The friendly vibe and old sights of Prague makes this one of my favorite cities. Pick lodging that is close to the Charles Bridge for a convenient base in the heart of the city. Old Town, New Town, and the Castle District are very close and are walkable. My mid-range suggestions include Hotel U Zlateho Stromu, Charles Bridge Palace, and Residence U Malvaz on the east side of the bridge, and Hotel Kampa Garden and the Archibald on the west side. Apartments are also widely available to rent.
After you check-in, take note of the 14th century Charles Bridge. This storied bridge provides perfect views and photo-ops. About a 5-minute walk up from the east side of the bridge is Old Town Square. The oldest square in Prague, it is bustling with locals, tourists, street performers, and vendors alike. One of the highlights is the 15th century Astronomical Clock. Find a place in the crowd on the hour to watch the figures on the beautiful clock spring to life. My favorite figure to watch is the skeleton. Then, take a tour of the historic Gothic Old Town Hall established in 1338. It includes access to the underground, halls, and tower – which offers the best bird's-eye view of the square.
The other highlight here is The Church of Our Lady before Tyn. You can’t miss the twin spires, but it is easy to miss the entrance which is partially hidden by the houses in front. Tyn church underwent numerous alterations due to Prague’s complex history, but inside are still great tombs, treasures, and a fantastic pipe organ. If you’re hungry, the Ungelt Courtyard behind the church has many offerings. Vendors in the square offer Trdelník, a roll of dough wrapped around a stick, grilled, and topped with sugar and walnuts. You may also be tempted by the delicious ham vendors, but beware that the price listed is by weight. They will cut you a piece that is many times bigger and tell you that’s the smallest they offer. As soon as it was my turn, I asked for a small 200g portion and received it after a small haggle.
Continue on to Josefov, the Old Jewish Quarter. Here you can visit the Old-New Synagogue, Europe’s oldest active synagogue from 1270. Then, for contrast, visit the Spanish Synagogue to see the intensely beautiful Moorish interior. For me, the highlight of the area was the Old Jewish Cemetery. Seeing the thousands of old weathered gravestones crammed together is a sight unlike any other. Some are from the 15th century. For an in-depth look at Jewish heritage, the Jewish Museum offers one of the largest collections of Judaica in the world. While you’re in the area, the Convent of St. Agnes is just minutes away. Founded in 1230 by King Wenceslas (from the Christmas carol), it is a fantastically well-preserved medieval building and is the burial spot of the former King. As you head back to the bridge, I recommend a stop at the Prague Beer Museum, which offers flights of delicious local beer and great pub food.
The next day should be spent in the Castle District on the west side of the Vltava River. First, visit the Prague Castle complex, which is walkable and also serviced by many trams. If you enter from the east, you’ll first come to Lobkowicz Palace. This was the official residence of the Lobkowicz princes and today is a fine art and armor museum. The baroque concert hall offers daily concerts. The café is a good spot for lunch because of the views down the hillside toward the river.
Continue on to the main attraction here, Prague Castle. It is the “largest coherent castle” in the world and was founded around 880, although there have been many reconstructions. Ticket B is my choice, giving you access to the Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, and Golden Lane. St. Vitus Cathedral is where many coronations have taken place, and it is home to the beautifully decorated St. Wenceslas Chapel. It has varying architectural styles since it took over 500 years to complete. Climb the tower for a stellar view. Golden Lane is a fun surprise, featuring tiny buildings (watch your head on the door frame) that are now colorful shops.
Upon exiting the castle complex to the west, you will find Sternberg Palace. This massive national gallery collection spans centuries. Further west is the Loreto Santuary. This pilgrimage site features a peaceful cloister and famous clock tower. A short walk south is the Strahov Monastery from 1140, which houses a rare manuscript library and paintings. Depending on the time of day or how much you walked, the Strahov Monastic Brewery may seem more interesting. It is a restored 17th century brewery offering great food, good beer selection, and Monastery views.
Now that you’re fueled up, you can make it south to Petrin Hill. If a stroll up the 1000’ high hill is too much, take a tram to Ujzed and then the Funicular Railway up the hill. The area features large gardens that offer marvelous views, a lookout tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower, and numerous other fun attractions. Come here to escape the hustle of the city. On the way back toward the bridge, some quick and interesting sights to visit include the Church of Our Lady Victorious (famous for the infant Jesus statuette and his ever-changing wardrobe), the Church of St. Nicholas (beautiful interior), and the Lennon Wall (a graffiti art tribute that first appeared in 1980 and was a real symbol of hope to the people in the communist era). For dinner, have a grilled seafood dinner near the bridge at Ichnusa Botega and Bistro. Perhaps catch an opera at the National Theater. Try Dlouhá street for nightlife.
Some sites on the east of the Vltava that are a little further away include The Museum of Communism, Wenceslas Square, Vysehrad National Monument, and the Dancing House. I actually enjoyed walking to these because the streets of Prague are delightful, but plenty of transportation options are available. The Museum of Communism, at least for me, was the best opportunity I’ve had to take a deep dive into the Communism movement and history that had such an impact on Eastern Europe. Wenceslas Square is home to the National Museum and offers some of the best dining and shopping experiences. Vysehrad fortress is steeped in history and was a place of significance since at least the 900s. Although the fort is mostly ruins, it offers great views, good picnicking, and guided tours. A remarkable Gothic Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul stands on the grounds and is a must-see. The Dancing House is not a must-see, but is known as the city’s greatest modern architecture and consists of a quirky curved building.