What I Would’ve Wanted From a Prague Travel Guide
Spoiler alert: I love Prague. If you haven’t read any other pieces I’ve done on this incredible city, you must know that it captured my heart. You can read every travel guide out there and still feel woefully unprepared for visiting Prague — I know I did. If you get nothing else out of this guide, please at least remember some of these fast mentions:
- Avoid Old Town Square and Charles Bridge at midday
- Spend more time in the Old Royal Palace because photos are not permitted
- See St. Vitus Cathedral right away in the morning
- Always bring a water bottle when visiting Prague Castle
- Take more photos of the Prague Astronomical Clock
- Hire a guide for the Jewish Quarter
- Eat more traditional cuisine, but don’t feel bad for enjoying kitschy things like trdelník
Welcome to our Prague travel guide. Here’s you’ll find key details about the city.
Country: Czech Republic
Time Zone: Central European Time
Languages Spoken: Czech
Currency Used: Czech koruna
Nestled in the heart of Europe, Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is a city that enchants visitors with its stunning blend of history, architecture, and cultural scene. Known as “The City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague’s skyline is dotted with historic churches and medieval towers, creating a picturesque setting that feels like stepping into a fairy tale.
The city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasts the majestic Prague Castle, the charming Charles Bridge, and the quaint Old Town Square, where the astronomical clock captivates onlookers. Prague continues to be a popular destination in Europe, and it’s easy to see why.
Best Time to Visit
There is truly no bad time to visit Prague. When you’re meandering along the calming Vltava River, dining on Czech cuisine, or exploring Prague Castle, it will matter very little to you if it’s sweater weather. That said, there are some timing considerations when planning your trip to the Czech Republic.
June to August: I’ll admit to visiting Prague in the latter part of July. It wasn’t terrible, though I was sweating buckets and miserable a few hours into our visit to Prague Castle. The summer months are the hottest, with highs in the 80s and lots of crowds. This will also be the most expensive time to visit.
May or September: These two months are the shoulder season for Prague tourism. They aren’t quite the cheapest times to visit, though they are cheaper, less crowded, and with more mild weather than the summer months. You’ll have plenty of sunshine to enjoy the sights without bustling to get places in the early morning to beat the crowds.
October to December: These months will be among the cheapest to see Prague. This beautiful city will be the least crowded except late November through December when some visitors return for the Christmas market season. Average temps, even in January, generally stay above freezing.
January to March: These months will be the least busy following the late fall and early winter months. Tourism drops off significantly during the winter, leaving the cobblestone streets of the town square freer than you’ve likely seen. Bundle up and visit Prague in its glistening, snowy elegance.
How to Get Around
As far as cities go, Prague is one of the most highly walkable. We rarely use public transportation when visiting the city because walking across Old Town, along the Charles Bridge, or anywhere is so easy. You may not need transit if you generally stay in the city center. But if you want to see more of the city neighborhoods or surrounding areas (or don’t feel like trekking up to Prague Castle on foot), you should remember a few things about public transit here.
Trams: The trams are a favorite way of getting around, especially for that journey up to the Castle District. They visit their stops every four to eight minutes during peak hours and five to twenty minutes off-peak. Daytime hours for the trams run from 5:00 am to 12:30 am, and the night hours, when they run every 30 minutes, are from 12:30 am to 5:00 am.
Metro: The Prague Metro is easy to navigate, especially if you’re used to complicated train routes in cities like NYC. Operating hours for the metro are 5:00 am to midnight. During peak hours, the trains arrive every two or three minutes, and off-peak roughly ten minutes, whereas on weekends, they arrive every 7.5 minutes.
There are only three lines to keep track of:
- Line A (green): Depo Hostivař – Nemocnice Motol
- Line B (yellow): Černý Most – Zličín
- Line C (red): Letňany – Háje
Bus: Bus station stops can be found all over the city. Busses run from 4:30 am to 12:30 am. Like the other public transportation options, they arrive at different times depending on the time of day. During peak hours, buses arrive every six to eight minutes and every 15-20 minutes during off-peak hours. Night buses run every 30-60 minutes from 12:30 am to 4:30 am.
