The ancient splendour and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fade” ~ Richard Wagner
Are you travelling to Prague for the first time? As I love researching a destination as much as possible, I thought I knew most of the Prague travel tips to avoid looking like a tourist before I visited. In case you haven’t guessed from the name of this blog, I’m a firm believer that the best way to visit any city is by being invisible, of course!
With an intriguing checkered past and jaw-dropping architecture dating back to the 9th century, it’s obvious to see why the “City of One Hundred Spires” usually attracts over 8 million visitors annually. Unfortunately pickpockets and scams are not uncommon in this central European city, so it’s good to know the do’s and don’ts in Prague to avoid ruining your trip.
After almost falling victim to a pickpocket by the famous Astronomical Clock, I quickly learned there were some Prague tourist mistakes most people are probably making. And I don’t want this for you!
If you’re creating a Prague itinerary or curious about what to expect when visiting someday, it’s imperative to understand the history and culture that has helped shape this incredible city and what you can do to avoid looking like a tourist in Prague. Read on to find out how!
This guide to essential Prague travel tips will cover:
This Prague travel guide contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Where to stay in Prague
In all my detailed itineraries I’m forever preaching about being an Invisible Tourist (which is kinda obvious, considering it’s the name of my blog!). To do this on any trip, staying in a centrally located hotel is of utmost importance if you want to maximise your travel experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Rott Hotel, near Old Town Square. the name may seem off-putting but it was honestly wonderful! This beautifully decorated hotel’s location is exceptional for Prague, just steps away from the Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock and numerous restaurants, but tucked away so noise and crowds are not an issue. Being only a few moments’ walk from Praha hlavní nádraží station is very handy.
Need more information on Prague hotels?
Essential Prague travel tips to avoid looking like a tourist
Here are my top do’s and don’ts and tips for visiting Prague to ensure you have the best experience possible.
Don’t line up like a tourist to get into popular attractions
Nothing is more obvious than looking like a tourist! Queuing up for hours to get into a popular attraction is an inefficient use of your precious travel time. Wouldn’t you rather be doing something better than endlessly waiting? Be organised and book your tickets in advance, some even allowing you to skip the line altogether!
What to book in advance in Prague:
Do know the scams and don’t let your guard down
While the ornate details on buildings and medieval structures may temporarily sweep you off your feet into a fairytale, remembering to keep a part of your head in reality is very important in Prague.
Let’s be honest, I absolutely love this city and highly recommend anyone visit, but know that just like many other popular European destinations scammers and pickpockets are buzzing around. Be a clever tourist by setting realistic expectations to enjoy your visit to the fullest.
These people work in groups where one may distract you whilst the other snatches your bag or wallet from your pocket. Make sure you’re aware of aware of your valuables around touristy areas like the Astronomical clock, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, New Town, the entrance to Prague Castle and the Metro stations.
Some other scams in Prague include:
- Currency exchange centres providing an incorrect exchange rate
- People on the street offering to exchange currency that is counterfeit
- Taxis in the city centre ripping off tourists by charging a small fortune
- Ham & sausage stalls offering seemingly cheap prices that are actually by 100g, not kilo
- Fake beggars asking for money
- Card skimmers at independent ATM machines
TIP: For more tourist scams to watch out for in Prague, check here.
Don’t expect people to smile at you
This may come as a surprise, but it’s one of the most important Prague travel tips to ensure you start off on the right note with locals!
Expressionless local faces aren’t necessarily being rude, in my experience the Czech culture lives up to the stereotype of just not being overly friendly to strangers or indulgent in small talk – and that’s ok.
Additionally, don’t greet people in English. I’m sorry to say this to my American readers, but English greetings do not go down well when trying to order food or drinks in Prague.
I always suggest learning a few basic phrases of the local language for travel purposes to show you’re making an effort. For Czech, try these:
- Hello: Ahoj (uh-hoy)
- Yes/No: Ano/Ne (uh-no/ne)
- Please: Prosim (pro-seem)
- Thank you: Dekuji (dye-ku-yi)
- Do you speak English? Mluvite anglicky? (mlu-vee-tee uhn-glits-ki)
Do take a secret food tour with a local
Did you know the popular food splashed across Prague photos on Instagram is actually not from the Czech Republic? Trdlink/trdlo or “chimney cakes” pictured below actually originated in Romania, so contrary to popular belief they aren’t an authentic local specialty.
If you want to discover traditional Czech cuisine, why not allow a local to show you the best hidden foodie spots throughout the city? Local craft beer in Prague is also very popular!
Prague’s Old Town can be quite the tourist trap when it comes to dining so having a friendly local guide show exactly what to eat and where to find it will help enrich your visit:
Do remember the Euro is not the correct currency
Assuming that you can use the Euro in Prague is a common misconception. Although the Czech Republic is part of the European Union (EU), not all countries in the EU adopted the Euro in 2002. In fact, many still use their own currencies and the Czech Koruna (CZK) is accepted locally.
