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.
If you only have 48 hours to spend in the City of a Thousand Spires, here’s how I’d suggest you spend it:
- 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).
- 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 —
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!)
- 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.
- 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.
- Communist walking tour — I’ve gone on several walking tours, but this fascinating, communist-focused tour was one of my all-time favorites. In addition to giving us an in-depth, compelling historical account, our guide brought the topic to life with all sorts of anecdotes and personal experiences about living under the Soviet regime.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Old Town: La Finestra, Marina Grosseto, Mistral, U Parlamentu
- Malá Strana: Cafe Savoy, Hergetova Cihelna
- New Town: Cafe Louvre, Pastacaffé
- Vinohrady & Žižkov: Aromi, Kofein, Italo, Lal Qila, Le Caveau, Lavička Zahradní, Martin’s Bistro, Mozaika Burger & Co.
(Big thanks to Mom, for her help creating this itinerary!)
What else? We’d love to hear your recommendations too!