I had wanted to visit Prague for years and finally found the opportunity to experience this enchanting city. If you only have three days, you'll be able to get a good feel for it and see the major sites.
The Vltala River meanders through the city essentially dividing it into two major areas. Staré Město (Old Town) to the east is the historic center of the city. Mala Strana (Lesser Town) to the west is picturesque and boasts the Prague Castle among other landmarks. There are a number of bridges that connect both sides, but the pedestrian Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is iconic and filled with tourists at most hours of the day.
I enjoyed early morning on the Charles Bridge when it was less crowded.
In three days you can easily visit the major landmarks on both sides of the river. These are my recommendations.
Staré Město (Old Town)
Old Town Square (Old Town Hall with the medieval astronomical clock, Church of Our Lady before Týn and more)
The Jewish Quarter including the old cemetery
The Powder Tower
Pařížská (Paris) Street
Mala Strana (Lesser Town)
St. Nicholas Church (not to be confused with the church of the same name on the other side of the river)
Church of Our Lady Victorious
The John Lennon Wall
Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane
The yellow penguins
The giant crawling babies
Views of Old Town across the river
Elsewhere in Prague
The Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, aka Vyšehrad
The Dancing House
We'll begin with Old Town Square, the heart of Staré Město. The square is home to several important buildings and statues.
The Old Town Hall
When you look at the different architectural styles that make up Old Town Hall, It's not surprising to learn that it was cobbled together throughout the centuries. The original structure dates to the early part of the 14th century and additions and renovation continued into the 19th century.
The pièce de résistance is the astronomical clock on the southern face of the Tower.
The clock was installed in 1410 making it the third oldest such clock in the world and the oldest clock still working. If you're there at the top of the hour, you can watch the short animation.
Our Lady Before Týn
Across the square is the Church of Our Lady Before Týn. This gothic church has occupied a prominent position in Old Town Square since the 14th century. Now the facade is unfortunately blocked by other buildings and you need to enter through the arches of one of the buildings.
Its Baroque interior, including the spectacular carvings, is beautifully ornate.
The pipe organ is one of the oldest preserved in Prague.
Jan Hus Memorial Statue
Jan Hus was a 14th century thinker and philosopher who was a predecessor to the Protestant religion. His views contrary to the Catholic church's beliefs and practices led to his being burned at the stake in 1415. A large statue devoted to him occupies a prominent place in Old Town Square.
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter was once an undesirable, run-down area of Prague but is now one of the most desirable (and expensive) neighborhoods in the city. The old Jewish Cemetery and several major synagogues are close to each other. I visited the cemetery and the Pinkas Synagogue, one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Prague.
The Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in Prague. It dates to the early 16th century when a member of the distinguished Horowitz family donated the building to his family. During World War II there was a ban on Jewish services, so the synagogue served as a storage location for Jewish liturgical utensils. After the war the names of more than 77,000 Czech citizens killed in the Holocaust were inscribed in its walls. It was sobering and touching to walk through room after room.
I visited Prague shortly after the war between Israel and Hamas began. What made my visit to the synagogue even more touching were the posters outside the synagogue of the more than 200 people held hostage in Gaza.
The old Jewish cemetery was fascinating. The earliest headstone dates to 1439.
The cemetery is large, but not huge. What isn't evident is that there are 12,000 people buried there! Over the centuries as people died and were buried, the residents didn't want to take up more real estate for the cemetery, so burials were done by adding vertical layers to the already-established plot. There are now 12 vertical layers in this cemetery!
If you're strolling through the Jewish Quarter and see these gold plates in the ground, they contain the names of citizens who were transported to concentration camps.
Need some high-end retail therapy? Take a stroll along Pařížská ulice or Paris Street with its luxury boutiques. This lovely tree-lined street runs through the Jewish quarter.
The Powder Tower (or Powder Gate) was one of the original 13 gates to the Old Town dating from 1475. Its name comes from the fact that it stored gunpowder in the 17th century.
And more of this lovely and historic part of the city...
