The first Habsburg ruler Ferdinand I brought the Jesuits to the city in 1556 in an attempt to halt the... protestant Hussites who were becoming increasingly stronger and to anchor the Catholic faith. This led to the creation of the Jesuit College at the end of Karlova street, just before the Charles Bridge. It is still the city's second largest complex of buildings and includes three churches. Today, the grounds mainly serve the National Library and the State Technical Library. At the Clementinum's own weather-station, meteorological measurements have been taken since 1775.
If you go on the guided tour, you can visit the baroque Library Hall of Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer which dates from the year 1722. You can also climb the 58 metre (190 ft) high tower. Once you have conquered the 172 steps, you will be rewarded with an incredible panorama of the Charles Bridge and the Bridge Towers at both ends. Classical music concerts are held in the baroque Mirror Chapel nearly every day. At the weekends, a small flea market is regularly held in the inner courtyard.more
Since it was begun in the 9th century, the Castle (Hradcany) has been the heart of Prague, the centre... of its spiritual and secular life and the official residence of its rulers, now that of the President of the Czech Republic.
The palace and religious buildings are grouped on a magnificent site. The approach to the Castle offers an incomparable view of Prague. The Gothic Cathedral of St Vitus is at the centre of the site. The Cathedral combines elements of the Renaissance and Baroque styles, as it took almost six centuries to build, with work finally being completed in 1929. Today, St George's Monastery, which was consecrated in 973 and reconstructed in 1976, is part of the National Gallery. Although the claim that alchemists once attempted to increase the wealth of Rudolf II here is a myth, the especially picturesque Golden Lane has a magical attraction for tourists. In fact, Franz Kafka did actually live here, in the little blue house at number 22. However, it is anticipated that due to renovation works the Golden Lane will not be accessible again until May 2011.more
The Premonstratensian Strahov Monastery dates back to the year 1140. However, the Romanesque building... originally built on this site did not survive the frequent fires. Today's baroque complex was built in 1742-1758 according to designs by Anselmo Martino Lurago. The baroque Church of Our Lady's Ascension of Roman origin was also given its present appearance at the same time.
More than a century earlier, Giovanni Domenico Orsi created the magnificent Theological Hall, which is decorated with frescos from the 18th century. In the Philosophical Hall, visitors can admire the ceiling fresco by Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1794). The affiliated Museum of National Literature exhibits valuable prints and manuscripts from the very early period as well as samizdat literature (underground literature) which was not allowed to be published in socialist Czechoslovakia and was distributed via clandestine channels.more
The Powder Tower was built in 1475 in classical gothic style as part of the former city wall between... the Old Town and the New Town at the end of the expensive Na Prikope shopping street. The Royal Court, the monarchy's former place of residence, stood next to it at the time it was constructed. When King Vladislav II moved to the castle, he lost interest in the previously built tower. The tower was then used for storing gunpowder, hence its present-day name.
In the spirit of historicism, the master builder of the cathedral, Josef Mocker, transformed the tower back to its gothic glory in 1875. In place of the flat roof, he created today's gable roof following the model of the Old Town Bridge Tower. The stylistically faithful bridge to the Municipal House was not built until the completion of the latter in 1911. After you have climbed the first third of the 186 steps, you can visit an interesting exhibition on the subject of Prague towers. The ascent to the top is rewarded by sweepings views of the New Town and the Old Town.more
For decades a gap between the buildings where the bank of the river Vltava meets the Janácek bridge... was a constant reminder of one of the few bombing raids during the Second World War. The neighbouring building was inhabited by the family of ex-president Václav Havel for many decades. It was not until 1996 that a new building was constructed, which by no means blended inconspicuously with the late 19th-century buildings. The building's extremely modern design was the cause of lively and controversial debate.
