A couple of months ago I spontaneously booked a weekend away in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic and at long last my late summer mini-break came around at the beginning of September. Here you’ll find what I managed to cram into my weekend and what can be achieved on a budget friendly, two-day visit.
Having arrived late the night before with cheap (and very delayed) flights I made sure to be up early enough to maximise time for sightseeing.
My hostel was situated in the west part of town, a little down the hill from Prague Castle and just off the square surrounding St Nicholas Church. Within a five minute walk I was already at my first stop of the day, Charles Bridge. An iconic viewpoint, I was eager to climb the Old Town Bridge Tower at the eastern end of the bridge in the morning sun to experience the full effect of the famous 360 views.
As I was up earlier than expected the tower wasn’t especially busy, and for a small entrance fee provided great views across the bridge towards the castle and towards the old city, giving me a chance to get my bearings.
On my return to ground level, I was on a mission to find the sites recommended to me by friends – namely the library and museums. On my meandering walk, I stumbled upon the Rudolfinum concert hall and a few statue art pieces. I had hoped to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts, but unfortunately it was currently undergoing renovation and so had been closed for several months. I made my way through gorgeous cobbled streets surrounded by pastel colours and quaint balconies to reach the Klementinum – a historic complex of halls and churches, and a particularly fascinating baroque library hall. Sadly, once again most of the halls were closed for refurbishment… I was already planning a second visit to Prague to revisit these freshly renovated sites!
Making my way deeper into the Old City I found myself at the Old Town Square. More and more tourists were filling the square, so I ducked out of the main area towards the Old Town Hall and fought my way through the crowds to see the Astronomical Clock on its adjoining tower. Somehow my luck was not going so well, as the tower itself was also undergoing renovations! Nevertheless, I decided to escape the hustle and bustle and take a look around the Old Town Hall. Once inside, the peace and quiet while exploring the vast halls was very welcome. A particular point of interest is the Gothic chapel housing the 12 Apostles who are an integral and literal cog in the mechanism of the clock outside.
Astronomical Clock & the 12 Apostles
With the day still young, I ventured out further and took the occasional detour, such as visiting Wenceslas Square, the Cubist Lamp Post, and the odd church until finally reaching the New Town Hall. No longer “new” this unassuming building was built in the 14th Century, and entry to the Old Town Hall allows you to climb the tower here in place of the more popular one. Although a little further out of the main centre of town, it’s well worth the visit for another vantage point view of the city, and fewer people bother to make the visit so you will almost have the tower to yourself.
Continuing to explore further south before looping back towards more familiar territory, I wanted to check out the Dancing House, a modern building currently housing a hotel, restaurant and offices. The design of this building stands out against the more traditional and familiar architecture, but adds to a dynamic design across the city encompassing the mix of new and old that makes the city so special.
Not done with the day yet, I was determined to find myself some art, as I firmly believe one can learn a lot about a city’s culture and history, and a gallery is a great indication of certain prevalent themes to consider. Luckily, in the large park there are art galleries and works scattered throughout. The main galleries of Prague are situated a little further out of the centre, and on limited time I opted for visiting the Franz Kafka Museum instead, to get a sense of as much cultural influence as possible.
By chance, I also happened to make a visit to a tourist attraction close by – the John Lennon Wall. The vibrant colours and hippie message makes it a perfect spot for any budding Instagrammer, and getting a simple shot of the wall was almost impossible. Nonetheless, it remains one of my favourite spots in the city.
Clockwise: John Lennon Wall, Dancing House, Franz Kafka Museum, Cubist Lamp Post, New Town Hall view
Yet more meandering, markets, and bookshop exploration led me right back to the start at Charles Bridge. An early evening was in store after such a full on day, but not before stopping for some authentic bramborak (potato pancakes) at a nearby stall while listening to just one of the many excellent street musicians jovially playing to a growing crowd.
