How to spend 48 hours in Prague
Some say Prague is prettier than Paris. And yes, the rolling hills full of vineyards, dozens of viewpoints watching over spiralling towers and ancient castles, sprawling neighbourhoods filled with Jugendstil architecture and quirky cafés, make you daydream about old-world Europe. No wonder Prague is one of Europe’s most popular weekend getaways. Fancy spening a weekend in Prague? Here’s how you spend 48 hours in Prague
Plan your weekend in Prague
- Fancy a weekend in Prague? Check out cheap flights to Prague.
- Buy a Prague City Card. It’s good value for money. You’ll be able to use all public transport for free and get free entrance to a lot of famous attractions in Prague. There is a card available for two days, perfect for your 48 hours in Prague.
- Where to stay in Prague? Whatever your budget is, there’s a great place to be found for you in Prague. There are some excellent stylish budget options, like Sophie’s and Mosaic House. But even more luxurious options won’t set you back much, Motel One and Hotel Sax are great hotels and offer rooms for less than €80 per night.
Your first day in Prague
In the morning: the Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square
The Jewish Quarter is one of the oldest Jewish neighbourhoods in the world, and an absolute must-see during your weekend in Prague. With one entree-ticket you can visit five of the Synagogues and other sites in the area. All together, they are called the Jewish Museum. The Old Synagogue is one of the oldest in Europe and has seen fires, pogroms and was more than once the only refuge and shelter for the Jews of the area.
The old Jewish cemetery will blow you away: thousands of tombstones, crumbling and crooked. Walking through the cemetery is like walking through Jewish history in Prague, almost 200,000 Jews were buried here until the community was finally allowed to open another cemetery outside the ghetto. If you can’t read Hebrew, don’t worry, through the symbols on the stones you can still figure out who is buried underneath: a knife for a butcher, a rose for a young woman, a hammer for a carpenter.
Don’t forget to stroll through Pařížská street (Paris street), just behind the neighbourhood, designed to be as stunning as the boulevards in Paris. With its pastel coloured and golden rimmed Jugendstil façades, the street will leave you gasping for air. So will the prices of the items in the stores of Pařížská street, as the well-known designers like Prada, Versace and Gucci all have flag stores here.
At the end of Pařížská street, the Old Town Square awaits. In winter, this is the place where the famous Prague Christmas Market takes place. During the rest of the year, it’s a great place to spot the architecture from all the different eras around the square. On the hours, check out the famous Astronomical Clock. Don’t make a detour especially though, after all: it’s just an old clock (often half hidden by scaffolds as renovations never seem to end).
In the afternoon: Prague Castle by bike and Charles Bridge
In the afternoon, join a guided bike tour for some magnificent views over Prague and discover Prague Castle while at it. At first I was a little nervous that the ride would prove to be too strenuous and hilly for my poor Dutch legs, but once we were actually at the castle, it was all flat and the bike tour was a great way to explore the castle in just a little over 2 hours.
The fairytale-like fortress was the seat of Czech Monarchs since the 9th century, making the castle Prague’s most important historical site. Don’t skip Saint Vitus Cathedral, where the most important leaders of the Czech Republic are buried. All the stained windows are beautiful, but the one designed my Jugendstil master Mucha is extraordinarily stunning.
The Old Royal Palace is the oldest part of the Castle and was built in the 12th century for the Czech princesses, though later it was used s the king’s own palace. The Vladislav Hall has a beautifully, late-Gothic vaulted ceiling that you’d swear was Art Nouveau if you didn’t know it was built over 500 years ago. The balcony overlooking the All Saints Chapel proving breathtaking views over the city centre.
On the way down the golden light will lead you to the famous Charles Bridge (a must-see during a weekend in Prague) where dozens of statues of Saints watch over you while you enjoy the magnificent views over the river, old town and castle. Whatever you decide, a visit to Charles Bridge is best early in the morning or the beginning of the evening when the day trippers have gone.
Dinner in a church in Prague
It’s quite hard to find real and proper Czech food in Prague, because… what is Czech food really? I joined a food tour in Prague and was taken to many excellent cafés en restaurants and finally learned what sets Czech food aside from for example Austrian and Hungarian food, but because the three countries were once one empire, it’s all in the details. One special address was Zvonice, a restaurant located in an old church at the edge of the old town of Prague: Zvonice.
According to my guide, this place is where you take your wife for a romantic dinner. The dark beams and cosy nooks sure breathe romance to me and so does the traditional soup, though not particularly the sauerkraut soup (which was particularly tasty, if not very romantic).
Your second day in Prague
Breakfast and coffee with Kafka
Just like Vienna, Budapest and Turin, Prague is famous for its coffee culture. So please, ignore all the international coffee chains you’ll encounter and have coffee in style. Coffee at Café Louvre will take you back to Old World Europe, with pink arched ceilings, a fin de siecle vibe and grand and yummy looking cakes on offer. You’ll be half expecting Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein to wander through the door and you’re right to think so, as these gents frequented Café Louvre regularly. And apparently, the staff wasn’t too impressed by ‘gloomy and weird’ Mr. Kafka (and that was before he turned into a cockroach, presumably).
Funky art and architecture in New Town
Even though the old part of Prague is s alluring, I challenge you to have a look at the new town as well during your weekend in Prague, as spreading from Wenceslas Square to underground station Karlovo náměstí the most cutting-edge architecture and art in Prague can be found. Most famous is The Dancing House, designed by Frank Gehry, close by the water.
Only a few blocks further down the road Mosaic House Hotel is the place to spot some fantastic street art, like the grey office folks hanging from umbrellas, made by Michael Prpák, and the colourful sculptures by Alexandra Koláčková. If you’re not pressed for time, head to Spálené 22 for the rotating, shiny head of Franz Kafka by the notorious David Czerny.
A Prague fairytale: Vysehrad
With your back to Charles Bridge, the old fortress of Vyšehrad is visible like a faraway fairytale. According to the old myth is that Prague was actually born right here. A tribal chief built a castle here after his daughter saw in a dream that a large and might city would one day rise by the river. Four centuries later the king of Bohemia built his castle on the hilltop and ever since all kings would spend the night here on the eve of their coronations.
The highlight of the fortress is the Church of St. Peter & St Paul. The bright mosaics and breathtaking Art Nouveau interior will make you understand why. The adjacent churchyard holds the graves of famous Czech artists, writers and politicians.
Pivo at Naplavka
On your way back down to the river and the city centre, stroll along the river bank: Nalpavka. This promenade (roughly) between the Vytoň tram stop and Palacký bridge used to be a shady place of abandoned warehouses. But these have recently been turned into hip cafés with sidewalk seating. And these, or the bar boats bobbing on the river, are the perfect place for an afternoon beer (pivo!).
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Did you know it’s just so easy to combine a weekend in Prague with a trip to Budapest in Hungary? Read my article Budapest: the best cafés and restaurants and find out where to have a Hungarian feast in Budapest!