American architect Frank Gehry and his Croatia-born colleague Vlado Milunic built an ultra modern administration building for a Dutch insurance company. The two corner towers are particularly striking; one is wide and straight while the other is made from a swirl of glass and leans against the first one. The pair of towers represent the dancing duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, giving rise to the name of "Dancing House". At the top of the towers, an exclusive restaurant attracts visitors with its breathtaking views and exquisite cuisine.more
This modern museum in the picturesque Malá Strana is dedicated entirely to the life and work of Franz... Kafka. In 2005, after it had been shown in Barcelona and New York, the long-term exhibition finally found its way to the hometown of the writer, who was not even valued in Prague before the revolution. With word, picture, light and music based on many original documents such as first editions of his work and other exhibits, the exposition draws a metaphorical picture of Kafka’s life and work. The first part of the exhibition “Room of Existence” describes the main events in Kafka’s life and the milieu at that time. The second part “Imaginary Topography” describes Prague’s complicated effect on Kafka in a metaphorical picture.more
Its distinctive tower is what makes the New Town Hall (now a cultural centre) so unmistakable - it is... the famous face of Charles Square, the largest open space in Prague, at almost 80,000 sq. m. (20 acres). The original building, erected after 1348, already had two wings housing the offices and the prison. It was extended to a four-winged complex with an arched courtyard in the early 15th century, and the tower followed 40 years later. The building took on its current form in 1559, when it was remodelled during the Renaissance. There is a wonderful view from the tower.
In 1419, the place went down in history as a result of Prague's first defenestration, when supporters of the reformer Jan Hus, who had been publicly burned four years previously, threw the town councillors out of the windows, starting the Hussite Wars.more
Although Vysehrad castle in the south of the city centre is just as important in Czech history as Hradcany,... it is significantly less visited by tourists. The quiet, idyllic building it is located high above the river Vltava. A walk through the grounds provides numerous splendid views over the towers of the city.
After Hradcany, Vysehrad was the second castle of the Premyslid royal dynasty in Prague. It was built from around the year 930 and was the main royal residence between 1070 and 1140. In the period that followed the castle fell into disrepair and it was not until the middle of the 14th century that it was brought back to life again. In the 17th century it was converted into a baroque castle and a national cemetery was created. The last remaining traces of the original structure are the St Martin Rotunda dating from the year 1270 and the crypt of the Church of St Peter and St Paul in which the Premyslid rulers are buried. Many key figures in Czech history have found their final resting place in the Slavín national cemetery, including Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana, Karel Capek and Bozena Nemcova, Alfons Mucha and Josef Myslbek. The Brick Gate, which is the north entrance to the castle, contains a small museum on the history of Vysehrad.more
Opposite the Buquoy Palace of the French embassy between the Lesser Town and Kampa Island lies a very... secular place of pilgrimage: a wall bearing a painted portrait of the murdered John Lennon. Before the revolution the wall used to be bare. The locals chose to paint a portrait of John Lennon as a symbol of freedom. As this did not correspond with the system of the time, the police frequently had to eliminate paintings which appeared during the 1980s, including that of the pop idol.
After the collapse of Communism, there was no longer any reason to remove the portrait of the Beatles singer. Many tourists have therefore added other portraits and messages in bright colours. However, as the wall is on the verge of crumbling, the Knights of the Maltese Cross regularly replaster the wall and freshly redraw the outline of the famous musician on the wall to provide a beginning. Travellers from around the world then take care of the colourful designs, which is why the wall always looks different.more
With the Carolinum, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV founded the oldest university in Central Europe north... of the Alps in 1348. The university's most famous rector was the Reformer Jan Hus. Of particular note is the gothic bay window in the oldest building in Zelezna street. The baroque façade of the main building dates back to the major renovation works that were carried out in 1718. Doctorate ceremonies and other celebratory events are still held in the great hall. Exhibition rooms are also located on the ground floor.
Today, the Charles University is comprised of 17 faculties, 2 of which are located in Hradec Králové and one of which in Pilsen (Plzen). The faculties in Prague are scattered across the entire city and there is no actual campus. A total of 7,000 people are employed at the university's various sites. With over 42,000 students, Charles University is the most important educational institution in the country.more
This place of pilgrimage behind Prague Castle and opposite the Foreign Ministry was created in two stages.... A replica of Santa Casa built in 1627 stands in the inner courtyard. It was built in imitation of the "Holy House" that once stood in Palestinian Nazareth and in which the Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary about the Immaculate Conception. The walls of the original house were taken to the town of Loreto in Italy in the 13th century, the first of many building copies constructed as places of pilgrimage.
