Brad and I took a three-week backpacking trip to Eastern Europe in September 2019. After extensive research and planning, we had a lot on our itinerary. Of course we didn't make it to every site or museum, but definitely felt satisfied with what we did cover.
As one of the most popular cities in Eastern Europe, Prague was an easy choice for our first destination. The rich capital of the Czech Republic has picturesque views, flavorful cuisine, and of course, cheap beer!
#1 Old Town Square
Get acclimated with the city and walk on cobble stone streets around the main square to see Gothic architecture. The Church of Our Lady before Tyn, 13th Century, has impressive towers which come alive at night. The astronomical clock attached to the Old Town Hall is one of the oldest in the world that is still operational. I especially liked Death, portrayed as a skeleton, holding an hourglass.
#2 Charles Bridge
The bridge crosses the Vltava River and is definitely a tourist hot spot. Construction began in the 14th Century under the stewardship of King Charles IV. Along the sides of the bridge stand 30 replicas of Baroque statues representing religious saints. The views of the city are incredible at sunset.
#3 Na Pekarne
We had lunch at a local restaurant, Na Pekarne, for traditional Czech cuisine. We enjoyed a menu which incorporated seasonal ingredients. My favorite was a dill and wild mushroom cream soup with a poached egg called kulajda. We tasted knedliky (traditional sliced bread dumplings), roasted duck, and plum dumplings with butter and sugar. It was the perfect way to satisfy our hungry bellies. Cash only!
#4 Krivoklat Castle
The Romanesque castle is only a 45-minute drive from Prague and is surrounded by lush forests. We took a guided tour to see torture chambers, a library, and the Royal Hall. The architecture and stone carvings are well-preserved and bring to life the grandeur of the Bohemian kings.
#5 Karlstejn Castle
About an hour drive from Krivoklat Castle is Karlstejn Castle; a Gothic style complex built on an impressive hill. Grab a gelato on the walk up and mingle with the locals. We took the high tower tour and marveled at the painted angels on the walls as we climbed the stairs to the top. Stroll along the battlements and appreciate the juxtaposition of wood and stone.
#6 Cafe Louvre
Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein were fans of this cafe and you will be too! A thick hot chocolate with whipped cream and an assortment of miniature desserts were satisfying after walking around in the cold rain at night. Established in 1902, the cafe has perfected its menu and service. The ambiance makes it hard to leave.
#7 Mala Strana Neighborhood
This neighborhood is the oldest in Prague and has a unique street called Vinarna Certovka which is 19.6 inches wide. Equipped with traffic lights to avoid pedestrian collisions, the stairs descend to a canal. I guarantee this place will bring a smile to your face as you wait for the light to turn green. Beware of people jams!
#8 Memorial to the Victims of Communism
A dark time in Czech history was the 40 years of Communism the citizens had to endure after the end of World War II. In 2002, a powerful memorial created by Olbram Zoubek, Jan Kerel, and Zdenek Holzel was erected at the base of Petrin Hill.
As you face the memorial, six bronze male figures on stairs slowly erode away into the distance highlighting the mental and physical deterioration numerous victims suffered. The bronze strip which runs through the middle of the stairs defines the type of casualties. The sculpture is truly heartbreaking.
#9 Prague Castle Complex
We loved walking around the colorful buildings and learning about Prague history. Depending on the ticket combination you purchase, a variety of options are available to explore.
Our ticket included St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, and the Golden Lane (a street of small houses once used by tradesmen employed by the castle). There is also a picture gallery, treasury, and tower to visit if time allows. A whole day could be devoted to fully absorb everything this complex has to offer.
#10 Kutna Hora and Sedlec
If you desire to visit a Czech region with quiet streets and eerie attractions, Kutna Hora and Sedlec are ideal destinations. Our favorite was the Cemetery Church of All Saints with the Ossuary built in the 14th Century.
The Gothic style architecture comes alive with meticulously placed bones to make chandeliers, coat of arms, and pyramids. Most of the bones came from victims of the Black Death and Hussite Wars, which were exhumed by a monk to place inside the church. Definitely a day trip worth taking!
I hope this list helps you discover and enjoy Prague to the fullest. Shout out to our local friend Petr, who not only picked out most of these attractions for us, but also provided our transportation. Our visit to the Czech Republic was even more meaningful with him as our companion.