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Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It lies in the north-west of the country and is also the historical capital of Bohemia. Lying on several bends of the Vltava River (which famously flooded the city most recently in 2002), the city has a population of approximately 1.24 million people. Prague is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe (5th most visited after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome as of 2015) and is a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe. The extensive historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and to describe each and every attraction of note in the city would reach far beyond the scope of this webpage. A good introduction to the tourist sites may be found on the LP website here and a timeline of the city's history may be found here.

My first visit to Prague was not comparatively long after the 'Velvet Revolution' of 1989, on a bitterly cold Boxing Day and the city was another world away from the modern commercialised destination we see today. Since then, I have returned throughout the years many times and whilst it is a shame to see the city taken over by invasive retail and fast-food outlets, the city still holds its mesmerising charm; it seems no quantity of modern enterprises will ever take away the beauty of the imposing castle with St. Vitus Cathedral atop the majestic hill overlooking the Charles Bridge and the Vltava River.

It is still easily possible to seek out the more traditional places to eat or shop or be amongst the buildings, parks and locals by veering ever so slightly away from the main tourist drag (or further afield). I say drag in the literal sense of a trail, which generally lies heading from Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) to the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), over the Charles Bridge (Karlův Most)and up to the Castle District (Hradčany). On a couple of visits to the city, I stayed in a pension (guesthouse) near the Skalka metro station (formerly at the end of Metro line A) and found myself quite content isolated away from the hustle and bustle on a sleepy residential street; of course, choice of location is personal and with over 50,000 beds in hotels and guesthouses scattered around the city, there are lodgings that cater for all manner of tastes and budgets.

The photos below are a small selection taken from different visits over the years (hence the wide variation in quality). I could write a small volume on the city and my experiences there but have added a few notes underneath.

Photo 1. Classic view from the Charles Bridge towards Castle Hill. The Guinness Book of Records lists Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. Almost every architectural style of the last millennium is represented within its walls. Dominating the hill and within the castle is the Gothic St Vitus Cathedral. More here.

Photos 2 - 18. The Old Town Square. Famous sites on this tourist hotspot include the Astronomical Clock (Prague Orloj), the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (or simply Týn church) with its two 80m high towers and the Baroque St. Nicholas Church. It is possible to climb the tower of the old town hall to view the square from above; this is one of many viewpoints across the city.

Photos 19 & 20. Wenceslas Square. Scene of many historical events in the city and the main business area in the new town area of Prague. The square is laid out more like a boulevard and it is along here I bumped into someone from university on one visit and then someone from my hometown on another, so a busy place to walk up and down. Photos from each end.

Photos 21 - 33. The infamous Charles Bridge with views from it. Built 1357 - 1402, the stone bridge crosses the Vltava River with a total length of 1692 feet (516m). It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar for strength. Probably the one thing to see in Prague, if nothing else. More here.

Photos 34 - 45. Castle Hill, including views from St Vitus Cathedral.

Photo 46. Old Jewish Cemetery. Another popular tourist site dating from the early 15th century. Notable people buried here include Yehuda ben Bezalel, known as the Maharal Rabbi Löw. More here.

Photos 47 - 52. Located in the lower town on the same side of the river as Castle Hill, it is possible to walk or take a funicular up Petrin Hill, where atop an observation tower can be climbed This provides 360° views of the city from yet another vantage point. The tower was built in 1891 as a mini version of Paris's Eiffel Tower for the Jubilee Exhibition. In my photos, looking away from the old town, can be seen The Great Strahov Stadium; hen it was an active sports venue, it had a capacity of around 250,000, making it the largest stadium in the world. [note: although the football team AC Sparta Prague train here, it is not to be confused with the considerably smaller Generali Arena (Letná Stadium) where they play].

Photos 53 - 56. Malá Strana (Little Quarter or Lesser Town). One of the most historic parts of the city located just on the other side of the Charles Bridge from the old town.

Photos 57 & 58. Wallenstein Palace Gardens. Located in Malá Strana is this Baroque palace which is currently the home of the Czech Senate. The palace is laid out forming four courtyards and the complex includes period gardens. Shown here on photo 57 is one of the gardens with a sala terrena (a large, formal room with direct access to a garden via one side which is open to that garden). The following photo shows The Grotto (Dripstone wall), also found in the gardens of the palace.

Photo 59. View from The Powder Tower. This tower is one of the original 13 city gates in the Old Town and was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century. Located a short walk east of the Old Town Square, in the view shown here looks back towards the aforementioned Týn church on the Old Town Square with its two towers, The tower on Petrin Hill (left) and as far as the castle district (Hradčany).

Photos 60 - 62. Troja Palace and nearby Prague Zoo. Inside the palace, I was very impressed with the interior decoration - walls were painted in the Trompe-l'œil style, to fool the eye into thinking the decor was in three dimensions when it wasn't. See here for further information.

Photos 63 - 65. Vyšehrad. Slightly further afield and south of the old town is Vyšehrad, a hilltop fortress dating from the 10th century (approximate) and overlooking the Vltava river. Within the castle is a basilica and a cemetery, which contains the remains of notable Czech people including the famous composers Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. A very interesting visit if time permits.

Photo 66. Žižkov Television Tower. See my webpage here.

Photo 67. One of the city's more well-known breweries.

Photos 69 - 72. From a visit in 1996. Looking closely above the tram and on a plinth where a statue of Joseph Stalin once stood, here you will see in the photo a temporary statue. One of Michael Jackson. It was at this point I had discovered that he had arrived in town to kick off (apart from a gig in Brunei) his third and final worldwide solo concert tour. Crowds were gathering outside the hotel where he was staying. After persuasion from a Muscovite in the not so luxurious youth hostel where I was staying, a visit to the tourist information (parting with a mere £6) and wandering up to the city's Letná Park, I found myself spontaneously seeing the King of Pop live. Along with over 100,000 other people. Unplanned excitement all round.

Some of my favourite books relating to Prague and the Czech Republic:

1. Prague Walks by Ivana Edwards, Henry Holt and Company

2. The Legend of the Golem by Ivana Pecháčková, Meander 2004

3. Prague Underwater, published by Vitalis - documents the floods of 2002

4. Prague: Tales of the City (Abroad) by John Miller (Author, Editor) and Kirsten Miller (Editor), Chronicle Books

5. Beyond the Imaginable: 240 Ways of Looking at Czech by Karen von Kunes, Práh Publishers

6. Prague Pictures - Portraits of a City by John Banville, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

7. Franz Kafka and Prague by Harald Salfellner, Vitlis Publishing

8. A Brief History of the Czech lands to 2004 by Petr Cornej and Jiri Pokorny, Práh Publishers

9. Blue Guide - Prague by Jasper Tilbury, A&C Black (London), WW Norton (New York)


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