This page is a detailed guide to the best districts and places to stay in Prague, the city where I have lived for more than 10 years.
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Best Areas to Stay in Prague
Although Prague has a population of more than a million and occupies a large area, vast majority of tourist attractions, culture, nightlife and accommodation capacities are located in the historical centre, which is not that big.
The main anchor for basic orientation in Prague is the river, Vltava, which flows through the historical centre in a roughly south-north direction and separates the two main tourist districts (they are linked by the famous Charles Bridge – Karluv Most):
- On the eastern side of the river there is the Old Town (with the Old Town Square and Astronomical Clock) and Wenceslas Square.
- On the western side of the river there is Lesser Quarter (named Mala Strana in the Czech language and in most maps), overlooked by Prague Castle.
Assuming that you want to stay in the centre like most visitors, the key decision is to pick one of these two sides, as they are a bit different in atmosphere and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Both are very nice and both have plenty of good hotels of various styles and price levels, but one may be more suitable to you than the other, depending on your preferences and purpose of your visit.
Old Town and Wenceslas Square
The eastern side feels more lively and more crowded. The number of hotels is higher, as is the number of shops, restaurants, theatres and nightclubs. In the Old Town itself, which spans from the river up to Wenceslas Square and Na Prikope Street, there are countless narrow streets and many smaller or bigger hotels built in renovated historical houses, some of them several centuries old. If you are coming to see Prague as the world famous historical city, staying directly in one of these houses can just complete the perfect experience. Another good thing about the Old Town is that it is almost car-free – and you won’t need to use even public transport, because vast majority of attractions are within easy walking distance.
The concentration of hotels is as high in the streets outside the Old Town, particularly around Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske Namesti – the one with the horse statue at the top; it is called square but feels more like a long broad boulevard) and Namesti Republiky. If you stay in these areas, you will get a bit less of Middle Ages themed atmosphere, but a more contemporary experience of the Czech capital, with some of the best shopping streets (like Na Prikope), shopping centres (like Palladium or Kotva at Namesti Republiky) and nightclubs (like Duplex at Wenceslas Square or Lucerna just around the corner).
Lesser Quarter and Prague Castle
The western side of the river, Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana) is quite different. It is the government and embassy district of Prague. Some streets and houses are as old and as charming as in the Old Town, but overall the area is smaller and much quieter (it only gets crowded during the day on the main path between Charles Bridge and Prague Castle). If you are looking for a more peaceful or more mature kind of holiday in Prague, perhaps this area is the best. There are several great restaurants in Lesser Quarter, not much for shopping (other than souvenirs) and less nightlife, but you can easily walk over the bridge to all the shopping and nightlife (one of the best experiences of Charles Bridge is at night, without the crowds and with the castle beautifully lit).
You may also try to get the best of both worlds and stay in one of the hotels on the waterfront. Those on the Old Town side have nice views of the castle across the river. Admittedly, most of these hotels are among the most expensive in Prague, but for a reason.
Staying outside the Historical Centre
Some visitors choose to stay outside the main tourist district for various reasons – such as coming for business rather than sightseeing, or trying to get cheaper accommodation. Districts in the greater city centre with good public transport links and good accommodation options include the area around Florenc (central bus station and interchange of metro lines B and C, also easy to walk to the Old Town), Holesovice (2-3 metro stops from the centre via line C; great for runners as there is a huge park) or Smichov (2-3 metro stops from the centre via line B or 15 minutes walk from Lesser Quarter; some great restaurants and nightlife, targeting locals rather than tourists).
Hotels in Prague
Availability of hotels varies throughout the year. While tourists come to Prague in high numbers all year round, summer tends to be particularly busy, as is the period around Christmas and New Year and various other Czech, German and other holidays. Booking well in advance is highly recommended and you will often be able to get really good deals. Most hotels offer free cancellation until one or a few days before the planned arrival, so it should not be a problem to change or cancel.
The following are the most common questions concerning the best areas to stay in Prague for different purposes and types of travellers.
Where to Stay in Prague for Sightseeing?
Most people come to Prague to enjoy its unique historical sceneries and atmosphere. There are two main historical districts in Prague which are perfect for these things: the Old Town and Lesser Quarter, the oldest parts of Prague. They are very close to one another – in fact, they are separated only by the river (the Vltava), which you can cross on the 600-year-old Charles Bridge.
