Prague is beautiful. That’s indisputable. And there are loads of things to do there which are right in the downtown area and easily accessible from most of the best areas to stay in Prague. The Charles Bridge, The Astronomical Clock, Old Town, The Jewish Quarter, there are plenty of options to keep you busy.
Its beauty is largely thanks to the fact that Prague avoided almost all conflict during WWII and as a result never got bombed. Because of that, most of the original architecture which was decimated across other parts of Europe still exists in the Prague of today and it certainly is a sight to see. But, I challenge you to look at some of the non touristy things to do in Prague, things to do outside Prague’s central areas and tourist hotspots. It’s a fairly sprawling city and the tucked away corners are the most interesting and full of life.
Pedaling on the river
The Vltava is the river which snakes its way through the middle of Prague, so it’s not something you’ll miss even if you do stick to the tourist hotspots. But, on a sunny summers day, between Slovansky ostrov and The Charles Bridge, the water is abuzz with little pedal boats floating about. There are quite a few different options of places to rent from, but no matter which you choose you should expect to pay 300ck per hour ($13.19; €11.50) for a little boat which can fit up to four people. The boats shaped like cars or swans are more expensive, and also heavier, which means more work to get moving – so unless you’re that desperate for the photo-op, which you’d probably need to place somebody up on the side of the river for anyways, they seem rather unnecessary. Definitely wear your sunscreen and a hat when you go out, there’s not much in the way of shade and the sun can get warm out there.
Up in Prague 7, Letna Park sits above the Vlatava. The park houses the base of what used to be the largest statue of Stalin in the world. In 1962, after years of construction and only a few years of standing, it was blasted off the mountain. The spot where it once stood now has some of the best views of Prague which reach straight into Old Town and on a clear day, all the way across to the Zizkov TV Tower, and the babies who live there. You’ll encounter some local teens on their skateboards, a few couples necking, and a smattering of random tourists who got lost up here or were wise as you are to read this guide. From the lookout (where a metronome now stands), head towards the east end of the park and, as soon as the weather is warm enough, you’ll find an open air beer garden. Full of locals, this is also great for the views, and the cheap Czech beer.
This is one of my absolute favorite spots in Prague. Namesti Miru means ‘peace square’ and in the middle of it sits a grand old stone church, the Church of St. Ludmila. Surrounded by markets at Christmas and Easter, lit up during the Signal festival, and just sitting pretty every other day of the year, it’s always wonderful to look at. The neighborhood around it is full of quiet, wide streets, lots of expats, and great bars and cafes (I love Cross Cafe which has a location nearby). But before wandering off, go inside the church and enjoy the atmosphere. The building is as stellar inside as it is out, perch on a pew beneath a towering ceiling, surrounded by cool, old stone and stained-glass windows and enjoy the peaceful air.
If you’re thinking I’ve gotten my Prague and Vietnam posts mixed up, you’re not totally wrong. But this is Vietnam in Prague. Due to similar communistic histories and friendships between the countries, the movement of people has been quite free in the past, resulting in a large Vietnamese population in Prague, and the existence of Little Hanoi, or Sapa. It’s a bit of a trek to get to, but if you have the time it’s a cool experience, and a great spot for lunch, plus it is entirely accessible by public transportation. If you make it out there, check out Hai Ha for their Bún Cha, and if you’re feeling a little out of your depths with the Vietnamese food, check my guide to some of the most common and popular dishes.
Hala 22 – The Prague Market
Another spot which is a bit out of your way but totally worth it if you have the time is Hala 22. These long market halls which make up The Prague Market clearly have stories to tell of times gone past. But today they house a lot of cheap made in China trinkets alongside a terrific Saturday farmers market. Plus, there are pop-up stores and markets coming in and out throughout the year which are worth keeping an eye on. If you want some unique Christmas gifts which aren’t overly commercialized at the basic Christmas markets, there’s a terrific market here during the season showing off local designers and brands.
While not totally off the beaten path, a lot of people don’t make it very deep into the park, or give it the time it deserves. Directly across the bridge from the national theater you’ll encounter the memorial to the victims of communism. While this is a beautifully designed memorial with immense meaning in a country with a past such as The Czech Republic, there is much, much more to the park. At the top of Petrin hill you’ll find the rose garden, full with thousands of fruit trees and flowers. But throughout any area of the park is plenty of quiet, open green space and fantastic views of the city. Plus there’s a funicular up to the Petrin lookout tower.
A Concert in The Spanish Synagogue
Jewish Prague is a popular way to spend half a day in the city. And, if I can recommend a tour it would be with Context. There’s a dark history here and I don’t believe it is one to be skimmed. But, going beyond the history of Judaism in Prague, check what’s happening in the Jewish Czech community of today. Inside the stunning Spanish Synagogue is an ongoing concert series. Sitting down surrounded by the history that is there and blanketing yourself in music is a fairly moving way to spend an evening.
Technically speaking Radotin still sits within the city limits of Prague, but it is very much the suburbs. I taught out there, and never would have discovered it otherwise. Radotin has a village like feel and if you’re there at the right time of the afternoon you’ll hear announcements being made over the loudspeaker which reach all areas of town, a hardcore communistic era throwback. But, it’s more than that. The river goes out there and there are plenty of spots where you can walk down to it, perhaps with a brown bagged beer and a book? Or, make your way to the edge of town, you can follow the roads or the riverside path, and grab a pint at Kiosek Říční lázně. Personally, I just love the feel of getting out of the city and think Czech countryside is the finest part of the country. And if you don’t have time to actually explore Czechia beyond Prague, this is one of the best things to do outside Prague without really leaving.
Walk or Cycle along the Vlatava
There is a beautiful paved path which runs along the banks of the Vlatava. Starting in town around Vysehrad, the path runs southward. The Vlatava splits after about nine kilometers and if you stick to the west side of the river you can follow the path to Radotin, or even as far as Karlštejn where you could make your way up to the castle. While there are long stretches where the path is entirely separate from the road, it does at times join together, so keep that in mind in case you’re traveling with small children who this might be dangerous for.
The Forbidden Spot
I promise you’ll be the only tourist here. And you don’t even have to go very far out of your way. In Prague 6, behind Letna Park, The Forbidden Spot is a concept space which is home to an art gallery, a casual café, bar, and hangout space, a meeting room, as well as pop-up food trucks, events, and the streetwear brand Life is Porno. The walls are coated in graffiti which is all purposeful. No, you cannot pick up a marker and start scribbling, no matter how good an artist you may be. If you’re really convinced of your skills though, ask the staff if they have any open spots. P.S. don’t miss a visit to the bathrooms here (men’s and women’s)
After nearly a year of being an expat in Prague I could go on and on about the secret spots there are to discover. But hopefully this list will get you started on the quest to find the most elusive gram shot, or just a quiet corner away from the trampling hoards for you and your book.
And, if you make it to any of these spots, or others and want to share, let us know about them in the comments!
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