Sometimes I go along and do the ‘touristy’ things, but most of the time, I prefer to do the little things and to experience Prague in a completely different way. By the way, I tend to do this with any place I visit, not just with Prague.
I lived in Prague for about 8 years when I was growing up before we moved to the suburbs. I’ve continued to visit Prague for day trips, school, university and later on for work. I started to see Prague as a tourist destination more as I moved away to London and for a long 23 years would come to Prague as a tourist to visit places that I remembered from when I was growing up.
If you’ve never been to Prague before, you probably want to do the touristy things anyway, so that you don’t feel you are missing out. But if you’ve been to Prague before or you have more time in this amazing city, then I challenge you to pick a couple of suggestions from my list and try them out!
1. Get up really early and walk the Kings route from Prague Castle
The photos in your Prague Guidebook will look much different than reality. This is not because the town somehow changes. It’s more because for some reason, most photos in guide books are taken without people. That’s probably to showcase the beautiful architecture and to make the photo (and the place) more appealing.
The reality is that Prague is normally very crowded, so one way to escape the crowds is to get up super early and explore the town before breakfast. In the summer, this means starting your walk at 5 am and in winter 6 or 7 am.
On the plus side, you’ll also take the most beautiful photos with the best light possible and even see the sun rise and that can’t be a bad thing!
2. Watch a Czech Film (with English subtitles)
Several art cinemas now offer Czech films with English subtitles, which is a great way to experience Czech culture and have something pretty cool to do in the evenings.
You’ll find most of these cinemas in the centre and we usually go to Svetozor (entrance from Vaclavske Square) or Mat (Karlovo square).
3. watch the nutrias at shooting island
There are around 16 nutrias ( large furry aquatic rodents) living on the Shooting Island in Prague and they are great fun to watch as they run from the water up the river banks and back to the river. You’ll find the Shooting Island entrance on the bridge that crosses the Vltava River opposite the National Theatre (the one with the golden roof).
There are other great reasons to visit Shooting Island. You’ll find the best views of Charles Bridge, the Charles Spa buildings and National Theatre and the island is also a great spot to take fabulous photos.
One of my favourite coffee shops is also there during the summer season, so I always make sure I visit. The coffee shop is run out of a little camper van and you can enjoy your coffee and homemade cake sitting on the old-fashioned iron bed with comfy cushions.
4. Have fun working out the water games mechanical installations at Malesice Park
This is a great park for all the kids – big or small! The best time to visit is summer or a hot day, as you can get (unexpectedly… ) wet! The water games installations are at the beginning of the Malesice park, with easy access to bus (Malesice Sidliste).
You can easily spend an hour there and then carry on walking into the park itself. There are coffee shops and outdoor exhibitions and other playgrounds for younger children too.
5. Take a tram ride through the centre – backwards!
This is totally my favourite thing to do and I do this all the time! Find a tram that has the last seats in the last tram wagon (compartment) facing backwards. These are either the old types of trams where the last seat is intended for a person with a child buggy. Be mindful, if somebody actually wants to use it for this purpose, give up the seat and help them as the steps are very high in these kind of trams.
The second type of tram having seats backwards at the back are new low level trams where you can sit unrestricted. The windows are also much bigger in these trams.
Now for the reason, why I’m making you to do this! You’ll get the most magnificent view of Prague in a much slower way than if you are sitting the usual way. It will look like the streets and the beautiful houses are slowly moving away from you and the really far away ones are actually coming towards you. I think it’s some sort of optical illusion, but I love to explore Prague this way.
I also often spot things that I wouldn’t normally – a house sign, newly painted house or a different street view which will look perfect in a photo!
6. See a theatre play
This is a totally fabulous way to visit the National Theatre and see a play at the same time. The National Theatre, the Estates Theatre and the Svandovo Theatre (Smichov in Prague 5 district) now show some plays with English subtitles.
I’d recommend that you see a Czech play, although you can also see any of the classics like Shakespeare or Moliere.
When you are choosing tickets, I would suggest that you choose a balcony (first row if available). This is because the subtitles are running on a display board that it above the stage, which in a very big theatre is very high. If your ticket is downstairs in the stalls, you’ll be constantly lifting and tilting your head to read the subtitles and might even miss what’s happening on the stage.