Once again I was up early (hostel life and lie ins don’t mix!) and this time headed further west and up the steps towards Prague Castle. The castle complex is just incredible – and holds the record as being the largest in the world. Entry to the complex is free, however there are a few choices of entry fees in order to access the ticketed sites within the complex. I opted for a paid ticket, which gave me access to 7 attractions.
Exploring the complex includes churches such as the St Vitus Cathedral, the Old Palace and more. With very little knowledge of central and eastern European history I especially enjoyed “The story of Prague Castle” exhibition with great detail on the castle itself and its place in history with past kings and religious figures.
After I had learned as much as I could about St Wenceslas, his successors, and historical Bohemia I went on to visit my favourite spot in the castle complex. Golden Lane is the most adorable and quintessentially historical street tucked away between towering castle walls. As home to several famous locals in history and with an unusual background of an adjacent dungeon, I could have spent hours moseying around in the teeny homes but as lunchtime approached my hunger grew, as did the crowds, so I eventually moved on.
Clockwise: Golden Lane, street musicians, inside the castle complex, views over Prague, castle chapel & fountain
The rest of my second day was spent revisiting favourite spots around the city, people watching, reading up on the history of what I had visited, and best of all: eating Trdelník. This sweet treat is a major attraction in Prague, and with a place to buy them on every corner I couldn’t leave without sampling the goods. Otherwise known as chimney cake, it’s somewhere between doughnut batter and flaky pastry in texture and ends up resembling a hollow tube (or chimney!). With your choice of filling, I opted for a simple custard and whipped cream flavour topped off with a strawberry. The crisp outer crust is coated in sugar and cinnamon, giving it a further seasonal taste. Although eaten as finger food, I found it a complete nightmare to eat while attempting to walk around town and ended up with it ALL down me… Sorry not sorry, it was delicious. In fact, it was so good I had another a few hours later this time filled with hazelnut white chocolate. Yum.
I attempted an early night once again as my Monday morning taxi to the airport was at a blisteringly early 4.30am, but at least I was able to take an evening stroll around the Old City one last time to soak up all the atmosphere.
I stayed in the most wonderful hostel called Santini Hostel Prague, one of four in a chain and situated in a baroque style, historical palace named after the famous architect who once lived there. The rooms are spacious and clean, with excellent facilities including large en suite, free lockers, free breakfast & sandwich, and free wifi. The quiet setting that comes from a smaller hostel is noticeable, possibly aided by a more artistic atmosphere (including a lobby piano!) rather than the typical backpacker rowdiness. Best of has to be the wonderful staff who are so happy to advise with anything and everything. The 24 hour service meant that I wasn’t stranded at 2am when my delayed flight arrived, and they were simply so incredibly welcoming and helpful.
- Prague is a wonderful, buzzing city and I would highly recommend it for an easy getaway at only a 1.5 hour flight from London.
- It’s an incredibly photogenic city – I took way too many and every turn has a new perspective or quirky site.
- The changeable weather means you need to always be prepared, and the highly touristic culture is my least favourite aspect, however for history lovers and architecture fans it’s paradise and it’s downsides are easily overlooked.
- One confusion I noticed was a disproportionate budget required depending on the purchase. Activities such as entry to museums and sites rarely cost more than £5 (with my student card) however things like food, especially the trdelník, cost around the same! Something to remember when looking for a good deal is to find a supermarket for most things and splash out where you see fit when eating out.
- I thought the best way to see the views of Prague are by climbing any of the historical towers for a panoramic view across the rooftops, however which one you aim for will be a tough choice to make, there are so many!
- With so many tourists it’s easy to get frustrated by large crowds, but with a little bit of research you can find the quieter places to enjoy.
- The city has so much character, I noticed lots of wedding photoshoots throughout the weekend which only confirms just how picturesque it is, but I also felt it detracted from Prague’s shining personality in favour of catering to tourists only.
- 2 days felt like enough time to see the main sights, however with so many old stories, traditions, and culture there’s lots more to say about this fascinating city than I can write here, instead I’d recommend experiencing it for yourself!