Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Europe. It attracts millions of tourists every year. But together with the popularity, the number of scams and tourist traps also grew with time.
After visiting Prague a couple of times and talking to locals about the situation, I came up with a short list of things to avoid when visiting this marvelous city, so you can enjoy your trip nice and safe.
The first item in this list is not a scam per se, but something to keep in mind. The Prague Oroloj is, of course, a marvel of engineering and has a loaded history attached to it; but it does not justify looking at it for hours in the middle of a crowded square.
You can see in the image above the number of people that stop there just to look at the clock or take pictures of it during the night. First of all, if you go during the day the crowd will be almost unexistent, if you go early in the morning before the sun rises, even more so. Second of all, there are many other marvelous places in Prague that deserve as much attention (or perhaps even more).
If you are exploring the Prague old town, chances are you are going to walk in front of this clock at least 5x per day, so don’t just stop and stare for hours, it is not worth it and honestly a bit cringe.
See the delicious Trdelník in the picture above? Doesn’t it look delicious? Doesn’t it make you drool? Yeaaaah, this is actually a Kürtőskalács (chimney cake) I ate in Budapest.
You will see these being sold everywhere in Prague, and tourists buying them in mass, thinking it’s a traditional Czech snack. In reality, they have little to do with Czech culture and have been recently imported from Hungary.
I am not so sure why tourists bought into this trap, but now it’s a mania (check it on Instagram). The worst part is that these knock-offs are not even that tasty, and a good part of them end up in the trash bins of the city.
Do yourself and the city of Prague a favor, instead of getting a Trdelník, simply enter one of the many Lokáls across the city and enjoy real traditional Czech food and beer.
Now, this is an important one to keep in mind, in case you don’t wanna get robbed of almost half your money. Yes, we are talking about money exchange companies in Prague.
A lot of exchange places (and this includes machines, especially) have huuuuge commission rates for the conversion of currencies. These rates can be as high as freaking 50%, which is absurd.
And please, UNDER ABSOLUTE NO CIRCUMSTANCE exchange money with random people in the street. There is a great chance you are buying old Belarussian rubles that are not even usable in Belarus anymore, which means you are losing 100% of your money, and thus being robbed.
In case you want a place where you are 100% safe when converting your cash, you should look for one of the shops from Exchange. They are very trustworthy and can be found in many places around Prague. The one in the image above is on the Franz Kafka square, near the Old Town square.
Buying Marijuana (or Cannabinoids in general) in the Czech Republic is a crime. And yes, you can be arrested for it. So when you see the many shops around the city center selling Marijuana leaves and green souvenirs, you are being sold just that: a green souvenir with no cannabis inside.
Prague is not a drug paradise, as it is sometimes advertised in cringe movies. There are plenty of other things to enjoy in the city and to go there to try to get a cheap ‘trip’ is disrespectful to the history and culture of the place. If you wanna have fun with your friends, you are much better off going for a beer taste test of some of the many great traditional beers from the country.
Similar to the situation with Cannabis is the one with Absinth. You will see stores throughout the whole city selling these green Absinth bottles for very cheap.
Although Absinthe is currently legal in the Czech Republic, believe me, it is not this cheap. Most of these stores are selling cheap Vodka with green colorants inside. Yeah, what a bummer.
How to know if you are drinking real Absinth? You can easily recognize a licorice flavor coming from its Anise and Fennel contents, while a substance called Wormwood will make you a bit extra drunk when compared to other distilled drinks. Absinth absolutely does not taste like Vodka.
The first works of literature from the Czech Republic date to the 14th century. Since then, the country’s literature went through Classical, Reformation, Baroque and Enlightenment periods. After that, modern literature is mostly divided into the following epochs:
The National awakening (19th century)
The avant-garde of the interwar period (1918-39)
Communism and the Prague Spring (1948-90)
The Post-Communist Czech Republic (1992-present)
Before the 20th century, literature was mostly seen as a means to educate and serve the nation and spread Czech culture. After that, it became literature simply for the sake of art. The influence of French, German and Russian literature made the Czechs demanding of the cultural knowledge from their authors.
The Best Bookstores In Prague
Location: Václavské náměstí 34 | On the Wenceslas Square Opening: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 20:00, Sat 09:30 – 19:00, Sun 09:30 – 18:00 Website: academia.cz/
Academia is a leading publishing company in the Czech Republic. It was founded in 1953 originally as a publishing house of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and has been named Academia since 1966.
The main bookstore is located right on Wenceslas Square, so it will not be difficult to spot. Here you can buy yourself a book and enjoy the reading from the balcony with an iconic view to one of the most beautiful squares in Prague.
Here you will find original scientific monographs and works by Czech scientists, as well as foreign classics in academic science, popular science, non-fiction, encyclopaedias, as well as quality fiction in the original Czech and in translation.
Academia is definitely the place for those trying to expand their knowledge horizon, independent of the field.
One reason why I love this bookstore is the fact that they have important works of Czech literature, sciences and art translated to English, making it one of my favorite places to find English books in Prague. This makes Academia the ideal place for exploring the culture of the Czech Republic right at its heart.
On the image above you can see the first book that I bought here, written by none other than Václav Havel, who tells of his dissidence during the communist occupation. An essential pick for those trying to understand recent Czech history.