This beautiful Baroque garden is tucked away on the slope of Petrin Hill. Designed in the early 18th century, the garden has gone through structural replanting throughout the centuries and it's easy to understand why it's now a popular location for weddings. You can meander through its terraces enjoying the views at every turn. There is a small fee to visit.
St. Nicholas Church
I'm a sucker for beautiful European churches and I fell in love with St. Nicholas. Built in the early 18th century, it is not surprising to know that it's considered the best example of Prague Baroque. During the communist era from the end of World War II to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, its tower was used to keep an eye on the American and Yugoslav embassies.
Click on the arrow to scroll through.
Church of Our Lady Victorious
Just down the street from the Vrtba Garden is the Church of our Lady Victorious. It is famous for the small statue of the baby Jesus , known as the Infant Jesus of Prague. The statue, originally from Spain, was presented to the Carmelite friars in Prague in 1628. A few years later the city was plundered and the statue was lost. When the Carmelites finally returned, they found the statue and its notoriety has grown since. The statue has 46 different robes and its clothes are changed about ten time a year.
I liked this painting and sculpture in the church.
The John Lennon Wall
Fans of John Lennon won't want to miss the wall dedicated to him.
During the Communist era in Prague, the wall was known as the Crying Wall where people went to vent there frustrations over Communist rule. After the fall of Communism, Prague's youth celebrated Lennon's music which represented freedom to them and the wall started taking on a life of its own.
Petrin Hill, which rises about 400 ft. above the city on the Mala Strana side of the river is known for its lovely parks and expansive views of the city. You can either walk to the top or take the funicular. Unfortunately when I was in Prague, the funicular wasn't working and walking up wasn't in the cards.
These statues are entitled Memorial to the Victims of Communism. As they progress up the steps, they represent the physical and psychological degradation of man during the Communist era from 1948 - 1989.
This tower, built in 1891, is a replica of the Eiffel Tower. Not wanting to be outdone by the French, it's not as tall as the Eiffel Tower, but its elevation on top of Petrin Hill puts it three meters higher than the real thing! Adventurous people in good shape can climb the 299 steps to the top for a panoramic view.
Prague Castle Complex
Perched on a hill overlooking Prague, the castle and St. Vitus Cathedral are a beautiful sight.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world, covering an area of 750,000 square feet. It is also home to the office of the President of the Czech Republic.
When the Czech flag is flying, the President is in residence. Unfortunately, it's not possible to tour the interior while the President is in residence as he was when I visited.
Walk down the steps from the grand courtyard and you'll have a lovely view of the dome of St. Nicholas Church and greater Prague in the distance.
St. Vitus Cathedral
The crown jewel of the Prague Castle complex is certainly St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest and most important church in the Czech Republic. Construction began in 1344 and like so many other churches, it continued throughout the centuries. Almost six of them, to be exact; the work was finally completed in 1929.
As you can imagine, the interior with its Gothic arches is stunning.
Charles IV was born in 1316, became the King of Bohemia, was later crowned Holy Roman Emperor, and in fact Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during his reign. He was a patron of the arts and oversaw the building of St. Vitus in which he's buried. St. Vitus was also to be the final resting place of St. Wenceslaus. His relics reside in the St. Wenceslaus Chapel pictured below.
The stained glass windows, many of which are relatively modern, are beautiful.
The Alfons Mucha window is perhaps the most famous in the cathedral. It depicts St. Ludmila, the grandmother of St. Wenceslaus who raised him. Mucha lived during the Art Nouveau period in Europe and this window is actually painted, not stained.
Don't miss the mosaic on the south side of the cathedral overlooking the castle courtyard. it was created under the reign of Charlies IV and completed in 1371. It's composed of over one million glass pieces.
Like other monarchs throughout history, Charles had a healthy ego. The face above Christ on the central panel is Charles himself!
You could stand for hours and not be able to take in all the details on the front of the cathedral, but one detail is especially interesting. These two carvings depict the bankers and the architects who were involved in the final renovation of the cathedral. Someone had a good sense of humor!
