Rich history and great nightlife in one compact city
As a prelude to the castle, the elevated position from the elegant arches of the Charles Bridge sets the scene for the cobbled city walls and intricate architecture ahead. But beyond that, the Prague Castle holds myriad attractions of its own, rising above the hills overlooking the serene Vltava River. The medieval gothic period had a profound effect on the style of the city, and whether it’s the detailed buttresses of the St. Vitus Cathedral or the more lavishly decorated interiors of the Lobkowicz Castle this historic centre has kept a very distinctive, yet unusually uniform design.
To help get around even quicker, the Prague Metro System deserves a special mention. Built by Russians in 1974, the hallmark retro Soviet design of block colours and straight lines makes it almost an attraction in itself. Don’t be daunted by the system either – there are only three lines so you won’t get lost, and all three lead into the heart of the city. Plus, you can buy tickets from ticket machines in English and even validate your pass on board.
But Prague has so much more to offer than just beautiful historical attractions. The newer districts are alive with glossy modern buildings shaped out of angular glass and metal. And it’s also in these up-and-coming areas you’ll discover the most vibrant parts of the nightlife. You’ll find almost all of Prague has some fantastic pubs that serve the syrupy smooth beers that the country is famous for.
However, the nightlife Mecca of Zizkov goes beyond this to welcome you to a vibrant clubbing scene with bright coloured lights and powerful sound systems spread across many floors. Indeed, it’s recently become a place which attracts famous American rock bands. Proof yet again that Prague is continually reinventing itself.
“Make sure you see the city, particularly the Charles Bridge (overlooking the castle and St Vitus cathedral) by night as well as day, it's stunning.”
Gothic architecture and green spaces
Because Prague has been at the centre of so many great civilisations and historical events, it has amassed a huge, and beautiful collection of awe-inspiring attractions. Surprisingly, many medieval monuments and castles have survived the city’s tumultuous history largely intact. This is what leads the Prague of today to have such an interesting and varied cityscape. Indeed, just a look across its spire-filled skyline will lead you to believe that this is a city that has retained its roots more strongly than almost any other in Europe.
A visit to the Charles Bridge is a case in point. This completely pedestrianised thoroughfare is a focal point for tourists because it has an elegant character of its own, with a cobbled pavement, ornate iron lampposts and jet-black statues lining its edges.
From here, travelling further inward to the historical centre of the city, the so-called Castle District, will take you to Prague Castle. This huge, sprawling settlement is more like a small town, so much so that it is officially declared as the largest castle in the world. Within the castle walls, there are several notable attractions, with Lobkowicz Castle being one of the most famous. Its interiors are adorned with gold leaf, vibrant paintings and plush furniture, whilst views across the balconies take in endless orange-topped houses surrounded by lush green forests. Staying within the castle, you’ll also encounter the St. Vitus Cathedral. Built in 1344, the cathedral took almost 600 years to complete, which points towards the incredible level of intricacy on show here. The beige-gold stonework is seemingly etched into a thousand shapes whilst inside stained glass windows glow kaleidoscopic rays into the shady knave below.
Onwards and into the Old Town, an essential stop (and photograph) is at the Astronomical Clock, the third oldest of its kind. Arrive at the hour and watch four colourful figures spring into life around the complex golden dials of the clock. And as the Old Town surrounds the Jewish Quarter (known as Josefov) you should make this your next visit. It’s here you’ll come across the birthplace of the famous Jewish writer, Franz Kafka, which has now been adapted to an interesting little museum about his life.
Whilst Prague is rich with historical culture, the city has emerged as a smorgasbord of old and new architecture. One such example is the Dancing House. Built in 1996, it features two opposing towers of glass and concrete and bend and undulate completely out of sync with the conventional rectangular shape you’d expect. Other more modern attractions include the Lennon Wall, which began as a symbol of defiance against communist authorities with various scrawlings about John Lennon. Repainted many times, now the wall has evolved to include messages of love and peace and elaborately drawn graffiti.
Despite all of the famous attractions, Prague still manages to find space for leafy parks, such as Petrin Hill. Wander to its peak for stunning views across the skyline or head to Kampa Park and relax with a picnic by the riverside.
