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Prague Travel Guide: What to See and Do in the Magical Czech Capital

Is Prague the new Paris? Find out about our favorite Prague eateries, experiences and esoterica to help you plan an unforgettable trip of your own to this beautiful, sophisticated city.

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Photo: Lauren Oster

Traveling to Prague? Expect the Unexpected

You never forget the first time you cross the Karluv Most (Charles Bridge) in Prague, the Czech Republic’s capital city. Bejeweled with historic statues and twinkling lampposts, it arches over the Vltava River and offers heart-stopping views of both Old Town to the east and Malá Strana (Lesser Town) to the west; walking it, you’re certain you’re slipping between magical realms.

All of Prague is like that, really. To visit is to feel that you’re finally learning a secret. If you’re planning a visit of your own, chart a course for these 15 destinations and experiences — but know that for every wonder you plan to experience there, three more will take you by surprise.

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Photo: Lauren Oster

For Lodging, Go for Baroque

Though Prague’s city center boasts a number of contemporary lodging options, it’s hard to resist the siren call of the city’s more florid offerings — and, we’d argue, you shouldn’t. The capital is far more affordable than many western European destinations, and a luxurious berth in an old-school hotel that draws decorative inspiration from old Bohemia (the kingdom established in the 14th century that became part of the Austrian Empire in the 19th century) can come at a reasonable price.

Our non-sponsored and entirely personal pick: The Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa, housed in an ornate 16th-century building a stone’s throw from the American Embassy in Malá Strana (and a short, scenic walk from Prague Castle). One night in its gilded halls? In early spring, around $180. Access to its chandelier-crowned, heated underground pool in an ancient cellar (above)? Priceless.

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Photo: Speculum Alchemiae

Explore a Former Alchemical Laboratory

If the occult medieval “sciences” that give the Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa its name intrigue you, take the short walk uphill to Speculum Alchemiae, a flamboyant museum in the ancient, UNESCO-listed building that once held the 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II’s laboratory. Tracing the history of figures like John Dee and Edward Kelley who sought to create elixirs of eternal life and turn lead into gold, the museum’s exhibits occupy rooms rediscovered in 2002 after a flood. Thirty-minute guided tours explore the alchemists’ workshops, recreations of their experiments and the atmospheric catacombs that helped them keep their work secret.

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Photo: Lauren Oster

Pay Your Respects at Kafka’s Final Resting Place

Easily accessible from the heart of the city via a short ride on Prague’s sleek midcentury subway system (a trip transit nerds will appreciate), Prague’s New Jewish Cemetery was built in the 19th century and features both intricate Art Nouveau monuments and Cubist constructions like this one, which memorializes writer Franz Kafka (The Trial, The Metamorphosis) and his parents. To visit, enter the cemetery at its main gate and walk east along the main avenue until you reach row 21, then turn right; when you reach the wall, turn left, and you’ll see it on your left at the end of the block.

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