7. Eat local food at the buffet style restaurant
Locals don’t eat out every day and certainly don’t eat in the centre of Prague. But you’ll find a lot of people eating a hearty lunch in fast style buffet restaurants, where you can get the main meal for under 100 CZK.
The food is always cooked fresh and the menu changes frequently. You usually have a choice of 5-6 main meals and you can choose your own side dish. These are always traditional Czech meals or food that was typically eaten during 1950-1990 period. For example, you are not going to find pizza there, but you might find baked pasta dishes.
My favourite places include Ceska Kuchyne (Czech Kitchen – Cusine – close to Mustek Undeground) open until 8 pm, Svetozor (next to the Svetozor cinema and ice cream shop close to Vaclavske Square – open until 3pm) or Korunka (Arbesovo Square, Smichov – open until 5 pm). Apart from Ceska Kuchyne, most of these buffet-style restaurants close early in the day and don’t open at the weekends.
When you walk in, the menu is usually in Czech, but the staff might know some basic English to help you to make a choice. If in doubt, just point to a meal that you like the look of.
8. Walk everywhere to get to know the town better
Sounds obvious, but walking is really the best way to explore the centre of Prague as there is no public transport anyway. Different places in Prague will link in much better when you connect them together in a long walk.
You will also discover a lot of places ‘in between that might not necessarily be in the tourist guide book, but you will find (just for yourself…) the best coffee in Prague, small local brewery, restaurant with home cooked food or just a beautifully decorated town house.
9. Visit a farmer’s market
The most famous farmer’s market in Prague is probably Naplavka in Smichov, but each area of Prague seems to have a farmer’s market of their own. These are usually in the later part of the week, but usually not on Sundays or Mondays.
You can buy locally produced food, vegetables, fruit and also food that you can’t really buy in the regular shops. For example my local farmer’s market at Andel (Smichov, Prague 5) runs on Fridays and always has a gluten free bakery stall with delicious cakes and breads.
10. Have lunch (or a coffee) at a 1920s style cafe
While you might already have heard of Cafe Slavia (opposite the National Theatre) as one of the places to visit, I’m going to suggest a few more that are equally good if not better.
11. Go for an ice-cream to Svetozor and eat it at Franciscan Garden
The Svetozor ice-cream (entrance from the side of the Vaclavske Square) is one of my favourite ice cream places in Prague and the one I always go to, when I come back to Prague. There are at least sixteen different flavours to choose from every day and they often change. My favourite is the Poppy seeds & Plum, Grapefruit Sorbet or Spicka (which is based on a traditional patiserie cake with egg nog and chocolate).
But, honestly any flavour you choose, you can’t go wrong!
Once you have your ice cream, walk towards the other side of the Svetozor passage and sit in the Franciscan Garden under the beautiful rose bushes to enjoy your delicious ice-cream.
12. Have a different view of Prague from the Lucerna rooftops
The Lucerna rooftops are usually open in the summer season and usually in the evenings during the later part of the week. The Lucerna rooftops are partially restored and connected together with walkways and steps. The space is used for various events, art exhibitions or sunset yoga lessons. There are a couple of bars, where you can get a cool drink and just admire the views. Entrance is 100 CZK and you’ll find access to the rooftops through a small doorway as you enter the Lucerna Gallery.
An extra bonus is that you’ll travel up to the top floor by an old fashioned open lift which doesn’t stop! You need to be quick enough to walk in and then step out on the top floor! The lift doesn’t have door and continuously goes around. I think, it’s fun just for that!
13. Watch the sunset with a cool drink from the top of Riegrovy Park
Another way to watch the sunset is to climb up to the top of Riegrovy Park and make yourself comfortable at one of the benches or sit on the grass. There is a little garden pub inside the park and you can grab a beer or glass of wine and enjoy the sunset in style!
14. Have breakfast at cafe imperial
Start the day with a great breakfast at the most glorious art deco cafe in Prague! Get up early to make sure you get in as sometimes it can get busy. The Cafe Imperial (close to Bila Labut/Massarykovo Train station) is open from 7-10.30 am for ‘walk-in’ breakfast.
