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Prague was founded in the 9th century by Slavic kings who made it capital of Bohemia, built the Prague Castle, and began the town’s trading industry. Prague continued to prosper in the 14th century as a centre of trade, culture and education under Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who commissioned the building of the city’s New Town, the Charles Bridge, and Charles University. In 1526, Prague fell under the House of Hapsburg and was an Austrian city for the following 400 years. It quickly became a hub of European culture. Though the city suffered wars, occupation, a massive fire, and the plague, Prague consistently bounced back.
The Czech nationalist movement was growing stronger by the mid-to-late 19th century. With the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War, Prague became capital of the independent nation of Czechoslovakia. In 1939, the German army under Hitler invaded the city, forcing the Jewish population, which had been part of Prague since its creation, to flee. After Germany’s surrender and exit from the city, Prague fell under control of the Soviet Union and became the centre of the Communist government of Czechoslovakia. In 1968, in order to prevent proposed reforms by Communist party leader Alexander Dubček known as Prague Spring, Soviet troops occupied the city. Nonviolent demonstrations in 1989 led to the fall of the Communist government, in what is referred to as the Velvet Revolution. In 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with Prague remaining the capital of the latter.
Spend a weekend in Prague and pass the time in this enchanting city, which sprawls over rolling hills and is set along the Vltava River. With a medieval Old Town, Gothic architecture, baroque gardens and palaces, and the magnificent 14th-century Charles Bridge, Prague is rich in both history and art. By day, explore historic sites like the Prague Castle or get lost in one of dozens of excellent museums. At dusk, relax in a beer garden, and then catch the city orchestra at Smetana Hall at night. So book a flight to Prague today and take advantage of all that this classic and contemporary city has to offer.
This ancient clock has been in operation since 1490 and never fails to bring in tourists and locals for its hourly show.
Some of Prague's most beautiful buildings cluster around this square, which offers everything from restaurants to bookstores.
Take a tour of Prague's majestic castle complex, which includes a cathedral, torture chamber and countless historical exhibits.
If you're travelling with your family, check out the Prague Zoo for an afternoon of outdoor entertainment.
Wander down the Charles Bridge at any time of day to watch people, look at the statues and listen to the street musicians.
Don't miss the KGB Museum, which offers a fascinating and educational look at the history of the secret police in Europe.
Wander among ancient tombstones at this tiny cemetery, which is the final resting place of over 100,000 people.
For a true Prague experience, have a meal at a local pub, where you can share tables with locals and enjoy local delicacies like cold mackerel.
Adults and children alike will enjoy the puppet shows around Prague, which are performed by master puppeteers.
In late April, join locals in the revelry of Witches Night, when bonfires light the outskirts of the city and parties abound.
Towering on a hilltop above the city is the Prague Castle. This 70,000-square-metre complex is said to be the largest castle in the world. Originally built in the 9th century by the Slavic Přemyslid Dynasty and renovated numerous times throughout its history, the castle boasts architectural styles including Bohemian baroque, Roman, and Gothic. It served as the residence of royalty for thousands of years and was the Nazi headquarters during Germany’s occupation of Prague and the centre of Czechoslovakia’s Communist Government, and is now the office of the President of the Czech Republic.
This impressive Gothic cathedral that lies inside the Prague Castle complex deserves mention of its own. Built in 925 by the Duke of Bohemia Wenceslas I, the cathedral, which consists of 21 chapels, became what it is today during the 14th century, under Roman rule. The most famous section is the St. Wenceslas Chapel, which is made up of over a thousand Bohemian gems, Gothic frescoes depicting biblical scenes and the life of St. Wenceslas, and the intricately decorated tomb of the saint himself.
It is hard to miss this neo-classical monument that dominates Wenceslas Square. But make sure not to miss the millions of historical treasures that are inside. The biggest and oldest museum in the Czech Republic, the National Museum houses an impressive permanent collection ranging from prehistoric artefacts, archaeological finds such as medieval weapons, and an exhibition on the history of theatre in Czechoslovakia.
Though there is great art spread through the city, the modern art works of Prague’s National Gallery at the Veletržní Palace are the ones to see. They include paintings and sculptures by Slovak and Czech artists, as well as works by Van Gough, Picasso, Klimt, Renoir and Rodin, among others. There is also Chinese and Japanese art and even some Andy Warhols, so be sure to take an afternoon to enjoy it all.
Prague has an extensive tram and subway network, but going on foot allows you to explore the city's many hidden pathways and secluded side streets.
Prague residents are proud of their beer, and you can spend a pleasant afternoon or evening sampling the beers on offer at a local pub.
Check out some of Prague's most cutting-edge modern art at this art centre, which offers rotating exhibits.
Sample a new type of performing art at the stunning National Theatre, which offers tickets for all price ranges.
If you're visiting Prague in November or December, don't miss the city's many Christmas markets. Buy a glass of hot mulled wine to stay warm.
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The best time to visit Prague is during the spring and fall, when most days reach 15Â°C or higher and the streets are less crowded. The high season is from late May to early September. During the summer, days can be hot, with temperatures topping out at 22Â°C. The summer months draw the largest crowds, and the city hosts events like the United Islands of Prague festival and the Tanec Praha dance festival. If you don't mind about temperatures dropping to 0Â°C, the winter is a beautiful time to visit Pragueâ€”the falling snow and Christmas markets create a magical atmosphere.
