What to see and do in Prague

Prague Prague is the capital of Czech Republic, but also the cradle of Czech culture and one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Its appeal lies in the majority of tourist sights, its stunning architecture ranging from Gothic to cubist, but also in its tradition of beer and Kafka. The city is divided into Staré Mesto (Old Town), Hradčany (the castle district) and Malá Strana (the Lesser Quarter) and Nové Mesto (New Town). Prague castle or Pražský hrad is the largest ancient castle in the world, according to Guinness Book of Records, dating from the 9th century. It is 570m long and 128 m wide, and occupies almost 40 hectares with the neighbor church complexes. Prince Borivoj first established a fortification in the 9th century, and for centuries the castle served as a home of kings and later on presidents. The castle is divided into First, Second and Third Courtyard, the Royal Garden, Old Royal Palace and Námestí U sv Jirí, a square behind the cathedral. Castle guards, changing every hour from 5am to 11pm, will welcome you when entering the First Courtyard. If you decide to find out more, you”ll find the Chapel of the Holy Cross (Kaple sv Kríže,1763), the Prague Castle Gallery and the Imperial Stable, now an art gallery, in the Second Courtyard.

The city of Prague

The city of Prague

The Royal Garden (Královská zahrada) is designed in the 16th century by Ferdinand I and contains several interesting Renaissance buildings like Ball-Game House and Summer Palace, the most authentic Renaissance palace outside Italy. St Vitus Cathedral is built on the site of 10th century Romanesque church and enlarged in the 11th century. The Chapel of St Wenceslas (Kaple sv Václava) besides frescoes and semi-precious stones, contains the Coronation Chamber with the crown jewels. Old Royal Palace was first built as a castle for Czech princesses, but later on became the king’s palace. The oldest convent in Bohemia, Convent of St George and the church next to the convent, the Basilica of St George belong to the Romanesque period. One should also peek inside Mihulka Powder Tower, which was a an alchemist workshop once and nowadays a museum of alchemy. Hradčany lies next to the castle and is mostly a residential area, with many palaces built by Habsburg nobility after the Great Fire in 1541. Hradčanské Námestí and Loretánské Námestí are squares with a lot of famous palaces, like Schwarzenberg and Sternberk Palace or Černin Palace. Černin Palace nowadays is housed by the foreign ministry, but a legend says that Jan Masaryk, a former foreign minister, died in this palace trying to escape the Communist secret service.

Prague Castle Royal Gardens

Prague Castle Royal Gardens

The baroque building Loreta, built to resemble the house of Virgin Mary, is well-known for its treasury , looted several times in the past centuries. Strahov Monastery with the largest monastery library, not only was the place of knowledge but also a prison for monks during the Communist period. Malá Strana started to develop as a market settlement first, then in 1257 achieved a status of a town. Nerudova Ulice , situated in Mala Strana, is famous for its palaces, built in the Renaissnace period, but later refreshed with baroque facades. Malostranske Namesti is the place where the Old Town Hall and Church of St Nicholas are situated. Charles bridge was built by Charles IV , after the great flood ruined the earlier Judith Bridge and in the 19th century named after him. It was designed by Peter Parler, and completed by 1400. The legend says that eggs were mixed in the mortar, so this unique blend gave strenght and stability to the bridge, and enabled it to stand almost 6 centuries of traffic. Stare Mesto or Old Town is a place of commerce since 10th century. In the 12th century this settlement and marketplace was linked to the Prague castle by the forerunner of the Charles Bridge, and was honored with a town charter. Charles IV founded the Charles University (Karolinum) in Stare Mesto in 1348, and began building the Charles Bridge. In 18th century, the Old Town Hall became the seat of government of Emperor Joseph II.

The Loreto was built in 1626

The Loreto was built in 1626

The level of the town has been continually raised, due to frequent floods of the Vltava River. After the great fire in 1689, most of Gothic buildings were given a baroque face. Old Town Square is the center of the whole Stare Mesto, with a maze of alleys around it leading to other greats Prague sights. Nove Mesto is called New Town, although it dates from the 14th century, but due to historic circumstances the majority of buildings are from the 19th and early 20th century. The central part of the New Town is Wenceslas Square, a horse market in medieval times, and later on a scene for many important events in the Czech history. The square was there to greet the creation of Czechoslovakia, and to experience the revolution sentiments in 1848, and to witness the protest against Warsaw Pact invasion in 1969. National Museum, as well as Museum of the City of Prague are both situated in the Novo Mesto.

Night in Prague from Metron

Photos: Travel photo 3: markus and sue, Travel photo 2: vadiroma

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