City guide: Prague

“The City of 100 Spires” is a bustling economic center—and home to some of the world’s best beer.

Prague visitors routinely swarm picturesque and popular attractions like Old Town Square and Prague Castle. But take some time to explore the side streets, and you’ll find gems at every turn. Boasting historic charm and a prime location in the heart of Europe, this well-preserved capital is an accessible destination for business and leisure visitors.

Prague is the economic, political and cultural hub of the Czech Republic. Major international companies such as Boeing, McKinsey & Co., and Hewlett Packard maintain large-scale offices in the city. Pharmaceuticals, food processing, financial services and tourism are its economic anchors.

Getting to and from the airport

Václav Havel Airport Prague is 10 kilometers (approximately 6 miles) from the city center. Taxis are available outside both main terminals. By car, a trip downtown takes about 25 minutes; in heavy traffic, the trek can take up to an hour. City bus No. 119 stops at terminals 1 and 2 and connects the airport with Dejvická metro station. The city center is three stops away. Purchase tickets for 26 Czech koruna (US$1.08 using the exchange rate US$1 = 24.02 CZK) from the yellow ticketing machines at the bus stop.

Getting around Prague

Most of Prague’s city center is closed to vehicles. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and prepare to do plenty of walking along cobblestone streets.

Prague’s public transportation system is reliable and efficient. It consists of street trolleys (trams), a rapid-transit metro train and buses. Single-fare tickets are available at two price levels. A discounted 24 CZK (US$1) ticket allows travel to up to five stations on the metro or 30 minutes on a trolley or bus. A full-price 32 CZK (US$1.33) ticket allows for travel for up to 90 minutes. A one-day pass, good for unlimited travel for a 24-hour period, is 100 CZK (US$4.16).

Taxi drivers have been known to overcharge riders—especially tourists. To avoid this, only use marked taxis; ask the driver how much you can expect to pay when you get in; and make sure that the meter is running. You also may ask your hotel or restaurant to call a reputable taxi company for you.

Where to stay

For luxury and upscale hotel options, try Hilton Prague Hotel (Pobrezni 1, Prague 186 00; Ph: 420-2-24841111), Intercontinental Praha (Parizska 30, Prague 110 01; Ph: 420-296-631111), Marriott Prague (V Celnici 8, Prague 110 10; Ph: 420-222-888888) and NH Prague (Mozartova 261/1, Prague 150 00; Ph: 420-257-153111).

Midscale options include Novotel Praha Wenceslas Square (Katerinska 38, Prague 12000; Ph: 420-2-21104999) and Ramada Prague City Centre (Vaclavske Namesti 41, Prague 110 00; Ph: 420-221-454111).

Things to see and do

Start your explorations at Old Town Square, Prague’s central marketplace for over a thousand years. Most of the city’s 14th century architecture remains undisturbed. Today, you’ll find entertainers, street vendors and busy restaurants with large outdoor patios. The square is home to several other attractions, including Old Town Hall. Enjoy the hall’s gothic tower from the cobblestones below or climb up to see sweeping city views. Be sure to time your visit to the top of the hour when the 600-year-old astronomical clock puts on a mechanical show. Twelve apostle figurines pass by the window above the clock dial and, at the end of the 45-second display, a golden rooster rings in the hour. Old Town Hall guided tours are 160 CZK (US$6.66). It’s open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The sprawling Prague Castle, with its ornate churches, manicured gardens and well-preserved royal residences, is well worth a visit. St. Vitus Cathedral, the castle’s most iconic building, dominates the skyline from most places in Prague. On clear days, sunshine lights art nouveau stained-glass windows and drapes the temple in multicolored hues. Within its confines, you’ll find tombs and chapels with fine details and remarkable craftsmanship. The castle complex is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The historical buildings are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission prices vary by the attractions you choose.

Along the famed Charles Bridge, 16 arches cross the Vltava River linking Old Town to Lesser Town. Thirty-six baroque statues of religious fixture line Prague’s oldest bridge. Take a stroll at dawn to avoid crowds.

Photos, videos and propaganda at the Museum of Communism chronicle Czechoslovakia’s post-World War II history under Soviet rule. Look for exhibits about the Velvet Revolution, the 1989 nonviolent transition of power from Stalinist rule to a parliamentary republic. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entrance is 190 CZK (US$7.11).

Housed in Veletrzní Palace, the National Gallery art collection includes over 400,000 works from Picasso, Van Gogh, Rodin and other European artists from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 200 CZK (US$8.33).

Where to eat

For a meal with a view, head straight to Terasa u Zlate Studne. The restaurant sits on the edge of Prague Castle, and the outdoor terrace provides a spectacular panorama of the city’s terra-cotta rooftops. Order the nine-course tasting menu to sample a selection of chef creations, including pan-fried sea bass, milk-fed veal and pineapple saffron sorbet. It’s at U Zlaté studně 166/4, Prague 118 00; Ph: 420-2-57533322.

Diners at Michelin star holder Restaurant Alcron can select from a host of seafood options, including lobster bisque, tuna sashimi and slow-cooked octopus. Intricate, art deco décor harkens back to the eatery’s 1932 origins. Find it at Štěpánská 623/40, Prague 110 00; Ph: 420 -2-22820000.

For local libations, stop in at U Medvidku Beer Hall and Restaurant, a Prague institution that’s been in business since the 15th century. Beer options from keg to bottle to tank can be paired with simple, hearty foods like roast beef and white bread dumplings. It’s at Na Perštýně 345/7, Prague, 110 01: Ph: 420-2-24211916.

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