Location: Lazarská 1 | Near Franz Kafka’s Head Monument Opening: Mon-Fri 08:00 – 19:00, Sat 09:00 – 18:00, Sun 11:00 – 18:00 Website: levneknihy.cz/english-books/
For 20 years Budget Books have been supplying the Czech Republic with literary classics at an affordable price. This network of affordable bookstores started to operate on the Czech market in 1996.
There are many around Prague, but the easiest to find is definitely the one close to Franz Kafka’s Head. You will see their logo from far away, so you can just hop in and take your pick.
Here you will find classic books by none other than Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Victor Hugo, etc. Apart from the obvious classics, you will also find among the bookshelves, books specialized in scientific literature, history, and philosophy. All of this makes Budget Books a great place to find English books in Prague at a good price.
The first book I bought here was The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, written by Oliver sacks, a renowned neurologist. Not much of a classic, it is still an essential read for those interested in the field of neurological disorders.
The book discusses not only deficits and excesses regarding brain function, but also phenomenological manifestations with reference to altered perceptions, and extraordinary qualities of mind found in people with intellectual disorders.
Spálená 53 is not only a bookstore but an antiquity store as a whole. Here you will find new and second-hand books, LPs and vinyl, maps, graphic posters, postcards, etc.
After gathering great experience in the field, the owner Eva Michalkova founded her own publishing house named Aurora and opened her first bookstore in Prague’s Zizkov. Later on, a second-hand bookshop was added to it and the whole was further allocated to Spálená Street No. 53.
Here is the place for you to get your hands on rare pieces, especially regarding literature, and advance your knowledge in Czech history while holding part of it in your own hands. Although unique pieces, the books here are not as expensive as you might think.
Czech Book Suggestions
If you are coming to Prague (or if you are already here), I have a couple of book recommendations, in case you wish to visit one of the bookstores I mentioned above and dive into Czech literature.
Frank Kafka – The Trial Josef K. is a regular man who is suddenly accused of a crime he has no recollection of having committed. The book then follows him through the absurdities of bureaucracy and the judicial system, showing the hopelessness and nightmarish reality of an individual being crushed by the State.
Jan Neruda – Prague Tales This is the book for those willing to understand Czech characters and motifs. It tells short stories describing the mundane lives of the inhabitants of Prague’s Mala Strana (Little Quarter), who are humbled by poverty, debauchery, and infighting, yet remain warm and well-humored, despite how unfortunate their lives might end up being.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being This book tells the story of two women, two men, a dog, and their lives in the 1968’s Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. Challenging Nietzsche’s concept of Eternal Recurrence (a mental exercise where you suppose your life repeats itself ad infinitum), The Unbearable Lightness of Being poses the paradoxical condition of life: lightness from the ease in which things happen, and heaviness for the consequences that decisions have.
Located in a house at the Donkey by the Cradle (this weird name comes from a fresco on the building that used to display the birth of Jesus, but due to fading you can see only a donkey by the cradle now), the Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague exhibits the story of alchemy in Prague inside the building that once belonged to illustrious alchemist Edward Kelley.
The main building has an astonishing recreation of a supposed ‘alchemic ritual’, where you can see Doctor Faustus being sucked up in the ceiling by the devil. Here you will buy tickets for the tours of the attic, that is where the fun starts.
After climbing the 60 steps of one of the oldest wooden staircases in Prague (designed by Kelley himself in the 16th century), you will get access to the laboratory of the famous alchemist.
The first room served as storage, library and waiting room for those who wish to visit the lab. Names such as Rudolf II, John Dee, and even William Shakespeare came to this place. The second room is a separate laboratory, where you can find the place where Kelley tried to create a homunculus, the furnaces which were used to try to create the philosopher’s stone, experimental animals, etc.
Museum of Ghosts and Legends
Location: Mostecká 18 | Near Charles Bridge Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 22:00 Website: muzeumpovesti.cz/en
Prague had a very turbulent history involving invasions, insurgencies, wars, etc. Out of this turbulence and death, many legends arose. They come in many ways: holy, unholy, headless, skeletal, filled with love, hatred, etc. The Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum is a living collection of these stories that surround the streets of Prague.
The Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum is divided into two main levels: the interactive ground floor and the underground basement.
On the interactive ground floor, you will see an exhibition of the main legends from the city, either coming out of the walls or in the shape of objects related to them. In case you want to read more about them, you can purchase a book containing their stories in the ticket office, or download their app.
In the underground basement, you will find the ghosts. Simulating medieval Prague, without cars and bright lights, you will experience how it must have been like to face one of these spirits while strolling across the city during the 16th century. Some you will see clearly, but others you will need some investigating to find.
Museum of Medieval Torture
Location: Křižovnické nám. 194/1 | Near Charles Bridge Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 22:00 Website: museumtorture.com/
The Museum of Medieval Torture displays over 80 of the most famous and important torture machines used by the courts during the Middle Ages. It serves as a rich historical and cultural reserve, preserving the haunting past behind the Czech Republic.
On the image above, you can see something called a scold’s bridle, used to hurt and humiliate people accused of being witches. This was actually the most softcore thing I found in this museum, so be aware that you will find a lot of suffering pumped up with the sounds of people screaming, moaning, and crying.
Even though this museum if not for the faint-hearted, it is definitely a must-see. Torture has been a common practice in medieval history and much can be learned from the people who both utilized and suffered from them.
Museum of Communism
Location: V Celnici 1031/4 | Near the Powder Tower Opening: Mon-Sun 9:00 – 20:00 Website: muzeumkomunismu.cz/en/
The Czech Republic had a very troubled recent past when it comes to communism. Decades of censorship, persecution, and executions. To avoid past mistakes it is important to remember them, and this is the role of the Museum of Communism in Prague.