Visible from the outside, the baroque complex containing a cloister and the Church of the Lord's Birth was created by the famous architect Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer in 1735. Of particular note is the treasury with its extensive collection of sacral works of art. The main point of attraction for visitors is the valuable Diamond Monstrance which is encrusted with 6,222 diamonds. The carillon consisting of 27 Loreto bells chimes the Marian song "We greet you a thousand times" every hour from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm.more
After the battle of the White Mountain was lost during the Thirty Years' War, the originally Protestant... Church of Our Lady Victorious in Karmelitska (Carmelite street) was transformed into a Catholic church in 1621.
Of particular interest in this place of worship is the wax statue of the "Infant Jesus of Prague" located in the right-hand part of the church. The statue was brought from Spain as a wedding gift to Polyxena Lobkowicz. Miracles have been ascribed to this figure, which stands just 50 cm (20 inches) tall. To this day, many citizens of Prague still go to the Infant Jesus and ask for aid when facing difficult trials and tests. The figure wears regular changes of richly embroidered clothes made from fine materials that are sent by grateful donators around the world. Many pilgrims come in particular from Spain and South America and the Mediterranean and take part in the church services which are also held in Spanish, Italian, French and English. There is a lovely small souvenir shop at the back of the church.more
Generalissimo Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Waldstein, who Schiller referred to as Wallenstein, built... an enormous early baroque palace below Prague Castle in 1630. Today, it is considered to be the first monumental baroque secular building in the city. Wallenstein was accused of having high ambitions because of its vast scale. In the end, the Emperor ordered his commander to be assassinated in Eger (Cheb) in 1634. The Italian-style Wallenstein Garden, featuring an artificial cave, a pond, a summer stage, several fountains and an avenue of statues containing copies by Adrien de Vries, is an oasis of tranquillity in the Lesser Town. Many locals consider it to be the city's most beautiful garden.
Today, the Senate, the upper chamber of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, has its official seat in the palace. It is possible to visit this at the weekend (free) and in the summer the garden can be visited daily. It can be reached from both the palace and from the Malostranská metro station.more
The Roman Benedictine monastery Brevnov, located in the western part of the city, was founded by bishop... Vojtech and prince Boleslav II as early as 993. The present shape of the mighty St. Margaret’s Church, the convent and prelature date back to the famous architect Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, who rebuilt the facility bit by bit until 1745 in the High Baroque period. At the time of its 1000th anniversary, John Paul II declared the building, which was given back and renovated in the meantime, an archabbey. The monastery tavern with an open fireplace, rural interior and respectively dressed waitresses is worth a visit. The partially medieval dishes are virtually unparalleled in Prague.more
Only six synagogues, the Jewish Town Hall in the renaissance style and the old Jewish cemetery still... remain of the 'Schtetl' or Jewish ghetto behind the line. Over 12,000 gravestones are crowded closely together, with the bodies buried one on top of the other, as this was the final resting place for all Jews in Prague until 1787. The most famous of these belongs to Rabbi Löw, the legendary creator of the golem. The Jews were not released from their isolation in the ghetto until 1849, on the command of Emperor Franz Joseph I, who granted them civil rights and permission to settle in other districts as well.
The oldest religious building is the early Gothic "Old New Synagogue", built in 1270-1290 and a place where the faithful still gather today. Today, the Pinkas Synagogue is a memorial to the Jewish victims of National Socialism; the names of 77,297 victims from Bohemia and Moravia are listed on its walls.more
The 750 m (2,460 ft) long and 60 m (197 ft) wide area laid in 1348 under Charles IV was once a horse... market. It was only in 1848 that the market was named after St Wenceslas, whose equestrian monument stands at the upper end of the square, in front of the Neo-Renaissance palace of the National Museum, with its treasure trove of historic paintings. Lined with 19th and 20th century buildings, including hotels such as the famous "Evropa", shops and cinemas, Wenceslas Square has been a boulevard favoured by those out for a stroll for a long time. Its lower end forms the ""Golden Crossroads"" with Prague's two main shopping streets, Národní trida and Na prikope.