City breaks in Prague are wonderful in winter because Christmas Markets pop up all over the city, with the two largest being in the Old Town Square and the New Town’s Wenceslas Square. Seeing the warm glow of golden lights on huge Christmas Trees is a sight worth appreciating whilst you stop for hot wine and a slice of gingerbread. The wooden stalls that make up the markets offer a variety of authentic items, from handcrafted toys to brightly patterned knitwear – perfect for souvenirs and great Christmas gifts!
Recognising that Prague is a very popular place for stag weekends, the city also has many exciting activities. These include clay pigeon shooting, five-a-side football and paintballing. And for the even more adventurous, there’s super-fast bobsleigh rides too! You can arrange all of these excursions before you jet off on stag weekends in Prague, and we’re certain they’ll make your trip even more memorable.
“Go to the top of the Astronomical clock in the Old Town Square for views across the city.”
Modern dining and classic Czech dishes
There are more than a thousand restaurants in Prague, so that should ensure you can find something to suit your tastes! When on city breaks in Prague, you’d be best advised to try the local cuisine, as Czech delicacies are much admired across the world and have had a great influence on American food. There’s a focus on rich, meaty dishes here, with popular ingredients being rabbit, goose, duck and pork. Indeed, the most famous dish is roast pork with sauerkraut (a sour form of cabbage). In common with Russian and Scandinavian dishes, creamy gravy and thick, doughy dumplings are regular sides too. You’ll also find that soups are generally a prominent part of most menus, although the country’s most famous food and drink export is undoubtedly the beer!
Top Czech restaurants in the capital include Restaurace Na Zlate Krizovatce, which has a pristine whitewashed decor that complements the modern, creative take on Czech classics. Other favourites are Rainer Maria Rilke, which has a cosy setting of low ceilings and old wooden furniture, and Mlynec a gourmet Czech eating experience set in ultra modern surroundings.
If you’re not feeling adventurous enough to try new dishes, you’ll find that international flavours are just as well represented on city breaks in Prague. There’s an abundance of French, Italian and Indian restaurants, while the Czech Republic’s landlocked position highlights a number of influences from its bordering neighbours. That’s why you’ll find it easy to sample German, Austrian and Polish restaurants too.
Great value drinks at Czech pubs
The quality of the beer has been a huge draw for tourists in Prague for over twenty years now. It’s this fact, plus the exceptional value for money offered in most bars and pubs, that makes Prague a great place to go for lively nights out.
For the classic Czech drinking experience, you really need to find yourself in a traditional local pub. These hostelries are dotted around all over the city and you’ll certainly be surprised at the variety of beers they offer on tap! Czech beer is characterised by its smooth taste and warm, yeasty flavour. There are two main types of beer to look out for, Pilsen (a lighter beer) and the famous Budweis, both of which have been successfully exported all over the world. There are so many different varieties of beer, and also varieties of bar, you may want to find out about booking a pub crawl expedition, as you’ll get to experience several different nightspots without getting lost!
Stag weekends in Prague are incredibly popular, and as a result there’s a whole host of pubs and clubs geared towards British tourists. Our top picks of the hundreds of choices of bars are Chapeau Rogue, as it stays open till very late and welcomes stag and hen parties, Starsky & Hutch, which is spread across two levels and has a large dancefloor, and Solid Uncertainty as it welcomes large stag groups. In terms of clubs, Futurum is fantastic for 80s disco music and live bands, whilst Klub Lavka is open 24 hours a day and has lively dancers and drinks promotions.
If you like your surroundings to be a little more upmarket, the suburb of Zizkov is a good choice. This area has the greatest focus of trendy bars and clubs with sleek neon-lit decor seemingly at odds with the historic cobbled streets and grand houses further in the centre of Prague. This district also has a number of clubs set up for live performances, and artists as famous as The Pixies and The Strokes have played in the rock venues located here. And don’t think that dance music is forgotten either, as Karlovy Lazne claims to be one of the biggest clubs in Central Europe. It’s spread across four floors and plays all kinds of bass-heavy music from techno, dubstep and drum and bass.