Housed in a space of nearly 1,500 square meters, the Museum of Communism provides visitors with an authentic feel of the communist era in Czechoslovakia, enhanced by the incorporation of short videos, posters, and artifacts.
The Museum of Communism shows the daily life, politics, history, sports, economics, education, art, propaganda in the media, the People’s Militias, the army, the secret police, censorship, and courts and other institutes of repression, including show trials and political labor camps during the Stalinist era.
Location: Haštalská 1 | Near the Spanish Synagogue Opening: Mon-Wed 10:00 – 18:00 Website:alchemiae.cz/en
In the late Middle Ages and early Modernity, science and mysticism were one. Researches were trying to discover the secrets of nature, no matter if gravitation (harmony of the spheres) or the secret to eternal life. The Speculum Alchemiae is another great place to learn about the alchemist past of Prague.
During the reconstruction of one of the oldest historical buildings of Prague, one of the oldest alchemical laboratories in the region has been found. It was incredibly preserved, especially after the demolition of the Jewish quarter at the end of the 19th century.
It contains a main study room, normal to untrained eyes but hiding a secret passage to the underground laboratories. The underground rooms are many, containing furnaces for experimenting with different metals, laboratories for the production of different elixirs, etc.
Museum of Illusions
Location: Staroměstské nám. 480/24 | Near the Astronomical Clock Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 20:00 Website:iamprague.eu/en
The Illusion Art Museum of Prague (IAM Prague) is the Czech Republic’s first museum dedicated to illusion and trick art, located on Old Town Square, directly across from the iconic astronomical clock, locally known as Orloj.
Here you will find illusion art in many different styles: some rooted deep in history, others modern and contemporary. The peak of the exhibition are anamorphic installations representing historical figures in unexpected ways, from metallurgical panting, trick art, spatial illusions, etc.
These works of art are not random, but rather from established and internationally-recognized artists such as Patrick Hughes and Patrik Proško. Apart from these famous artists, you can also find the work of smaller local artists, providing a truly unique experience.
Location: Karlův most Praha 1 | One the Charles Bridge Opening: Mon-Sun 10:00 – 18:00 Website: No Website
The tower on the Charles Bridge is the bucket-list of most tourists who visit Prague, but few know that there is something more than a view to it. If you pay close attention, after you cross the door, you have the possibility of not only going up to the tower, but also going underground.
Although not really a full museum, the exhibitions under the tower are definitely nice to see, especially if you already bought the ticket for climbing the tower to get a view of the Charles bridge.
It contains a video exhibition, telling the story of the construction of the Charles bridge, as well as many ‘archeological pieces’ found during the many reforms the bridge has gone under. You can find a lot of fun stuff there, the ones that most surprised me were some Brazilian credit cards.
Czechs take their beer very seriously, so there is an etiquette to it. First of all, always use the beer coaster, the waiters will definitely appreciate you helping keep the pub or table clean. Second of all, look into the eyes of the other person while toasting. Third, although Czechs usually say “čau” while toasting, meaning a simple “hey”, it is preferable that you say “na zdraví“, which in English translates into “to health”.
An important point is that Czech beer is categorized by degrees. The Balling scale is a measurement (expressed as °Balling) of the concentration of dissolved solids (mainly sugars) in a brewery wort. That means the higher the degree, the stronger the sweetness and flavor.
Pilsner beer first appeared in the 19th century in the city of Plzeň. There, brewers discovered a bottom-fermenting yeast that produces a golden and more drinkable beer compared to stronger top-fermented ales from the time.
Pilsner Urquell started the production of its beer in 1842, and since then the Pilsner-style beer became so famous that most Czech breweries did not produce anything else until quite recently.
Czech Beer Foam
Many tourists who visit Prague, or even the Czech Republic in general, get surprised when they order a beer and get a glass full of foam, some might even feel cheated. But in reality, beer foam is traditional in the Czech Republic.
Foam is flavor, and for that reason, the way beer is poured into the glass makes a difference. The difference in taste comes from a different proportion between golden lager and dense foam. You can pour Pilsner beer in three main ways:
Hladinka: With three fingers of foam on top of the golden lager, Hladinka goes perfectly with rich foods like a grilled duck. The thick top of dense and wet foam gives the beer a perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness while sealing the freshness and flavor.
Šnyt: With three parts foam and one part empty at the top of the glass, the Šnyt is perfect for enjoying together with some hearty food such as goulash or a burger.
Mliko: With the glass full of foam and just a bit of beer at the bottom, the Mliko tastes the best together with dessert. The excessive foam brings out the rich aromas from the hops and the sweetness from the malt. It will taste like a delicious sweet drink.
Where to Drink in Prague
When you think of the Old Town Square, the first thing that comes to mind is expensive stuff and tourist traps. But there is a hidden place right by the Astronomical Clock that will definitely surprise you.
Skautsky Institute is a mostly student’s meetup place, located in a historical building with no logo and no name. To find it, you must first enter a golden door and climb to the first floor.
Here you can enjoy Pilsner beers at different degrees as well as other types of drinks, accompanied by snacks such as chips and toasts. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and if you are lucky to sit on the edge of the building, you will have an amazing view of the Old Town Square from the window.
Branická Formanka is quite small and hidden, so if you are not paying attention you might just pass over it. It is quite known for having the cheapest beer in Prague and a very cozy atmosphere.