Remember to bring some koruna with you for your trip to Prague, or withdraw some directly from a reputable ATM for the best deal while you’re there. Avoid using currency exchange outlets as they are quite notorious for providing tourists with a dreadful rate.
Do take note of Prague’s history to understand how it is today
Bohemia, Czech Republic, Czechia, Czechoslovakia… Which one is it, again? This is essential to know in order to not seem like a clueless tourist and unintentionally offend any locals you may encounter.
Prague and its surrounding region has an extensive history dating back well over a thousand years, and an ancient history that extends back to 25,000 BC.
In a very tiny nutshell:
- Prague, known locally as Praha, has been the capital of today’s Czech Republic since 1993.
- Czechoslovakia was the name used from 1918-1993 when today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia declared independence and broke away from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Czechoslovakia hasn’t been a country in over 25 years!
- Bohemia is the historical English name for the country, derived from the 4th century BC. The region officially became the Duchy of Bohemia in the 9th century and the Kingdom of Bohemia under the Holy Roman Empire in the late 12th century. Today, Bohemia is considered a region of the country along with Moravia and Czech Silesia.
- Czechia is the shortened form of Czech Republic you may see used on Google, however most locals prefer not to use this.
The city of Prague played a very important role during European medieval history in the fields of science and astronomy. It’s possible to walk in the footsteps of Galileo, Tycho and Kepler at Clementinum and examine some of the original scientific instruments they used to gaze into the heavens – not to mention the incredible 360° views over the city!
It’s also noteworthy to remember that the land of Czechoslovakia fell under Communist rule after WWII from 1948 until 1989. This was a dark time for the country – pro-democracy student protesters were beaten, executions and show trials for pro-Western military leaders were commonplace and censorship was rife under Stalin’s ruling iron fist. This was followed by the Velvet Revolution in 1989.
I highly recommend setting aside some time to visit the Museum of Communism, it provides amazing insight into these times and poignant reminder to never take your freedom for granted. Alternatively, a WWII Communism walking tour is also a great idea!
Don’t buy matryoshka dolls
I absolutely LOVE these personally however, despite their frequent appearance in stores throughout Prague matryoshka dolls (or babushka dolls) do not originate from the Czech Republic. They’re actually a popular souvenir from Russia.
According to Honest Guide on YouTube, due to their ties to the former USSR, matryoshka dolls are not favoured by locals as they can be considered a painful reminder of communism. This also goes for fluffy hats featuring the sickle and hammer, and other Soviet-related memorabilia.
TIP: Some authentic souvenirs include Czech crystal glass, crystal beads, or handmade woodwork such as toys and ornaments.
Don’t leave padlocks on bridges
It’s such a romantic thing to attach a love lock onto bridges across European cities, right? Err, there are better ways to spend 500 koruna than on a padlock! While I’ve proudly written about why I’ve never left love locks at any destination around the world in my twelve years of travel (before this trend even became a “thing”), in Prague it means you’ll be wasting your time.
For context, in 2014 the world’s most famous “love lock bridge” – Pont Neuf in Paris, France – had a huge section collapse under the unaccounted-for weight. Tonnes and tonnes of extra metal attached to any attraction over the years damages its structural integrity, not to mention the rusty locks become an eye-sore!
Due to this, the authorities in Prague now remove these love locks to prevent further damage to historical sites. Rather than contributing to the destruction of the city’s incredible cultural heritage, please “be invisible” and refrain from leaving any sort of love lock behind and purchase one of the many authentic Prague souvenirs to take home with you instead.
Don’t draw on the John Lennon Wall
Since the 1980’s the John Lennon Wall has been a symbol of opposition to Soviet rule and an advocate for free speech. Leaving your mark on the John Lennon Wall was one of the touristy things to do in Prague – it was encouraged! However, it’s good to be aware this is no longer the case.
The local government closed off this attraction in October 2019 to transform it into an open-air gallery. Professional Czech artists decorated it with murals much like the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany. The move was also to repair structural damage to the wall and deter noisy, drunk tourists from scrawling, loitering and vandalising neighbouring property in this otherwise quiet residential area.
The wall reopened in November 2019 to mark the 30th anniversary since the Velvet Revolution. Having the wall as a backdrop to your photos is allowed, as is writing in chalk or marker, however spraying and graffiti is prohibited and police now monitor the wall.
Do read reviews about nightclubs before going
In my opinion, Prague has some of the most enjoyable nightlife in Europe but you need to be smart about where the night will take you. I have a few suggestions in my detailed Prague itinerary. Regarding different establishments, in Prague it seems to be quite hit and miss!
I suggest having a read through reviews over on TripAdvisor for any nightclubs you intend to visit. For instance, I thought of partying at the famous Karlovy Lane, the largest nightclub in central Europe at 5 storeys high. However after reading the reviews, many travellers suggested steering clear of this place due to theft of valuables, jackets from the cloak room and an overall unsafe feeling from unhelpful staff and security.
