Prague – An Architectural Journey to the Middle Ages
No other city in Europe can boast such a vast and beautifully preserved medieval heritage, like that of Prague. The largest city and capital of the Czech Republic has some really remarkable historical constructions to show, and this attracts a large number of tourists every year. The first thing you need to see here is the Charles Bridge over Vltava River, whose construction began in 1357 and which was only completed in the 15th century. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After you take a few minutes to admire the city from the historic bridge, you can start to discover the rest of the capital little by little. Before Prague officially became a city in 1257, it was a small 9th century settlement that stretched between today’s Vyšehrad fort and Malá Strana district. Its importance grew significantly after Emperor Charles IV transformed it into an imperial capital and founded a university here in 1348: Charles University. Noted in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest ancient castle, the majestic Prague Castle was initially a Romanesque building erected in the 12th century, but under the rule of Charles IV it was rebuilt in a marvelous Gothic style. Later Rudolph II decided to add a northern wing to the construction, and had it done in a Renaissance style. A special hidden room inside the castle holds the Bohemian Crown Jewels today.
It was only in 1991 that the city became the capital of the Czech Republic, after it had been the capital of the old Czechoslovakia since 1918. The heart of the city seems to beat in the Old Town (Staré Město). Here tourists can take pictures of the medieval Astronomical Clock and stroll around in the Old Town Square. The beautiful Týn Church (Church of Our Lady before Týn), which dates back to the 14th century, is another important monument in the Old Town, and so is the Jan Hus Memorial.
St. Nicholas Cathedral is a Baroque beauty in Lesser Town (Malá Strana) that attracts many visitors with its majesty. Also here is the Wallenstein Palace, another remarkable a Baroque construction. Make sure you also visit the Jewish quarter while you’re here. As you try to find your way from one important site to the other, you may discover a labyrinth of narrow streets with theaters and pretty little shops that sell jewelry, marionettes, and glassware.
As a Prague visitor you must also see the Wenceslas Square of the New Town (Nové Město). Art Nouveau buildings surround the square where many historical events took place over the centuries. It was here that the proclamation of independence of Czechoslovakia was read in 1918, here the Prague Spring was brutally stopped by the Soviet Union in 1968, and also here the Velvet Revolution took place in 1989.
- Don’t know what souvenirs to take home? Start looking for a bottle of Becherovka herbal liqueur, garnet jewelry, and crystals.
- If festivals and good music are your thing, then you shouldnt miss the Prague Spring International Music Festival (May-June).
- One special attraction of the city is the Bertramka Museum, which is a villa that Mozart visited often as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Dušek.
- Local foods and drinks to try include Prague Ham, fried pork chops with mashed potatoes, pastries, and beer.
- Luxury hotels to try: Hotel Josef, Hotel Le Palais, Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel, and many more.