Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic and lies in the middle of Bohemia. It covers an area of nearly 500 sq km and its population is about 1,200,000 inhabitants. Prague is divided into many boroughs. The historical centre consists of the Old Town, Josefov, the Lesser Quarter, Hradčany, the New Town and Vyšehrad. Together they make a town preserve which is quite unique. On the other hand Prague is now surrounded by a ring of modern housing estates serving as residential quarters.
A legend binds the founding of Prague with Princess Libuše of the Přemysl dynasty who prophesised the future glory of Prague, which would “touch the stars”. The oldest settlements of this region started 25,000 years ago. St. Vitus Rotunda, the Prince’s Palace and convent with a church were built in Hradčany in the second half of the 10th century. Prague’s other castle – Vyšehrad – was built in the 11th century and for some time it was the seat of the Czech rulers.
Prague became the imperial residence of Charles IV (1346-1378). During his reign, the archbishopric (1344), the Charles University (1348), the New Town with the Horse Market (now Wenceslas Square), and the
Cattle Market (now Charles Square) were founded in Prague. Charles IV promoted the construction of other important buildings such as St. Vitus Cathedral and the Charles Bridge.
In 1918 Prague became the capital of Czechoslovakia. Prague is the seat of our President, the Czech Government, all important state Ministries and the Czech Parliament.
Prague is also an important industrial and business centre and transport crossroad. It is the industrial centre of engineering, food-industries, ready-made garment, chemical, and polygraphic industries and
It is also a cultural centre of the republic and can offer many outstanding theatrical and musical performances (e.g. the Prague Spring International Music Festival in May-June each year). We can find here the
best theatres, galleries and museums such as:
-The National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square.
-The National Gallery which is spread out in various locations in Prague: Gothic art in St. George Church at the Prague Castle, Czech 19th century art in St. Agnes
Monastery, sculpture collection in Zbraslav.
-The National Theatre, built in the late Renaissance style from a public money collection in the second half of the 19th century. Before its ceremonial opening in 1881 it was severely damaged by fire and was rebuilt within the next two years. The best artists of the 19th century decorated the theatre (M. Aleš, F. Ženíšek, V. Hynais).
Other important places of culture include the Smetana Theatre, the Palace of Culture, the Magica Laterna, the Lucerna Hall, the Tyl Theatre, the Vinohrady Theatre, the Semafor, the Viola, the Činoherní klub, Divadlo na zábradlí and many new clubs for young people and young art e.g. Bunkr, Rock Café etc.
Many world-known personalities lived or spent some time in Prague, e.g. Mozart, Beethoven, Einstein etc. And many famous personalities visited Prague such as the Pope, George Busch, Queen Elizabeth II. etc.
Prague is also an important centre of sports. There are many stadiums, parks (Letná, Stromovka, Kampa, Petřín) and swimming pools. The biggest stadium is Strahov, which was built by the communists. In Prague there are many sports clubs.
A majority of Czech universities, colleges and student residences is in Prague.
The most visited tourist sights include:
The Prague Castle:
It was founded in 880 A.D. by the first Přemysl prince Bořivoj. Its greatest period was during the reign of Charles IV. In 1344 the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral started. In the time of Rudolf II the castle became a famous centre of science, arts and culture. Famous sights in Prague Castle include: St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace with the Vladislav Hall, the Spanish Hall, the Golden Lane (a legend connects it with Rudolf II’s alchemists). The Prague Castle is surrounded by the Strahov Monastery and Petřín hill with its famous watchtower.
Old Town Square:
Parts of Old Town Hall were hit by bombs in May 1945. The Astronomical Clock strikes every 60 minutes and is controlled by a very complicated mechanism built in the Middle Ages. In the upper part of the horologe, a procession of the Apostles can be seen every hour. The horologe is decorated by 12 medallions representing the course of village life, painted by the famous Czech painter J. Mánes. There are also 12 signs of the Zodiac. In the Old Town Square there is the monument of Master Jan Hus. There is also a Gothic tower house called At the Stone Bell and St. Nicholas Church designed by K. I. Dienzenhofer and built in the Baroque style.
