24 Hours in Prague
History, culture and pivo (beer) are only three aspects of a visit to Prague and easily achieved in 24-hours. Look always high up because Prague sparkles with Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Stand on Manesuv Bridge for the best view of Charles Bridge. Wander up and down Wenceslas Square and do a bit of shopping in between. Drink Pilsner Urquell and discover that beer is cheaper than water.
How to make the most of 24 hours in Prague?
The first thing to do is to buy a 24-hour public transport ticket valid on trams and the metro. Get one online because that saves time otherwise get your ticket at any metro station or at some tram stops. Tickets cannot be bought in the tram. Validate your ticket in the yellow machine inside the tram or at the entrance to the metro station.
Charles Bridge is a milling crowd and you will never be there without other tourists. Locals tend to avoid crossing the Vltava River by walking across Karluv Most. Both parapets of the bridge teem with statues of Saints. Rub the feet of Jan of Nepomuk the saint who was bound and thrown of the bridge in the 14th century. You will recognize his statue by the halo of stars around his head. Stroll along the stands selling trinkets, artwork and Charles Bridge souvenirs and listen to the buskers playing mini concerts, expecting a generous gift.
Old Town Square
Old Town Square is buzzing day and night. Come here in winter for the Christmas Market and in summer to dine al fresco or sit under large sun umbrellas and drink beer. The star attraction is the Astronomical Clock. Every hour, on the hour, Death rings a bell and a procession of apostles pops out of a window. They nod at the tourists and disappear through another window. The cock crows. The hour strikes. Don’t blink because the show lasts only for one minute.
Wenceslas Square is a crash course in architectural styles. Baroque, Art Nouveau, Functionalism and Modernist buildings stand side by side. Mix with the tourists and locals and sit at the foot of the equestrian statue of Wenceslas, the king in the popular Christmas carol. Buy Czech sausages from one of the sausage stand on the square: a snack full of calories and not for the healthy minded.
A different Wenceslas, astride the belly of a horse, dangles from the ceiling in Lucerna passage. It is one of the quirky works of art created by David Cerny who was also created giant babies crawling along the telecommunication tower, a Soviet tank painted pink and a Trabant car on feet.
In a side street near pedestrian shopping street Na Prikope is the Mucha Museum dedicated to Alfons Mucha. His coloured posters depicting young women in flowing robes surrounded by flower garlands line the walls. Alfons Mucha, the Czech master of Art Nouveau made his name in fin-de-siècle Paris after designing theatre posters for the actress Sarah Bernardt.
The House of the Black Madonna is a perfect example of Cubist architecture. Its recessed windows and repeated rectangular motifs mix well with the ornate Baroque architecture and modern shop fronts in the Old Town. Visit the Cubist Museum on the first floor or drink coffee from a delicate cup with angles folded like origami in Grand Cafe Orient.
Pancakes and Beer
The historic centre of Prague is sprinkled with cafés, beer gardens and restaurants. Grab a seat and indulge in palacinky – pancakes filled with ice cream, fresh fruit and topped with whipped cream. If you are really hungry go for bramborak, potato pancakes. A large glass of cold Pilsner Urquell will make your meal complete.
Fine Dining and Clubbing
Spend the evening clubbing in Karlovy Lazne next to the Charles Bridge – with five floors, this is the biggest club in Central Europe. A smaller venue is Chapeau Rouge, a nice mix between dancing and relaxing. If you fancy fine dining, Zofin Garden Restaurant offers gourmet meals at very affordable prices.
Hradcany or Prague Castle is the seat of government, the headquarters of the Czech president but also home to Prague’s main tourist attractions – St Vitus Cathedral, the medieval old palace, picturesque Golden Lane and numerous museums and galleries. Leave Prague Castle for another visit because a guided tour takes up about 3 hours. If you want to wander through the grounds you will have to line up for the security check. What’s more, Prague Castle is a stiff walk up hill. True to say the views from the castle of the red roofs of Prague and the Vltava River are magnificent. Come for a second visit and include a visit to the Castle!
The Czech Republic was established on 1 January 1993, when Czechslovakia split up into two new countries, and joined the European Union in 2004. The country has not yet adopted the Euro. The Czech currency is the Koruna. 100 Kč is €3.80 or $4.
Choosing a place to eat is challenging. Look out for the word Poledni Menu, lunch menu, and ignore signs saying Tourist Menu, because this means tourist prices, whereas Poledni Menu guarantees Czech prices. And the snag? Poledni menu is in Czech, no English translation, but there is always someone to tell you what it says.
Prague is a compact city and most sights are within walking distance. If you do not like walking, hop on one of the many trams that crisscross the city or take the metro. Buy 24-hour Prague Card online so that you can hop on the tram without hassle. Comfortable shoes are most important because you will do a lot of walking on cobblestone streets. High heels will get caught in between the cobbles.
Arriving by Plane
Vaclav Havel International Airport is 16 km (9 miles) west of Prague city centre. Bus 119 connects to Veleslavin station from where it is only five stations to the centre. Journey time is thirty minutes. It goes without saying that taxis are more expensive. Their journey time is also thirty minutes and often longer because of the heavy traffic.
Arriving by Train
International and national trains arrive either at Praha hlavni nadrazi, abbreviated to Praha hln meaning Prague main station. Wenceslas Square is only 5 minutes away on foot.