If you’re planning a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, first of all, I’m so excited for you. This city is my favorite in the world outside of my home city of Chicago, and I return as often as I can. But of course, as with any city, where you stay can really impact your experience and what you wind up doing on your trip, so I thought I’d create a mini-guide to where to stay in Prague.
In this post, I’m covering the pros and cons of the two main areas to stay—Old Town and Malá Strana, both immensely popular with visitors—plus a dark-horse pick for those who want a more “local” experience. So whether you’re looking for a more typical tourist experience or a deep-dive into Czech culture, you’ll find an area below that suits your needs!
WHERE TO STAY IN PRAGUE
If you’ve seen photos of Prague, the city’s Old Town—or Staré Mesto, in Czech—might look familiar to you. It’s the home of attractions including the spired Church of Our Lady before Týn and the astronomical clock, known locally as Orloj. While you can find both of those sights in Old Town Square, there’s much more to this section of the city. It boasts a maze of winding, cobblestone streets that stretch to the Vltava River, and it houses Prague’s Jewish Quarter, Josefov, as well.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE
There’s no shortage of charm in Prague’s Old Town, which, as its name suggests, is the oldest section of the city, dating back to medieval times. Get lost in its maze of cobblestone streets, which hold traditional Czech pubs and quaint cafés in addition to your classic souvenir shops. On the other side of Old Town Square, stroll down chic, leafy Pařížská street, the city’s hub for high-end shopping. Or find an aerial vantage point to view the square and the surrounding buildings, with their signature red-tiled roofs.
You also can’t get more central than Old Town if you’re looking to be in the middle of it all. With the Jewish Quarter’s synagogues and the sights of Old Town Square right in your backyard, you’ll also be easy walking distance from New Town—home of the Dancing House, National Theater and more—as well as Charles Bridge, which will connect you to the castle side of the river. If you’re up for a bit of a walk, there’s pretty much nowhere that’ll be out of reach if you base yourself in this area. In short, it’s the city’s most convenient location.
Depending on what time of year you visit, there’s also a chance you’ll find Old Town decked out for a holiday or festival. Whether it’s the iconic Christmas tree in Old Town Square or the brightly colored streamers the city dons for Easter, you may find a festive scene. The best part? As part of such occasions, the city sets up food and drink stalls where you can buy hot wine, sugar-dusted chimney cakes (look for the sign that says, “trdelník”), sausages, and other Czech specialties.
With lots to see comes lots of people, particularly in the warmer months. Old Town Square can get absolutely packed, so much so that you’ll struggle to wedge yourself between spectators waiting for the astronomical clock’s hourly figurine show. What’s worse is that Prague is a hub for European bachelor and bachelorette parties (or stag and hen dos, as they’re called in England). As a result, you’re likely to run into more than a few large groups of intoxicated partygoers, often wearing coordinated costumes—not necessarily the people you want hanging around outside your accommodations, especially if you’re sensitive to noise.
Pickpocketing is also very common in the city center, so if that’s where you’re spending most of your time, you’ll need to be on alert. Keep a hand on your bag, particularly around large crowds.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Prague, you’ll find no shortage of them in Old Town, which is a hub for accommodation. The major international chains are all represented here, with options including the Hilton Prague Old Town, the Prague Marriott Hotel and the Intercontinental Prague.
For easy access to Old Town without staying in the thick of Prague’s historical center, check out the Carlo IV, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. It’s a short walk from any tourist attraction you may want to visit in Old Town, but it’s located outside the madness of the center—and as a former Neo-Renaissance palace, it’s got plenty of architectural character, too.
Malá Strana means “lesser town,” but anyone exploring this gorgeous part of Prague may have a hard time understanding how it earned that name. Baroque-style buildings, beautiful churches and cobblestone streets characterize this riverside neighborhood, which gives guests easy access to attractions including Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the John Lennon Wall.
Second in age only to Old Town, Malá Strana was formed in 1257, in part to bolster defense around Prague Castle. But what you see today doesn’t resemble what it looked like back then: It underwent a series of disasters, including religious attacks and plundering in the 1400s and a massive fire in 1541 that destroyed most of the area. In its wake, members of the nobility built luxury palaces, many of which are still intact.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE
Malá Strana may just be the most beautiful part of Prague. Sure, you can find similar pastel-colored buildings and cobblestone streets in other areas of the city. But you won’t find immaculate gardens featuring Baroque fountains and white peacocks, and you won’t get stunning castle views, either. Aesthetically, it’s pretty tough to beat.
It’s also a great place to stay thanks to a wealth of restaurants, cafés, shops and more in the area, so you won’t struggle to find a place to eat close to your hotel. Filling your days will be easy, too: Malá Strana in itself extremely walkable, and whether you want to get to Old Town—just across Charles Bridge—or other left-bank attractions such as the castle, Petřín Hill or Strahov Monastery, you’ll be just fine on foot as long as you can handle a bit of an incline.
If you’re not up for it, though—or if you’re going farther afield—you couldn’t be in a better location for public transportation. In the center of Malostranské náměstí, the area’s main square, you’ll find a tram stop for the 22, which connects many of the city’s biggest points of interest for tourists. As long as you make sure to purchase the right ticket in advance—and validate it on entry—Prague’s extensive above-ground tram network can be a fantastic way to get around.
Nearby, you’ll also be spoiled with the Malostranská Metro station, part of the green “A” line. The trains are clean, safe and quick, and the “A” line can get you to Old Town, New Town, the National Museum, the Vinohrady neighborhood (see below) and so much more.