This place is visited mostly by locals, so you will not be hearing any English. Remember that it is a very small place, so be polite and quiet if you visit it.
Here you can enjoy Branik beer. Branik is originally brewed at Prazske Pivovar, belonging to the same company as Staropramen and is today brewed by this brewery in Prague. This particular brand has a very bitter and hoppy taste with a touch of citrus.
Lokál U Bílé kuželky
Lokál serves traditional Czech food prepared with fresh and local ingredients and all of this in a very cozy atmosphere at their cellar. As you exit the Charle’s bridge, you will have to go against all tourists to find this place, but you will be rewarded with quality food and beer.
Here is the perfect place to enjoy and compare the Hladinka, Šnyt, and Mliko. You can order all three at the same time, but you will have to drink fast since the foam from Czech beers disappears in a split second. You can clearly see in the picture above that my Mliko was almost turning into a Šnyt, and believe me, I took the picture 10 seconds after it arrived at the table.
The Prague Castle was founded around 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty. According to the Guinness World Records, it is the largest castle complex in the whole world, with an area of almost 70,000 m².
A UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles. Since the Velvet Revolution, Prague Castle has gone through extensive and significant renovations. It is now the place where the presidential elections take place and the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic.
Prague Castle General Information
Unlike other castles in Europe, there is a lot of opportunities to see the Prague Castle time-wise. The complex is open daily from 5:00 to 00:00, so you will have a lot of time to explore. Just be aware that the places where entrance tickets are required are open from 9:00 to 17:00 (9:00 to 16:00 on winter) only.
You can buy the tickets at the information centers of the Prague Castle at the second and in the third courtyards, at the Prague Castle Picture Gallery, at the Old Royal Palace and at two ticket offices at the Golden Lane.
The Prague Castle complex is huge, encompassing a whole set of buildings and facilities that will take a long time to see. For that reason, the visits to the complex are divided into three main circuits:
Circuit A: St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, exhibition “The Story of Prague Castle”, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Rosenberg Palace.
Circuit B: St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower.
Circuit C: Exhibition “The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral”, Prague Castle Picture Gallery.
Apart from the main circuits, tickets are also sold for individual exhibitions, such as the “The Story of Prague Castle”, “The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral”, the Prague Castle Picture Gallery, and the Great South Tower with a View Gallery.
Discounts are in place for kids from 6 to 16 years old, secondary school and university students until 26 years old, as well as seniors past 65 years old.
Free Admission is in place for children under the age of 6, disability ID Card holders (including, if necessary, one accompanying person), licensed EU guides with clients holding purchased tickets to castle buildings, and teachers accompanying school groups.
You can find further information regarding prices and overall regulation on the official website of the Prague Castle.
It is important to note that photographing inside the Castle is not free. It will cost you 50 CZK, and it is allowed only without a flash or a tripod. Apart from that, photographing is prohibited in the exhibitions “The Story of Prague Castle”, “Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral”, and “Prague Castle Picture Gallery”.
Inside the Prague Castle Complex
Old Royal Palace
The Old Royal Palace was the seat of Czech rulers for centuries. Built during the 12th century, it was rebuilt several times for many different reasons, resulting in a mix of multiple architectural styles, mostly Gothic and Renaissance.
The Palace was built exactly in 1135 by Sobeslav I, the duke of the Premyslid dynasty. It was meant to be a luxury Romanesque palace resembling the German architecture of the time.
In the 14th century, the Palace was rebuilt in Gothic style by Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. He made the palace stand to the level of his power, by expanding it and creating a more modern and imponent look. Part of these modifications spread throughout the whole city, and other historical buildings of extreme importance were built, such as the Charles Bridge and the St. Vitus Cathedral.
Due to the Hussite Wars in the 15th century, the Old Royal Palace became empty for many years. But it became again the rulers seat in 1483 when Vladislav Jagielo moved in. He was responsible for building the famous Vladislav Hall and the Louis Tract, which were designed by Benedikt Ried.
The Habsburgs modified the castle in the 16th century, to make it more comfortable and adapted to their needs. After the great fire of 1541, though, many areas of the Old Royal Palace had to be rebuilt, including the All Saints Chapel and the Old Diet. In the 18th century, the Theresian Wing was built.
Exhibition The Story of Prague Castle
Unfortunately, here you are not allowed to take pictures.
The Story of Prague Castle is a permanent exhibition that started in April 2004, which the goal of reminding local as well as foreign visitors of the millennia-old history of the place where Czech history was made.
The exhibition takes place on the authentic premises of the Gothic floor in the Old Royal Palace. The items displayed here are original relics from the Prague Castle collection, such as the tomb of Přemysl Otakar II, the statue of St. George cast by George and Martin of Cluj, and the Hatchment of Rudolf II.
St. George‘s Basilica
The St. George’s Basilica is the second oldest church in Prague, and the oldest preserved at the Prague Castle. Also one of the most important Romanesque buildings in the whole country, this church was founded in 920 by Premyslid Duke Vratislav I, intended to be the main sanctuary of Bohemia.
It was the burial place of the rulers from the Premyslid dynasty until 1055. Many rulers from the early existence of the country are to be found buried there. The church also hosted the tombs of Christian martyrs such as St. Ludmila, but her relics were later moved to the Chapel of St. Ludmila.
The most imponent sights of the basilica are the two white prismatic towers, which were added in the 12th century. The narrow tower was called ‘Eve’ and the bigger southern one was called ‘Adam’.
