Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way at the beginning: a trip to Prague for one day only is not, ehm, the ideal scenario. Prague has so much to offer that you will definitely wish you’d stay longer. You’ll see. That said, we are well aware that we get far less vacation time than we all deserve, and sometimes you want to try to see as much as possible.
Inspired by guests who have recently stayed in our rental apartment, we have prepared an emergency, one-day, try-to-see-it-all Prague itinerary for 24 hours. Setting up an itinerary like this is all about compromises. But we have tried our best to create a mix of the local and the famous, and throw in some great Czech food on the way, of course. Just remember: Prague is a bit hilly and the streets are cobblestoned, so wear comfortable shoes and prepare mentally for a looooong walk, but hey: you brought it on yourself. A trip to Prague in one day? Crazy.
Start the day early at the Vysehrad fortress, one of the oldest places and sights in Prague and arguably its best kept secret. Situated on a rocky outcrop just south of the centre, Vysehrad offers a stunning view looking back over the city and the Prague Castle. Also, it is the perfect place for romance: the views, the trees, the cathedral, the vines, and it will be quite empty in the morning, with only a few joggers and people walking their dogs. Don’t miss Slavin, a beautiful cemetery of famous Czechs.
Descend down to the Vltava river bank near the railway bridge. If you happen to visit Prague on a Saturday, you can have a look at the Naplavka farmers market, the most popular farmers market in Prague, so come early to beat the crowds. Continue on the riverside past the Emaus Monastery and the modern Dancing House. Time permitting, have a shopping intermezzo at Papelote, a local producer of great modern stationery (opens at 11am), and then walk past the Zofin island and cross the Bridge of the Legions to the Lesser Town. Stop right there. You should not walk longer on an empty stomach. It’s time for breakfast. Finally!
You should have breakfast at Cafe Savoy, a beautiful cafe with a “First Republic” (read Belle Epoque) vibe. Savoy's breakfasts rank among the best breakfasts in Prague and they can be filling, which is a good thing: you came for just one day, so you won’t have so much time for lunch. Your fault. The Savoy breakfast set is our favorite, but the French toast is a very guilty pleasure, too. Save room for dessert: they make their own on premises. Try some of the Czech classics: laskonka, venecek, vetrnik or the classic strudel. Skip the coffee and walk for just two blocks in the Plaska street and have coffee to go in Cafe Lounge, which serves great coffee and employs skilled baristas.
Walk to the Ujezd area to take the funicular up the hill. Have a scoop of the mango sorbet at the Angelato ice-cream shop on the main street because nothing makes a sweat-free climb up a steep hill better than a cone of ice-cream in your hand. Take the funicular up to the Petrin observation tower (climbing the stairs up is purely optional) and walk on the slope to the Strahov Monastery for some great views. Walk through the small hallway to the street and turn right to walk towards the Prague Castle, the most noticeable and impressive of Prague's attractions. Now it’s time to turn the local and romantic to eleven: turn left to see the Loretta and the Novy svet street, one of the most secluded and romantic places in Prague. It’s the stuff surprise engagements are made of. Have something small in the Novy svet cafe if you have the time, and then walk to the Castle. Enter the valley that used to be the northern moat of the Prague Castle and have a look at the pedestrian tunnel with the Brusnice stream by architect Josef Pleskot of AP Atelier. Move up the moat's slope to the plateau and enter the Prague Castle.
Do you need to buy the tickets for the guided tour? You don’t have the time. Just peek inside the Castle complex to see the front part of the St. Vitus Cathedral, and get a look at the gardens below the castle. Walk up back again and leave the castle past the Deer Moat. Check if there is an exhibition in the Riding School and then walk through the Royal Gardens to the Belvedere pavilion and the Letna park, a beautiful park where locals go to jog, walk their dogs, have beer (in the Letna beer garden) or simply walk with their loved ones. You can get lost in all the views of the Old Town, so make sure to descend to the river once you reach the Metronome, a red needle installed in what used to be a Stalin statue overseeing the city.
Cross the Cechuv bridge and walk into the Jewish Quarter. You can spend all your trip money, and more, shopping in the Parizska street with Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Loro Piana shops, but a smarter purchase can be made either in Novesta Gallery that sells fashion by young Czech designers or at Ingredients, the place to go to if you want a boutique perfume that no-one else has. Continue to the Old Town Square. There. You’ve seen it. Turn left into the Dlouha street, passing Jan Petr Obr, one of the nicest paper and stationery shops reminiscent of the times long past.
Next stop: St Agnes Convent from the 13th Century, arguably the most underrated sight in Prague that houses the National Gallery’s Medieval Arts Collections. If all the walking and sights have made you hungry, there are three smart options for a quick lunch nearby: Lokal, a shrine of Pilsner Urquell that sells fresh beer and good pubby dishes, Sisters bistro with a modern take on the chlebicek, the traditional open-faced sandwiches, or Nase maso, a wildly popular butcher shop that sells burgers, the best meatloaf anywhere, or sausages.
Continue to the Namesti Republiky Square with the Municipal House and the gothic Powder Tower and then walk back into Petrska ctvrt, one of the few purely residential areas of the centre. Stop at the YMCA building to get a ride in the paternoster elevator, one of the last in the city and in Europe. Possibly a lawsuit magnet elsewhere, this walk-in elevator is a fun ride and a memory from Prague you’ll never forget. Other potential and advisable stops include coffee at EMA Espresso Bar, one of the best cafes in Prague, and a donut at Maso a kobliha, the sister restaurant of Sansho that is one of our dinner recommendations. If shopping is a must, have a look at the pencils at Koh-i-Noor, a traditional Czech manufacturer, Harddecore with a great selection of Czech design and fashion (with a small detour), Lavmi for cool home accessories, or Luciela Taschen for hand-made bags and Vera Novakova for some hand-made jewelry. After that, it is time to leave the centre behind, and take the tram at the Bila labut stop past the highway and the Negrelli viaduct into the Karlin district.
