In recent years, tourism in Prague has increased dramatically, but visitors often stick to the well-trodden paths that are now worn between the most famous sights. Outside of these popular routes, however, are many other storied corners of the city, waiting to be explored by Deep Travelers. Here, we’ve compiled a list of our personal Prague “Dos and Don’ts” for inquisitive wanderers.
#1 DON’T: Stick to the guidebook sights.
Rather than fighting the crowds in front of the Astronomical Clock, go looking for the proud monument to František Palacký, a revered politician and the “Father of the Nation,” or peer in at the unique modernist interiors of the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord (Kostel nejsvětějšího srdce Páně), located at Jiří z Poděbrad Square. You can also sample local delicacies at the farmers’ market that runs year-long from Wednesdays-Saturdays in the square.
#2 DO: Seek out smaller gems.
Although the Prague Castle is impressive in its own right, Context Prague docents are unanimous in recommending a visit to the historical fort of Vyšehrad Castle at the end of the New Town. The cemetery, underground spaces, park, and amazing lookout points along the old walls are highlights of the fortress site, which still retains its medieval mystery. Upon request, we craft custom itineraries for visitors who want to hear tales and legends of the ancient castle.
#3 DON’T: Get cheated on taxi fares.
Taxi drivers in Prague are notorious for cheating tourists. Never get into a cab that isn’t clearly marked with its affiliated company, and don’t hail one off the street. It’s safe to order a cab through your hotel’s taxi service or from one of the major operators, available by phone at 14014 and 14015. Regardless, always confirm the price before departing and ask for a receipt. Even better, take public transportation to get a feeling for how locals actually get around, or join one of our docents for a neighborhood walk.
#4 DO: Dig into history.
Walking across the Charles Bridge may strike a cinematic chord, but the street artists and scammers rather ruin the historic atmosphere. However, the more recent history of Prague is not long gone or easily forgotten, and relics of revolution and Communism still populate the city. Atop Vítkov Hill stands the National Monument, a complex of statues and buildings which memorializes the events that rocked the Czech Republic and the rest of Europe during the 20th century. This fascinating site is a capsule of modern history and gives us a glimpse into the surreal stories of life behind the Iron Curtain.
#5 DON’T: Fall for obvious scams.
Some of Prague’s tourist traps are easy to spot: stay far away from Segway tours, one-hour boat trips along the Vltava River, and guided tours offered for free, which parade visitors around the top sites without getting under the surface of the city. Instead, consider taking a more adventurous excursion to the monastic settlement of Kutná Hora. Had history taken a different turn, it could have become the capital of Bohemia and usurped Prague’s importance and contemporary fame. Kutná Hora thrived for centuries, thanks to its industrial silver mining and political clout, and today it remains the home of several impressive Gothic churches and a valuable archive. The nearby town of Sedlec is the location of the Cathedral of Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist and the Sedlec Ossuary, often known as the “bone church”, and together the two towns comprise a World Heritage Site.
#6 DO: Eat and shop like a local.
The most talked about restaurants on tourist information websites are rarely home to the most authentic cuisine, so dig deeper to find recommendations from real residents. Our top tips: the Christmas markets in the Old Town are packed from the end of November until they close in late December; try the one at Namesti Miru instead. The Czechs love their beer, and deservedly so – U Fleků Restaurant and other breweries like it are popular with visitors but are generally overrated. To brush shoulders with locals, head for a pub outside the city center, such as U Jelínků on Charvátova Street or U Vystřeleného oka. If sipping a brew isn’t to your liking, make a stop at the Saturday farmers’ market on the embankment between Palacký and Railway Bridges, or tour the city’s stunning turn-of-the-century cafés with one of our docents and sample an array of sweet treats.
#7 DON’T: Restrict your travels to the First District.
Instead of being confined to the area around the Old Town Square, go on a treasure hunt for the irreverent surrealist sculptures of David Černý that form a quirky constellation across Prague. Political themes are deftly handled in his sarcastic installations, acting as a counterweight to the saturated grandeur of the city.
#8 DO: Get inspired.
Several Deep Travelers have visited Prague this season and have been sharing their stories, photos, and podcasts with us. From a taste of café culture to an insider’s guide to Prague restaurants, they’ve been keeping us up-to-date on their exciting journeys.