Formerly one of Prague’s towns and originally the castle of the Přemysl dynasty in the latter half of the 11th century and first half of the 12th century. Nowadays we can visit the National Cemetery here with graves of outstanding Czech personalities in the cultural sphere, scientists and politics. The original Romanesque Church of Saint Peter and Paul has a neo-gothic appearance now.
Commissioned by Charles IV in 1357 and built by the famous Gothic architect Petr Parléř. On both ends of the bridge there are Gothic Bridge Towers. It is the second oldest stone bridge in Central Europe. It is 520 m long and 10 m wide. In the 18th century the bridge was decorated by baroque statues by Matyáš Braun and Jan Brokoff. The bridge gradually became one of the lively centres of Prague life. During the summer it is always full of tourists, souvenir stalls and street artists.
The Powder Tower:
A monument of the Czech late Gothic period, stands at the end of Prague’s new pedestrian zone called King’s Road.
The oldest building of Charles University founded on the 4th April 1348 as the first institution of its kind in Central Europe.
The second largest building in Prague (after the Prague Castle), was built in the 17th century. Today it serves as the largest branch of the National Library.
The centre of the city. It is about 750 m long and 60 m wide. The statue of the Czech patron – St. Wenceslas – made by J. V. Myslbek is a symbol of a free and independent republic. People usually gather here in
troublesome moments of Czech history.
The River Vltava:
(which inspired Smetana to compose his unforgettable music), flows through Prague and surrounds 7 islands. About 18 bridges stretch over the river.
The name of the King’s road comes from the times, when the road was used by the kings of Bohemia at their coronation. It starts at the POWDER TOWER a monument in the Czech late Gothic style which was built during the reign of Vladislav Jagellonský at the end of the 15th century. It was rebuilt in the 18th century by Matyáš Rejsek.
Next to the Powder tower we can see the MUNICIPAL HOUSE. It is an example of the Art Deco style from the beginning of our century. In the 14th century it was the manor house of bohemian kings.
Passing through the Powder tower we enter the CELETNÁ STREET. In the 13th century the street was named after a special kind of bread which was baked there. There are a lot of houses in different styles. The most interesting one is the cubist House at the Black God’s Mother. Some houses are decorated by signs which were used instead of numbers.
The Celetná street leads to the OLD TOWN SQUARE. An old crossroad of trade roads and a market place which became a square in the 12th century. Above the arcades of the Latin school with gables in the Venetian Renaissance style, there is one of the dominants of the square – the spires of the TÝN CHURCH. It is a fine example of the Gothic style from the 14th century.
Another interesting architecture monument is the HOUSE AT THE STONE BELL. After the Baroque façade has been removed we can now see the original Gothic architecture from the 14th century. The biggest house in the square is the KINSKÝ PALACE built in the Rococo style. Our attention is also attracted by the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas built in the 18th century by Kilian Dienzenhofer.
But the most important building at the square is the OLD TOWN HALL dating back to the 14th century when Jan Lucemburský allowed Old Town burgesses to establish their own administration.
Behind the Old Town Square there is the Little Square with its Renaissance fountain.
Another interesting monument is the PALACE OF CLAM-GALLAS on the corner of the KARLOVA STREET. It leads pass the Clementinum towards Charles Bridge.
The Clementinum was a Jesuit collage founded in the 16th century. In the 17th century it became the seat of the Charles University and now it is used as national library.
Before entering Charles Bridge we cross the Little Square with two Baroque churches of St. Frances and St. Salvatore which is a part of the Clementinum.
Charles Bridge is guarded by three towers. The Old Town Tower is the oldest but the wall of the Lesser Town Towers comes from the 12th century when there was a wooden bridge.
Mostecká street leads to the LESSER TOWN SQUARE. There is the dominant of the Baroque church of St. Nicolas built by the father and son Dienzenhofers.
Contains some of the fines Prague Baroque houses and palaces. It was named after Jan Neruda, a famous Czech writer and poet who lived in the 19th century in the House of Two Suns. The Nerudova street is the border between two parts of Prague, Hradčany and Lesser Town. Before we enter the Castle our sight is captured by the panoramic view of Prague.