The days when Prague was a reliably low-cost destination are long gone, and treats like a guided tour through Prague Castle or a few hours spent admiring the synagogues of the Jewish Museum can quickly eat through most daily travel budgets. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stretch your money by cashing in on some tip-top freebies, and, though sadly not free, the beer is still very cheap.
1. Charles Bridge
Prague’s landmark Charles Bridge, a 650-year-old Gothic span, topped by rows of baroque statues on both sides, is a museum in itself. Ponder the various works of art, while admiring the city’s spires and domes that pop up on both sides of the river. During the day, the bridge hosts an array of bands, buskers, and artists, giving it a carnival-like vibe.
2. Prague Castle
While the castle’s interiors, including St Vitus Cathedral, are trapped behind a steep paywall, the lavish castle gardens and evocative courtyards are free to wander at your leisure. Note the Royal Gardens, along the northern face of the castle, are open only from April to October. Also, don’t forget to take your passport or EU identification card, as visitors must pass through a security check before entering the grounds.
3. Municipal House
A guided tour of Prague’s beautiful art nouveau Municipal House, a lavishly appointed cultural centre with a concert hall and bars and restaurants, will set you back some cash. The building, though, is usually open throughout the day and you’ll normally be left to your own devices to climb the ornate stairways or prowl the hallways.
4. Astronomical Clock
Okay, it’s over in under a minute, but the hourly procession of mechanical figures above the face of the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall is an absolute must and costs nary a Czech crown. Arrive a few minutes before the hour to secure a decent spot to stand and don’t leave until the bells chime.
5. Free walking tour
‘Free’ tours are not always exactly free (guides usually expect a tip at the end), but these walking tours are an excellent way to see the sights, get some exercise and meet fellow travellers along the way. And the amount of money you leave at the end is always up to you. Several outfits offer these types of tours, including Prague Extravaganza and the Royal Walk Free Tour.
6. The Infant Jesus
Pilgrims still travel from thousands of kilometres away to pay respects to the Infant Jesus of Prague, a 47cm-tall waxwork figure of the baby Jesus. The doll was brought from Spain in 1628 and is said to have special healing powers, including possibly protecting Prague from the ravages of the plague which swept through Europe all those years ago. Find the baby Jesus at a small museum inside the Church of Our Lady Victorious on the Malá Strana side of the river.
7. David Černý artwork
Prague has a fine collection of statuary and public art, all viewable for free, including several provocative and humorous works by Czech artist David Černý. Černý is modern master of installation art and no subject appears to be off limits. To get a taste, check out Kun, an upside-down horse hanging inside the Lucerna Palace shopping arcade, or K, a giant rotating bust of Prague writer Franz Kafka.
8. Parks and gardens
Prague is filled with parks and gardens that are perfect for relaxing or stretching your legs. Every neighbourhood has its own preferred green space. Some of our favourites include the late-Renaissance Wallenstein Garden as well as Kampa, Stromovka and Letná Gardens. The latter offers stunning views over the River Vltava and Old Town, and even has its own beer garden from April to October.
9. Gothic and baroque churches
While Prague’s population is not particularly religious (at least not in the traditional sense), the city centre is filled with beautiful Gothic and baroque churches from centuries past. Some churches have introduced small entry fees but most remain free to enter (and only ask a donation). Don’t miss the shrivelled human arm that hangs from the Church of St James or the tomb of legendary Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe at the Church of Our Lady Before Týn.
10. Vyšehrad Citadel
The Vyšehrad Citadel isn’t technically a castle, though this hilltop fortress, with its own twin-spired church, once served as a royal residence and a rival to Prague Castle downriver. It’s centuries old and according to Czech legend, the spot where Prague was first prophesied. Hike here for great river views and a relaxed vibe, far from the tourist throng downtown.