The western frontage with the brick-red facade is Early Baroque, from the 17th century. It is decorated with statues of the founder Vratislav I and Mlada, the first abbess of the near convent. The southern entrance has a Renaissance tympanum, where the fight of St. George against the dragon is displayed.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Matthias of Arras from France and Petr Parler from Swabia were the first builders of the St. Vitus Cathedral, during the 14th century. Parler’s sons continued their father’s work until the Hussite Wars commenced in 1419. The cathedral was only entirely finished in the 19th century by Josef Kranner, Josef Mocker, and Kamil Hilbert.
The neo-Gothic frontage with two spires on the west is adorned with 14 statues of Czech saints, Emperor Charles IV and archbishop Arnost of Pardubice. There are three main portals leading to the nave, which have tympanums decorated with reliefs.
The famous Golden Gate can be found in the southern frontage at the third courtyard. It used to be the main entrance to the cathedral originally. Created in 1370 by Petr Parler, it is decorated with a unique mosaic, very unusual outside Italy, which is made of about one million glass grits with more than 30 color shades. It depicts Christ in the center surrounded by angels and Czech saints kneeling underneath them. Charles IV is also depicted here, kneeling by the middle arch and his wife Elisabeth of Pomerania on the other side.
The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral
Unfortunately, here you are not allowed to take pictures.
The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral is a collection of important antiquities from the era of St. Wenceslas, and most of all of Charles IV.
Here you can find the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, the martyr who was executed at the Charle’s Bridge, as well as 6 tombs of Premyslid rulers, a tomb of Prague archbishop Jan Ocko of Vlasim, and more.
The beautiful church windows are an attraction in itself, these were made in the 20th century by important artists of the epoch such as Max Svabinsky and Alfons Mucha.
The first houses were built here around the 15th century to accommodate the city’s goldsmiths, hence the original name of the street being ‘Goldmakers Lane’. These houses were demolished in 1591, but six years later, Emperor Rudolpho II let 24 Prague Castle’s fusiliers build their houses there.
As time passed, other craftsmen and servants built their houses there. According to legend, some of these were Alchemists accommodated there by the Emperor himself. Their task was simple: turn simple metals into gold. This fact could have also originated the current name.
Since the 19th century, these houses have been rented to common people. One of the most famous inhabitants was Franz Kafka, who lived in house no. 22 with his sister Ottla in 1916 and 1917. Apparently, the Golden Lane by the Prague Castle was the inspiration for his book ‘The Castle’.
Prague Castle Picture Gallery
Unfortunately, here you are not allowed to take pictures.
Originally the collection of Emperor Rudolph II, the Prague Castle Picture Gallery changed many times throughout the centuries. Nowadays, there are pantings arranged according to their school, such as the Dutch, German and Italian.
The entrance to the place is located on the second courtyard, where the imperial stables used to be. Remains of the former Church of Our Lady from the 9th century, the oldest stone building in Prague, can also be found there.
The Gallery, as mentioned before, initially comprised the works of art kept by Emperor Rudolph II. After Rudolph’s death, his successor Mathias brought his own to the Castle from Vienna. Unfortunately, most of these original pieces were taken away as war booty by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War.
The collection was enlarged again in 1650 by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, who bought over 500 paintings from Antwerp for his brother Emperor Ferdinand III.
After Czechoslovakia was founded in 1918, the collection was further expanded by new Baroque paintings as well as Czech art from the 19th century. Nowadays the Picture Gallery has almost 4000 items, including the remains of the original collection of Rudolph II, including pantings from P. Veronese, A. Dürer and J. Heintz.
The Rosenberg Palace served many purposes throughout the years. The first houses were built there during the 13th century but eventually burned down during the great fire of 1541.
After the fact, the Rosenberg family, owners of the area, decided to build a large residence there. Designed to be a Renaissance palace by Hans Vlach, the palace had four-wings, two with arcades. The Rosenbergs later purchased more of the area around and built a large garden, with an arcade designed by Ulrico Avostalis in 1574.
In the early 17th century, Emperor Rudolph II purchased the place, ordering a wooden corridor to be built connecting the house and the Louis Tract of the Old Royal Palace.
The place would later become the Residence for Noblewomen by 1756, where 30 poor noblewomen lived, all of them 24 years old or older. They lived on the first and second floors, the rest of the building comprised a capitular room, a sacrarium, a chapel, and the abbess apartment.
The Residence for Noblewomen was abolished in 1919, nowadays the building hosts several offices of the Prague Castle’s administration, as well as the office of the president of the Czech Republic.
Great South Tower of the Cathedral
The St. Vitus Cathedral also possesses a lookout tower on the southern entrance. It was started in the 14th century but only finished between 1560 and 1562 by Bonifác Wohlmut and Hans Tirol. The lookout tower is also called “the Big Bell Tower” because it accommodates the bell Sigismund, the biggest in Prague.
The tower itself is 97 meters high. You can climb it and have an amazing panoramic view of Prague. But be warned that the climb is extremely exhaustive and not meant for unfit people. The stairs are also very narrow and can be slightly claustrophobic. But if you manage to get to the top, you will be rewarded with a view which will be pretty difficult to forget.
Prague Castle Tips & Tricks
Come Early in the Morning
If you want to peacefully enjoy the Prague Castle you should arrive there early. By midday, the place will already be filled with tourists, which means noise, flashes and bumping into each other. Believe me, you really will not appreciate as much the place once it gets too crowded.
