As beautiful as Paris, as bohemian as Amsterdam, and with Europe’s best beer, Prague is a gem.
It’s a European favourite – at times it feels like half the world’s travellers are on Charles Bridge. But explore its cobbled lanes a little further and you’ll find the real Prague; boho galleries, traditional bars, gothic spires and bijou cafes.
Arriving at Václav Havel Airport Prague
Prague’s only airport is about nine miles (15km) from the city centre. It takes about half an hour to get from the airport into the city by public transport, and 20–40 mins by car, depending on traffic.
You buy your ticket before you get on a bus, tram or train. You can choose from a selection of tickets or passes at a public transport information booth at the arrival halls of Terminals 1 and 2 (cheapest). You can also get tickets from an automat or the driver. Follow the signs in the airport to either the Airport Express bus, which takes you to the main station in Prague. There are also a couple of buses that will take you to Metro line A or B. Bear in mind that there’s limited space for luggage on public transport.
If you have large or heavy luggage, you can find a taxi through a contact counter in Terminal 1 and 2’s arrivals hall, and then follow signs to departure points. If you’re hiring a car, you’ll find all car rental offices in a separate hall on the ground floor of Parking C. You can also book airport transfers in advance through your hotel or a private company.
About a third of Prague’s population use its public transport system, and it’s not hard to see why. Considered one of the best in Europe, it’s cheap, clean and reliable, covering Prague’s centre and most of its outskirts. If you need to hire a car or use taxis, there are good options here too.
Prague operates metro, trams and buses. A single ticket allows you to use all three for a set period of time. The best place to buy tickets is from an automat at a station or stop. You can buy day-long or three-day passes, but bear in mind that the city centre is compact and most sights can be reached on foot.
Driving in Prague
All the usual international car hire companies lease operate in Prague. You can’t drink any alcohol and drive, so be careful the morning after – you must have a zero blood alcohol level, and breath testing is standard even on a random stop.
Taxis in Prague are straightforward and relatively affordable, but be wary of scams. Only hail official yellow cabs with permanently installed TAXI roof lamps and the driver's credentials printed on both front doors. Establish your destination and fare before getting in, and make sure the meter is on. Alternatively, call a radio taxi, as they’re better regulated and more responsible.
Aptly named, Old Town is the oldest part of an ancient city. Narrow cobbled lanes radiate from its central town square, Taroměstské Náměstí. One of Europe’s most beautiful urban spaces, it was Prague’s main marketplace for over 1000 years, and home to major sights including the city’s famous Astronomical Clock. Here you’ll find busking jazz bands, alfresco concerts, political meetings and fashion shows under the watchful gaze of the Jan Hus statue. Lose yourself in the 14th century streets, and discover museums by day, and an international crowd of revellers after dark.
The Lesser Town, or Little Quarter, is almost too picturesque to be true. In the foothills of Prague Castle, across Charles Bridge from the busier Old Town, Malá Strana is a maze of quaint cobbled streets, green parks, ancient burgher houses, baroque architecture, little boutiques, and traditional bars and restaurants. Visit St Nicholas Church, take a walk in the shade of the trees on Petřín hill, see the graffiti on the John Lennon wall, and sip a beer in Malostranské Náměstí. Best of all, wander through the almost deserted, lantern-lit streets in the evening for a delightful sense of olden day Prague.
Said to have the most bars per capita in all of Europe, Žižkov is a historically working-class district regenerating as a gritty, hip part of the city not to be missed. Take a hop on public transport to Prague 3, and you’ll find concept stores, retro boutiques, beer gardens, traditional restaurants, multi-genre nightclubs, galleries, and many, many bars. Known as the ‘Žižkov Republic’, you’ll leave the tourists behind and rub shoulders with students, artists and musicians. A visit to this district is a break from the old town tourist-trap, and a tantalising taste of a rebellious, independent vibe, and that excellent beer for which Prague is so famous.
Need to know for your Prague trip
Time zone: Central European (Summer) Time – put your watch forward an hour all year round.
Language: Czech. Most people also speak English well.
Currency: Korunas (Kč) sometimes called Czech crowns.
Cash: many places don’t accept cards.
Voltage: is the same as in the UK, but you’ll need an two-pin adaptor.