How to Visit Prague in Two Days

IMG_7500Of all the cities we’ll be living in, Prague is the locale we will be spending the least amount of time in — only about a month total.

Now that it’s over, I have to say it was a month pretty well spent. We got lost in windy, cobblestone streets, glimpsed into the country’s communist past, embraced the Czech way of life (spoiler: this involved some beer), and scaled leafy hills and old towers in search of the perfect view of a city that looks plucked from a fairy tale.

Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral

Soaring arches and exquisite stained glass windows inside Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral.

If you only have 48 hours to spend in the City of a Thousand Spires, here’s how I’d suggest you spend it:

DAY 1
  • Breakfast in style — Fuel up for a big walking day at Café Imperial, a beautiful art deco restaurant with both a breakfast buffet and an à la carte menu.
  • Walking tour of Prague’s main sites — There are countless ways to explore Prague’s compact city center and see its most famous sites — e.g., Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge — but one of my favorites is via a free walking tour, such as the tour my Mom and I took. These guides work on tips only, so there’s a big incentive to deliver (and sure enough, she did).

    View from Hergetova Cihelna

    View of the Charles Bridge from our table at Hergetova Cihelna. I didn’t even have to move to take the photo. Gorgeous.

  • Prague Castle — That particular walking tour ends at Prague Castle, one of Prague’s most popular attractions. Even if you’re crunched for time, you should at the very least step inside the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral. Although you could easily spend a day exploring the many buildings and gardens that make up Prague Castle.
  • Lunch along the river — Head down the hill to a district called Malá Strana to grab lunch at Hergetova Cihelna, which has a patio that juts out into the Vltava River right next to the Charles Bridge. A restaurant like this could rely on its view alone, but their food — fresh, modern, international — is fantastic as well.
  • Malá Strana and KGB museum
    KGB Museum

    Spotted at the KGB museum: double barrel gun hidden in a pack of “cigarettes”, gun & brass knuckles in a hollowed-out book, Soviet banner, and photos of famous KGBers (recognize the guy in the upper right?).

    Let yourself wander through the charming streets of Malá Strana and eventually make your way to the KGB Museum, a small attraction packed with the kind of mementos, devices, and weapons you’d expect to only see in James Bond movies. The entertaining owner is a total character, and will go as far as simulating hand-to-hand combat moves and making his own sound effects to give you the full KGB experience.

  • Letná Beer Garden — It’s always beer o’clock in Prague, so it’s time to join the locals atop Letná Hill for a pilsner and one of the best views of the city. Na zdraví! (cheers!)

    Letná Beer Garden, one of the most popular places in Prague to drink beer in good weather and one of the best views of all of Prague.

    Letná Beer Garden, one of the most popular places in Prague to drink beer in good weather and one of the best views of all of Prague.

  • An evening outside the tourist zone — Consider heading to Aromi for fine dining, Kofein for tapas, Italo for pizza just like they serve in Italy, or Lal Qila for Indian — all are in the Vinohrady neighborhood where we lived, not far from the Old Town. Afterwards, you can walk to Náměstí Míru, a square surrounded by plenty of places to grab a drink. Craving Czech food? Head up to Lavička in the Žižkov neighborhood and, if you’re up for after-dinner drinks, hit up Malkovich’s or another bar that catches your eye on Bořivojova.
DAY 2
  • Fast, fresh breakfast — For a fresh, quick meal in a central location, it’s hard to beat Bakeshop. They have amazing salads, baked goods, and more, with options for just about everyone (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). For more of a sit-down meal, Mistral is a delicious choice too.

    Charles_Bridge

    During our first weekend in Prague, we let ourselves get lost in the Old Town before winding up in front of the Charles Bridge.

  • Brain food — The tour wraps in Wenceslas Square, which isn’t too far from yet another elegant, historic restaurant, Cafe Louvre. Notables from Einstein to Kafka have dined at this Parisian-style cafe, and it continues to be a great spot for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, and desserts.
  • Wander through the Old Town — Stroll along the road by the river (Smetanovo) and back through the Old Town toward Josefov, which is the Jewish quarter.

    Prague Jewish Cemetary

    Around 100,000 bodies and 12,000 tombstones (that we can see) are in Prague’s tiny Jewish Cemetery that’s barely the size of a small city block. Because Prague Jews were not allowed to move beyond the ghetto at that time (and because Jewish faith does not permit moving the dead), there are about 12 layers of buried bodies.

  • Jewish cemetery and synagogues — Nearly all walking tours will cover Josefov, but you’ll need to go back to actually see the cemetery and synagogues. It’s worth getting a pass to see all the sites from the Jewish Museum, but if you’re tight on time (check their closing hours), make the Jewish Cemetery your top priority. If you can’t make a full visit work, you can still get a glimpse of the cemetery — just walk around the perimeter and keep your eye out for a tiny window that you can peek through.
  • Get a good view of the Old Town — If you have the energy, hike up the stairs to the top of Prague’s Powder Tower for yet another lovely view of the city.  For an easier (and, if you wish, boozier) perch, go to U Prince’s rooftop terrace just off the Old Town Square for one of their amazing cocktails. If the weather isn’t cooperating or the rooftop is full, another option is to head down to their impressive basement bar.

