Czech Republic Europe Travel Diary

Ways to escape crowds in Prague

I was in Prague 13 years ago, and I swear I could see the cobble stones that paved the way on Charles Bridge then. I could see where I was going.

Prague – the City of a Hundred Spires is oh so beautiful. So naturally everyone wants to visit making it so crowded at the same time!

I didn’t have to push through thrones of bodies just to see the Astronomical Clock. I could walk normally, in my own strides, not shuffling our feet through the endless queues.

And it was even during the peak of summer too, and by logic, should have been a busier season.

We had just spent three days in Prague to celebrate the turning of a new year. It’s winter, supposedly the ‘off peak’ tourist season. Yet, it felt like as if the entire world had descended on the city.

In the old town square, holiday markets were in full swing, yet the swarms of people surrounding each store, the queues just to get one over priced crepe was off putting.

Charles Bridge is pack full of people. It is, Prague’s number one attraction after all.  The amount of people on Charles Bridge is beyond scary. Mass tourism has definitely kicked off in Prague in the last 13 years!

Charles Bridge was completely packed and you couldn’t even see the stones you are walking all. It felt like my morning commute during peak hours!

Thankfully, having been here, I knew where it gets quiet in Prague! Here’s a few tips on how to escape the crowds in Prague when you are there next.

See the difference? Charles Bridge at 7:30am, this is the quietness you get, and you can appreciate the bridge a lot more. (Photo: William McPherson)

Get up early

Most people don’t start sightseeing until around 10am, after they’ve lazily dressed and breakfasted, and start to wobble out of their hotel rooms.

So, if you can, get up early and beat the crowds at major sights. You’ll have the place almost to yourselves (I say almost, because there are plenty of early birds out there too) before the hordes appear.

Getting to Charles Bridge early also mean you can pet this dog for a little longer.
Yes, you need to pet the dog. It’s good luck.

For example, Charles Bridge. At around 7:30am in the morning it’s almost empty. However, come 9:30am-10am, people start to appear and by lunch it is completely jam packed with sightseers!

Not to mention, if you get up early and cross the bridge, you can also beat the crowds to the security queue at Prague Castle!

That’s quite a queue! Get to Prague Castle early to avoid this.

Take a detour

People like to do things as fast as they can. Don’t know why. It’s not like they are on holidays and must rush around to do chores!

Either way, it means that the most straight forward route to anywhere will be the busiest and the main arteries of streets between attractions are going to be filled with people trying to get to places!

So, what do you do to escape? You take a turn. Go left and explore the little side street or turn right into that building courtyard which leads you to the next adjacent street.

When you walk uphill to the castle, there is a small gap along the way that gives you the opportunity to talk past a vineyard before joining the main Castle queue. The walk has less people and gives you more room to move. Not sure why people don’t go this way more!

When you are going up to the Castle, take the vineyard route and not the main corridor, it has less people and is also more scenic!

And if the tram is too crowded, why not walk?

Take your time, take the long way round. You never know what you’ll find! That’s the spirit of travel!

This street is a bit quieter than other streets in Prague – because we took the long way round!

Get out of the old city centre

Like any other city, most people stick around the city centre – mainly the old town square and surrounds. So, if you just get out of that little square mile of Prague, you’ll find a quieter Prague to enjoy.

As a recommendation, I liked Nove Mesto (New City). This is the area I stayed around when I was here the first time. There are no major sights here but just pleasant streets lined with beautiful Baroque architecture and little surprises.

U Fleku – Prague’s oldest operating brewery. Great beer, good food and reasonably priced. You just have to get away from the main tourist square to find it.

Such as the U Fleku Beer Hall, which is the oldest brewer in Prague! They only sell one beer – the dark brew that they are famous for, and it’s fantastic. Food is good and reasonably priced and has a better atmosphere than any of the restaurants back in the tourist main square.

Žižkov Television Tower – because they thought this design was a good idea at the time!

Another area of Prague that is less crowded is the bit surrounding the Žižkov Television Tower. This weirdly constructed tower prides itself in being the second ugliest building in the world has a one room hotel (yes, you can stay there! Book early though, there is seriously, only one room).

You’d think that this would make a major tourist attraction but no. Hardly any tourists come this way because it involves taking the Metro for more than 3 stops!

Farmers Market on the grounds of Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně is a great place to mingle with locals and indulge in some great street food.

Don’t let that put you off, have a laugh at the babies figures climbing up the tower then head over to the nearby Farmers Market on nám. J. z Poděbrad for some street food.

This is Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně – I thought it was interesting, and certainly different from all other churches!

There is also the unusually designed Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně (Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord). From afar, it looks more like a train station with its big clock!

Visit the surrounding hills

Take the funicular up to Petrin hill. Go early and you could have the garden to yourself. Walk back down to enjoy some peace and quiet (not to mention the fantastic view) away from crowds and queues!

Get the funicular up to Petrin hill – it’s part of Prague’s public transport system – and if you get there early enough, you get the whole Petrin garden to yourself, not to mention, fantastic views across the city.

For more great views, go to Vysehrad and climb the steps up to the Slavin and Bazilika svatého Petra a Pavla (Saint Peter and Paul Basilica).

Less people bother coming this way and you get a nice view across the city, a chance to see a beautiful church (without crowds) and if you are musically inclined, great Czech composer Dvorak is buried in the cemetery here at the church.

The Vysehrad lookout towards Prague. Amazing isn’t it? Very few people bother to come this far away from the centre, even though it’s really only a 5 minutes tram ride away!

Even better, travel further south on the tram and get up the hill at Podolský profil, seriously, no one bothers to explore this far!

Dvorak is buried at Vysehrad.

Another hill to explore is Letenske Sady, north of the city, where you can get a close up view of the Castle.

Make use of Prague’s public transport

The best thing about any European city is that public transport is always excellent. With a combination of trams, buses and the Metro, you can practically get anywhere in the city, and able to explore outside the map if you wanted.

My preference is the tram. You get to see out of the windows and the routes are fairly easy to follow. If you ever miss your stop, just get off, cross the track and take the next tram back!

I love trams, and they are fantastic in Prague. Just get on one and see where it takes you!

One of the things I often love to do, is to just catch a random tram or bus and see where it takes me – sometimes, I stay on until the end station just to check out the areas where local people live!

Most of the time, these areas are where the local restaurants and cafes are too – which will be less expensive, and a more authentic experience when everything is not translated to English.

Prague has some really quirky parts. You just need to get out of the main tourist centre and look up!

Or better, why not just walk?

Walk, if you can – everywhere. When you walk, you have a choice to instantly change directions, and choose to go down small lane ways that isn’t always full of people.

When you walk, you are more likely to notice that small delicate design on a door, or the unusual street sign, or a small hideaway cafe that most people simply look over.

When you walk, you pay more attention to your surrounds, and you might just come across something that isn’t even in the guidebooks!

Walk. Take a detour. Go the long way round to the next attraction. Believe it or not, this is really just one street away from the ‘main artery’ yet, look it’s empty!

Not to mention, walking is great exercise, so you don’t feel too guilty about eating more of the fantastic Czech cuisines!

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