Like many other cities of its size, Prague offers an overwhelming number of things to do. Museums to concerts to tours – it would be a struggle to be bored. If you are looking to explore the city a little more deeply, and cheaply, here are some of the top sites to see, for free.
The Walk of Kings
This walk is a great introduction to Prague. Follow the ‘royal route:’ the path kings used to take up to Prague Castle on coronation day. Start at the Powder Tower on Námestí Republiky and head down Celetna to Old Town Square. Along the way, take note of the Cubist House of the Black Madonna designed by Josef Gocár on your left. Once in Old Town Square, do a mini-architectural history tour by checking out the Gothic House of the Stone Bell at number 13 and the Gothic Týn Church built in the 2nd half of the 15th century. This church is free to enter, so take some time to view the interior. And of course, don’t miss the free ‘live action’ show when the Astronomical Clock on the side of the Old Town Hall strikes the top of the hour.
Leaving Old Town Square via the twisty and crowded Karlova Street will lead you to Charles Bridge. Here you can freely enjoy gorgeous views along the Vltava River, up to Prague Castle, the spires of Old Town and more. Crossing the Bridge brings you to Malá Strana. Be sure to take note of the beautiful Baroque St. Nicholas Church on Malostranské námestí. On the other side of the square from St. Nicholas Church you’ll find Nerudova Street, a climb to the bottom of Prague Castle. The Castle grounds are free to wander and you can watch the Changing of the Guard daily at noon.
If you are visiting between April and October, take advantage of the Royal Gardens next to Prague Castle. They can be accessed by exiting the Castle complex via the bridge near the Picture Gallery.
Down by the River
If you choose to leave the Castle area on foot, make your way back down to Charles Bridge. Instead of walking across, head down towards the river on the right side of the bridge and turn right onto Kampa Island. This is an oasis of peace for locals, their dogs and children. Take note of the large bronze sculptures of babies crawling around. Designed by Czech artist David Cerný, they are a whimsical addition to this fairy-like spot along the river.
From Kampa Island, head back to the New Town via the Legií Bridge. Note the beautiful National Theatre on your right, followed by another theatre, Nova Scena. Be sure to peek into the square between the two buildings; there’s often an art exhibition on display. Sundays, the cafe on the 3rd floor of Nova Scena sometimes offers free jazz concerts. Continue up Narodni Street to Jungmannovo námestí. Look for a set of wooden doors in the southeast corner and enter through them into the ‘secret rose garden of tranquility’ – actually the Franciscan Garden adjacent to Our Lady of the Snows Church. Here you’ll find lots of greenery, benches, and people enjoying the brief lull from the bustling city streets.
Prague from the top
Leaving the gardens from the opposite entrance in which you came in, turn right, through the passageway and onto the street. Take the Metro B (yellow) line at Mustek to Florenc and then take bus 175 or 133 to the stop U památníku. Walk up the hill, past the Army Museum (free entry) to the national memorial on top of Vítkov Hill (www.nm.cz). This vast complex is free to wander around outside; you won’t be able to miss the massive statue of General Žižkov on his horse. To get a glimpse of the beautiful interior, head to the second floor cafe which also offers a great viewing platform. The museum itself does charge an entrance fee.
While taking in the views from the cafe; you won’t be able to miss the TV tower in the middle of the Žižkov neighbourhood. Head down the hill and out of the park in that direction. This will require a bit of an uphill hike again, and it’s best if you have a map. When you get to the bottom of the park, the busy street in front of you is Husitská. Cross it and head up Propkopova to Milícová, turning right. The road will dead-end into a square with a church – walk around the church to the left and onto Sajkovského Street. This will lead you to the back of a grassy park that houses the TV Tower. If you get turned around, don’t worry – just look up, spot the TV Tower and head towards it. And what’s that on the side of the tower – yep, more of David Cerný’s babies.
If you have the time, and it is a warm, or at least dry, day visiting Vyšehrad is a special treat. The park sprawls across a cliff overlooking the Vltava River and holds special significance in the hearts of locals. The legend goes Princess Libuše stood at Vyšehrad and proclaimed a great city would be built. Besides the lovely views, be sure to look for the sculptures scattered around and take a break in the casual beer garden. In the heart of the complex is Sts. Peter and Paul basilica and next to it be sure to wander the stunning cemetery filled with fantastic sculptures and tile mosaics. Cultural heavyweights including composer Antonín Dvorák and writer Karel Capek are buried here. Reach Vyšehrad via the Metro C (red) line to the Vyšehrad stop, and follow the pavement (and signs) to Na Bucance, which leads to the park entrance.
More Sights to See
For those wanting to keep up on the local contemporary art scene, there are a number of free galleries. Vernon Gallery (U Pruhonu 22, Prague 7) in the industrial chic neighbourhood of Prague 7 exhibits work by both Czech and international contemporary artists while Hunt Kastner Artworks (Kamenická 22, Prague 7) is dedicated to promoting the careers of young Czech artists.
If you are looking for a range of entertainment; try the American Center (Tržište 13, Prague 1, http://prague.usembassy.gov/american_center.html). Free film nights, documentaries, art exhibitions, discussions and more can be found via their online programme calendar.
Prague’s magic can be found on her streets; so bring a comfortable pair of shoes and discover it for yourself.