Prague represents an unique collection of historical monuments dominated by the Prague Castle which towers high above the city. It is a specimen of all artistic styles and movements.
Prague "The Golden City" is by many considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Prague is a capital city of the Czech Republic which lies in the heart of Europe, neighbouring with Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. Here nature and architects have created a work of art.
The historical core of the city is situated on both banks of the Vltava river and consists of 6 parts - formerly independent urban units unified in the 18th century. They are as followed: Stare Mesto (Old Town), Josefov (the preserved part of the former Jewish Town - today a part of the Old Town), Nove Mesto (New Town), Mala Strana (Lesser Town), Hradcany and Vysehrad. Naturally, most of the historical monuments, museums and galleries are concentrated right there.
Stare Mesto (Old Town)
Stare Mesto, or Old Town, represents a large portion of Prague 1, and is widely considered to be the heart of Prague. With architecture dating back as far as to the 11th century, styles such as Bohemian Gothic, Baroque, Cubism, and Art Nouveau are well represented. Architectural wonders the Tyn Church and the Astrological clock tower above the Old Town Square, undeniably one of the world's most impressive city squares. A myriad of shops, restaurants, and cafes can be found in the Old Town's cobbled streets; from the opulence of Parizska Street, with its designer shops and hip restaurants, to the serenity of Hastalske Square, with its cathedral and quaint bistros, Old Town has something for everyone. Near Old Town Square is Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, which has weathered historical turbulence since its inception. Though much of the original Jewish ghetto was demolished in the early 20th century to clear the space for the wide streets and Art Nouveau apartment blocks, today its cultural marvels, the ancient synagogues and the Old Jewish Cemetary are protected. On the Vltava river border of Old Town is the entrance to the world-famous Charles Bridge, which leads to the Mala Strana district.
The area is served by four main metro stations, Mustek and Staromestska on line A and Narodni and Namesti Republiky on line B, as well as by several trams on the district's borders.
Mala Strana (Lesser Town)
Across the river Vltava from Old Town and at the foothills of Prague Castle is the beautiful Mala Strana district. Translated as Little Quarter or Lesser Town, its sense of calmness is more immediately obvious than its size when compared to Old Town.
Though founded in 1287, its architecture is primarily Baroque, thanks to a large spate of development in the 17th and 18th centuries. One of the best examples, in Mala Strana Square (Malostranske namesti), is the Church of St. Nicholas, whose distinctive dome outside is as impressive, if not superceded by, its marvellous frescoes inside. A short walk through Mala Strana's cozy cobbled streets is as likely to take you past Baroque palaces and opulent churches as it is quaint pubs, cafes, and walled gardens. Linked with Old Town via Charles Bridge Mala Strana contains the main route from Staromestske Square up to Prague Castle. From Malostranske Square Nerudova St., which is famous for its emblem-emblazoned facades, leads up to the main entrance of the Castle.
Many palaces are now the homes of embassies, including the American, German and British embassies. Contributing to Mala Strana's sense of calm is the large green park on Kampa Island, and the postcard-perfect Certovka stream, with its centuries-old waterwheels. And rising above in the west is Petrin Hill, which rewards its explorers with pathways through lush greenery and panoramic views over Prague. Petrin Tower, on top, a one-fifth replica of the Eiffel Tower, offers even better views.
Nove Mesto (New Town)
Nove Mesto, or New Town, is, by western standards, not that new, having been established in 1348, under the reign of Charles IV, Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor. Nevertheless, its development spans the ages, and includes several modern buildings.
The world-famous Wenceslas Square is more of a grand commercial boulevard, with shops, banks, restaurants, hotels, apartments exchange offices, and souvenir sellers lining its edges. At the top of the square is the grand statue of King Wenceslas riding his horse, one of the most popular meeting points in the city. Behind this, and architecturally crowning the square, is the majestic National Museum, which is more popular for its metro station than its contents.
Nove Mesto contains one of Prague's main business districts, and it is in this district where tourist life first merges then fades into the day-to-day life of the locals. Among the area's notable buildings are Hotel Evropa, an outstanding example of Art Nouveau, Lucerna, which was built by the former president Vaclav Havel's grandfather, the National Theatre, a landmark on the river embankment, and the modern (and in some traditionalists' minds scandalous) Fred & Ginger building, designed by Frank O. Gehry and Vlado Milunic.
One of the few examples of its founding architecture is the New Town Hall. The building, with its grand Gothic tower, flanks Charles Square, Prague's largest square, now a pleasant park.
In 1992 the historical centre of Prague covering an area of 866 hectares was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Register. For more information about Prague visit http://www.pis.cz (Prague Information Server)
Karlín lies immediately to the east of Prague's centre, and is divided from Žižkov by the precipitous Vitkuv Hill. Like Žižkov, it too grew as a blue-collar before and after the turn of the century, but perhaps with a more industrial flavour. It's unique post-industrial character, green parks, elegant old buildings and riverside location close to centre made it a popular contender for property developers in the mid-90's; a handful who took the risk to redevelop (with many unused spaces, the property was a relative bargain but untested) were quickly rewarded for their efforts.