No reservation is needed and for around 360 CZK you get a buffet style breakfast. This is no regular hotel ‘buffet style’, this is a lavish spread with different hot and cold dishes, pastries, breads, coffee, tea, fruits, granola and anything you can think off.
The staff are always attentive and speak perfect English to make you feel very welcome.
15. Buy a day or 3 days Prague travel pass and explore the town
One of the best ways to explore the outer parts of Prague is by tram or a bus. If you have a 24 or 72 hrs ticket, you don’t need to worry about timed tickets and can change bus or tram as many times as you like and using Prague public transport is very easy.
Even if the weather is not so great, you can still explore the town from the warmth of a tram, while looking out.
Your Prague Travel pass ticket will be also valid on trains within the 0 & P zones – the middle and one zone up, which means you can explore Prague’s outskirts if you like.
16. Go for a coffee, film, exhibition or listen to a talk at Vnitroblok
Vnitroblok (Holesovice, Prague 7) is a great space created from the backyard workshops inside the old house square.
The main area is taken up by a cosy coffee place, but you can also find a flower shop and clothes and shoes boutiques. There is also a tiny cinema, exhibition area and smaller workshops which are rented by individual artists.
17. Visit the Tram & Public Transport Museum
If you are into old trains or trams, you can find real treasures at the Tram Museum (Prague 7). Last time I visited, the descriptions were not in English, but it’s worth seeing all the different trams, buses and trolley buses and the old photos of Prague.
18. Taste the local sweet patisseries in Czech style ‘Cukrarna’
Forget the trdelnik, which is not Czech or traditional in any way shape or form, and head over to the nearest ‘Cukrarna’ – Patiserie Shop.
Here you can try real cakes, patiseries and sweets made by traditional bakers and patisserie makers, that Czech people buy as a ‘pudding’ or ‘afters’ for Sunday lunch.
People also often buy them when they go to visit friends or family. My favourite ones are ‘Spicka’ or ‘Vetrnik’.
19. Go for a hike in the Sarka Park
Sarka Valley stretches out from Prague 6 towards the Vaclav Havel Airport and it’s a beautiful valley with woodland, little streams, outdoor activities, including outdoor swimming, skating and walking. A tram or a bus will take you from the centre to where all the walks start (Sarecke Udoli).
20. Listen to the not so mainstream music at ROXY Club Prague
Roxy Club (close to Namesti Republiky, Prague 1) is one of the first clubs I went to in Prague when I was growing up. It’s a cool place, that doesn’t focus on just one type of music, which means, that people from any background and ages go there.
Another cool thing about this place is that it used to be a cinema, so the space inside is pretty awesome with a large stage and high celing.
21. Have a Kofola or local beer at the Letna Beer Garden
Try locally brewed beer from an independent brewery or the Czech version of a Coca-Cola, which is slightly more aromatic and less sweet.
You can buy these at the Letna beer garden kiosk in Letna Park and enjoy the beautiful views of Prague below.
If you fancy, you can carry on walking all the way from Letna Park to Strahov Monastery (the top of the Prague Castle), Petrin Hil and Hunger Wall on the Smichov side of the town.
22. Visit the FataMorgana Greenhouse at the Troja Botanical Garden
A great day out, especially in winter or a cold day, as the greenhouse is nicely heated and warm. The greenhouses can be visited separately from the main botanical garden and the ticket cost 50 CZK.
It’s a bit of a hike from the bus stop at Troja Botanical Garden or ZOO, but it’s well worth it. The greenhouse has several rooms with different tropical plants, rare flowers and a fish aquarium.
23. Have a coffee at the Main Train Station
Go up the steps to the old part of the Hlavni Nadrazi train station, which is one of the main train stations in Prague, to explore what the building looked like when it opened back at the end of 19 century.
One side of the ticket booths now hosts a coffee shop and there is also a communal piano, that’s often used by locals to practice.
24. Go to a concert at the O2 arena
While in Prague, do check out the main concert areas, such as the O2 arena for any concerts you might like.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised that the tickets will be very favourably priced and the venue not as huge as in London or other big cities in Europe. International stars regularly include Prague on their European tours, so it’s definitely worth checking out.