Taxi: Be very wary of using taxis in Prague. They are known for overcharging tourists or intentionally taking long ways around to make you pay more. If you get a cab, order a reputable one through your hotel or beforehand. You’re less likely to get ripped off that way instead of grabbing a cab waiting on the street by a train station. (And never use an unmarked taxi.)
Rideshare: Rideshare cars are a popular mode of transportation around Prague, especially if you’re going to the airport. Bus routes are straight to the airport, but a car is much less time-consuming. Uber and Bolt are the two best apps to use for rideshares in the city, though in my experience, Uber is cheaper.
Transport Tips: Besides purchasing your fare, you must ensure you validate your ticket. When you get onto the transit vehicle, there is a stamping device for you to validate your ticket. If you don’t and a transit official asks for your ticket, they can issue you a fine. Validation is unnecessary if you buy a ticket aboard a tram at the terminal onboard.
Fare is free for children under 15 and adults over 65. Adults who are between 60 and 65 can pay a half fare. Be sure you have proof of age, just in case — like a passport.
How to Get There
When flying to Prague, you’ll most likely want to fly into the city’s airport: Václav Havel Airport Prague. It is less than 30 minutes from downtown during off-peak traffic hours. You could fly into other European cities like Vienna to save money, a four-and-a-half hour train ride away.
Don’t be surprised if you have layovers from a major airport in the United Sates like O’Hare or Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I have yet to secure a direct flight to Prague from my home in Chicago, as those are often triple the cost of a flight with a short layover, often in Germany.
If you don’t feel like paying more for a rideshare or taxi to downtown, there are ways to get there from the airport:
- Bus 119: The bus station outside of Terminal 2 can get you aboard Bus 119 to Nádraží Veleslavín. From there, you can get on Metro Line A (green), which will take you downtown. The most central downtown metro stop from there will be Mustek.
- Bus 100: You can also take Buss 100 from the station outside Terminal 2. Ride the bus to Zličín, where you can take Metro Line B (yellow) for destinations like New Town (Nové Město) or Smíchov.
- Shared Shuttle Service: It is not as expensive as a private ride but more efficient than public transit. Consider hiring a shared shuttle service. These shuttles will pick you and other riders up from the airport and deliver you to your hotels, often cheaper than a rideshare or cab. You could even get lucky and be the only passenger.
Cultural and Social Information
People inhabited Prague long before it was the Czech Republic. This capital once oversaw the kingdom of Bohemia, which was founded in the 5th century. As such, it was also the seat of the Holy Roman Empire — Prague Castle even housed several Holy Roman Emperors, including Emperor Ferdinand I. Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) was formed out of Bohemia in 1918.
Prague’s cultural heritage is historically significant, combining Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. As the Czech Republic’s keystone, it houses emblematic landmarks like Prague Castle, the medieval Astronomical Clock, and St. Vitus Cathedral. The city’s affinity for music is immortalized through figures like Dvořák and Smetana.
Traditional marionette craftsmanship, Bohemian crystal, and annual festivals reflect the Czech people’s rich customs and inventive spirit. Prague’s legacy, steeped in centuries of artistry and intellectual pursuits, is an iconic European cultural destination. It’s also important to understand that of the cities that World War II directly impacted in Europe, Prague was one of the lucky ones.
The city center and its history largely survived the onslaught of war. During my visit to Old Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock, our guide told us how close the historic city got to absolute destruction. For example, on the final day of the war, Old Town Hall was firebombed, and a lot of documents, artifacts, and a whole building wing were destroyed, but somehow the building remained standing.
Cultural Trivia: If you’ve ever wondered where the adjective “bohemian” came from, you can thank the French. They coined the term “la bohème” in the early 19th century to reference the similarities between Bohemian and Romani people as they immigrated into French society.