You can arrive at 8:30, 30 minutes before the ticket offices open, and explore the whole complex before entering the buildings. Getting acquainted with the place will make you save time and energy later on. Take into consideration that the Prague Castle is up a hill and the climb will take you a good half hour. Once you get your tickets, you can finally enjoy the Castle complex stress-free.
Watch the Change of Guards
Every hour starting from 7:00 you can witness the Changing of the Guard at the first courtyard of the Prague Castle. The best time to go is at noon when there is a ceremonial exchange of flags and a trumpet call. Just make sure to keep distance and let the guards do their job.
Visit the Defenestration Window
The uprising of the Bohemian Estates against the Habsburgs began with the Second Prague Defenestration in 1618. Those who took part in the event were representatives of the Bohemian aristocratic anti-Habsburg opposition headed by Jindřich Matyáš Thurn and Václav Budovec. Under their leadership, a group of aristocrats broke into the Bohemian Chancery on 23 May 1618.
The insurgents accused the pro-Habsburg royal governors of disturbing the peace in the Bohemian Kingdom. As a result of a physical altercation, the governors Vilém Slavata of Chlum and Jaroslav Bořita of Martinice were thrown out of the window of the chancery. The consequences of the defenestration were severe: the Thirty Years’ War.
Throughout history, the Jewish community has been tirelessly persecuted in Europe. Revolts and massacres happened based on the belief that Jews were somehow inhuman creatures that valued money over life and used little Christian children as a human sacrifice for their religious rituals.
Amidst oppression, the Jewish community turned to its folklore and traditions for a redeemer, someone (or rather something) who could be a symbol for hope and resistance. Thus, the Golem was brought to life.
What a Golem is
A Golem is a human-like entity created out of clay using ancient magic (Kabbalah). Similarly to how God created Adam by blowing life into clay, so does an experienced rabbi blows life into the creature, after inscribing the word emet (‘truth’ in Hebrew) onto the Golem’s forehead. There are three main reasons why a person would create a Golem:
Show mastery of the Kabbalah
Use as a servant for physical labor
Provide protection for the community
After the Golem is alive, it will perform its duties as instructed by its master. But unlike God, man cannot create a perfect conscious being, thus the Golem will follow blindly (and sometimes very stupidly) the commands given to him.
Given how non-intelligent it is, it might even become violent trying to follow its commands until the very end. According to legend, the way to kill one is to remove the last letter of the word inscribed onto him, this will turn the Hebrew word ‘truth’ into ‘dead’:
אמת (truth) → מת (dead)
The problem here is that the Golem will definitely not let anyone get even close to doing that. And well, it is pretty big and strong, so you can image how difficult the task is.
A Golem in Prague
During the reign of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, the jews of Prague were at risk of being expelled from the city or even killed. To protect the inhabitants of the ghetto from anti-Semitic attacks, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, a late 16th-century rabbi from Prague, reportedly created a Golem out of clay from the banks of the Vltava river using Kabbalistic magic. It was called Yossele or simply Josef and was known to be able to become invisible and summon dead spirits.
Legend says that for some reason, the Golem became out of control, either by desecrating the Sabbath or being rejected after falling in love with a human. Either way, the Golem went on a murderous rampage. The rabbi actually managed to remove the incantation from the Golem, immobilizing him in front of the synagogue, where it fell in pieces. His body was supposedly stored in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue, where he would be brought back to life again if needed.
The Golem Today
At the present time, the Golem is a celebrity attached to the image of the city. Books have been written about the story, movies have been made, there are restaurants carrying its name, souvenirs being sold, etc.
The Golem became a symbol of the resistance and self-determination of the Jewish peoples in Prague. Whenever it is needed, the Golem will awake, and protect those who have summoned him.
If you wish to visit him, you can either see:
Old-New Synagogue, where the Golem supposedly sleeps,
Ghosts and Legends Museum, where a life-size Golem replica resides.
Nothing better to experience the spirit of the Czech Republic’s capital than to try the local food, made with fresh ingredients in the best restaurants in town! Here is my personal list of the best restaurants in Prague.
Coffee & Breakfast
The Café scene in Prague has been going strong for over a hundred years, with great historical names such as Kafka and Einstein taking part in it. Enjoy the best the top local cafés have to offer.
Location: Národní 22, 110 00 Nové Město | Near Franz Kafka’s Head Opening: Mon-Fri 08:00 – 23:30, Sat-Sun 09:00 – 23:30 Reservation: cafelouvre.cz/en
Opening its doors in 1902, Café Louvre remains to this day one of the top meetup places in Prague. Throughout the decades it has managed to graciously preserve its café traditions. I can guarantee the experience you have there will be the same Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and T. G. Masaryk had once they visited the place.
Café Louvre is very spacious, and the big windows give you a lovely view of the old buildings around the block. The service is fast and efficient, treating visitors like royalty. Expect the place to be full at all times, so making a reservation would be preferable if you wish to avoid having no seat.
To get the maximum out of the experience, I would hight recommend the house’s traditional Czech breakfast which contains freshly squeezed orange juice, ham from bone and Czech cheeses, boiled egg (set white, runny yolk), fresh cream cheese, and Apple Gugelhupf cake.
Grand Café Orient
Location: Ovocný trh 19, 110 00 Staré Město | Above the Museum of Cubism Opening: Mon-Fri 09:00 – 22:00, Sat-Sun 10:00 – 22:00 Reservation: grandcafeorient.cz/en/
If you are a fan of design and architecture, you will love the Grand Café Orient. Designed by the architect Josef Gočár, the building itself is one of the iconic works of Czech Cubism. The Orient was created in 1912 in the “House of the Black Madonna”. The name comes from the black baroque figure, which is attached to the corner of the building.
