A photo-taking guide of Prague
Everyone can be a great photographer in this age of light and high-quality cameras. With Prague being one of the most photogenic cities around the world, your artistic ambitions will definitely thrive here. It is also one of the most photographed places.
In order to make your photos stand out from the millions of other pictures of Prague on Instagram, we bring you some local tips on where and how to capture the true charm of the city, because we know the city like the screen of our smartphones.
It’s never too late to become a photographer
Only a few years ago, I could count the photos I’ve taken during my life on the fingers of one hand. As of now, these same fingers are snapping new and new pictures every single day.
I was very lucky to marry a professional photographer, who took great pains to share some of her knowledge with me. On my first photo session in Prague, I took a thousand photos and just one of them came out good. I was all excited to show the result to my wife, who simply replied: “A typical beginner shot…”
Thanks to her patience and countless valuable bits of advice, I’ve eventually learned how to work with light and composure, as well as how to avoid conventional angels. But this article is not about my artistic development. I’m here to share my knowledge so that you can also take outstanding photos of Prague while having fun and getting to know the city at the same time.
Let me take you for a full-day photo tour of some of the most well-known places, as well as those you won’t easily find on Instagram. There will be plenty of opportunities for great snaps on the way.
Capture the most of Prague in one day
(Tips for refreshments included)
We will begin on Charles Bridge, one of the most scenic spots in the city. If you come here after 9 am, the only thing you capture on your photo is a full crowd of other tourists. That’s why we are going at 7 instead. Trust me, it’s worth it. No matter which direction you look, you will find amazing views, beautiful details, and interesting angles all around. There’s no need for any advanced tricks, the main thing is to be here on time.
Before heading for breakfast on the east bank of the Vltava River, make sure to look back at the waking city from Smetanovo Nábřeží. This is the one chance to capture most of Prague’s icons within a single shot. Try to include the wooden ice deflectors on the river that add the special something to this panoramic view. Hungry now?
You might want to stop by in one of the hidden gems of the Old Town – Tricafe. It feels like being inside somebody’s living room. And they have great coffee, too! Now that we are energized, let’s tackle some of the narrow alleys with unusual street art and beautiful architecture.
On your left, Anenské Náměstí is a good place to begin. Watch your steps here; those age-old cobblestones are not always exactly even. Once in the square, search for a drainpipe, placed on one of the corner houses, with something unusual about it. There is a hidden embryo in it! This piece was made a controversial Czech artist David Černý and it shines at night. We will meet a couple more of his works on our way.
In order to absorb the local atmosphere, let’s take a stroll through the Anenská and Řetězová streets. You might easily come across some pretty cool street art here. Turn into Husova and head in the direction of Národní třída. You need to keep your eyes open for the sculpture of Sigmund Freud – another piece by David Černý hanging from one of the roofs on this street. That is something unusual to take a picture of!
It’s time to focus on some architecture as well. The church of Our Lady of the Snows is located in Perlova, which used to be one of the red-light districts of Prague, hence the name Pearl Street. Believe it or not, today it is among the UNESCO world heritage sites and there is a memorial to the prostitutes that used to exhibit the oldest profession in the world on this very street.
On the way to the church, archilovers will appreciate the fortress-like building of Palác Arida, which is pretty stunning especially when the sun is around. For something less known, look for U Pinkasů, a pub on that very same street. Their beer garden is situated right next to the church; if you decide to stay for one beer, nobody is going to blame you (we would do the same).
The centuries-old baroque interiors of Our Lady of The Snows are definitely picture-worthy. Just remember to switch off the flash inside. If you are lucky, there will be some sunlight coming through the majestic windows. Try to capture some of the amazing details. You can almost feel the Holy Spirit reaching out to you through the richness and mastery of the crafted symbols. Let’s go see some nature.
In the midst of all that city hassle, there is the Franciscan Garden. So beautiful and serene, it is a true local favourite. Also one of the best spots to enjoy some ice cream or větrník, the ultimate Czech sweet bomb. Just look for a confectioner’s in the Světozor passage.
After this refreshing break, we have something bizarre to show you. At the back entrance to our newest shopping mall Quadrio, there is a giant rotating head of Franz Kafka, our beloved author (although the Germans would tell you a different story). Can you guess, who made this one? Why, David Černý, of course!
On the other side of the shopping mall lies one of the busiest streets of Prague, public-transport-wise. You will see all generations of trams here, some of which are rather photogenic. Mind me, we like to think that Prague has the most practical as well as affordable public transit in the world. Make sure to take advantage of that!
You can take a tram right now, but you might as well walk, for we are only going one stop. And there are things to see on the way, such as the super cool and unique Café Nona inside the new building of the National Theatre. The building itself is a perfect example of communist architecture and a subject of endless debate. Is it super ugly or actually quite amazing? You decide. The interior is definitely worth a picture though.
