CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague

INTRODUCTION

Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic. It is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. Prague is the fifth-most visited city in Europe.

It is a textbook of architectonic styles, with an abundance of sights; it is a city full of music, romance and nostalgia. In 1992, the historical core of the city, with an area of 866 hectares, was added to the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO).

Prague is a city of unusual beauty. It is often called ‘The Golden City’, ‘City of a Hundred Spires’ or ‘Mother of Cities’. It forms a natural amphitheatre intersected by the Vltava river and is filled with thousands of years of artificial structures with aspirations higher than just meeting basic human needs.

Its favourable location in the heart of Europe makes it a confluence of trade routes, political interests and cultural influences.

Prague’s history was written by fire and sword, as well as pen, brush, chisel, carpenter’s axe and trowel. Upon the classification of its urban monuments, Prague, as a reference point, is often compared to Rome. This comparison is more than fitting, considering that neither city ages.

Historical Prague consists of six parts: Old Town, Jew Town (today’s Josefov), New Town, Lesser Town, Hradčany and Vyšehrad. These regions mostly formed during the eighteenth century.

Prague's Castle and Saint Vitus Cathedral

Prague Castle has been the traditional seat of Czech rulers since 1918. It is also the seat of the president and the most visited monument in the Czech Republic. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest coherent castle system in the world; it covers an area of almost 70,000 m². The dominant building of the Prague Castle complex is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Adalbert, which serves as a place of rest for many Czech kings and is also the place where the Czech coronation jewels are stored.

Strahov Monastery

Strahov Monastery is one of the most important architectonic monuments in the Czech Republic. The Royal Premonstratensian Abbey in Strahov belongs to the oldest existing abbeys of the Premonstratensian order in the world. Since the arrival of the first Premonstratensians in 1143, the religious community has been successfully developing their religious life here, and it is an integral part of the religious and cultural history of the Czech Republic. In the monastery, you can also find the Monument of National Literature, the famous Strahov Library and a picture gallery.

Loreto

For more than three hundred years, the area of Prague Loreto has existed near Prague Castle formed by cloisters, the baroque Church of the Lord’s Birth, the Santa Casa and a clock tower with a famous chime. The chime has 30 Loreto bells, which each hour encourage the faithful to prayer, and is remarkable for the period in which it was commissioned – the end of the seventeenth century.

Lesser Town

The Lesser Town was founded as a sub-castle of Prague Castle, in which aristocratic residences and church and diplomatic institutions grew up over time. There are many remarkable buildings and interesting spots, such as Kampa Island, which is surrounded by Čertovka; Lesser Town Square with the St. Nicholas Church; and Újezd, which has a cable car to Petřín Hill, a lookout tower and a large complex of gardens. Today, many significant institutions of state power (both chambers of Parliament, government offices, three ministries) and a whole range of embassies are located here.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge is the oldest existing bridge over the Vltava river in Prague and the second-oldest preserved bridge in the Czech Republic. Charles Bridge replaced the previous Judith Bridge, which collapsed in 1342 from melting ice in the spring. The building of the new bridge started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV and was finished in 1402. Thanks to this bridge, Prague became a significant stop on European business routes. Since the seventeenth century, 30 mainly baroque sculptures and sculptural groups have been placed on the bridge.

Old Town Square

Old Town Square can be found in the centre of Old Town, the historic core of Prague. It covers an area of more than 9,000 m². The square is encircled by historical monuments of which the Old Town Hall and its astronomical clock stand out, as well as Týn Temple, the Hussite Church of St. Nicholas, Kinský Palace and ‘Stone Bell House’. Renaissance, baroque and rococo houses around the square have Romanesque and Gothic foundations. The Prague astronomical clock, a medieval clock built at the beginning of the fifteenth century, is located on the south side of the Old Town Hall’s tower.

Charles University

Karolinum is a national cultural monument, a symbol of Charles University. Since the fourteenth century, there has been a seat in the oldest house of Prague University – Charles or Big Dormitory (Collegium Caroli) – which was founded by Charles IV for twelve masters of Prague higher education. Since 1386, Karolinum has served as a seat not only for the professors who lived and taught there, but the dormitory became a ceremonial assembly point, as well as the residence of the rector and academic representatives and authorities.

Municipal House

The residence of Czech kings – the Royal Court – used to be located on the site of today’s Municipal House. This complex was built as the seat of King Wenceslas IV around 1380. The court then served as the seat of rulers until the reign of Vladislaus II of Hungary, who returned the seat of Czech kings back to Prague Castle. Thanks to the desires of wealthy Praguers of Czech origin, a new representative cultural and community centre, a beautiful Art Nouveau building with rich decoration, was built around 1912 by leading Czech artists of the time, led by Alfons Mucha.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square is one of the main squares in Prague’s New Town. It is a 750 meters long and 60 meters wide boulevard in the shape of an elongated rectangle which slopes from the National Museum to Můstek, bordering the Old Town. Wenceslas Square has witnessed many significant historical events. It is the traditional place for demonstrations, celebrations and other mass meetings. It is often referred to as the second-biggest square in Prague and in the Czech Republic.

Dancing House

The Dancing House, also known as Ginger and Fred, was built in 1996 and represents modern Prague architecture. It stands on the right bank of the Vltava river, on the corner of the Rašín embankment and Jirásek Square. It is named after the shapes of its two corner towers, inspired by a famous wartime couple Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

National Theatre

The National Theatre is one of the most important buildings in the country, both from a national, cultural and historical point of view and from a purely architectonic point of view. The Neo-Renaissance building designed by Josef Zítek stands on the corner of Národní street and the Masaryk embankment in New Town and was originally built in 1881 and reopened in 1883 after the great fire. Its extraordinarily rich interior decoration done by significant artists from the end of the nineteenth century (Mikoláš Aleš, František Ženíšek, Vojtěch Hynais) is also worth seeing.

National Museum

The historical building at the head of Wenceslas Square, one of the most important of Prague’s buildings, was declared a national cultural monument in 1962 and creates architectonical contrast with the new building. However, together they form a museum complex in which content and forms are mixed. The historical building underwent a thorough refurbishment, and it was opened again on 28 October 2018, the hundredth anniversary of the Czechoslovakian Republic. The buildings have been connected by a new underground corridor with a unique multimedia exposition since November 2019.

Museum of Technology

The National Museum of Technology is a monumental functionalist building near Letná Park in Prague 7. The museum was founded in 1908. Extensive collections that document the development of many technical fields, such as the natural and exact sciences and industries, have been housed here for more than one hundred years. Unique collection items can be seen at 14 permanent exhibits or at short-term exhibitions.

ZOO

The zoo in the lower part of Prague’s Troja was opened on 28 September 1931. Modern pavilions and exhibits try to display animals in conditions that are as close as possible to their natural environment, which is possible thanks to rugged terrain. The zoo contributes to saving many endangered species and keeps worldwide studbooks for several of them. For example, the breeding of Przewalski’s horse gained world fame. As of 31 December 2019, the zoo held 5,375 animals of 678 species.

Botanical Garden

The botanical garden is located in the Troja Basin and has an area of 70 ha. Its most famous part is the Fata Morgana glasshouse, but an outdoor exhibit, including the vineyard of St. Clara and a chapel, are also part of the garden. You can find it near Prague’s zoo.

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