TIP: An alternative neighbourhood to party instead of the city centre is Zizkov – there are more bars here per square kilometre than any other area in Prague!
Do wander off the beaten path in Prague
Yes, due to the growing popularity amongst tourists the Old Town can become quite overcrowded during peak season, so it pays to explore Prague off the beaten track.
I absolutely adored the quiet cobbled streets of the Nový Svět area, it’s beautifully preserved 16th century architecture a delight to admire without the crowds. This nostalgic area was built for staff who maintained the upkeep of nearby Prague Castle back in the day.
Did you know Prague has two castles? Surrounded by old castle walls, Vyšehrad is the lesser-known sibling to Pražský hrad that many tourists seem to overlook during their visit. It’s a great spot to overlook the Vltava River, its bridges, and is a favourite amongst locals for enjoying autumn foliage.
Loreta is another gem discover in the city’s north-west. This magnificent structure houses a stunning 17th century artefact called the Prague Sun. Encrusted with over 6,000 diamonds, it really is a treasure!
Venture to the Letna district and away from most tourists for a laid-back vibe. This hilltop area offers incredible views over the city from leafy beer gardens or the lovely Letna Park.
Do take in the views from vantage points
There’s no better way to admire the “City of 100 Spires” than to witness them from above! Seeing Prague from an elevated perspective will help you appreciate the city’s scale and the seemingly endless views of terracotta rooftops will take your breath away. Here are a few ideas:
- Astronomical Clock Tower (advance tickets →)
- Petrin Hill & Lookout Tower
- Old Town Bridge Tower & Lesser Town Bridge Tower
- Hotel U Prince Rooftop restaurant
- Grounds of Prague Castle
- Letna beer gardens
Do leave a tip of 10% for good service
Tipping is generally expected throughout Prague, especially in touristy areas, but is not mandatory. It’s considered polite to tip waiters, porters etc around 10% for providing good service.
If you’re in the Old Town, make sure you confirm with your waiter whether tipping is included in the bill so you’re not tipping twice!
TIP: Don’t leave your tip on the table, always take it to the register. More info on tipping etiquette in Prague here.
Do travel in the off season where possible
By now, this probably goes without saying but it doesn’t hurt to give you a kind reminder! The best time to visit Prague during the off season or shoulder season is late spring (May) or early autumn (September) to avoid crowds.
Do enjoy the art scene and museums
Prague is packed with centuries of history and culture around every turn, it would be a real shame to not take advantage of this during your visit! Set aside some time to dedicate to a museum or two to help you have a better understanding of Prague’s historic and creative scenes. Here is a small list of the arts and culture scene:
- World’s only Cubist lamppost
- Dancing House Tančící dům
- King Wenceslas suspended from an upside down horse in Lucerna passage
- Man Hanging Out sculpture Zavěšený muž
- Lobkowicz Palace (advance tickets →)
- Prague National Musuem (advance tickets →)
- Museum of Communism
- Museum of Senses (advance tickets →)
- Kafta Museum
- Cold War Museum
- Czech Beer Museum
- Illusion Art Museum
- Museum of Fantastic Illusions
- KGB Museum
Don’t leave Lime bikes lying around or take a Segway tour
Prague tourism problems have been increasing in recent years. Have you heard of Lime Bikes? For 25 CZK, tourists can hire these electric scooters to get around the city. Inconsiderate and lazy tourists would leave the scooters strewn about the footpaths, roads, rubbish bins and even in the Vlatva River.
A disgruntled local set an Instagram account to document the downsides of tourists using these scooters in Prague.
In large numbers tourists would zip around on the footpaths illegally with little regard for pedestrians and cut off cars on the roads. Due to this, Lime Bikes are now banned in the Prague 1 area, as are Segways as they are considered a danger. Not to mention, the locals in Prague disapprove of Segway tours as well.
I’ll admit I took a Segway tour during a long weekend in Bruges at the request of my travel buddy. It was honestly super cringe and screamed we were tourists! In my opinion, seeing a city on foot by bicycle is a nicer alternative – as tourists we should want to support locals, not make their lives more difficult!
Concluding the do’s and don’ts in Prague for a perfect first-time visit
That concludes these travel tips for Prague! Now you know Prague travel mistakes to avoid, its fascinating history, what to expect, some common misconceptions and correct etiquette, you’ll be prepared for your future trip. Not to mention, it will be simple for you to avoid looking like a tourist.
Remember if you’re wondering how many days in Prague you should stay, “czech” out my 4 day itinerary to help you plan your days.
Is Prague on your Europe bucket list? I absolutely adore this awe-inspiring city and hope you discover the same charm that made me leave behind a piece of my heart. What surprised you most about these Prague travel tips? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
If you found this Prague travel blog helpful take a look at all my travel guides and itineraries for Czech Republic, more destinations I’ve covered in the Europe or come and join me over on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or TikTok for more travel inspiration!
Featured & first pin image: Pixabay
This guide to Prague travel tips contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!