The old building of the National Theater is posing for a picture right next to you. Cross the street to get some perspective and enjoy the view.
Next stop is Střelecký Ostrov, the tiny island under the nearby bridge. Personally, I think it’s one of the most romantic places in the city, and not really touristic either. In fact, it is probably the best place to take pictures of the river and Charles Bridge from a distance. Take your time and enjoy the serenity. This might be a place to return to in the evening for some snaps of the illuminated city.
Up the bridge we go again and towards Kampa Park. This picturesque area circumscribed by a stream is home to various kinds of street art, including the Alien Babies by David Černý that used to adorn the walls of the Žižkov TV tower before. This is a popular place among the locals, especially in the summer, when you will find lots of Frisbee throwing, beer, dogs, and people as well. Make sure not to use up all your artistic energy here, the best is yet to come!
The John Lennon Wall is a stone’s throw from Kampa and it is the kind of place that will enrich your Instagram page like nothing else. It is a living wall, so I can hardly tell you what you are going to see there, but it’s going to be an amazing experience, I’m sure. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen anybody taking a picture of the wall from a bit further. Try to capture the whole thing with the scenery behind and let me know, how does that turn out.
Are you not starving by now? I thought so; Malostranská Beseda is the place. Their Czech Goulash is the best I know in Prague, the staff is more than friendly, and the beer compliments it all. It’s also a great opportunity to recharge your camera/smartphone. You will need it for the rest of the way!
Do you see that beautiful church in Malostranské Square? That is the St. Nicholas Church, one of these that require a picture no matter what. But even better than the church itself is the view from one of its towers. Not many people get all the way up there (oh, it’s 303 stairs, by the way), but as a photographer, you can hardly skip it.
Don’t worry, the tram stop is right in front and number 22 will take you all the way up to the Prague Castle. A friendly tip: go to the very back of the tram and take a time-lapse video of the ride.
Note: if you are in Prague between April and October, instead of getting off at Pražský hrad, like most of the visitors do, let’s quit the tram at Letohrádek královny Anny and walk to the castle through the Royal Gardens. These are over 500 years old and they offer the best view of the St. Vitus Cathedral you can imagine.
I know it’s a lot of walking for one day, but we have a beer break coming up, don’t worry. Also, the later you get to the castle the better; it tends to be rather crowded before 2 pm. Just as you are walking over the bridge towards the castle, notice the narrow tunnel underneath. That is the Deer Moat and it is very photogenic, although most tourists don’t even notice it.
Make sure to take note of the guards at the gates of the complex, especially their uniforms designed by the costumer of the Oscar-winning movie Amadeus. After passing through the gate, you will find yourself in the Second Courtyard of the castle. This one is pretty tricky to photograph. What I usually do is that I stand in the deepest corner and try to capture the whole place.
Let’s turn left, walk through the passage and, oh, there it is! One of the most photographed buildings in Prague is right in front of you, the St. Vitus Cathedral. What’s the trick here? Laying on your back to catch the whole facade is one trick, but since it is so overwhelming it might be better to go for the details instead, which are super cool and intricate. And thereʼs so many of them! Even after thousands of tours Iʼve given here, I still find new details every day.
Ok, time to go in. See that door handle? (Itʼs a local hobby to take photos of the thousands of different door handles.) The best thing that can happen to you is to be here between 3 a 5 pm on a sunny day when the whole purpose of the Rose Window reveals itself to you. If you are looking for an unusual shot, try capturing the indoors from all the way back, standing against the huge metal door; not many people will do that.
Alright, it’s been a long day, so let’s put down the cameras just for a little while and walk out of the Castle complex. Remember that taking pictures on your holiday should always remain fun. Next stop? Brewery! (I know, we might be a bit too inclined towards beer here, but thatʼs just the way we are.)
The Strahov Monastic Brewery is something you will not want to miss anyway. Although other tourists have found this place before you, they still have some of the best beers on tap there and all the brewing equipment to admire. Once around there, you might also visit the beautiful Strahov Library and take some pictures inside.
We are almost at the end of our route. The last stretch takes us towards the Strahov Garden that will open up a refreshing panorama over the city. Most people take a picture directly from the paved street, but if you feel adventurous, there is a better spot to capture the view. All you need to do is to climb up a bit until you reach a small platform that will give you a higher vantage point. In most probability, you will be the only one around doing this, but your pictures will be way better!
In order to get back to the city center, take the hidden narrow valley called Vlašská down to Břetislavova and sooner or later you will be back in Malostranské náměstí. There is your tram 22 to take you to the other side of the river if needed. See how crowded Charles Bridge is by now?
Anyway, I hope you had fun, learned something new about Prague, had some good food and drinks on the way, and captured all of these moments on your camera!
Oh, and a dinner recommendation? Why don’t you try either of the Lokál restaurants? There is a couple of them throughout the city, just choose the closest one to your hotel and you can’t make a mistake!
February 18, 2019