    Prague Rooftop Bar

    Prague’s U Prince Hotel arguably has the best rooftop in town, offering amazing views of the Old Town Square and craft cocktails (including my favorite drink of the trip, the award-winning Basil Swizzle)

  • Dinner in the Old Town — Bustling U Parlamentu has some of the best Czech food we had during our stay, and an extensive menu that goes beyond the basics you can find anywhere. Other fantastic Old Town options are Marina Grosseto for great Italian salads, pizzas, and pastas right on the water, Mistral for modern European fare, or La Finestra for Italian fine dining.
  • Craft cocktails — Prague has a ton of stylish cocktail bars serving hand-crafted, creative drinks, but Hemingway was a stand-out. You’ll want to call to make a reservation in advance though (don’t worry, just say “Doh-BREE den. Mloo-vita ang-litzy?” to say hello and ask if they speak English, which they almost certainly will). Another option is to hit up Dlouhá street just north of the Old Town Square, which has the NYC-style cocktail bar Tretter’s and tons of other spots.

    Prague_Old_Town

    View of Prague’s Old Town — with Prague Castle off in the distance — from atop the Powder Tower.

OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO
  • Boating on the Vltava — From guided boat cruises to swan-shaped paddle boats, there are many ways to see Prague from the river that runs through it.
  • Petřín Hill — Take the funicular up to the summit to stroll through the Rose Garden (don’t miss the “secret” garden right next to it), go up the mini Eiffel Tower, and then make your way across the hill toward Prague Castle by winding through Petřín’s woodsy trails.
  • Strahov Monastery — There’s a beautiful library here, as well as a brewery where monks have been making beer for more than 600(!) years. It’s located right in between Petřín Hill and Prague Castle, so it’s great add-on to any of those visits.

    Boats on the Vltava

    There are always boats on the Vltava River, from jazz cruises to paddle boats.

  • Malá Strana walk — Take a self-guided walk (we used a guidebook, but I’m sure there are tons online or through apps like Triposo or Trip Advisor) through Malá Strana to see the John Lennon Wall (you’ll probably hit this during the other walking tour though), Kampa Park (don’t miss the creepy baby sculptures), and other gems in this charming district.

    Petrin hill gardens

    Lovely gardens, meadows, and forests await atop Petřín Hill.

  • Riegrovy Sady beer garden — Unlike some of the other beer gardens, this one features a big screen to watch sporting events (May I suggest hockey, the best sport according to both me and the Czechs?).
  • Scaling towers — The aforementioned Powder Tower and U Prince Hotel Rooftop Terrace aren’t the only spots for majestic views. There are many others, including the belfry adjacent to St. Nicholas (which was used during the Soviet era to spy on the American, British, and German embassies), the top-floor bar and restaurant of Frank Gehry’s Dancing House (dubbed “Fred and Ginger”), and the Žižkov TV Tower‘s observation deck.
RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS (from both of us)

(Big thanks to Mom, for her help creating this itinerary!)

John_Lennon_Wall

John Lennon Wall with my favorite child of the 60’s, and ultimate Beatles fan: Mom! After John Lennon’s murder in 1980, he became a pacifist hero to young Czechs who painted his picture and sprayed some political graffiti onto a Prague wall. Despite repeated white-washings, the secret police could never keep it paint-free for long and the wall became a center for free expression.

Letna_Hill

View from atop Letná Hill, from which one of the world’s largest Stalin statues used to loom. The monument depicted Stalin standing in front of crew of workers, which the Czechs derisively (and hilariously) called the “Queue for Meat”. It didn’t last long though — they dynamited it out of existence in the 60’s, shattering windows across the city.

Charles Bridge

Walking across the Charles Bridge with our friends Jeff and Megan. Super touristy, but a must for any visit.

Jiřího z Poděbrad Square

The Vinohrady neighborhood’s Jiřího z Poděbrad Square, less than a block from where we lived.

Classic Czech Food

Fried bread with cheese and John’s beloved pork knuckle at U Parlamentu.

Prague_Strahov_Monastery

Monks have been brewing beer at the Strahov Monastery for more than 600 years!

The massive Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden has a lot of local flavor, and a giant screen to air the big games.

The massive Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden has a lot of local flavor, and a giant screen to air the big games.

Czech desserts

Czech desserts (left to right): Cherry chocolate pancakes from Mistral, dessert platter from Cafe Louvre (Sacher torte, cheesecake, and raspberry cake), and fruit dumplings with curd cheese from Cafe Savoy.

Prague_at_night

View of the Charles Bridge and St. Vitus Cathedral, from the Smetana embankment.

What else? We’d love to hear your recommendations too!

One comment

  1. […] has just created a post about what to do if you only have 48 hours in Prague. I love it. It’s a wonderful post. But it got me thinking about what you would do if you only […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: