jiuguang Wang via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Prague castle by day – image by Jan Fidler via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Strahov Monastery – Image by Avital Pinnick via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Two suns house – image by Mark B. Schlemmer via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
John Lennon wall – image by Petr Dosek via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Charles Bridge – Image by Moyan Brenn via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Old Town Square – Image by Nitin Vyas via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Žižkov Tower (observatory deck) – Image via the Žižkov Tower website
Dancing Building – Image by jim via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Museum of communism – Image by Museum of Communism Prague
Wenceslas Square – Image by Anguskirk via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)