Prague, with its magnificent castle, its Gothic towers, baroque churches, cobble-stone lanes and Art Nouveau architecture is one of Europe's most visually stunning cities. Long hidden from the world behind the Iron Curtain, since the fall of Communism it has opened up to an ever-increasing number of visitors and today is one of Europe's most popular destinations.
With over 1000 years of history, this venerable city in the heart of Europe has seen its share of drama, from its medieval Golden Age, through its 16th century glory days as the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, to the Nazi and Soviet dictatorships of the 20th century.
Prague is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city. Innovative art galleries, museums, churches, synagogues and stunning architecture compete for a visitor's attention, while music is everywhere, from the Charles Bridge to the many classical music and jazz concerts.
Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad)
Prague Castle was built on a strategic place in the 9th century by Duke Premyslid. In the following centuries, it was often rebuilt, reflecting different architectural styles. During the First Republic period when T.G. Masaryk was the President, Josip Plecnik, a well known architect renovated the Castle. In 1918 Prague Castle became the residence of the Czechoslovak President. Nowadays, in the area of Prague Castle various cultural events and expositions are held and a voluminous collection of masterpieces is displayed in the Picture Gallery. Guards at the Castle Gates change every hour from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., with fanfare and banners exchange at noon.
Royal Palace (Kralovsky Palac)
Royal Palace has been the residence of Czech kings from the end of the 9th century. Some preserved parts from its illustrious history include the Sobeslav Palace in Roman style and chambers in the Gothic cellars. One of the main features of the Palace is the Vladislavsky Hall, built by Benedikt Rejt at the end of the 15th century. In this famous hall important social events of the kings' court took place. Beside the Vladislavsky Hall there is the Meeting Room, Wing of Ludvik, and Chamber of Czech Office.
St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala svateho Vita)
Several cathedrals claimed this location as theirs, a Romanesque rotunda, several basilicas, until Emperor Charles IV founded a High Gothic cathedral in 1344. This architectural masterpiece took over six centuries to construct, with breaks during the more turbulent times in Czech history. It ;was finally consecrated in 1929 to the patron saints of Czech lands: St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas and St. Vojtech. The cathedral is the home to Czech religion life, and contains impressive icons, stained glass windows, and chapels that honor its patrons. Today, it contains the crown jewels and tombs of past rulers. It is one of the main tourist attractions of the castle complex.
Old Town Square is a historic square located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge. Some of the notable buildings lining the square include the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, built in the gothic style, the baroque St. Nicholas Church, and Old Town Hall. Old Town Hall is renowned for the medieval astronomical clock that adorns its wall. First installed in 1410, the clock is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest in operation. It still chimes hourly to this day, and large crowds gather to watch the procession of the Twelve Apostles. In the center of Old Town square stands a statue of Jan Hus, a prominent figure in the Bohemian Reformation who was burned at the stake for his beliefs. During the holiday seasons of Christmas and Easter, medieval style markets are held in the square along with a variety of performances.
Golden Lane (Zlata ulicka)
Situated in the Prague Castle, the small scale houses on Golden Lane were built to house castle guards in the 16th century. The modern name comes from the gold smiths who lived here after the castle guards evacuated the houses in the 17th century. House 22 once belonged to the Nobel Prize winning author and Prague native, Franz Kafka. Today, the brightly painted tiny houses contain shops and showrooms.
Charles Bridge (Karluv most)
Charles Bridge is certainly one of Prague's most beautiful and most recognized sights. During the city's history, it survived many unfavorable events and disasters. Its predecessor, Judita Bridge was destroyed by flood in 1342. Just as is the case with all places of old Prague, many stories and legends surround the Charles Bridge. The most known one refers to the building of the bridge: it's said that workers used to add raw eggs into the mortar because they believed that the it will make the bridge stronger. The "Stone Bridge" or "Prague Bridge" was built by Charles IV with the foundation stone laid in 1357. The bridge is 515 meter long and 10 meters wide. In the 17th century it was decorated with statues of saints and other sculptures. They were commissioned to prestigious Baroque sculptors: M. Braun and F. M. Brokoff, although only replicas line the bridge. Art and souvenir vendors line the bridge along with musicians during daylight hours and into the night. The ambiance of Charles Bridge is unforgettable experience in any time of the day.
Municipal House (Obecni dum)
Municipal House is an architectural wonder built in the Art Nouveau style. Today, it is used primarily for important art exhibitions and concerts. Rich exterior and interior decorations were created by well-known artists associated with the Czech Secession style. It was reopened to the public after an extensive reconstruction in spring of 1997.