Prague (Praha in Czech) is a city set amidst Gothic and Romanesque spires & towers and all sorts of baroque architecture. This city of a hundred spires is rife with history and culture. Many have fallen in love with this fairy tale city and made it their second home. Prague has plenty of hidden gems for the visitor to discover amongst its many winding streets, alleys and squares. It's a city full of wonder and one that the more adventurous traveller will definitely appreciate. Prague is a 3D architecture textbook. Romanesque chapels and cellars, Gothic cathedrals, Baroque palaces and gardens, worldly Art Nouveau buildings, and unique Cubist architecture make it a place with no parallel in the world. Musically Prague can satisfy both classical music listeners and as fans of rock, pop and every other genre. Those in the know say the best beer in Prague (although this point is always argued hotly) is poured at Zlý časy in the Nusle district. Few cities can claim to have such a picturesque river as the Vltava. Prague also has celebrated cafés which people visit out of respect for the classical café tradition, the famous people who used to frequent them, or for their great coffee - but rarely all three. You can cool your shopping fever in a number of modern shopping malls or on Pařížská Street, Prague’s most exclusive shopping avenue, home to many of the world’s top luxury brands. If you want to take something valuable home from Prague, then try an antique shop. Prague’s historic gardens and parks are truly some of Prague’s greatest treasures. There are over two hundred - the oldest of them was founded in the Middle Ages, and more often than not, they offer breathtaking views of the city. Prague has undergone centuries of diverse cultural, social and economic development, which is reflected in its architecture. Among the most interesting witnesses to this dramatic transformation are technical monuments commemorating changes in the everyday life of our ancestors in comparison with the present day. Prague is home to a number of interesting technical buildings and other structures. Prague’s views are breathtaking 365 days a year. Although the Czech capital is nicknamed “the city of a hundred spires”, in fact it is decorated with nearly a thousand towers and spires. You can admire the ancient heart of the city from the observation deck of the tower of Old Town Hall, and discover the charm of the Lesser Town roofs from the tower of St. Vitus Cathedral.
Prague (Praha in Czech) has encountered its fair share of trials and tribulations in the past which have contributed to its powerful history.
Before the arrival of the Slavs certain regions of Prague were inhabited by Celtic and German tribes. The name Bohemia came from the Celtic Tribe called Boii, which is still used today for the western part of the Czech Republic.
During this period, two Slav tribes inhabited both sides of the Vlata River. The Czechs and the Zlicanis built wooden fortresses on their sides but were not at peace for long, when the nomadic Avars marched in and ruled the area. However, when the Frankish trader Samo united both Slav tribes the Avars were eventually driven out.
9th century - 13th century
Prague was part of the short-lived Great Moravian Empire until the Czechs finally broke away from it. Around the 870’s Prince Borivoj built the Prague castle. Soon after this, the area around the Castle fledged into an important trading centre, where the merchants from all over Europe came together. In 1085, Vratislav II became the first Czech king. In 1170, the first stone bridge was built (Judith Bridge) over the river Vltava (which collapsed in the year 1342 and a new bridge, Charles Bridge took its place in 1357). Otakar became King and granted royal privilages on Staré město or the Old Town, and in 1257 Malá Strana or the Lesser town came into existence by Otakar II.
14th Century – Golden Age
In 1310 the Holy Roman emperor John of Luxembourg became King of Bohemia. The city bloomed in the 14th century under the Luxembourg dynasty during the reign of Chales IV, as Prague became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. During this period, Hradčany was established around 1320 and in 1338 the Old Town hall was established. In 1342, the Judith Bridge collapsed in a flood which was replaced by the Charles Bridge in 1357. In the year 1348, Nové město or the New town was found and the Charles University, the first University in Central Europe, was established. In 1355, Charles IV was elected as the Holy Emperor and Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
15th Century – Hussite Revolution
The 15th century is marked by religious conflicts between the Hussite and the Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia. This was caused by Jan Hus’s church reform movement which eventually led to his conviction and his death, provoking the Hussite preacher, Jan Zelivsky, to rebel. Catholic councillors were thrown down from the New Town Hall and Prague was then ruled by certain Hussite committees. Many historical monuments were destroyed and Prague Castle was also damaged in this era.
16th Century – Hasburg Rule
In 1526, the Habsburg dynasty ruled over Prague and Prague Castle was reconstructed. In 1575, Rudolf II was crowned as the Holy Emperor. During this period, Prague evolved as the center of science and alchemy and was nicknamed "Magic Prague". Many famous scientists were attracted to Prague during this time. Also following the fire in 1541, Hradčany and Malá Strana were rebuilt and much of the beautiful architecture erected still remains to this present day.
17th Century – Dark Age
The Dark Age began in the 17th century with uprising protests from the year 1618. The ‘Second Defenestration of Prague’ (two Habsburg councillors and their secretary were thrown down from Prague Castle.) This led to the Thirty Years’ War, harming much of Europe and particularly Bohemia where many people died.In 1620, the Battle of the White Mountain took place and the Protestants were defeated leading to the loss of Prague's independence. Saxons occupied Prague and Swedes moved into Hradčany and Malá Strana in 1648. Other areas were damaged and the population in the city declined by more than 50%.
