Review: A Running Tour of the Fairytale City of Prague

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By Stuart
Goulden

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

Another city break, another running tour. Fast becoming my favorite way to explore a new city, they’re a unique chance to combine my two loves: travel and running.

Twelve hours after landing in the Czech Republic, I was taking a running tour of Prague via Go! Running Tours. Fifteen centuries of history, five squares, four parks, and countless cobblestones in one hour. Not to mention riding the zeitgeist of forging a more meaningful connection to place, thanks to Martin, my local Prague running guide.

With Martin, My Go Running Tour Guide
With Martin, My Go Running Tour Guide

And so, the tour would begin at 8am outside my Prague New Town hotel the day after landing.

My first time in this beautiful city and what a way to get to know it. Some say it’s more breathtaking than Paris. Now that’s a run I couldn’t pass up.

Prague Running Tour Review Specifics

  • Price: $68
  • Distance: 11.5km
  • Time: 1 hr 15 mins
  • Pace: Easy going
  • Tour company: Go! Running Tours
  • Start point: At your hotel
  • Landmarks: Parks, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Lennon Wall

A Welcome Dose of Outdoor Therapy

This trip came at a good time for me.

I arrived somewhat overworked and exhausted, wanting to recharge my batteries and top up my inspiration.

Running has long been my tonic in tough times. A workout for the body that’s also kind on the mind.

A running tour is an even greater unburdening, as you’re at the mercy of your guide. A pure escape in that sense. Jogging around a new city before the hustle and bustle is a soothing antidote to the fake rush of everyday life and I’m not the first to cite the importance of movement in finding inner calm and balance.

That said, as with my running tour in Oslo, the main draw was a more authentic travel experience on fast forward. To get a head start on my trip, find my bearings, and connect the dots between the must-see touristy sights.

Onto the tour…

Epic Views & a Revelation Around Every Corner

Our mini adventure begun at my hotel, just off Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí). So early into my trip, I didn’t know the difference between the New Town, the Old Town, or Lesser Town. My running guide, Martin, changed that by generously sharing his personal stories of growing up in Prague and local intel on how to dodge the crowds and experience the real city.

I learned that the New Town by Charles IV in 1348 and was one of the first areas of the city to be redeveloped after the Velvet Revolution ended communism and restored democracy. The blanket grey of the city’s buildings transformed into the sea of color you see today.

Charles Bridge On a Sunny Day With Prague Old Town in the Distance
Charles Bridge On a Sunny Day With Prague Old Town in the Distance

A few turns later and crossed Vltava River, the magnificent river that flows through Prague. The first of many inclines awaited us and we were rewarded with arguably the best views of Prague from Letná Park. The city is huge! Blessed with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture it’s a feast for the eyes too. A runner’s paradise.

Martin explained that the Czech people are not a nation of runners, so unlike Hyde Park or Central Park they were relatively empty at 8am. Tourists still sleeping off the cheaper-than-water beer too. This means you get exclusive access to the most iconic postcard view of Prague, taking in the majestic Charles Bridge, the golden roof of the National Theatre, and the most dramatic church spires you’ve ever seen punctuating the skyline. It’s no wonder Prague is called “the City of a Hundred Spires”.

St Vitus Cathedral from the Prague Castle Grounds
St Vitus Cathedral from the Prague Castle Grounds

Our next stop would be Prague Castle through its vast grounds. The palatial terrace gardens and maze-like parks are best taken in at a brisk pace, as there’s so much to see. There’s little doubt I would have missed this impressive approach to the castle if it weren’t for the running tour, instead taking the easier, more direct route.

Empty Streets Within the Prague Castle Grounds
Empty Streets Within the Prague Castle Grounds

Other points of interest included the Hradčanské Náměstí square with views of the castle’s vineyards, the Malá Strana district in the foothills of Prague Castle, the (John) Lennon Wall, City Gates, and Charles Bridge itself. All free from tourists.

The Famous Lennon Wall in the Morning Sun
The Famous Lennon Wall in the Morning Sun
Water Mill in Devil's Channel, the Prague Venice-
Water Mill in Devil’s Channel, the Prague Venice

Truth be told, there were tons more, but I won’t reveal the entire route at the risk of doing Go! Running out of potential paying customers.

Crawling Baby Sculptures by Czech artist David Černý
Crawling Baby Sculptures by Czech artist David Černý

Prague is steeped in history and nothing beat learning about every landmark through the lens of a local. Unlike a conventional city tour, running tours are delightfully intrepid, with their unique vantage points and insights. They also expand the boundaries of what I would have otherwise explored.

Statue Holding a Rose on Charles Bridge, Prague against a blue sky
Statue Holding a Rose on Charles Bridge, Prague

Prague’s winding streets and embankments were full of intriguing independent shops and alleyways that I made a mental note to return to later. Retracing our steps later in the day revealed some of the cutest coffee shops and bars I’ve ever been to – check out Café Club Míšeňská, Roesel and Skautský institut v Rybárně.

I’m a big advocate of the benefits of early morning runs too. Whether it’s the mental boost it gives your day, having otherwise busy roads and routes to yourself, or being able to really get under the skin of your surroundings by tapping into its morning rituals. Memorable encounters included café owners setting up for the day, a lone violinist playing their first song of the day, the light bouncing off Lennon Wall, and the preparing for mass at St Vitus Cathedral.

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What the Guide Books Can’t Give You: Connection

Beyond the landmarks, I enjoyed the comfort of running company.

Martin was patient with my many questions and our conversation meandered from topic to topic.

I realise that foreign travel is out of reach for many people in a cost of living crisis and having a private tour guide might seem a little indulgent. However, running tours are surprisingly great value at approximately $50-$70 per hour and much of that money goes into the pocket of the local guide.

After all, it’s not about how fast or far you travel but how deeply you connect with a place and its people.

The running tour turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip to Prague and a great way to impress my other half, as I could piece together Prague’s jigsaw and recount its story over the course of the four days that followed.

Upside Down Horse to Signal the Fall of Communism in Prague
Upside Down Horse to Signal the Fall of Communism in Prague

Thanks Martin, and thanks Go! Running Tours.

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