When planning your very first trip to Prague, you’re quite likely to grab a guidebook – the thicker the better. Even more likely you’ll open Google and type in search words, such as ‘best sights Prague’ or ‘best viewing spots Prague’.
No matter which type of sight you’re looking for, on the first pages of your guide book – and for sure on the first page of Google results – you’ll find the main square of Prague old town, Staroměstské náměstí. You’ll be first suggested to visit the Old Town Hall with its world-famous astronomical clock that is alluring hundreds, if not thousands of tourists with their selfie sticks under the clock every even hour between 9 am and 11 pm.
When all guides, blog posts and travel tip sites are repeating the same phenomena, the stunning spectacle of this magical clock, you’re be tempted to see what’s all the fuss about, right? So were Daniel and I, when we stepped on the wintery streets of Prague for the very first time on a cold and cloudy January day.
The closer we got to the even hour, the more tourists were gathering under the clock with their cameras ready. This must be something truly awesome, I thought to myself, while shivering next to the Old Town Hall in a light January snow fall.
But was it, really? This huge, complex clock with dancing apostles and a bell-jingling skeleton reminding everyone of death truly is an unusual and entertaining experience. So why not to stop there for a while when crossing the main square anyway. I just can’t help wondering which is more entertaining; The performance on the clock itself, or the performance on street level, when hundreds of tourists are fighting for the best spot between cameras and the world-famous astronomical clock.
(Spoiler alert: if you really want to experience Prague’s most famous spectacle on spot, don’t watch this video!)
After the show, the same tourists will start queuing for the Old Town Hall Tower. Everyone wants to climb up to admire the red roofs of Prague, and the curves of the river Vltava that is flowing through the city. Actually, you don’t even need to climb the stairs, as you’ll be able to take the lift.
Stairs or lift, the fact is that in addition to the 4,80 euros (130 czk) admission, you will have a long queue ahead of you. Especially if you’re visiting the tower around an even hour.
This article isn’t for travelers who like to queue, pay admissions and climb up narrow, crowded staircases in the middle of the city. Exactly where all the tourists are.
Not at all. This article is for travelers who are not afraid of walking through the whole city to find peaceful and spacious viewing spots free of tourists, and, free of admissions. Because the best viewing spots Prague has to offer are free to visit, but they won’t be found at the main square of the old town.
Besides the space and panoramic views, this article will provide you with viewing spots where you can admire colourful Prague from all angles and directions.
Bastion – A view just for yourself
A medieval fortress that was once built to protect the city houses a viewing platform that is hardly known by tourist, even locals. On this January day we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenic city view just by ourselves, with no other tourist or selfie sticks around.
The forgotten fortress was renovated a few years back, and it’s now housing a restaurant that has inherited its name from the fortress, Bastion Prague Restaurant.
On the roof of the restaurant you can find art that is really tickling your toes, am I right?
Located in the Southern part of the city, it’ll take approximately 20–30 minutes to reach Bastion from the city centre by foot. You can also catch a bus or a tram to get there, but I would recommend walking. That will give you the option to visit other beautiful places on the way, such as Prague Botanical Garden.
You can really make this a fun day out – have a little adventure on the old brick walls and take time to walk around the Folimanka Park spreading along the wall.
Vyšehrad – Panoramic views and the haunted cemetery for celebrities
If you take time to walk all the way to Bastion, there’s no reason to skip the nearby Vyšehrad fortress. You can reach Vyšehrad easily within a few minutes walk.
Unlike Bastion, Vyšehrad is well known among tourists, but on the darkening January evening, we met only a few fellow travelers on the Vyšehrad Hill. Just by walking along the wall on the top of the hill, you’ll have a chance to admire the city from different directions.
In addition to the beautiful views, Vyšehrad has other interesting sights worth visiting. The impressive cemetery next to the neo-Gothic Saint Peter and Paul Basilica is the final resting place for Prague’s most famous artists, composers, writers and politicians.
It’s widely-known fact that the celebrities aren’t the only habitants of this chilling cemetery, Vyšehradský hřbitov.
In Prague, they say that if you’re walking in Vyšehrad at night, you’re more likely to meet a ghost than a mugger. That’s right, there are many ghosts that are reported to be wandering around the cemetery at night-time. You can read more about the legends of Vyšehrad here.
Don’t just look at Petrin Hill, go to the top!
It’s impossible to miss Petrin Hill, the large hill decorating the landscape on the other side of river Vltava. Everyone can see it, but not everyone bothers to walk to the top. Everyone should, though.
If you don’t fancy a hike uphill, you can always take the funicular that is taking travelers to the top with very affordable price of 1,20 euros (32 czk) for an adult.
I would recommend walking, as the path surrounded by beautiful parks offer scenic views all the way to the top. If you’re not quite satisfied with the views on the top of Petrin Hill, you can always pay the 4,40 euros (120 czk) admission to access the observation tower that’s like a miniature version of Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Once you’re done with the views and exploring the flower beds and parks on the top of Petrin Hill, I’d highly recommend descending by foot in the direction of Prague Castle. On the way down, don’t forget to peek on the little side alleys, because in Prague, wonderful views are hiding around every corner.
Prague Castle – A town inside the city
Prague Castle, Pražský hrad, blew me away. It was everything I didn’t expect, as I didn’t really do my reading before the visit. Being one of the most famous and important attractions in Prague, you can’t avoid tourists in the castle area. Don’t worry, because after stepping inside the castle walls, you’ll forget the others and concentrate on the scenery. I promise.
When you enter the gates of Prague Castle, you only pay if you want to visit the actual buildings and exhibitions. If you only want to wander around the narrow streets and visit the viewing platform, you need to go through security, but you don’t need to pay a dime.
Prague Castle isn’t just one massive castle building that pops into your mind when you hear the word ‘castle’. Prague Castle is a whole town inside the city, and with all its glory, it’s definitely worth a visit.
If you want to visit the paid attractions, you have many different ticket options to choose from. We chose the option B, which gave us entry to 5 different sights inside the castle walls. You can find all ticket options here.
One of the best viewing spots Prague has to offer is located inside the castle walls, and it’s completely admission-free. So in case you’re not interested in St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, idyllic Golden Lane and its prison tower Daliborka, your visit will be free of charge. You can find the list of all attractions here.
Pssst… Once you start walking down to the river, towards the Charles Bridge and the old town, take the stairs starting from the South side of Prague Castle. There you’ll have another free viewing spot!
Uphill isn’t always needed – The banks of Vltava
That’s right, sometimes the best views are right in front of you. While the famous Charles Bridge is crowded with tourists, pickpockets and beggars, only a few steps away you can enjoy the views with nobody around. The best of all, you’ll get to include Charles Bridge in your photos.
Of course it’s possible to get a selfie-stick-free shot from the bridge as well, if you’re able to stretch yourself enough.
The riverbanks are full of great viewing spots, but one really good one is located right on the south side of Charles Bridge. You’ll find it on a wide platform next to the statue of composer Bedřich Smetana. Even on the only sunny day of our January visit, the whole platform was all ours, with absolutely no one else there.
Charles Bridge was full of people, though.
Once you’re done, keep walking south along the river. Besides the panoramic views over and along the river, you’ll come across with other interesting sights, like the Dancing House of Prague.
Can you think of any other free spots where to admire the pastel-coloured buildings and red roofs of Prague?
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