Prague was divided into four independent urban areas (Staré město/Old Town, Lesser Town/Malá Strana, Hradčany and Nové město /New Town) in 1784, under the rule of Joseph II. During this time, the National Revival, a Czech nationalist movement began that brought the Czech language, culture and identity back into existence.
19th century - Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution boomed in Prague. Many industries were established during this period. In 1845, a railway was started which connected Vienna to Prague. In 1850, Josefov was recognized as one of the historical centers of Prague. The National Theatre was opened in the year 1868, and in 1890 the National Museum was established. The city also experienced a rise in population.
Prague became the capital of independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918. Prague Castle became the place for the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. In between World War I and World War II, Prague became closer to Paris. During World War II (1939 - 1945), Prague was occupied by Nazi - Germany. After the war Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state, and Sudeten Germans were thrown out and sent back to Germany and Austria. In 1946 the communists (KSC) became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power and many democrats fled the country. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, Stalin style practices adopted by the KSC (Communist Party of Czechoslovakia) proved to be more damaging than anything. Eventually those in charge of the KSC were executed.On November 17, 1989 the Velvet Revolution started in Prague that ended communism thus making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990, the first democratic elections were conducted, making Václav Havel the president. On January 1 1993, Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries, Slovakia and Czech Republic. Prague became the capital of Czech Republic and Václav Havel was elected as the first president in January 1993.
Prague Castle is perhaps the most easily recognised historical structure of Prague. The Castle is what gives Prague its fairy tale image. It also boasts of being the largest and best preserved castle in the world. The Crown Jewels are stored in the castle and it also forms the seat of the Czech government. The Gothic spires, baroque architecture and large gardens seem like pictures come alive from a fairy tale. Today the castle houses several museums.
The Charles Bridge crossing the Vltava River is a famous sight in Prague. The bridge connects the Prague Castle and the Old Town. Adorned with beautiful baroque statues and statuaries on both sides, it is a pleasing sight to behold. During the daytime, it is filled with tourists, street artists, musicians and vendors. At night, it magically transforms into a serene and lonely bridge, perfect for a romantic, moonlight walk.
Old Town Square & Astronomical Clock
The astronomical clock at the Old Town Square is the oldest functioning clock in the world today. To truly appreciate the splendour of this clock, view the procession of the twelve apostles that takes place after every hour. Christ is followed by his disciples while the death bell tolls the statue of a Turk. The Old Town Square also houses the St. Nicholas Church, Tyn Cathedral and the Old Town Hall. The views from the Old Town Hall are spectacular and present Prague, in all its glory.
The Petrin Tower draws inspiration from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower, set atop the Petrin Hill, was built in 1891 for the Jubilee exhibition. You can reach the Petrin Tower by a funicular railway, passing through beautiful views. There is an observatory at the tower from where you can view the world down below with lush landscaped gardens. The hall of mirrors is also popular among tourists.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and Holy Infant of Prague
The wax statue of the Holy infant Jesus of Prague, housed in the Church of Our Lady Victorious, is definitely worth a visit, regardless of your faith. It is a holy pilgrimage sight where thousands of visitors come every year to pay homage to the statue of Infant Jesus. There are many legends associated with this statue. It is said to have saved Prague from the ravages of war. Many believe the statue holds magical powers, particularly for would-be mothers. The altar where Infant Jesus rests is also adorned with other figures made from gold and silver.
Josefov or the Jewish quarter is left of the Jewish ghetto from the 13th century. Most of the ghetto was destroyed in the 19th century. At the Jewish quarter you can visit the Spanish synagogue, Klaus synagogue, Maisel synagogue, Pinkas synagogue, Old New synagogue and the Jewish Town Hall. Perhaps, the most significant and moving sight in Josefov is the Jewish cemetery. As the space for burying the dead began to be scarce, there were burials on top of the existing bodies.
The Dancing House stands apart from the baroque, art nouveau and renaissance buildings in Prague. The structure itself resembles a pair of dancers and is located on the riverfront of the Vltava River. It is also known as Fred & Ginger house after the famous dancers or as the Drunk House. A French restaurant at the top of the building offers beautiful views of Prague.
The Wenceslas Square is a huge famous boulevard and is named after the patron saint of Prague, 'St Wenceslas'. It is lined with cafes, restaurants, shops and hotels. The Wenceslas Square is actually more of a lengthy boulevard than an actual square. It also forms the nucleus for the happening nightlife of Prague. Wenceslas Square conflates with the old and new. It has also been a witness to the many historic events of Prague.
The Vysehrad Castle is perched on a hill above the Vltava River. This castle is known as the birthplace of Prague. It was here that Princess Libuse foresaw the vision of Prague. Here, you can visit the originals of several baroque statues from Charles Bridge. The St Martin's Rotunda, though not open to public, is well worth a glance. The National cemetery at the castle is home to famous personalities of Prague, such as Alfons Mucha, Jan Neruda and Bedrich Smetana.