The Karlin district, nearly destroyed in the 2002 floods, has risen since like a Fenix and turned into one of the hippest part of Prague (think a very mild version of Shoreditch in London or Williamsburg in Brooklyn). The only Prague district with a grid layout, it still has a slightly blue-collar feel and a vibe that mixes new developments with run-down chic. It is also a district that boasts great food and drinks: specialty coffee at Kafe Karlin, a tiny espresso bar, the best kolachees and other baked goodies at Simply good, fruit dumplings - a Czech specialty - at Mozaika Krystal bistro, or modern Czech cuisine in stunning interiors over at Eska, and the Karlin holy foodie trinity: coffee at Muj salek kavy, tea at Tea Mountain, and natural wines at Veltlin, all three venues worth a separate visit and within two blocks of each other.
After your coffee break, it is time to walk again. Enter the pedestrian tunnel at the end of Thamova street and walk up to the other side, climb up the steep Vítkov Hill and enjoy an exquisite view of Prague. Even though the austere National Memorial looks like it was build by the Soviets, it was actually completed before the Communist era. Now run by the Czech National Museum, it boasts impressive interiors, and hosts a permanent exhibition on 20th century Czechoslovak history - a great way to learn about Czechoslovak history and the life in Czechoslovakia in the past century.
Descend back to the tunnel and walk up through the Zizkov district, the “Montmartre of Prague” with its own unique atmosphere. Aim for the TV Tower at the top of the hill. Directly underneath it you’ll find arguably the best souvenir money can buy from Prague: a pair of Botas 66 sneakers, the only sneakers available under Communism and now the footwear of choice of local hipsters. Still hand-made in the Czech Republic, these won’t break the bank but will give you adoring looks and bragging rights for a very long time.
Leave the Zizkov district behind and enter Vinohrady, an affluent district with beautiful Art Nuveau facades in sometimes very strong pastel colors. At the Jiriho z Podebrad square, you can get an apple at the farmers’ market (from Wednesday to Saturday), have a bowl of Pho at Pho Vietnam Tuan Lan (the interiors are far from beautiful but the pho, a forerunner of the Vietnamese food revolution, is seriously good) and wash it down with a small beer at Beer geek. Walk down along the VInohradska street and peek inside the Vinohradsky Pavilon. A former market, it now serves as one big show room for high-end designer furniture. It does not hurt to dream, right? From there, walk up to the Riegrovy sady park past the Sokol gym building, have a small beer in the beer garden (if the weather cooperates) and enjoy one of the best views of the city sitting down on the grass. Life is good. But it’s time for dinner, too.
We have four options for you. The nearest is the Dish Fine Burger Bistro, a cool, hipster burger joint that happens to be the best one in Prague, too. Getting in without a reservation is tough so if you want to go here, plan ahead and book a table. Their Smokey Dish burger and smoked chili mayonnaise with their fries are pure heaven. Another place nearby is the Cestr steakhouse in the old Federal Parliament building in between the State Opera and the National Museum at the top of the Wenceslas Square. Many people think of Cestr as simply a steakhouse, but it is so much more than that: a restaurant that highlights good Czech produce and creates some classic Czech dishes with a modern twist. We recommend that you actually skip the steaks (they’re great, though) and have the roasts or the fish instead.
If you want to finish your day in style and have the best meal money can buy in Prague, reserve a table at La Degustation, the only Michelin-star restaurant with a focus on Czech cuisine. Oldrich Sahajdak, the executive chef, sources everything within a two-hours radius of Prague (foie gras a caviar are the sole exceptions) and creates dishes that make their Czech customers reminisce of their childhood: it’s as if our grandma had a bottle of liquid nitrogen in her kitchen. Finally, if you want to see where Prague foodies love to go, head over to Sansho for an Asian-inspired tasting menu. Paul Day, the chef and owner of former Nobu fame, takes the best Czech protein and marries it with ingredients for the Vietnamese Sapa market to create some of the best dishes in Prague.
Okay, if you are absolutely tired after the full day of walking, sightseeing and eating, have some rest. Go see a movie in one of the independent movie theaters around Prague. The movies are just subtitled so if the original audio is in English, you’ll be fine. Our two favorite cinema is the Svetozor just by the middle of the Wenceslas Square. But if you want to juice your stay to the last drop, head over to the Charles Bridge for one final look at how beautiful Prague really is. Being one of the main Prague tourist attractions, the bridge can get very crowded during the day but gets less busy at night.
OK, if you’ve done all what we suggested, you deserve a medal… and a drink. You must be exhausted! There are two great places to wind down over a drink near the Charles Bridge. If you want to see what Czech wines are all about, head over to Vinograf, a tiny little place on the Lesser Town side that serves only Czech boutique wines. Tell the sommelier you want a tasting of Czech wines. They’ll figure it out. Alternatively, pay a visit to Hemingway Bar in the Old Town, one of the best cocktail bars in Prague. You might have to wait a bit to get in, but the wait is definitely worth it. Try to sit on the bar and just explain what you like to the bartender. They’ll know what to do. Bragging about all the cool things you saw during the day is purely optional.
Have a wonderful stay whatever you are up to, and remember: stop, breathe, appreciate and indulge. You’ll be back.