Wenceslas Square has been at the centre of good and bad times: in 1918 the citizens of Prague celebrated the birth of an independent Czechoslovakia here; 50 years later there were demonstrations against the invading Warsaw Pact forces. This is commemorated by a memorial to the victims of Communist rule at the top end of the square, near the statue of Wenceslas, where student Jan Palach burnt himself alive during the protests in 1969.more
The Malá strana ring, which is linked to the Old Town by the Charles Bridge, has been the centre of... the Malá strana since the city was founded back in 1257. The north and east sides of the square are lined with magnificent aristocratic houses that, together with the Church of St. Nicholas, divide the open area into two parts. With its magnificent 75 m (246 ft) cupola, the church was built by the famous Baroque architect Dietzenhofer, between 1703-1711 and 1737-1752.
Despite their classical façades, Gothic merchant houses have been preserved only on the south side of the Ring. Some of the cellar vaults are now home to cosy little bars. The Nerudova "Umbilical Cord of the Small Side", named after poet Jan Neruda, starts from the Small Side Ring and leads to Prague Castle. Particularly worth seeing is Malostranská Beseda, the former town hall. It was reopened in 2010 complete with a restaurant, coffee and events.more
Directly south of the Charles Bridge lies the idyllic Kampa Island on the river Vltava. With the Certovka... (Devil's Stream) separating it from the Lesser Town and the 16th-century town houses built right up to both sides of the river bank, this romantic scene is proudly referred to by Prague's citizens as "Benátky" (Venice). The peninsula is equally popular with both locals and tourists. The pretty little shops are perfect for a leisurely stroll and a spot window browsing, the numerous park benches are claimed by courting couples and the many cafés and restaurants are ideal for taking a well-earned break in the beautiful Na Kampe square.
Mills once performed their services on the banks of the island. Today, Sova's Mills, the core of which dates from the 13th century, are home to a small but fine collection of modern art (http://www.museumkampa.cz), including drawings by Frantisek Kupka and cubist sculptures by Otto Gutfreund. Czech-born Meda Mladék, who now lives in America, dedicated herself to creating this exhibition for many years and donated her significant collection of modern Eastern European art for this purpose.more
The entrance to the baroque garden of the Vrtba family at the foot of the Petřín (Laurenziberg) is... only a few steps from the Malostranské nám (Kleinseitener Ring) behind an almost inconspicuous façade and thus, a bit off the tourist paths. The Prague locals describe the garden, which was designed together with the affiliated palace in 1720, as the most romantic of all gardens in Prague. The aristocratic Vrtba family could afford highly qualified builders for their estate. The statues were made by the famous Prague sculptor Matyás Bernard Braun. The fresco at the ceiling of the generally unchanged Sala Terrena shows Venus and Adonis. However, the palace, which is closed to the public, underwent some radical modifications.more
The baroque hunting lodge in the north of the city with its French garden belongs to the city art gallery... and particularly hosts interesting temporary exhibitions. The aristocratic Sternberk family had the castle erected in the 17th century and in this way demonstrated its membership to the Habsburg Monarchy. After the founding of the Czech Republic in 1918, the facility deteriorated noticeably. Since the 1980s, the dilapidated castle has been renovated many times. The glamorous main hall with its frescos, the castle chapel and the baroque outside stairs are especially worth seeing – an excellent setting for weddings. The castle is located directly at the Vltava. The arboretum, Prague’s biggest green lung, spreads on the other side of the river near the city center. Not far from Troja, the Prague Zoo attracts old and young visitors.more
The city museum at the edge of Prague's new town was built in Neo-Renaissance style and shows the history... of the city from the past to the present. Occasionally, temporary exhibitions inform about local topics such as the Prague mints or demolished sacral buildings. Most of the visitors, including architecture students and town planners, come to see the so-called Langweil model: From 1826 to 1837, Anton Langweil had been replicating the historical city center of Prague (excluding the new town) true to the original in painstaking handicraft. By now, the model has been digitalized and allows unusual views of the golden city, especially to advanced visitors. In the basement of the museum, a virtual 3D flight illustrates life in the 19th century.more
Until 1836, the second-oldest stone bridge in Europe constituted the only route across the River Vltava... and, as such, was of great strategic importance. It also played a key part in the life of the town as a market, a court and the scene of the coronation procession.