Loreta forms one of the many pilgrimage attractions in Prague. The Loreta was built with the intention of replicating the original home of the Virgin Mary, 'Santa Casa'. It was founded in the year 1626, by Katerina Lobkowicz. The star attraction of the building is obviously the Santa Casa. It is nestled at the centre of the building. A beautiful red altar, adorned with intricate silver works and relief panels on the walls, make a splendid greeting sight. The Bell Tower, Church of the Nativity of our Lord, Arcade and the Treasury are well worth visiting.
Aloha Wave Lounge
Aloha Wave Lounge is a Hawaiian cocktail bar offering a varied choice of drinks and food. Recorded and live music make up for a happening atmosphere. The bar has an eclectic crowd with good vibes.
Bugsy's Cocktail Bar
Bugsy's boasts a menu of more than 200 cocktails to choose from! What's more, is that the bar staff knows how to mix them right. This bar attracts older guys in suits, hustlers and rich tycoons.
Buddha bar offers a splendid ambience with a huge Buddha statue overlooking the entire scene. The wine list offers the best of Czech wines with some quality French wine thrown in. DJs put on their best musical hats and fill the night with energy and atmosphere.
M1 Secret Lounge
This lounge attracts many veterans of the film industry. For just sipping a drink, come in the early hours. It is a wild place in the late hours of the night. The original metal artwork does its best to set the scene.
Le Terroir boasts of an impressive wine list with strong emphasis on French and Spanish labels. It has evolved a lot since its humble opening as a small wine bar.
Beer & Breweries
No Prague holiday is complete without relishing the Czech beer. The Czech people take pride in the quality of beer and consider their beer as the best in the world. In the Czech Republic, beer is more than just a drink; it is a culture down here. With a pint of this frothy golden brown liquid down your throat, you'll be fortified to experience many treasures of Prague. To get some of the best beer experiences, visit Prague Beer Museum, Pilsner Urquell Brewery, U Fleku Beer Hall and Tankovna where the beer is tanked up and fresh enough not to be pasteurised.
Cruising along the Vltava River in Prague is an experience not to be missed. There are many day as well as night cruises available offering sumptuous lunches or dinners accordingly. You might opt for a day cruise and enjoy the serenity of the river in broad daylight while feeding the many swans that grace the river. Alternatively, you can cruise the river under a starlit sky, while the night holds many mysteries to be unravelled.
Theatre is a live and kicking art form in Prague. The Czech National Theatre, Estates Theatre and National Marionette theatre do their best to keep this form pulsating with life. This is a city which saw the premiere act of 'Don Giovanni' by Mozart. It comes as no surprise then that theatre in Prague, which is still throbbing with life. Black theatre is a popular form that has evolved over the years. Marionettes are traditional Czech puppets that have had many faces over the years. There is no dearth of choice to view plays for both, children and adults in Prague.
Nostalgic tram no. 91
Climb aboard this vintage ride and delve into the days of a bygone era. The tram cars date back to years from 1908 to 1924. The ride is through a special route that cruises along Wenceslas Square, National Theatre, Prague Castle and ends at Vystaviste. This vintage ride can be boarded at any of the stops and tickets can be purchased on board. A point to note is that ordinary passes and public transport tickets do not apply for this line.
Opera & Concerts
Prague boasts of some of the best opera houses in Europe. There are always ballets, opera presentations and classical concerts happening in the city at any time of the year. You can catch some amazing performances at any of the opera houses in Prague.
Prague is not only about cobbled pathways and baroque architecture. It has its adrenaline thrill as well. The Zvikovske Podhradí Bridge hangs high over the Vltava valley. For an adventurous experience, you can bungee jump from this bridge from the months of June to September.
Petrin Funicular railway
The Petrin Funicular railway began its journey in the year 1891. Today it is fitted with contemporary coaches that climb up the Petrin hill on a 510 metre track. This rail saves visitors an exhausting climb up the hill while allowing passengers to admire the pleasant views that passes by and unloads its cargo at the Petrin Lookout Tower. The train runs every 10 minutes or 15 minutes from November to March.
Folklore entertainment with fine dining
Grace a Czech folklore dinner party hosted at many of the restaurants in Prague. It promises a night, filled with music and live folk dances. Sumptuous delicacies at the dinner table make the evening highly entertaining. You can sit back, relax and enjoy the show or join in the fun. The free flowing beer or other beverages do their best to complement the evening.
Climb aboard this unique human transporter to explore all the crooks and corners of Prague. You'll cover a far larger ground while also explore Prague in an eco-friendly way. Segways are the perfect fit to roll down the cobbled streets of Prague and further explore the little gems that you find in your path.
Prague has an old world charm with old bookshops and antiques, souvenir shops scattered across the city. The Czech crystal works are the pieces of art and something beautiful to take home and remember this stunning city. Flea markets, held mostly on weekends, will reveal all the charms and eccentricities of Prague. Along with the charms of the old, many renowned and upcoming international brands can also be found in the city.