Selfie with St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle

One Day in PRAGUE: What I Loved and Hated

If you only have one day in Prague, you can still see and experience many of its incredible sights. Prague is an incredibly romantic, enchanting, dreamy city. But as unpopular as it might be to say, there were some things that I didn’t love about Prague. Hopefully my love/hate list will give you some insight and help as you plan your own one day in Prague!

We visited Prague as a day trip from Vienna, Austria. It worked quite well to take the morning train from Vienna and the evening train back. Once in Prague, we hired a taxi to take us up to Prague Castle and then simply walked back (downhill) to the train station, seeing the sights along the way. We strolled through narrow cobblestone streets and along Charles Bridge. Had lunch and a beer right on the Vltava River. Lingered in Old Town Square.

But if you only have one day in Prague, I suggest adding in a few things. Like touring an epic building or museum. Lounging in a park. And ending with something significant on the east side. 

One day in Prague: What I loved and hated

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Here are 9 things I LOVED on our one day in Prague, and 6 things I really didn’t love.

9 Things I LOVED on my One Day in PRAGUE

There’s a LOT to love about Prague. If you’re wondering if it’ll live up to being named the most beautiful city in the world, it will.

1. The incredible Prague Castle complex of palaces and cathedrals

The Prague Castle complex is packed with beautiful churches, palaces and museums. It’s worth dedicating a few hours of your one day in Prague to exploring here. I’d encourage you to see one or two buildings, or even take a tour. 

St. Vitus Cathedral is the star of the show, but there are other palaces you might enjoy:

  • Lobkowicz Palace museum has some pretty cool pieces, like first scores from Mozart and Beethoven. Its terrace gives you a fantastic view over Prague, and its restaurant is considered the best in the complex.
  • The Old Royal Palace is where the defenestrations happened (politicians were thrown out the window).
  • Šternberský Palace art gallery (behind the Archbishop Palace) has the only Rembrandt in the Czech Republic. 

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2. Prague Castle views of spires and red roofs

City views from Prague Castle steps

View while descending Prague Castle steps

The City of a Hundred Spires actually has about a thousand. Everywhere you look are gorgeous spires, bridge towers and church domes on the horizon. And Prague’s iconic red roofs you’ve seen in pictures? Just look down from the main Hradcany Square of Prague Castle. This is the historic area of Malá Strana (or Lesser Town) right below Prague Castle. And you’ll get lots of time to enjoy the view as you descend Prague Castle’s many steps.

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3. Rugged topography of hills and Vltava River valley

The hills that surround the Vltava River valley make for many amazing city views of Prague. While the most popular views are from Prague Castle, the nearby Petrin Gardens has Petrin Tower with an observation deck. And this cast-iron Eiffel Tower lookalike is actually taller than the Eiffel Tower, so the views are incredible! But do keep the hills in mind as you plan your one day in Prague; this is why we got the taxi up to the castle.

4. Walking through history on Prague’s narrow cobblestone streets

Narrow cobblestone streets beside Prague Castle stepsNothing makes you feel more like you’re walking through history than narrow cobblestone streets! The historic areas of Malá Strana, Charles Bridge and Old Town Square are SO rich in historic ambiance. And not only are these cobblestone streets narrow, but super-windy and lined with cute cafes and shops.

5. Lingering under gorgeous arched walkways

Arched walkways in PragueAhhh … just look at those gorgeous arches! They guide you in and out of shops, and urge you to rest a while in their cool shade at one of the cafes along the way. These enchanting archways also welcome you and then bid you farewell as you enter and exit Charles Bridge. 

6. Prague’s collection of architecture styles 

Colors and arches in Prague

Looking back to Malá Strana

Prague has quite the collection of architectural gems. Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Medieval. Prague was the capital of Bohemia, a major center for various kingdoms and empires, and the main home of Roman emperors. This meant money … spent on building masterpieces. Amazingly, much of historic Prague remained intact after the two world wars.

Among these gems are stunning churches that are easy to see with only one day in Prague. Just below Prague Castle, stop in at the Baroque Church of Saint Nicholas; its pipe organ was played by Mozart in 1787. Another famous cathedral is the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn at Old Town Square. And nearby, the Old-New Synagogue is Europe’s oldest synagogue still in use; it was completed in 1270. 

7. Prague: A city of bridges

Oh, how I love old European bridges! Charles Bridge is obviously most famous in Prague, built in 1402 and lined with statue tributes to Catholic saints. But there are other romantic bridges here, too. Take two just south of Charles Bridge. Legion Bridge has gorgeous tall towers and combines neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau styles. And a bit farther south is Palacký Bridge, the third-oldest stone bridge still standing in Prague and apparently where Albert Einstein walked to work everyday.

8. A cold Czech beer overlooking Vltava River

Lunch and beer overlooking Vltava River and Prague Castle

Lunch on the Vltava River

Now, I usually prefer wine to beer. But there was something pretty fantastic about sipping a cold Czech beer on a hot day in Prague. With views of the Vltava River, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. The food was kinda meh, but the Staropramen was delicious and company excellent.

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9. A fascinating history of incredible stories 

Likely what I love MOST about Prague is its fascinating history. Although Prague was often occupied by foreigners, its people have their own incredible stories. Of rising against injustice and exerting their human right to think and believe for themselves. They were at the center of wars. Rebellions. Plagues. 

