Prague is one of those great European cities where you can take a free tour to see a ton of cool things and get lots of historical tidbits. There’s not just one tour, but several. In multiple languages. Every day of the year. So I decided to take a break from carefully avoiding the tour groups in town and joined one of them.
Selecting a free Prague tour
There are so many different tour companies that do free tours in Prague that I have no idea why you would ever pay for one. They mostly congregate in Old Town Square, where at different times of the day you’ll see a clusterfuck of people with different colored umbrellas surrounded by huge groups.
Almost every company has a free Old Town tour, from Sandeman’s
to Discover Prague
. Tours depart from Old Town Square at 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, and 4 PM, so you have plenty of options. You want to check with the specific company you want to join to see their departure times. Some of these tours require you to register in advance online to avoid giant groups. During popular times of the year, they will get booked up.
In addition to the Old Town tours, the company Generation Tours
offers two additional free tours in New Town and Prague Castle. They’re the ones with the blue umbrellas. Other companies charge for routes outside of Old Town. So which do you prefer? Here’s what you can expect from each of them.
The Old Town Tour
For a first time Prague visitor, this will probably be the tour you’re most interested in. In fact, this is the tour that I took when I visited Prague for the first time many years ago. It takes you through Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter of Prague. This is a great precursor to visiting the Jewish Museum which allows you entrance to many of the city’s remaining synagogues.
On this tour, you’ll get great background information on some of the city’s most iconic sites like the astronomical clock and the Church of Our Lady before Týn. You’ll also learn a bunch of interesting factoids like about the human arm that’s hanging inside the Church of Saint James, belonging to an unlucky thief. And discover where the Powder Tower gets its name. This is a great introductory tour of Prague providing you with all the basic facts about the places you’re probably most excited to see.
The New Town Tour
The New Town Tour, also known as the revolutionary tour, focuses on different parts of the city center and a different part of Prague’s history involving their fight for independence from the Soviets and the Nazis. Stops include Wenceslas Square, Charles Square, the Dancing House and the Prague National Theater.
This will take you to some of New Town’s hidden spots like David
Černý’s Wenceslas statue that is hanging from Lucerna Palace, a tongue-in-cheek take on the original statue on Wenceslas Square except the horse is upside down and dead. You’ll Also see the rotating head of Franz Kafka.
Perhaps the best thing about the New Town tour is that it’s the least popular so your group will be a little bit more intimate and you will get away from the crowds in city center.
Prague Castle Tour
This tour covers the remaining must see locations of Prague like Charles Bridge and Prague Castle. From Old Town Square, you have to take a tram over to the Castle District. So you either need to have a tram ticket or the change to buy one from your tour guide.
You don’t need a ticket to enter Prague Castle as your tour guide will take you around the grounds, but not inside any of the buildings. There’s still plenty to see like St. Vitus Cathedral and the garden of the Summerhouse of Queen Ann. Along the way, You’ll learn about the castle’s history and about some of its most interesting residents. Prague Castle is like a small city so 2.5-3 hours is barely enough time.
Getting the most of a free Prague tour
The great thing about free tours is that they’re very informative. The bad thing is that you don’t get a lot of time to explore some of the sites you’re learning about. The best way to enjoy a free Prague tour is to do it early in your trip and take a mental note of all the places you want to revisit. There will be plenty of churches, exhibitions, and other sites that you’ll probably want to see more in depth after you take the tour. Many of them are free to enter, but your tour won’t stop inside anything.
The tours are supposed to be around 2 1/2 hours. But there’s a good chance they will run a little bit past that especially if people have a lot of questions. It’s best to do this if you don’t have anything planned after it, like reservations to something else.
Because each tour covers a specific part of the city and provides different information, some people choose to do more than one of them. The times are generally staggered so that it’s possible to do more than one tour in a day, though I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s a lot of walking.
If you do plan to do more than one of them, in a day or in the course of a few days, it’s probably most logical to do it in historical order. Start with the old and end with the new.