Practical Travel Tips for a Perfect One Day Trip to Prague, Czech Republic
by Teri E. Popp, Tastemaker in Residence
Ahoj a vítejte!! From the title of this article, you would think a traveler could do the perfect trip to Prague in only one day. Title aside, the actual perfect trip to Prague should be a minimum of 2 days—and more likely 3—in order to tour this impressive locale. However, it is possible to “sample” this glorious city in one day if you meticulously plan a very full itinerary
Because of my husband’s work schedule, we only had 1 day and 2 nights to tour Prague. Therefore, I focused on the things I wanted to make sure and visit. Prague consists of 3 central parts: the Old Town; the New Town (not really new, but new by American standards); and the Lesser Town (think in terms of suburbs for the Middle Ages). For a one day tour, I highly suggest only picking one of the 3 sectors and concentrating on that section. For our trip, we chose the Lesser Town as it was our first trip to Prague and it contained 2 of the major sites I wished to see.
<insert photos from the Hradcany Prague Castle and St. Nicholas Church, Prague Dropbox file>
We arrived early in the evening of our first night stay to the City of Prague. As we had very little time, I chose an apartment right off the Charles Bridge on Lazenska Street—the major pedestrian way between the Old and New Towns. I cannot underscore the beauty of this bridge enough! We walked the Charles Bridge the first evening before heading to dinner and found, while it offered incredible vistas of the city, the bridge itself was the biggest attraction.
Completed in the 1400’s and originally known as the Stone Bridge, this 33 foot wide, over 2,000 foot long walking path, has 30 large, magnificent, baroque statues and statuaries flanking it’s sides. We were extremely fortunate in that it rained every time we crossed the bridge. While that may not seem, to some, to be the perfect conditions for sightseeing this beautiful walkway, it offered the most spectacularly brooding photos; plus, the bridge emptied of its 1,000’s of tourists during the rain, offering the perfect photo opportunities! Travel tips: If you would like to photograph the Charles Bridge without all the tourists, plan to get up extra early and hit the bridge before most of the crowds collect, or, alternatively, take advantage of a rainy day!
We got up early on our first full day in the city, enjoyed a hearty breakfast to prepare for a full day of walking and touring, and headed up the Malá Strana, known formally as the Lesser Town, toward St. Nicholas Church. The Malá Strana, primarily baroque in architecture, hosts many of Prague’s foreign embassies and contains lots of cute little side passages, as well as cobblestone streets and shops.
Arriving at St. Nicholas in the early morning hours (around 8 a.m.), we enjoyed touring the church with relatively few other tourists. There is currently no charge for this attraction; however, donations are appreciated. Travel tip: It should be noted that tour groups start to fill up this gorgeous, baroque-style church in the late morning hours, continuing into the afternoon. If you are shooting lots of photos, plan to take approximately one hour to tour this facility.
From St. Nicholas, we walked up the hill to the Prague Castle. It should be noted that the castle is more of a complex than an individual castle. The Hradcany Prague Castle complex dates back to the 9th Century and has housed various Bohemian kings, Holy Roman emperors, and now, the President of the Czech Republic. It is heavily guarded and requires security screening and tickets to enter. Tickets may be purchased at the door of the castle and consist of various tour options. Tours are available with or without audio.
We chose the “Big Tour” of 6 buildings/attractions located on the site, consisting of the: Old Royal Palace (dating from 973 AD); Story of Prague Castle; Basilica of St. George; Rosenberg Palace; Golden Lane; and culminating with St. Vitus’s Cathedral. We opted to tour without the audio as I read fast and most of the signage (but not all) is translated into English.
Travel tips: When touring the Prague Castle complex, plan on 3 to 4 hours minimum as there are long lines and lots to see. If you choose to do the audio tour, plan to be there 4 to 6 hours. Also note that the cathedral may be opened limited hours as it was during our visit. To accommodate for that, and the long lines, we visited the cathedral last on our tour of the complex. Touring later in the afternoon, as we did, meant we avoided the large tour groups flooding through the cathedral in the late morning and early afternoon.
We finished up touring the Hradcany Castle complex at about 2:00 pm after 6 solid hours of walking. From there, we decided it was time to sit down and ride around the city for a bit. As I’ve mentioned in past articles, the Hop On Hop Off bus is our go-to history lesson and people mover! We opted to take the bus on the shorter run that primarily traversed from the castle through the Lesser Town, to the edge of the New Town, and through the heart of the Old Town. While the city no longer allows horse-drawn carriages, you can choose to travel around in an open top touring car in good weather. These cars may be accessed at the central courtyard of the castle complex (think of them as very fancy taxis).
Travel tips: There are two bus lines operating in Prague. If you’d like to ride from the castle complex and focus on the main attractions, please be sure to book the Praha Tour Bus. While I normally recommend the Red Bus tour in other cities, for Prague you need to walk about 1 mile from the castle to get to the bus stop for the Red Bus. In addition, even if you choose to do the Red Bus from the nearest castle stop, you’ll need to transfer buses in the New Town to the Blue Line if you’d like to see the older, main attractions that new visitors usually choose. If, however, you’d like to hear about their Soviet history, the outer Red Loop of the Red Bus will give you more than a sampling of that era. Please note, though, that the Red Line is a 2 hour ride around the very exterior of the Prague city limits.
<insert stock photos from Praha Tour Hop On Hop Off Bus and Red Bus City Tour Prague>
It may sound unusual, but my husband and I usually go for 2 to 3 spins around any major city if we have the time. I find that I hear something new on each trip, even if the rides are back-to-back. Because we had walked for 6 hours in the morning, we opted to ride the inner loop of the Old and Lesser Towns 2 1/2 times. We then jumped off to walk along the shore of the Old Town so I could photograph the Lesser Town cityscape from the rivers edge. By this time, it was early evening and storm clouds came rolling in, giving the perfect opportunity to shoot gorgeous shots of the Malá Strana, with St. Nicholas and the Prague Castle peaks in the distance.
Not only did this walk enable us to view the Lesser Town from the opposing riverbank, it gave us a final opportunity to, one last time, enjoy the beautiful Charles Bridge before sampling a traditional Czech dinner at a quaint little restaurant located by our hotel. Dobrou noc a rozloučení!
Final travel tips: Please note that, even though we rode the Hop On Off Bus for 2 1/2 hours, we walked 7 miles with this itinerary. So, plan to pack a good pair of walking shoes!! Also, as regards currency, most places accepted either Euros or Czech Koruna. No place accepted US cash. Many restaurants and gift shops accepted MasterCard and Visa, but I found very few places accepted American Express.