What no one could predict were the worst floods in Prague's recorded history in August 2002. Karlín was the hardest hit of all, and many at the time feared for its future. Thanks to commitments by both the municipality and prominent developers, it emerged from the devastation with a completely new infrastructure, and, with flood-protection efforts underway, it appears to be back on the path of renewal it had begun earlier.
Market demand will dictate exactly what proportion of residential, office, and retail development will take place, but it is certain that plans will take advantage of the proximity to the river, which during Communism was under-appreciated.
Karlín is directly served by the Florenc, Křižíkova, Invalidovna and Palmovka metro stations (line B), and trams 8 and 24 pass through and serve the district.
Directly to the north of Prague's historic center, encouraging the Vltava to bend around it, is a steep foliated hill which plateaus to the beautiful Letná park. The surrounding area, which takes in part of the city's Bubeneč and Holešovice districts, is commonly referred to as Letná given the park's dominance in the city. Once a gathering place of invading armies as they approached Prague Castle, the park is now a popular destination for strollers taking in a romantic walk as well as rollerbladers enjoying nature. Virtually the entire length of the park affords marvelous views over the Vltava and rooftops of the city's historic centre, and the Letenský Zámeček (Summer Manor) and the beer garden which flanks it are among the city's most popular summer hot-spots.
The surrounding area is mainly residential, with some varied development near the park and main street, including the National Technical Museum and Sparta Stadium, home of the famous football team. Further pleasant walks or recreation are never too far away, as the exhibition grounds, embassy district, and Stromovka Park all flank the Letná area.
The area is served by metro stations Hradčanská, Vltavská, and Nádraží Holešovice, and trams 1,8,17,25 and 26 pass through the area.
Smíchov is located south of Malá Strana on the west bank of the Vltava. Though the name Smíchov means roughly "laughing field" the area became increasingly developed from the 19th and 20th centuries as a site for industry. When Communism, which did little to preserve the historical value of the area, fell, it proved to be a blessing of unpredicted proportions and in the 90's, efforts by the city authorities and enthusiasm by a small number of developers led to agreements which would begin to "change the face of Smichov" (to use the authorities' wording). Today, the area around the main metro station Andel is bustling with the healthy feel of a big city, thanks to a few pioneering office buildings, shopping malls, and multiplexes, and it is safe to say gentrification continues. Attractions of the area include its riverbank walkways leading to Mala Strana and parkland area on the south side of Petřín hill, which includes the scenic Kinského Gardens and Summer Palace. The nearby Bertramka villa, which became famous for being Mozart's preferred Prague residence, now holds concerts and houses the Mozart Museum.
In addition to the principal metro stations Anděl and Smíchovské Nádraží, the area is served by trams 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, and several buses.
The primarily residential district of Vinohrady occupies the terrain roughly behind Muzeum, which is actually the top of a large hill with an area of several square kilometers. It is named after vineyards which were planted on the area's sunny slopes centuries ago, but which eventually gave way to botanical gardens in the 17th century and, more particularly, residential development in the latter half of the 19th century. The resulting area today is known for its charming tree-lined streets, fine examples of fin-de-siecle architecture, and scenic parks and squares.
The largest park, Riegrovy Sady, offers magnicent views, especially in the summer when people sit to watch the sun set behind Prague Castle across the city. The heart of the district is Náměstí míru, or Peace Square, with the neo-Gothic St. Ludmila Church at its centre and a number of outstanding buildings on its edges, including the Vinohrady Theatre. A bit further from the center is the larger square of Jiřího z Poděbrad (George of Podebrady), which plays host to such yearly events as the well attended Vinobraní, or Wine Festival, each autumn. At its centre stands the Church of the Sacred Heart, an architecturally significant church from the late 1920's by Slovenian architect Josef Plečnik.
In addition to metro stations Muzeum, Namesti Miru, Jiriho z Podebrad, and Flora, the area is served by trams 22, 23, 10, 11, and 16.
Flanking Vinohrady from just farther from centre to the north and east is Žižkov. The district, part of Prague 3, takes its name from Jan Žižka, a 15th-century Hussite hero in Czech history. Though a municipal border exists, it is often difficult to discern just by looking; still, architectural styles from the turn of the century are more prevalent in Žižkov's closer-to-centre portions. A former blue-collar district from its inception, it, like many of its type, is gradually transforming as the inherent benefits of being close to a major city centre are appreciated. Property values have been increasing accordingly, lead by those closer to centre.
Another feature associated with the district (and with outer Vinohrady) are two enormous cemeteries, the Olšany and the New Jewish, which span acres and provide an forest-like greenery. Open to the public, they compete with those of Paris for their allure, and make for a pleasant, if not mystical, walk; novelist Franz Kafka's grave is likely the most famous to be found. High above the district on Vítkův Hill is the National Memorial, an enormous monument consisting of a mausoleum and the world's largest equestrian statue, showing Jan Žižka astride his horse. Žižkov's impressive concentration of pubs, hospodas (somewhere between a pub and a restaurant), clubs and other music venues makes it a popular destination for those who like to have fun and relax away from the centre's bustle and high prices.
The area is served by trams on several rail lines, including 5, 9, 10, 11 and 16, as well as metro stations Flora and Želivského. Buses from the Florenc metro also traverse the district.