There’s a tendency in Prague to think of this bank of the Vltava as the “other side of the river,” as many of the city’s major sites are on the Old Town side. If you think of crossing the river as a hassle, Malá Strana may feel inconveniently located.
In reality, though, Malá Strana’s wealth of public transportation options make crossing the river a breeze. It’s a fast and scenic trip across the Vltava on the 22 tram, and the Metro will have you back in Old Town in no time. (Do keep in mind that the public transportation schedules change late at night and trains and trams get more sparse, so if you find yourself out after-hours you may want to consider taking an Uber. Additionally, when using public transit, nobody will check your ticket on entry. Instead, the Metro police—who sometimes operate undercover, dressed in plain clothes—will perform random checks to make sure people have valid tickets, and they’ll levy big fines against those who don’t. Don’t let that prospect scare you; Prague’s public transit system is incredible. Just make sure you check with your hotel on what ticket you’ll need!)
In Malá Strana, you’ll also feel some of the crowds I mentioned in the Old Town section, particularly on and around Charles Bridge. But with all of the area’s hidden lanes and winding side streets, it’s not hard to find a respite if you’re willing to wander. And if you do want to spend some time on Charles Bridge admiring its Baroque sculptures without the throngs of people, fear not—it’s possible. You just may want to get out early in the morning or late at night (I’ve heard sunrise from the bridge is spectacular, though I’ve still never seen it myself!).
Tucked away off the main street, you’ll find the Augustine Prague, a member of Marriott’s Luxury Collection. This is not just any hotel; the property houses a still-active Augustinian Monastery that monks have operated since the 14th century. Visually, the monastic influence is clear, with features including frescoes and vaulted ceilings throughout the building. But inside, the hotel is modern, with stylish and well-appointed rooms.
I was lucky enough to stay at the Augustine in September, and I loved my stay. It’s tranquil enough for you to forget that hoards of tourists are milling around nearby, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to both first-timers in Prague and return visitors to the city.
For a full review of the Augustine, check out this post!
Once covered in vineyards—hence its name (“vino” means “wine” in Czech)—Vinohrady is a beautiful neighborhood popular with Prague’s expat community. It’s set slightly outside the center and has much more of a neighborhood feel than a tourist vibe, along with plenty of parks and green space. From Vinohrady, you’ll be close to the hip, up-and-coming Vršovice, as well as to Žižkov, another expat favorite with a gritty touch and a high concentration of bars.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE
If you’re the kind of person who likes to meet locals while traveling, Vinohrady is a much better option than Malá Strana or the tourist center. Those places are much too pricey for most people to live, meaning you’ll mostly find tourists there.
Vinohrady, on the other hand, is residential. You won’t find the same swarms of visitors clogging the sidewalks, and let me tell you, those crowds can be real. And if you like walking, most places in the neighborhood are within 20 minutes’ walk of Wenceslaus Square, and you’ll stroll by gorgeous pastel buildings most of the way.
That’s not to say the area isn’t well-connected by public transportation. The 10, 16, 11 and 22 tram lines run consistently and can easily get you from Vinohrady to within striking distance of the city’s major sites. And that’s not to mention the metro, whose green line stops at the Vinohrady hubs of Náměstí Míru and Jiřího z Poděbrad.
It’s also not to say that there isn’t plenty to see and do in Vinohrady itself. Watch the sun set behind the castle from the hill in Riegrovy sady park, see local artist David Černý’s infamous giant baby sculptures crawling up the T.V. tower, stroll the gardens in Náměstí Míru, check out the hip new coffee shops and farmers market around Jiřího z Poděbrad (and get a look at the notoriously ugly Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord), or try one of my favorite restaurants in the city (Las Adelitas and U Sadu are both in the area).
If I sound a little biased, I might be! I lived in Vinohrady for 9 perfect months between 2010 and 2011 after bouncing around various apartments closer to the center. So take it from me—this area is a gem.
You can’t throw a stone from Vinohrady and hit the astronomical clock, so if that’s going to bother you, I recommend going closer to the center. If you enjoy meeting other tourists while traveling, this also may not be the right place. But if you’re the kind of person who enjoys getting a taste of local life and figuring out public transportation, Vinohrady could be a great move.
I will add that there are no hotels from major international chains in the area, so if you’re looking for help from a concierge or if you’re going to be working from “home,” you might want to look elsewhere.
As I mentioned above, this isn’t a hotel hotspot. While there may be good boutique options, if you want to really get into the local spirit, I recommend grabbing an Airbnb. Many of them sit within beautiful historic buildings but are really nice and modern inside, and considering how popular Prague is as a destination, they’re an absolute steal in terms of price.
I recently stayed in this apartment and loved it; the entire building is Airbnbs, so if you like that listing but it’s taken for your dates, check out some of the others run by the same property managers. I picked it because of its interior design, but coincidentally, the location is also absolutely perfect. It’s kitty-corner from my favorite convenience shop, and there’s a location of popular Czech chain Lokál just steps away, too.
(Psst—did you know you could earn Delta Skymiles when booking Airbnbs? For more travel points-earning tips, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or check out an upcoming points and miles masterclass!)
CHECK OUT THESE POSTS FOR MORE ON PRAGUE:
Hope this post helped you figure out where to stay in Prague! What area are you considering? Let me know in the comments! >>
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