The Grand Café Orient is not as big as other Cafés in Prague, so a reservation is highly advised. The staff is very friendly and humorous, especially after they see you are becoming regular. I went so many times to this place that at this point one of the waiters already knows what I want to eat, and serves the order while singing.
My definite go for the place would be a tasty hot chocolate accompanied by the famous ‘Kubistický věneček’, a Czech sweet which is originally round, but for cubist reasons is served here in a square shape.
Location: Karlova 26, 110 00 Staré Město | Near the Charle’s Bridge Opening: Mon-Sat 09:00 – 00:00, Sun 16:00 – 00:00 Reservation: None Required
Kafe Damu is right near the city’s theatre school, which actually belongs to the university. They are the perfect pick for a relaxed atmosphere with a lot of youth. The place not only serves good coffee but has a great selection of alcoholic drinks.
The place has generally a very relaxed atmosphere and the coming and going of clients makes it very busy, but there is no need for a reservation, you can simply just wait for a table to get empty or seat by one of the windows. You will eventually see people with accentuated made up and clothing as they enter and leave the theatre school, so do not be surprised.
My pick for the place during colder months is the ‘Svařené víno’, mulled wine served with a slice of orange and sweetened with browns sugar. Make sure to drink some right before the sunset and head down to the Charle’s Bridge for an unforgettable view.
Traditional Czech Food
Traditional Czech food is very central-European, which means a lot of meet with vegetables and beer. The best part is that it does not need to come at a high cost, so you can enjoy state-of-the-art meals for cheap.
Location: Míšeňská 12, 110 00 Malá Strana | Near the Charle’s Bridge Opening: Mon-Thu 11:30 – 00:00, Fri-Sat 11:30 – 01:00, Sun 11:30 – 00:00 Reservation: lokal-ubilekuzelky.ambi.cz/en/
There are many ‘Lokals’ spread around Prague, but my favorite is definitely ‘U Bílé kuželky’. As the name suggests, they serve great quality local food for very low prices. Apart from that, they have one of the best and cheapest beers in town.
Do not lose your hope of getting a seat once you step into the place. Although the place is almost always full, given that it is near the other end of the Charle’s bridge, you can ask to go to their cellar. There you will find a cozier atmosphere and peace to enjoy your quality meals. Everything prepared here uses only fresh ingredients and spices sourced from renowned regional suppliers.
Here my favorite dish is the duck breast with groat risotto. It is one of the most expensive dishes in the place and stands at around 10 EUR. Together, you can order a traditional Pilsner beer and then choose from a Hladinka, a Šnyt, or a Mliko, standing at less than 2 EUR.
Location: Zlatnická 1126/3, 110 00 Nové Město | Near Café Imperial Opening: Mon-Sun 07:00 – 23:00 Reservation: next-door.cz/en/
If you have a very demanding palate, Next Door is the place for you. The restaurant is headed by Zdeněk Pohlreich, one of the best chefs in the Czech Republic. Everything here is prepared with extreme caution, and the ingredients are mixed and elevated to the state of art. The way the flavors harmonize inside your mouth will make you want to order more than once.
Again, the place is busy and it would be extremely recommendable to make a reservation. One of the things that really stands out here, apart from the obviously perfect food, is the service. Throughout your whole experience, you will be guided on the best dishes and drinks of the house.
My pick for this place is the braised cheeks of suckling pig, served on dark beer sauce, mashed potatoes, and roasted root vegetables. I can guarantee you will not regret this choice. The mixture of flavors from the dark beer sauce and the mashed potatoes together with the tenderness of the pig’s cheeks will not be easy to forget.
Location: Politických vězňů 1511/5, 110 00 Nové Město | Near the Station Opening: Mon-Sun 11:30 – 23:00 Reservation: kantyna.ambi.cz/en/
Kantýna is a modern Czech restaurant that occupies the building which once belonged to a bank. Here you have a choice to sit or stand by one of the counters, while you enjoy one of the places with the best meat in town.
Here you have three main options, you can order a ready meal from the menu, you can choose from the cooked meats on the counter, or you can actually select a cut of raw meat to be grilled especially for you. Your choice will be noted down on the scorecard given to you at the entrance and you will pay with it as you exit.
The food varies a lot between the days, so I usually stick to their pick of the day for ready meats. A meatloaf with some cooked cabbage is my most often pick. Of course, because this is the Czech Republic, you can also get one or maybe more beers to go with your food.
Prague also has a very vivid international cuisine, so you can find many international restaurants all over the city. These will tend to be more expensive than Czech traditional food, but worth the price on special occasions.
Location: Truhlářská 10, 110 00 Petrská čtvrť | Near the Palladium Opening: Mon-Sun 08:00 – 23:00 Reservation:laboca.cz/
La Boca is a distinctive district of Buenos Aires, famed for its vivid colors and excellent food. The district is known for its Italian and Spanish immigration, creating an interesting cultural mix. And this is the inspiration behind this lovely restaurant.
The restaurant is colorful and vibrant, with live ethnic music at night. But if you prefer a more private and quiet atmosphere, the staff can take you to one of their rooms on the back, where you can relax and enjoy your evening.
