Prague is a great walking city. Many of its attractions are located close to one another and within walking distance. When I’m in a new city, I like exploring on foot and checking out all the free things as much as possible. Despite my indifference to the city, Prague was no different. While many attractions cost money to go inside, you can still get a sense of the city and its history from appreciating it on the outside. Here are 7 free things to do in Prague:
1. Watch the Astronomical Clock
The Astronomical Clock located in Prague’s Old Town Square is mounted on the Old Town City hall. There are three main components: the astronomical dial, dating back to 1410, that represents the sun and the moon; the calendar dial that represents the months; and the most famous: the Walk of the Apostles that features figures of the Apostles.
It is the last dial that draws much of the crowds to this clock. Hourly, from 9 am to 11pm, you can watch the apostles move through the windows of the clock. Don’t expect much, it is probably the biggest let down on this list, but if you don’t see it you’ll always been wondering about it. Regardless, stop and marvel at this beautiful clock. For a small fee, you can climb the clock tower as well and get a great view of the Old Town Square below. Location: Staroměstské náměstí 1, 110 00 Praha 1
2. Walk Across the Charles Bridge
The famous 516 meter long Charles Bridge, or Karluv Most, connects the Old Town with the Lesser Town, or Malá Strana, over the Vltana River. Take a wander over the bridge and admire all the statues along the way, each telling its own stories. The statues date back to the 17th or 18th centuries and epict saints and patron saints. Today, the originals have been removed to protect them from the weather so these are replicas.
Try going in the early hours of the day for a crowd free visit. Plus you get a beautiful view of the bridge as the sun rises. Otherwise, the bridge is full of tourists and locals alike out for a walk. There are often street musicians and artists showing their wares as well. Location: Karlův most, 110 00 Praha 1
3. Explore the grounds of the Prague Castle
Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad) is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic. Dating back to the 9th century, it is the largest medieval castles in Europe. The Guinness Book of Records even lists Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world with an area of almost 18 acres. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can explore the castle gardens and much of the grounds for free. At the center of the castle lies St. Vitus’ Cathedral – it’s tall spires easily seen from across the city. Parts of the St. Vitus’ Cathedral is free to visit, but there is an entry fee to see the rest of the cathedral. You can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the front gates on the hour every hour from 7 am – 8 pm in the summer and 7 am – 6 pm in the winter months. The one at noon also includes a fanfare and banner exchange. Location: Pražský hrad, 119 08 Praha 1
4. See History in the Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, is a small area surrounded by the Old Town of Prague. Dating back to the 13th century, this cramped area was home to the entire Jewish population in the city. Today, six synagogue, the Jewish Town Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery still remain, offering a glimpse into the past.
The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest preserved synagogue in Central Europe. Entering any of these buildings involve a fee, but you can still appreciate them from the outside.
While exploring the Old Jewish Cemetery requires you to pay an entrance fee, you can take a peek inside through its fence. Forbidden to expand their cemetery, the Jewish people were forced to bury their dead on top of the dead resulting in an estimated 100,000 burials in all. The only drawback of this area is the mass amount of tourists and tacky souvenir shops that you will encounter. It’s a bit disjarring and disappointing especially considering the history of the streets.
5. Feel Hope at the John Lennon Wall
After all the despair of the Jewish Quarter, be sure to visit the John Lennon Wall for a complete change of heart. Reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, the John Lennon Wall offers graffitied messages of love and peace. In the 1980s, frustrated by Communist rule, Czech youths would share their frustrations on the wall. Much of the graffiti is inspired by John Lennon, seen as a pacifist hero for many in the Czech Republic, and the lyrics from various Beatles songs. Today the wall stands as a reminder of free speech and the non violent rebellion of Czech youth in difficult times. This is the only thing I haven’t done on this list, but I really wish I had made the effort to go and check it out. I was lazy. Don’t be like me.
Location: Velkopřevorské náměstí, 118 00 Praha
6. Admire the beautiful architecture
Walking around the Old Town, be sure to look up at all the beautiful buildings around you. So many of them are elaborate works of art full of intricate paintings and artwork. You can see all different styles of architecture from the Gothic styled Old Town Hall, to the neo-Renaissance National Theater to the Art-Nouveau friezes on so many buildings. Make sure you include a visit to the Dancing House, a modern building designed in the deconstructionist style. When it was first unveiled it caused quite the controversy – the building stands out dramatically from rest of the the city. It is nicknamed “Fred and Ginger” for the way the building mimics the forms of the dancing couple.
7. Have a beer!
Okay, technically not free, but beer is so cheap it might as well be free. Czechs drink the most beer out of any nation with 132 litres per capita every year! The Czech Republic has a long history of beer, with it first being brewed in 993 AD at the Břevnov Monastery. Typical Czech beers are pale lagers of pilsner types, with the most famous and readily available beers being the Pilsner Urquell and the Budweiser Budvar (of no relation to the American Budweiser). Gambrinus is another popular beer in the city. Check out this great map which shows the prices of beer at various bars and pubs around the city. What free things have you done in Prague?