Other details are beautiful.
The houses on this short lane were built at the end of the 16th century, mainly for servants and others who worked at the castle. The name comes from goldsmiths who also lived there. Originally there were houses on both sides of the tiny road, but today only one side exists. The houses were inhabited until World War II and now they are incorporated into the castle grounds - you actually need to buy a ticket to see them.
Today shops line the lane and some of the buildings are decorated with artifacts depicting the history of the street. Franz Kafka, the famous Czech novelist, lived at #22, his sister's house, for two years.
This small island on the Mala Strana side of the river is a gem and I wish I could have spent more time there. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Prague's daily life, it's a quiet and lovely enclave.
The Crawling Babies of Kampa
There are a couple of installations on the island that are interesting, to say the least. One is the crawling babies. The contemporary Czech sculpture David Černý created the babies in 2000. He has never hinted at why the babies have surreal features; it's up to us to do our own interpretation.
The Yellow Penguins
Not far from the babies are 34 yellow penguins along the edge of the river. Unlike the mystery surrounding the babies, the creators of the penguins intended to make a statement.
Each penguin is made from recycled bottles. The creators used the penguins to sound the alarm against climate change and plastic consumption. By using plastic for the penguins, they wanted to start a dialogue about plastic's impact on the environment. In any event, it's hard not to love a penguin no matter what it's made of!
More Kampa Island...
And the views of Old Town across the river are lovely.
Named after St. Wenceslas of Bohemia, this is actually part square and part grand boulevard. Known as a major business center, it is the largest pedestrian area in the Czech Republic. At the end of the boulevard is the Czech National Museum.
This farmer's market near the square is worth a stroll.
The Dancing House
Designed and built in the late 21st century by a Czech architect and the well-known Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, this multi-purpose building stands out in an area of traditional Czech Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture. Today it contains commercial space as well as a hotel and a restaurant. Its nickname was originally Ginger and Fred after Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire because it resembled a couple of dancers.
Notice how it contrasts with the traditional buildings.
Vyšehrad and the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul
Vyšehrad is the name of a fort that was built on a hill just east of the Vltava River above Prague in the 10th century. Today it's a peaceful park where you will find the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul.
Originally built in the late 11th century in the Romanesque style, the church burned down a couple centuries later and was most recently rebuilt in the late 19th century in the neo-Gothic style.
Spend a minute admiring the doors and the beautiful mosaics above them.
The neo-Gothic interior is equally beautiful.
The small cemetery is interesting to walk through.
When I was there I felt that I had the park to myself.
Scroll through below beginning with the statue of Franz Kafka
I actually think Prague is most beautiful at night.
Impossible to pronounce, but delicious to eat. You can't go more than a few steps without seeing this cinnamon-coated dessert cone. It comes with various fillings including berries and chocolate.
You can't go wrong staying on either side of the river. Prague is fairly compact and an extremely walkable city. I chose to stay in Mala Strana at the Pod Vezi, a small boutique hotel literally a few steps from the western entrance to the Charles Bridge. It was a perfect location to reach almost all areas of the city and the service couldn't have been better.
When to Visit
If you can, try to visit Prague in the shoulder season. I was there in late October and while the crowds weren't terrible, it was difficult at times to walk across the Charles Bridge. The weather was perfect for walking and hotel rates were reasonable.
➜ Top Tips
Learn a few words of Czech. "Dobry den" which means hello or good morning, goes a long way!
Don't be afraid to use public transportation. The trams are clean and criss-cross the city. Take #22 to Prague Castle and be sure to validate your ticket in the yellow machine when you board. Anyone 65 or over doesn't need a ticket; just be sure you have ID.
If you'd rather not take public transportation, Uber is alive and well in Prague. I used it a few times and it was great.
I'm not a beer drinker, but I like red wine. I ordered the local house wine often and it was very good (and inexpensive).
I found Prague to be safe even at night, but as in any big city, be mindful of your belongings.
Many of the churches have evening concerts. I attended one and it was excellent. They last only about an hour and they're not expensive.