When it comes to traveling, some of us might not have the luxury of spending many days in one place. Whether it’s due to rushed planning or limited vacation time off from work, it can be hectic trying to research and cram in as much as possible into sightseeing a city or country. In the end, it might be exhausting, and it perhaps could detract you from enjoying your adventure away from home.
Having been inspired by the many Internet articles (one of the most-famous including the New York Times’ “36 Hours in…” segment) that showcase ideal itineraries in a set destination, I’d thought that I would also start a similar series on this blog to offer some of my own suggestions of things to do, see, and eat in well-renown cities in the world.
What makes my series different from the others online would be the fact that I’m by no means a professional traveler (e.g. no sponsors, all-paid resorts, etc.), and that what I will suggest are based on my own personal experiences having visited a certain place at least twice, in order to ensure a more-comprehensive outlook on the city itself.
Many online articles in the same vein also tend to cater towards mid-to-upper class travelers who can actually afford hotels and fine-dining restaurants, which I assume many people in their 20’s, even 30’s, can’t have. That’s why I’m catering this series to the budget-friendly, backpack-traveler nomad who doesn’t mind staying in hostels, taking overnight buses, or eating at hole-in-the-wall joints while still getting a fulfilling experience in traveling. This one’s for you, folks! PS Check out my “72 Hours in Budapest” post here! ____________________________________________________________________________________________
Prague is the crowned jewel of the Czech Republic (or “Czechia,” as it’s known today). It’s a popular destination for EU and non-EU visitors alike, and there’s no reason why it isn’t worth seeing. Boasting a huge array of breathtaking architecture, charming old streets, and hearty food, this city is the perfect introduction to Central Europe.
I visited Prague in October 2015 and January 2018– my visits were during the chillier parts of the year, but I think that gave the city that extra charm to it (as well as avoiding the pools of tourists who come in the spring and summer). From experience, I would say that three nights is comfortable enough to see the highlights, and perhaps a few smaller places while also eating and drinking well. Here, I offer a day-by-day breakdown of what one can do while in Prague for 72 hours:
9 a.m.- 11 a.m.
Start the day off by heading into the Staré Město (Old Town). This is essentially where everyone goes to see the sights, especially in the Old Town Square where the astronomical clock, the Church of Our Lady before Týn, and many of the colorful buildings are located. It’s the perfect photo opportunity, which evidently many tourists capitalize on.
Even though the price is rather steep for Prague (250 CZK, or 8€), I would definitely pay to climb the astronomical clock’s tower, where you can get lovely views of the entire Old Town, including the spires of the Church of Our Lady before Týn.
Of course, one can’t leave Prague without seeing, let alone crossing, the famous Karlův most (Charles Bridge). It’s busy during the day time, with tourists and buskers on the bridge and at times can make it impossible to get across easily, i.e. too many people. However, it’s absolutely picturesque and, of course, it merits a photo (or 30) for posterity’s sake.
Just across Charles Bridge is the Lennon Wall, an art-filled wall dating back to the 1980’s. It was named after the Beatles’ singer himself, who’d been assassinated around that time. It was originally symbolic of the defiance against the Communist regime and today serves as a touristy-hipster place for people to take photos with.
11:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Get lunch at Lokál, which is kind of a cozy, cafeteria-style restaurant that serves Czech food. There are two locations, one of them being near the Lennon Wall, which makes for a convenient walk over. Czech food is, similar to other Central European cuisine, very heavy on the meat and starches– unless you’re vegetarian, I would say enjoy it!
Must-have dishes include guláš (goulash with potato or bread dumplings) and smažený sýr (fried cheese– think of a massive mozzarella stick!). Of course, don’t forget to have the famous Pilsner beer to wash it all down!
To burn off all of that amazing Czech food, it’s a matter of trekking uphill to Prague Castle in the afternoon. Admire the courtyard, along with the *free* views of the Old Town Square from above. Even though there might be a considerable queue to get tickets to visit St. Vitus Cathedral, it’s worth the wait and purchase– you can also opt to get a combo ticket which allows you entry to other sites within the castle grounds, including the Golden Lane and St. George’s Basilica.
Just behind the Prague Castle is Nový Svět, a small, charming lane relatively off-the-beaten path. It’s more of the residential part of town, with a few colorfully-painted houses and cute cafes away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist attractions.
Not too far off is the Strahov Monastery, which houses a fantastic library inside. Definitely pay to visit and take photos, as it’s sure to blow you away. It’s then a matter of returning to your accommodation in the afternoon to rest before going out to dinner, perhaps to a bar in the night.
9 a.m.- noon
Depending on how late you stayed out the night before, you can either sleep in or wake up for a trip to Kutná Hora, a city famous for the Sedlec Ossuary, a church absolutely covered in bones inside. The journey from Prague takes about one hour, which makes for an easy half-day trip over. I’m told that, aside from the church and the main cathedral in town, there isn’t much to see in Kutná Hora, so you’ll probably be back in Prague by the early afternoon.
1 p.m.- 3 p.m.
Upon returning, you can relax in a cafe with medovnik (“honey cake”). It’s a traditional Czech dessert, and its rich, sweet and creamy texture is sure to have you want more of it. Paired with a cup of tea, and it’s the ideal afternoon tea experience!
An alternative is to wander the streets for the classic trdelník (“chimney cake”). You can buy one from the many street vendors in town for about 50-60 CZK (about 2€). If you really love sweets, then ask for ice cream to be added into it!
8 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Another option is to do the longer day trip to Karlovy Vary (aka “Carlsbad” in German). It’s a spa town about two hours west, and one can check out its many beautiful colonnades, the Grandhotel Pupp (featured in films like Casino Royale and Last Holiday), and views of the city from the Deer Jump statue. This visit will take the whole day, so be mindful of the timing to-and-from Prague.
9 p.m.- dawn
Prague is a major city known for its hopping (and affordable) nightlife. Enjoy your second night out in town with an organized pub crawl (either from your hostel or online), which will take you to some of Prague’s best bars and clubs. You might also get the chance to sample absinthe, which is well-known in the city– just be careful not to have too much! And of course, party hard (and safely)!
11 a.m.- 5 p.m.
Tired from the previous night or not, you can go out for brunch before visiting the lesser-known sites of the city. Head to the Jerusalem Synagogue for its dazzling architecture (inside and out) before heading south, passing by the whimsically-modern Dancing House. Check out the Vyšehrad, the “second castle” of Prague which is mainly ruins, but houses a lovely garden and the Saint Peter and Paul Basilica (its doors being architecturally-beautiful).
You can then either take public transport or walk all the way across the river to Petřín, a massive, hilly park where one can catch gorgeous views of the city. It’s best to go at sunset to watch Prague’s golden hour– a great way to end your stay!
Just before returning to your accommodation, pass by Charles Bridge once more when it’s lit at night, for that Gothic shot that’s sure to remain as part of your memory in the years to come. Rest up afterwards for your trip back home!
…and that’s Prague in 72 hours! Although it comes off as a touristy city, there’s no denying that it’s popular for a reason. The architecture is sure to blow anyone away at every step and turn, with incredible views and food to boot. Whether a weekend away or longer, Prague will be the fairy-tale destination in Central Europe.
Expect more of this series soon. Thanks for reading!