How To Explore Prague On A Family Vacation
Prague has become one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. It’s high on the list of young single travelers, retirees and backpackers, but the Czech Republic’s capital city also has a lot to offer for a family vacation. It’s easy to navigate, and is relatively inexpensive.
It offers a wealth of activities that will appeal to toddlers, children, and teens. As fallbacks with kids there is the zoo, the largest Lego museum in Europe and Children’s Island with its giant playground and view of the locks right in the middle of the Vlatava. Prague survived WWII better than many European cities and still has a charming, fairy-tale-like quality, along with a lot of lesser known and interesting history. It’s a great place to vacation with teens but several of the top historical and cultural attractions are doable with kids, too.
Here are five must-see attractions we think will engage you and your kids in one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the world.
Tips For Exploring Prague’s Highlights With Kids
1. Start With Prague Castle
Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral overlook the city from the east side of the Vltava River and the Charles Bridge. Both are incredible historic and architectural wonders.
Most likely constructed around 880 when this part of the world was called Bohemia, Prague Castle is part of a larger complex that features Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture. Children will love the gargoyles on the exteriors, and the classic and mysterious aspects of the interiors. They can be surprisingly impressed by St. Vitus Cathedral. Teens will appreciate learning about the history of Bohemia and the dramatic interiors.
Give yourself half a day to fully explore both if your kids can handle it. Consider hiring a tour guide so you get all of the details and stories about the castle and its Bohemian residents.
Nearby: Golden Lane
Be sure to walk down picturesque Golden Lane on your way from the castle. Kids will love the tiny historic cottages that line the way. They were built in the 1500s and lived in until World War II. Peak inside to see historic decorations and furniture. Keep your eye out for giant insects around number 22, where Franz Kafka lived briefly.
Follow the road down to the Charles Bridge, which everyone loves and is essential for photos. Teens can shop for souvenirs from the street vendors who line the bridge. Preschoolers will be amused by the fairy tales you can make up around the brave princesses and knights who have crossed the bridge and the monsters who live under it.
2. Play in Old Town Square
Most European cities have some version of a town square, but Prague’s Old Town Square is something special. It’s surrounded by open air restaurants and packed with street performers and other fun activities. Little kids in particular can be quite running around among the people in the square and watching all the activities on a sunny day.
On any given day you might find find puppeteers, musicians, magicians, and people selling toys and crafts. Many backpackers who have found themselves low on cash will take to busking at Old Town Square, so expect to see people blowing giant bubbles for the kids to play with, people in costume vying for your attention, and plenty of others who are happy to entertain you and the kids for a few Czech crowns.
Nearby: The Jewish Quarter
if you are traveling with teens make sure to visit josefov, the historic Jewish quarter. It survived the Nazi Holocaust in tact and there is almost no place like it in Europe anymore. Take teens to the historic cemetary with its grave stones stacked liked dominoes. Visit the lovely Spanish Synagogue and the simple Old New Synagogue, which dates from 1270. Learn about the Golem a local rabbi was believed to have created to protect his people centuries ago. By Night Under the Stone Bridge is a wonderful novel that is built around this tale and gives you a great feel for old Prague; I recommend reading it before or during your trip. (Order it today!)
3. Admire the Astronomical Clocks At Noon
The astronomical clocks, located located just off Old Town Square at the Old Town Hall, are arguably one of the world’s most famous. Not just a timepiece, these clocks also indicate the position of the sun and the moon, and often illustrate the location of constellations and other heavenly bodies, as well.
Nearly destroyed by fire during World War II, the clocks have motorized figurines that ring a bell on the hour as one of the twelve apostles makes an appearance above the clock. Try to visit at noon when all twelve apostles come out (but be prepared for crowds).
4. Discover the Prague Zoo
Opened in 1931, the Prague Zoo is consistently ranked as one of the top five zoological parks in the world. Located just north of Old Town, the zoo is accessible by taxi, public transport or a ferry on the Vltava.
Set against a lovely botanic garden backdrop, the Prague Zoo features all the usual favorites like elephants, lions, and tigers as well as some more unusual creatures like the Komodo dragon, the Przewalski horse, and the western lowland gorilla. (Read about more top zoos in Europe.)
5. See the National Marionette Theater
Prague is famous for its marionettes, and you’ll come across many shops selling handmade puppets that are works of art as much as they are toys (they make great souvenirs). To see these wooden puppets in action, visit to the National Marionette Theater, just south of Old Town Square.
Don’t assume this is an activity just for preschoolers. Performances vary throughout the year and include classic opera tales such as Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, which highlight the work of Mozart, which older kids and even tweens can find entertaining. They also offer special tours and events and a “make your own marionette” session for a truly unique souvenir.
Prague is a beautiful and fascinating city that appeals to people of all ages. Be sure to put this vibrant Czech city on your next Eurpean itinerary.