Welcome to Prague
Welcome to Prague-The gold city
Since the end of World War I, Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. It has approximately 1,250,000 residents and is therefore the most populated city in the country. More than 4.1 million people visit Prague every year. It has a rich and interesting history and culture. It is known as the “Golden City” due to the once golden church spires. In the past, over forty churches had a golden top and the city was gleaming like gold. Today, the roofs are not golden any more but only out of tiles but the name stayed.
Famous for its history and its rich landscape and as one of the cultural centres of Europe, Prague has a lot to offer. For sightseeing in Prague, the city has numerous beautiful houses, museums, theatres and all other kinds attractions. The Prague Zoo for example was listed among the world’s best zoos by the Forbes Traveller Magazine.
In the last years, Prague has become very popular for travellers who just want to do a weekend trip. Many low-cost airlines offer cheap flights to and from the city nowadays. Public transportation includes the Prague Metro, the Prague Tram System, buses, the Petrin funicular and six ferries. As a consequence, the city has one of the highest rates of public transport usage in the world with 1.2 billion passenger journeys each year. This is the highest per capita ratio in the world. So don’t worry about transportation, you will get easily to every important and interesting sight and to your hotel in Prague.
Districts in Prague
The New Town
Although this part of the city is called the New Town, it was built 600 years ago as a commercial centre which it is still today. Many businesses, hotels and banks, stores and shopping malls can be found there. For those who are interested in culture there are plenty theatres, museums and opera houses. You should also go to the two important boulevards called Národní and Napríkope which separate the New Town from the Old Town.
The New Town was founded by King Charles IV in order to enlarge Prague’s size at a time when it became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The three main squares all served as markets: the Horse Market (Konský trh) - now Wenceslas Square, the Cattle Market (Dobytcí trh) - now Charles Square, and the Hay Market (Senovážné námestí) - still carrying the same name.
The buildings at New Town have different architectural styles which resemble very much the houses in the neighbour district of Vinohrady.
The Malá Strana district is one of the oldest parts of Prague. It was formed out of various settlements in 1257. The majority of the residents were German at that time. In English it signifies “Little Side” and refers to its location on the west bank of the river Vltava below the Prague Castle. In opposition to that, there are the larger towns of Prague on the other side of the river.
A surprising fact is that most of the architecture is from the Baroque era although the district is much older than that. But after the great fire in 1541, Malá Strana was almost completely destroyed and built up in baroque style afterwards.
The most interesting sight in Malá Strana is the Wallenstein Palace with five courtyards and a really beautiful garden. Other places worth seeing are the Petrin lookout tower, the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague in the Church of Our Lady Victorious and St Nicholas Church.
The first Jews settled in Prague in the 10th century. At Easter Sunday in 1389 one of the worst pogroms happened when 1,500 Jews were massacred in town. At the end of the 16th century the district prospered due to the mayor’s post as Minister of Finance. He helped to develop the ghetto.
In 1850, the quarter was renamed "Josefstadt" (Joseph's City) after Joseph II, who gave the Jews more rights in his Toleration Edict in 1781. Today there are new buildings from the beginning of the 20th century everywhere, so no one can really imagine what the Jewish quarter looked like when it was inhabited by over 18,000 Jews. Nevertheless, you can still visit a few synagogues and you can find Franz Kafka’s birthplace in this area. Josefov (as it is now called) is surrounded by the Old Town of Prague and represented by a red flag with a yellow Magen David on it.
Sights in Prague
According to Guinness Book of Records, the Prague Castle is the biggest ancient castle in the world. It is 570 metres in length and 130 metres wide. The construction began in 870 and lasted until the end of the 12th century. 1.4 million tourists visit the castle every year, making it the most visited architectural monument in the Czech Republic. Its gardens are definitely worth a visit.
Charles Bridge was built in the 14th century. It is the oldest bridge across Vltava and one of the oldest stone bridges in the country. It has been restored since 2007 but unfortunately the construction company has destroyed several old parts of the bridge, so UNESCO made enquiries because it is part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Over the time, more than 30 different and interesting statues were situated on the balustrade of the bridge.
Old Town Square
This is a wide historic square in the centre of the Old Town. There are many historical buildings worth seeing. Apart from that you can see 27 tributary crosses commemorating the 27 rebel leaders executed there after the Battle of White Mountain in 1618.
Since 1980 the Lennon Wall has been plastered with art inspired by John Lennon and pieces of the Beatles songs. In 1988 dissidents wrote their commentaries about the regime there which cause a lot of trouble. Today, the wall changes every day as new graffiti s and poems are added. The Lennon Wall stands for youth ideals such as love and peace.
Petrin Hill is 327 high and it is located in the west centre in Prague near the river Vltava. You can visit many historical buildings and sights there, but the hill is mainly used as a recreational area for the residents of Prague. Go up the 60 metres high lookout tower and enjoy the view over the city.
Travel Tips for Prague
1.If you like classical music, there’s a monument of Antonín Dvorák in front of the Rudolfinum building.
2.Try and drink the tap water. It tastes very sweet and delicious.
3.Taxi drivers try to charge more than common, so be sure to set the price before you they start driving.
4.Try the famous Trdelnik, or Trdlo, a fire roasted doughy treat made by wrapping a strip of dough around a long pole and rotating it over a fire. When it is golden brown, they finish it with some cinnamon sugar and there you go! It is really tasty! Try it out!
5.Be aware of thieves and pickpockets. They are abundant and very aggressive!
6.If you want to go to a theatre, concert or another cultural event, don’t buy the tickets beforehand. There are agencies in the city centre which have cheap offers.
7.The tip is usually 10%. Please pay cash, even if you pay the meal with your credit card.
8.Start your day early because most museums or sights close already at 4pm.
9.Prague is well known for its nightlife. Clubs are opened all night long. Enjoy!
10.Be aware of Laundryland! It is incredibly expensive there! Don’t do your laundry there.
Fun and Facts about Prague
1. The Czechs drink more beer per capita than other country in the world. On average it is about 43 gallons a year per person.
2. Czech pucks do not leave black smudges, because they are manufactured differently. But the exact formula is a secret.
3. During the Middle Ages the science of alchemy was hugely popular amongst the rich residents of Prague. Supporting the alchemists financially was a sign of wealth and open-mindedness.
4. Writers and other artists always claimed to have noticed tremors coming from the underground of Prague. Especially Kafka and his friends were inspired by the spooky sounds that apparently can be heard now and then.
5. The first sugar cubes were made in the Czech town of Dacice in 1841.