If you have company, you should definitely pick their ‘Parillada de Carne para 2 personas’, which comes with Argentinian rump steak, entrecote and Bife Ancosto steak, grilled egg, Txistorra sausage, roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, mixed salad, as well as salsas chimichurri, mojo picon, and allioli.
Location: Masná 1051/3, 110 00 Staré Město | Near the Slavic Gymnasium Opening: Mon-Sun 12:00 – 23:00 Reservation: yami.cz/en/
You cannot go wrong with sushi, and this is why Yami Sushi is one of the best places in town for a relaxed and light evening in Prague. The great Japanese food and the quiet ambiance make for an excellent place for a romantic dinner, for example.
Here you can sit at the sushi bar and watch the chefs preparing your food right in front of you, enjoy your meal at one of their comfortable tables or simply chill out at their summer garden.
This place is perfect for very light meals, so my top pick is a set of sake sashimi with simple carbonated water. But if you are ready for more food, you can pick one of their sushi sets, accompanied by a great sake.
Prague, also known as the “City of a Hundred Spires”, is famous for its particular architecture, traditional food, and delicious beer. But apart from such aspects, the city also hides many treasures, stemming from its medieval past up until its liberation from communism, that are worth experiencing.
Thinking of visiting Prague or already in town? I personally visited this incredible city and the following are my top picks for the best things to do in Prague, Czech Republic.
Visit the Many Museums
From Alchemy to Communism, there are many interesting museums to see in Prague. And believe me, none of the ones I visited were even close to being boring.
For some reason, Prague is very fond of creating visuals representations of events, instead of simply displaying clothing and historical items in general. When you visit an alchemy museum, you will see the laboratories as they looked when operating; when you visit the Museum of Torture, you will hear screams and see representations of executions (be prepared for that).
So, if you want an authentic experience, Prague is the place for you when it comes to museums and historical discovery.
Check the Astronomical Clock
The Pražský Orloj (Prague Orloj) is a 15th-century astronomic clock located in the Old Town Square. The clock consists of two dials; the astronomical, representing the medieval view of the universe, and the calendar, describing the measurement of time across the year.
Local legend says that the entire city will fall into a curse if the maintenance of the clock is neglected, a ghost sitting on top of the clock will give the sign of its doom.
Taste the Delicious Czech Food
From luxurious cafes such as Cafe Louvre to traditional restaurants like Lokal, there are plenty of places to enjoy good food while visiting Prague.
The food here is mostly based on meat and roots, like in most countries in Central Europe. But what makes it unique and gives it a delicious taste is the assortment of creams and natural sauces that go with the main courses.
Rest at the Franciscan Gardens
Prague can be exhausting to explore, especially since the cobblestones that the streets are made of can seriously hurt your feet if you walk too much on a single day. For that reason, it is important to take breaks while exploring Prague.
Not every tourist knows that there are beautiful 14th-century gardens right on the side of Wenceslas Square. They are called Františkánská zahrada (Franciscan Gardens) and are the perfect place to take a break and eat some chlebíčky.
Try the Local Pilsner Beer
Czech beer is no joke one of the best in Europe, and perhaps of the world. There is a centuries-old tradition involved in crafting traditional Pilsner beer in Bohemia, a tradition that is reflected in the incredible taste.
Even the manner in which the beer is poured into the glass and created foam results in a difference in taste and experience. And these details are what make Czech beer so special.
Stroll across the Charles Bridge
Crossing the Vltava river, the iconic Karlův Most (Charles Bridge) serves as the main connection between the Old Town and the Prague Castle. It was built in the early 15th century to replace the old Judith Bridge, which had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342.
The bridge has a Gothic style, displaying Baroque iconography from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Prominent Bohemian sculptors such as Matthias Braun, Jan Brokoff, and his sons Michael Joseph and Ferdinand Maxmilian, took part in its meticulous construction.
Take a tour of the Prague Castle
The Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle) was built around 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty (Přemyslovci). It is the largest castle complex in the world, with an area of almost 70,000 m², consisting of a large-scale composition of palaces and ecclesiastical buildings of various architectural styles, from the remains of Romanesque-style buildings from the 10th century through Gothic modifications of the 14th century.
Admire the Head of Franz Kafka
The Head of Franz Kafka is an outdoor sculpture by David Černý depicting Bohemian German-language writer Franz Kafka, author of the famous novel ‘Metamorphosis’. It is 11 meters tall and made of 42 rotating panels, each moving individually.
It is right on a square, so there are no ‘opening hours’. But be prepared to spend some time here, since you will have to wait for quite a lot until the sculpture actually forms the face of Kafka.
Learn About Czech History
You would be surprised by how easy it is to find books in English about the history of Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole.
From the influence of Alchemy in medieval science to the recent Velvet Revolution, you will find books on many interesting topics that will help you better understand the Czechs and how they see the world.
Climb the Powder Tower
Originally meant to be an attractive entrance to the city of Prague when it began being built in the 15th century, the Powder Tower was then turned into a gunpowder deposit during the 17th century.
The climb is a little bit tough, but once you get up there, you will have an amazing view of downtown Prague. My personal suggestion would be to visit at night since the city looks particularly beautiful at this time.
Visit the City’s Synagogues
Prague has a long story built together with the Jewish community, and it can be seen and experienced in the famous Jewish Quarter. There you will find beautiful synagogues, both ancient and new, that had an important role in constructing the identity of the city and its inhabitants. Part of this story and an interesting thing to investigate is the legend of the Golem of Prague.
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