Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic which lies in the middle of Bohemia on the banks of the longest river in the Czech Republic: the Vltava. It is one of the nicest cities in the world. It is the political, economic, and cultural centre of the country. It is the seat of the president, the parliament, and the government. Prague has long been the centre of culture, an education; and it is also an important business and financial centre. It has a population of about 1 200 000.
Prague is called “A Hundred Spired Prague” or “Mother of Cities” or “Golden Prague” or “Heart of Europe”.
Prague is divided into many boroughs. The historical centre is made up of the Old Town, Josefov, the Lesser Quarter, Hradčany, the New Town, and Vyšehrad. In the past, these were single towns that were later united into Prague, in 18th century under the reign of Josef II.
It’s necessary to say that Prague is a city with a rich history. The first settlements in this area were in the Upper Paleolithic Age. The first historical writings about Prague come from the 5th century. In this time there were Celtic tribes. Later, in the 6th century, Slavonic tribes came. But the first kings, who built their empire, were the Přemyslids in the end of the 9th century. They had their throne in Vyšehrad, which is in the oldest part of Prague. Later the Přemyslids built a new fortress – the Prague Castle.
In the Middle Ages it was a big and important city. Prague’s most important period of development was the reign of Charles IV. He built Charles Bridge, Charles University, and other famous buildings.
The reign of Rudolph II was also very important. Prague became the centre of his empire and one of the most important cities in all of Europe. Rudolph II was also famous for having big collections of paintings which we can now see in Rudolph’s Gallery in Prague. However, during the Thirty Years War, his collection of art and animals was almost thoroughly destroyed by the Swedes.
Later, in the year 1620, the battle of the White Mountain took place. During this period the Czech lands declined. After that it was the time of germanization and the Czech language and culture also declined. The Habsburgs Monarchy began in the beginning of the 20th century. After the 1st World War, in 1918, Prague became the capital city of Czechoslovakia and the seat of the first president – Tomáš Garigue Massaryk. Prague experienced German and Russian occupation, but since 1993 Prague has been the capital of the Czech Republic.
The historic centre of Prague is made up The Old Town, the Lesser Quarter and the Prague Castle. Even today you can see narrow crooked streets bearing the names of the craftsmen who lived there in the past. For example in Prague’s Old Town you can find such lanes as Železná, Jílská, Celetná, Havelská, etc. Some of the small town squares have the same names as in the past: Coal Market, Hay Market, and Fruit Market.
The most famous sight is the Prague castle – it was founded in the 9th century by the first Přemyslid Prince Bořivoj. Its greatest period was during the reign of Charles IV. During the reign of Rudolph II, the Castle became a famous centre of art and culture. The most famous sights in the Prague Castle are the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace with Vladislav Hall, the Spanish Hall and the Golden Gate.
The Spanish Hall is one of the most famous and important rooms of the Prague Castle. Today it is the official reception room used for ceremonial occasions and celebrity concerts. The Spanish Hall was built in the early 17th century as part of the castle.
The other important part of the castle is the gallery also called Rudolph’s Gallery, because a lot of paintings here were collected by Rudolph II.
The Gallery and the Spanish Hall are situated in the second courtyard.
Vyšehrad was formerly one of Prague´s towns and originally the Castle of the Přemyslids in the latter half of the 11th century and the first half of the 12th century. Nowadays we can visit the National Cemetery here with graves of persons from the spheres of culture, science and politics.
Charles Bridge was founded by Charles IV in the 14th century and was built by the famous Gothic architect, Petr Parléř. It was built in the place of an old Romanesque bridge, Judith Bridge, which had been swept away by floods. Charles Bridge was in the past also called Prague Bridge. On both ends of the bridge there are Gothic Bridge Towers. It is second oldest bridge in Central Europe. It is 520m long and 10m wide. In the 18th century the bridge began to be decorated by Baroque statues by Matyáš Braun and Jan Brokoff. The bridge gradually became one of the lively centers of Prague life. During summer it is always full of tourists and souvenir stalls and street artists.
The Lesser Town Square is the center of the quarter Lesser Town. In The Middle Ages it was a separate town. It was used as a market place. Most of the houses are of Gothic origin and rebuilt in the Renaissance and later Baroque styles. The dominant of the square is St. Nicholas church, one of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture in Prague. The building of the church took nearly 60 years. The architects were the Dietzenhofers.
Prague is famous for its parks and gardens. Most of them are situated in Petřín and in the Lesser Town. One of the finest is Valdštejn Palace Garden, built in the 17th century. The palace itself was built in the Baroque style, but the garden has an Italian character. There are bronze statues of classical divinities, which are the copies of the originals, having been taken by the Swedes in 1648.
From Lesser Town Square, Neruda Street leads up to the Prague Castle. It is a picturesque street with many Baroque facades on the houses, which have fascinating ornate cross signs.