Prague Old Town
The Old Town is a bit bigger and more lively than Lesser Quarter. The centre of Prague Old Town is Old Town Square (the square with the Astronomical Clock and Tyn Church). Old Town also includes the Jewish Quarter. Some of the finest restaurants and shopping streets are situated either directly in the Old Town (e.g. Parizska, Celetna) or along its borders (Na Prikope Street). Old Town is considered the primary tourist district in Prague and has the highest concentration of hotels.
Lesser Quarter (Mala Strana in Czech) is the area among Prague Castle, Petrin Hill (a huge park with a small copy of Eiffel Tower at the top), and the river. It is as old as the Old Town and also has beautiful old houses (many of them are more like palaces). Lesser Quarter is the government and embassy district of Prague. It is usually quieter than the Old Town (except the main tourist trail between Charles Bridge and Prague Castle), but has many very typical Czech restaurants. Lesser Quarter is a fine place to stay, with a bit of a romantic or upscale feel.
Where to Stay in Prague for Nightlife?
Many people come to Prague to enjoy its nightlife and cheap beer. Prague has several good areas for nightlife, with high concentration of pubs, bars, and clubs. Both the above mentioned districts (Old Town and Lesser Quarter) offer plenty of nightlife venues, but they are targeted at tourists, which means that prices are higher (the beer is not really that cheap in the Old Town) and foreigners outnumber locals in most places (one such place is Karlovy Lazne, the largest club in Central Europe with 5 floors, located next to Charles Bridge).
Good areas for nightlife, where you can meet a good mix of tourists and local people, are especially Narodni Street and Wenceslas Square. Wenceslas Square (the square with the horse statue at the top end) is the unofficial centre of modern Prague). Bigger venues at and near Wenceslas Square include Duplex or Lucerna Music Bar (Lucerna is a very traditional club in Prague). There are many hotels at and around Wenceslas Square: 4 or 5 star hotels are directly at the square, while cheaper hotels are in the side streets, especially between Wenceslas Square and Hlavni nadrazi (central train station).
Andel and Smichov
If you are looking for places where locals prevail (and the beer price reflects that), you can try the surroundings of Andel Metro Station (the district of Smichov, about 15 minutes walk south of Lesser Quarter). There is a good concentration of hotels near Andel and room rates are often lower compared to the main centre of Prague.
Where to Stay in Prague for Shopping?
Almost all the places listed so far are good for shopping, except probably Lesser Quarter which is only good for buying souvenirs. If you want expensive boutiques, go to Old Town (Parizska and Na Prikope streets). If you want big shopping centres, there are two of them at Namesti Republiky (eastern border of Old Town; a 5 star hotel district) and a big shopping centre at Andel. Wenceslas Square has shops of various kinds all around.
Where to Stay in Prague on a Budget?
In general, cheaper hotels can be found away from the historical centre, but not necessarily far in some cases. Stay away from Old Town and Lesser Quarter. Good budget places to stay in Prague include Florenc Station and the surrounding Karlin district, or the already mentioned Andel Station and the district of Smichov. There are also several cheaper hotels in Holesovice (near Prague Expo Centre and Sparta Stadium). All these places are still within easy walking distance from Old Town and if you don’t want to walk, they also have frequent tram or metro connections.
Where Is the Best Place to Stay in Prague?
I hope you now have a basic idea about where to stay in Prague for what and therefore you know that the answer to this question depends on who you are and why you are coming to Prague. That said, there’s no need to overanalyse it, because Prague is not really a big city. Most of the places of interest are close enough to walk from each other. Besides, Prague has as excellent public transport system with metro and dense network of trams and buses, which are also (usually) much cleaner and cheaper than in most comparable cities.
Summary of Best Areas
Click a link to search hotels in the particular area:
- Prague Old Town (sightseeing, history, atmosphere, shopping, dining)
- Lesser Quarter (government district, history, atmosphere, dining)
- Wenceslas Square (modern Prague, nightlife, shopping)
- Andel (local nightlife, cheap beer, shopping, cheap hotels)
- Florenc (cheap hotels, cheap beer, 10 minutes walk from Old Town, public transport hub)