Take three examples. First, Prague was the center of the Bohemian Reformation against corruption of the Catholic clergy … a century before the Protestant Reformation. After the leader was burned at the stake, peasant rebels led the overthrow of their emperor. Fast forward to 1942, two national heroes assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking SS officer and main architect of the Holocaust. 

And in 1969 while under Communism, two local students set themselves on fire in political protest. This was in response to the military invasion by Warsaw Pact members, which ended the government’s attempt at democratic reforms. Twenty years later, the Velvet or Gentle Revolution saw the peaceful transition to a parliamentary republic. A memorial to these students is in front of the National Museum on Wenceslas Square.

7 Things I HATED on my One Day in PRAGUE

Okay, now I’ll tell you what I hated on my one day in Prague. Well … hate is really too strong a word. How could I truly hate anything in Prague?? But there are definitely some things that irritated me. A LOT. 

1. Feeling disoriented in Prague. All. Day. Long.

Get ready to lose your bearings. Like, all the time. My goodness … I’m usually pretty good at getting around in foreign places and knowing which direction I’m heading. And you’d think it’d be pretty easy in Prague, given the Castle on a hill and the Vltava River running through the middle. 

Getting dropped off at the “back entrance” of Prague Castle was like spinning in circles … I was forever turned around! Now as I look at the map it seems so simple. Because now I realize we started by the Royal Garden. So, study a map of Prague Castle as well as your route back to the train!

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2. Prague’s historical buildings are covered up

Building in front of Old Town Square cathedral in Prague

Much of this gorgeous cathedral … hidden. Photo credit: Reiseuhu from Unsplash.

THIS was my #1 disappointment on my one day in Prague. They built right in front of breathtaking historical buildings!! Just look at this picture. The gorgeous old Church of Our Lady before Týn in Old Town Square, with a big fat building covering most of it. And even more annoying … we couldn’t find the entrance.

3. Taking epic pictures in Prague is surprisingly SO hard

Tunnel right in front of St. Vitus Cathedral

Tunnel right in front of St. Vitus Cathedral: Tight view!

This is related to my last point. You see the nice feature picture of me in front of the epic St. Vitus Cathedral? Here’s what it felt like … Not only are you fighting for a good picture among the horde of tourists (which you’d expect), you’re ALSO trying to get an angle that doesn’t include the tunnel you just walked through. While trying to capture the height of the cathedral. Now, HOW are you supposed to get a flattering picture from that angle??

4. One day in Prague felt cramped

Nearly EVERYTHING in Prague felt squeezed and cramped. The narrow cobblestone streets are charming … but there’s lots of them. With unending rows of tall buildings on both sides. Restaurant seating in covered walkways, as you try not to bump drinks while flowing along with the other tourists. 

But the worst part was trying to find a riverside restaurant. It meant going down … and then up … many sets of super narrow stairs to figure out which set leads to the restaurant you’re actually looking for. No, they weren’t connected at the bottom. That’d make sense, hey?

Now, our exploration included zero parks. This would’ve helped a lot. The Gardens below Prague Castle (that’s actually their name) look like a perfect stop, but we didn’t notice it on our walk. So, I recommend being deliberate in stopping at a few parks and gardens on your one day in Prague. It’ll do wonders at balancing out your experience. And your mood.

5. Vltava River access is quite limited … at least by Charles Bridge

Vltava River from Charles Bridge in Prague

View from Charles Bridge

On our route from Prague Castle to the train station, I didn’t see a greenspace on the Vltava River where you could dip your toes. It was all brick and concrete walls along Vltava River. 

But little did we know, Kampa Island on the west side (only a 5-minute walk from Charles Bridge) is a pretty park area on the river. And Rašínovo nábřeží embankment on the east side (a 20-minute walk from Charles Bridge) is popular for its views of Prague Castle, farmers’ markets and various events. Plus, this walk takes you past islands and pretty bridges (mentioned above).

6. Anticlimactic Old Town Square

Old Town Square in Prague

Old Town Square. Not much happening.

I hate to complain, but I found Old Town Square rather anticlimactic. We were here late Monday afternoon in July, and nothing was happening. Not even buskers. Yes, the buildings were lovely. But I expected more ambiance

On your one day in Prague, I suggest ending with something grand or profound. Maybe the view from Old Town Hall’s observation deck, figuring out how to get inside the Church of Our Lady before Týn, or visiting the unassuming but breathtaking Jewish Museum. Or an opera at the Estates Theatre, where Mozart conducted the world premier of Don Giovanni in 1787. Wow. Only in Prague.

On your walk back to the train, stop at the students memorial in front of the National Museum on Wenceslas Square.

Summary and Resources

Prague truly is as epic and beautiful as everyone raves. If you have the chance to see Prague – even if only for one day – you have to take it.

I know that one day in Prague is not giving this beautiful city justice. It means being picky and deliberate about the experience you want to have, and missing out on many others. But, it did satisfy my need to see Prague for myself. (And it was one day or nothing.) 

Part of my problem was that I expected it to be easier to find epic spots along the way. Prague’s compact, narrow, windy streets meant that we simply missed a lot. So, I’d encourage you to be a bit more deliberate than us. 

Here are some helpful resources for planning your one day in Prague:

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