Although the foundation stone was laid in 1357, neither Charles IV or architects Peter Parler lived to see the completion of the bridge. With its 16 arches supported on piles, it covers a distance of more than 520 m (1,700 ft) across the river. The bridge has an impressive width of 10 m (33 ft), enough to accommodate four coaches. In 1683, the citizens of Prague began to decorate the bridge railings with bronze statues and groups of figures of saints. St John of Nepomuk, which was cast by Matthias Rauchmüller in Nuremberg in 1683, is both the oldest and the most popular figure, because the saint was thrown to his death from this bridge by Wenceslas IV in 1393. The Old Town Bridge Tower, with its sculptures, is an outstanding work of architecture. The bridge has just undergone extensive restoration work.more
The picturesque Old Town Ring, including the Town Hall Complex, the Teyn Church, the townhouses and the... houses of the nobility, is considered one of the most beautiful market squares in Europe. Those in the know say that Prague is at its loveliest in the early morning, when its whole expanse stretches out peacefully before your eyes. From 8 am till 8 pm, tourists gather every hour, on the hour, in front of the Town Hall in the Old Town, waiting for the Apostle Carillon of the legendary Astronomical Clock. It is much more than a mere clock; it also shows summer time and the position of the signs of the zodiac and it is a memento mori - a true masterpiece, which was completed at the end of the 15th century.
Today, it seems natural for Czech reformer Jan Hus to have pride of place in the centre of the square. However, the Hapsburgs did not allow the monument to be erected until 1915, 500 years after his martyr's death. The square is also home to the Goltz-Kinsky Palace, where Franz Kafka once went to school, and the white Baroque Church of St. Nicholas, which is now the main Hussite church.more
The view of the Old Town of Prague is dominated by what was once the main church of the Hussites, with... its two 80 m (262 ft) towers. It was built on Roman and early Gothic foundations in several construction phases between 1339 and 1511.
The splendid portal on the north side with the relief scenes of Christ's suffering in the tympanum is believed to originate from the stonemason's lodge of Peter Parler. Following a fire in 1679, the vault of the main nave had to be replaced in the early Baroque style. A large part of the interior decoration is also Baroque, while the chancel is still Gothic. The right nave shelters a Madonna created in about 1400. The marble plate behind a Gothic chancel conceals the grave of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, who researched the basis of the calculations for the paths of the planets in around 1600 with Johannes Kepler.more
Built on the site of the former royal court in 1905-1911, the magnificent Municipal House as a representation... building is a fine example of Czech Art Nouveau and is an expression of the sense of identity of the culturally and economically important city and its people. Numerous prominent Czech architects, sculptures and artists contributed towards its design and décor, including Mucha, Myslbek and Saloun. The building complex with its striking domed entrance hall covers some 4,200 square meters (45,200 sq ft).
The resplendent shapes and colours that decorate the exterior are continued inside. Windows, banisters, door handles - the small details are just as well worth seeing as the large, luxuriantly designed rooms. It was here in the grandiose Smetana Hall that the Czechoslovakian Republic was proclaimed in 1918. Today, regular concerts are held here by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Primator-Salon (Mayor's Hall) is adorned with paintings on national history themes by Alfons Mucha. You can also enjoy the art nouveau atmosphere over a cup of coffee - either in the coffee-house or at one of the building's two restaurants.more