As one of the oldest and largest cities in Central Europe, which remained slightly affected by the devastation of World War II, Prague is a tourist destination of great importance. Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of Prague is very diverse.
The merchant Ibrahim ibn Jakub in the second half of the 10th century called Prague “the city built of stone and lime” or “Prague of stone”. The next names for Prague were Praga totius Bohemiae domina (Prague, ruler of all Bohemia) and Praga mater urbium (Prague, mother of all cities). In the Middle Ages, Prague was referred to as Praga caput regni (Prague, head of the kingdom). Prague was also called “Golden City” by Charles IV. Since the beginning of the 19th century it was also called the “City of 100 Towers”.
The most famous are Prague Castle with St. Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, and Old Town Square with the Tyn Church, Town Hall and the Astronomical Clock (Orloj). Also the second medieval castle, Vyšehrad with the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, belongs among the most famous constructions. Prague Old Town is especially famous for its old houses, which often belong to Romanesque and Gothic styles, its numerous churches and romantic alleys. In Malá Strana and Hradčany, on the other hand, Renaissance and Baroque palaces dominate. Not far from both districts lies the Strahov Monastery.
In the midst of Nové Město (New Town Hall), founded in the mid 14th century, there is the New Town Hall on Charles Square, many Gothic and Baroque churches and monasteries and the busiest place in Prague, Wenceslas Square, which framed by extravagant market houses hardly reminds you of its medieval origins. Only the Church of Our Lady of the Snows still bears witness to its importance in the past. Prague is also famous for its numerous Art Nouveau buildings. In Prague, cubism was also developed in architecture (e.g. Muller’s Villa Adolf Loos).
Also modern architecture is represented with a few special buildings like Dancing House by Frank Gehry or the Prague TV Tower. Another famous watch tower and television tower Petřínská rozhledna is similar to the Eiffel Tower Petřínská rozhledna. The tower is 60 m high and was built in 1891. The city is particularly exposed to the Vltava River, which is encircled by 13 large Prague bridges from various times.
Above the Vltava and the city rose from 1955 the largest (over 30 m) monument to Stalin in the eastern block, hollowed out of granite. It was blown up – right down to the plinth – in 1962.
In Prague’s Old Town, the Jewish Quarter of Josefov and other areas of the city center have several cultural and historical trails that can also be followed without special knowledge or a guide.
Favourite walks in the city center include: Charles Bridge, the imperial garden in Hradčany, the folk garden between the back of Hradčany and Malá Strana, and the area around the observatory and observation tower in Petřín.
Outer districts of the city
Also outside the city center there are numerous other places of interest for tourists such as Bílá Hora with the Renaissance hunting castle “The Star”, famous for the Battle of White Mountain in 1620; the nearby Benedictine monastery Břevnov; Ctěnice Castle; the baroque Troja Castle with its plafonds and the Prague Zoo in the same area.
The city has a multitude of museums. The oldest, largest and perhaps also the most famous is the National Museum (Národní muzeum), with its main building visible from afar on the southeast narrow side of Wenceslas Square. Also located within the city limits is the Historical Museum in the Lobkowitz Palace at Prague Castle, the Lapidarium in the Výstaviště Exhibition Grounds, the Antonín Dvořák Museum at Michna Summer Palace, and the Bedřich Smetany Museum in a former waterworks building near the Charles Bridge.
Národní galerie v Praze (National Gallery of Prague) exhibitions are located in the entire city area, e.g. Národní Galerie v Praze (National Gallery of Prague) – you can see them all over the city including in the St. Agnes Convent (Klášter svaté Anežky České, Medieval Art), in the Sternberg Palace (Šternberský palác, art from the 14th to 18th century) near Prague Castle and in the Exhibition Palace (Veletržní palác, 19th-century art through to the present) in Holešovice.
