Have a day or two to spare on your European itinerary? A trip to the Czech Republic is well worth your time. Located smack dab in the middle of the continent and surrounded by Poland, Germany, Austria and Slovakia, it’s also easy to get to. Though it’s hard to judge an entire country by its capital, Prague gives visitors a good jumping-off point.
The picturesque city is famous for its orange roofs, which are prominently displayed in every panoramic photograph and will likely be one of the first things you notice when you arrive.
Even the harshest critics agree Prague is a stunner thanks to its historic architecture, which is the draw for most tourists. It’s important to note that Czech does not use the euro like many other countries, so you’ll need to get some Czech Koruna in your hands if you plan to eat!
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First a warning: Prague can be packed. Being such a popular destination and having only a few must-see sites, the landmarks can get busy quite early. But don’t let that deter you—you’ll still get great photos since they turn out best when taken from a distance away. Start your day by heading to the famous Charles Bridge, a 515-metre long masterpiece that is fortified by towers on either end. Perched over the Vltava river, you’ll get a great look at the city from here and also be able to check out the numerous sculptures that adorn the sides. It’s a lively scene, with a number of buskers like musicians and puppeteers entertaining tourists in hopes of making a buck.
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After you’ve made your way from one end to the other, walk over to Prague Castle. A towering monument, it is made up of three castle courtyards covering 45 hectares.
Perched on a hill overlooking the Charles Bridge and Vltava river, this is one of the best places to get a good view of the entire city.
The castle is considered a World Heritage Site, and features a variety of buildings from different architectural eras. Visiting the grounds is one of the great free activities in Prague, but if you want a tour through the site it costs about $12 and up. Be sure to keep an eye out for the guards in blue uniforms that stand at the entrance. If you time it right, you can watch the Changing of the Guard which happens every day at noon in the first courtyard.
If the majestic view from Prague Castle doesn’t do it for you, put on some comfortable shoes and head over to the Petrin View Tower. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower, the structure features two spiral staircases that take visitors up to a 55-metre high observation deck. Not to worry if you’re not up for a cardio workout: there is also an elevator. The Petrin View Tower opens at 10 a.m. every day, and admission will set you back about $5.
Now that you’ve hit the main highlights, it’s time to kick back in the popular Wenceslas Square. The site of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs, this is a great place to soak in the city scene.
Book a hostel close by, since not only is it on all three metro lines, but you’ll also be within stumbling distance after a night out on the town. Finally, make sure you pick up a bottle of Absinthe (sometimes referred to as ‘The Green Fairy’) before you leave Prague—you can’t get stuff this potent anywhere else!
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