Traverse cobblestone streets and marvel at the Gothic, baroque and Romanesque buildings in Prague’s charming Old Town. Dating back to the second century, this area once served as the central marketplace of the city. Spend some time in one of Old Town’s many cafes and make sure to have a look at the 15th century Astronomical Clock in the square, which shows the position of the earth in relation to the sun and moon.
The wide range of species and their spacious habitats spread over 100 acres have earned Prague zoo recognition as one of the world’s best. It boasts more than 630 species from around the world, including penguins, polar bears, wolves, gorillas and Andean vultures.
For spectacular views and an escape from the city, get up to Petrin Hill and check out the Petrin Lookout Tower. The tower appears to be a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower, and visitors can either climb the 300 steps to its top or ride a lift. Those who are looking for more of a challenge can hike up Petrin Hill, which takes about half an hour, while others can catch the Petrin funicular to the top. While there, check out the 14th-century Hunger Wall, a monastery, and a mirror maze at the base of the tower.
On any given night of the week in Prague you can enjoy an excellent opera, ballet, classical music or theatrical performances. The Prague State Opera boasts classics such as La Bohème or Madame Butterfly, while the acclaimed National Theatre features a wide array of ballets, operas, and dramas all year round. For classical concerts, head to the Smetana Hall of Municipal House or St. Nicholas Church, or catch the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra or the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
The recently renovated Hotel Roma, located in Lesser Town, is just steps from Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and the National Theatre. The hotel features a meeting room, a fitness centre and a summer garden. Each room is furnished with Italian decor and equipped with air-conditioning, high-speed internet, satellite TV, and a safety deposit box.
Situated in quaint Vinohrady, the city’s historical centre chock-full of bars and restaurants, is Galileo Hotel. Renovated in 2006, the hotel features an airport shuttle, wireless internet access and a breakfast buffet. Each room has air-conditioning, tea and coffee facilities, and high-speed internet. A short walk from Wenceslas Square and other sights, Galileo Hotel is a great spot from which to explore the city.
Once a bank and post office, the recently renovated building housing the luxurious Carlo IV A Boscolo Luxury Hotel is a gorgeous tribute to neo-Renaissance architecture. From the marble-floored lobby to the crystal light fixtures, the Hotel Carlo IV is full of features that are sure to please travellers of fine tastes. Each room has a contemporary design, internet access and safety deposit box.
The Praga 1 Hotel is just a short walk from the Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square and offers great prices. The hotel is quiet with an accommodating staff, and each room has air conditioning and free wireless internet connection. The fare also includes a continental breakfast.
So choose your hotel in Prague, and start planning your holiday today!
For a fast and inexpensive way to reach downtown from Prague Ruzyně Airport take bus number 119, which leaves every 7 to 20 minutes from outside the terminal and goes to Dejvická metro station on line A. From Dejvická you can reach all major downtown neighbourhoods. Alternatively line 100, running every 15 minutes, will take you to Zličín metro station on line B. From Zličín you can get to Charles and Wenceslas Squares.
For travelling outside of the city centre take one of Prague’s buses, which run from 4.30 in the morning until midnight.
For greater mobility, consider Prague
Prepare for the gastronomic experience of a lifetime at La Desgustation Bohême Bourgeoise (Haštalská 18). Choose one of three seven-course meals that include international and Czech cuisine. Begin with fried aubergine with Prague ham, followed by a beef oyster blade with fresh dill or the organic beef tenderloin with cranberries. Dishes change seasonally and produce comes from local and organic farms.
Bagel lovers rejoice: Bohemia Bagel in Prague is the place to get that hand-made, freshly baked breakfast you have been missing. With classics like onion, poppy, and cinnamon raisin, Bohemia Bagel also has bagels like parmesan-oregano and jalapeño-cheddar in addition to some hearty sandwiches and gourmet coffee. Shops can be found in five locations around Prague, and a visit really hits the spot before a day of sightseeing.
Friendly service and a cosy atmosphere await you at Artisan Restaurant & Cafe (Rošických 603/4). Using fresh local produce and making their own bread, stocks, and pastas, this restaurant goes to lengths to make sure the diners’ experience is one of a kind. Dishes not to miss include the salmon ceviche, the succulent filet mignon, grilled halibut with couscous, and for dessert a rich chocolate lava cake.
Boasting a gorgeous view of the city from its expansive terrace, Terasa U Zlaté Studně (U Zlaté Studně 4) mixes Czech, French and other cuisines to divine effect. Starters include a marinated Canadian lobster and beetroot tartare, while entrees range from a rack of fallow deer with butter gnocchi to a duck confit with red cabbage.
Water from the tap is not safe to drink in Prague. Purchase bottled water such as Ida, Evian or Artes. Though there are no required vaccinations for a visit to the Czech Republic, those recommended include tetanus, polio, diphtheria, measles, and hepatitis A. Prague has a very reliable health infrastructure and there are plenty of well-stocked pharmacies in town.
Emergencies: dial 112
Ambulance: dial 155
Police: dial 158
Fire department: dial 150
There has been a recent rise in petty crime in Prague, so take common sense precautions. Do not walk alone at night or in poorly lit areas. Try to keep items such as jewellery and electronics concealed, and do not carry large amounts of money on your person. Park in demarcated areas and do not leave personal belongings in parked cars. Be sure to make photocopies of all your travel documents, and keep them on you at all times. Store originals in the hotel safe with some cash.