You can see the history of the city in the Museum of the City of Prague (Muzeum hlavního města Prahy) near the bus station Florenc. Other interesting places to visit are the Mucha Museum in the immediate vicinity of Prague main post office and the Jewish Museum in Prague (founded in 1906) with its various objects in the Josefov district. In Vila Bertramka in Smichov there is an exhibition about the life and works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Prague and the musician Dušek’s family. Also in Smichov there is a special museum – the Beer Museum of Staropramen Brewery.
In Střešovice you can visit the Museum of Urban Transport in the historic courtyard of the streetcar depot.
Prague has countless large and small stages. Alongside the National Theatre (Národní divadlo with plays, opera, ballet) and the State Opera (Státní opera), there is also the world famous Laterna Magiсa, an avant-garde theater in the New Stage attached to the National Theatre, which offers an original integration of film, light, music, ballet and pantomime. Also the Black Theater, of pantomime and light effects in the black backdrop, is worthy of attention. In the theater “Na Zabradlí” (Divadlo nu zábradlí) began to work as a worker Václav Havel. The Jára Cimrman Theatre in Žižkov has a cult status among Czechs.
In the classic Stavsky Theatre two operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (“La clemenza di Tito” and Don Giovanni) were performed for the first time in the heart of the old times.
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (Česká Filharmonie) is considered one of the best orchestras in Europe.
Prague has many pubs, bars, clubs, jazz clubs and discos.
“U Fleků was originally a typical Prague tavern. Today it – because of its fame – has become a café with a restaurant, where tourists are taken by bus. “U Fleků” brews only there draft dark beer with the main wort 13 ° in its own brewery. There is an outside sale in 1-liter and 2-liter bottles, as well as 5-liter kegs.
“The Marquis de Sade (named after Donatius Alphonsus Francois de Sade) and U Malého Glena (U Malého Glena) are inns that play live jazz and blues. Many musicians come from abroad and live only occasionally in Prague.
“Jo’s Bar” and “U Glaubiců” are neighboring inns with a restaurant in Malá Strana with very deep, historic cellars. U Glaubiců cellar is over 700 years old.
“Karlovy Lazne offers 5 musical clubs with 5 different musical styles on 6 floors (including the basement). Some of the floors are decorated as discotheques, others as taverns or clubs. Karlovy lázně is considered to be “the largest institution of its kind in Central Europe”. Thanks to the diversity of the individual clubs and the modern technical equipment Karlovy Lázně welcomes different age groups as well as foreigners.
There are also 2 other big clubs on Wenceslas Square: Duplex is a dance club, which is also popular with celebrities. For example, Mick Jagger celebrated his 60th birthday here in 2003 during the Rolling Stones 40 Licks tour. Across the street in the basement is the Stonx Dance Club, which opened at the end of 2004. The Roxy Club often plays music from various directions live. “Chapeau Rouge”, formerly “Chateau”, is a club with a cocktail bar, beer bar and dance floor. Other clubs are Radost FX and Palác Akropolis.
U Bukanýra and Mecca in Holešovice in the middle bend of the Vltava are popular among Czechs. “Studio 54 in Hybernská (close to the main railway station) is well frequented from 5 a.m. to 12 noon.
The jazz club Reduta, founded in 1958, is probably the most famous jazz club in the city. Here in 1994 the then President of the United States Bill Clinton played the saxophone. A program of various jazz styles is offered. Very popular with local jazz fans is the “AghaRTA” jazz center which is named after the album by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.
Hockey and soccer are the favorite sports in Prague, Sparta Prague and Slavia Prague are the most important clubs in these sports. “Slavia Prague is equipped with the Eden Stadium which was modernized in May 2008 and Sparta Prague has the AHA Arena with 21,000 and 20,374 seats respectively. The Strahov Stadium built in 1926 – with a capacity of 250,000 people – is still the largest in the world and was used during the Communist era for public events. Other famous sport facilities are the Tesla Arena and the O2 Arena, which opened in 2004 with a capacity of 18,000 spectators and where hockey is played.
Regular international races have been held in the spring and early autumn since 1995, including the half marathon (in March 2007), the junior marathon (also in March 2007) and the marathon (in May 2007), which are open to everyone. This marathon is now called the Volkswagen Marathon.