Local Customs and Etiquette
Any Prague travel guide would be remiss, not to mention some of how the culture of the Czech Republic differs slightly from that of the United States. Regarding etiquette, a general rule of thumb would be to remember that Czech culture is more formal and reserved than an American might be used to.
Like many Americans, Czechs prefer a fair amount of personal space. You don’t need to worry about getting crowded, even during the tourist season, by Czech nationals on public transportation or the street because they also tend to keep a fair distance from strangers. There will be less personal space if an area is crowded, but the intention is generally there.
Dining etiquette in the Czech Republic is generally more formal than in most of the United States, save for formal occasions. You’ll want to remember to keep elbows off the table and dress modestly for dinner.
Punctuality is also a deeply appreciated element of Czech culture. If you have a set time you need to be somewhere to meet someone or attend a meal, make sure you are early but never late.
A Few Phrases to Know:
The majority of folks you encounter in Prague will know at least some English. Even so, arriving in a place with a small understanding of the language is always nice. If you know no other words in Czech, at least try to remember these:
- Ano (ano): Yes
- Ne (ne): No
- Prosím (proseem): Please
- Děkuju (dyeh-kooyoo): Thank You
- Ahoj (ahoy): Hello
- Dobrý den (dob-ree den): Good Day
- Nashledanou (nus-hle-dah-no): Goodbye
Tourists mainly know Prague for its central areas, but the city actually has 22 distinct neighborhoods. For your purposes as a visitor, you will probably only see a fraction of them on your first visit. There are a few, in particular, you will want to know since they are all centrally located and where most of the city attractions, like the best museums, are.
These are the best neighborhoods:
- Staré Město (Old Town): Old Town is the historic heart of the city center. Home to Old Town Square, the Astronomical Clock, and tons of Czech history. You’ll also find the historic Jewish Quarter here. There is a lively pub scene here and lots of people watching.
- Nové Město (New Town): As its name implies, New Town is the newest quarter in Prague, established in 1348. This bustling part of the city has plentiful shopping and dining. You’ll find Wenceslas Square, The Dancing House, and the National Museum here.
- Mála Strana (Lesser Town): Across the Charles Bridge, Lesser Town flanks the Vltava River. In the shadow of Prague Castle, this charming part of Prague is flush with cafes, gorgeous architecture, and pubs. This is also where the John Lennon Wall and Franz Kafka Museum are.
- Žižkov: It’s said that Žižkov houses more pubs per square mile than other neighborhoods in the world. This trendy neighborhood is excellent for bar hopping, eating at hip restaurants, or clubbing. You can also visit the Žižkov Television Tower for incredible looks over the city.
- Smíchov: Following along the Vltava River, Smíchov is another nightlife hotspot. A hodgepodge of buildings from various periods like Baroque and Art Nouveau live in harmony with modern structures with a dash of natural beauty in between.
- Karlín: A former warehouse district, Karlín has gone the way of hipster hangs. Old facilities now house stylish eateries and pubs. Here, you can enjoy the Karlín Musical Theater or Kasárna Karlín. Since it is a highly residential area, this neighborhood feels more local than others.
If you stay primarily in the city center, you are less likely to come up against cash-only locations. Even so, it’s a good idea to have a little cash on you just in case. In a pinch, you can use an ATM; the exchange rates are pretty fair.
Although this European city is a member of the European Union, the Czech Republic does not use the Euro as currency. You might be able to get away with using Euros at large hotels or chain shops; however, it’s better not to. In Czechia, they use Czech koruna or Czech crown (Kč / CZK). If you plan on exchanging cash, do so in the city proper and not at the airport for better rates.
As one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Prague spots widely accept cards and mobile pay options. Cards and digital payments are more widely accepted in the city’s tourist areas or shops.
If paying with a credit card with foreign transaction fees, always pay in the local currency. You will pay less additional fees than if you paid in USD.