Prague is known as the “Jewel in the Crown” of Central Europe, and tourism has played an important role in the development of the city since the fall of communism.
This guide covers the highlights of Prague and explains the layout of the city.
Prague (Praha in Czech) was once the seat of a mighty empire. It was the ancient capital of Charles IV’s Bohemian Kingdom, and has played a pivotal role in Central Europe since the Middle Ages.
The epic history of Prague has produced a beautiful city, full of stunning buildings and majestic squares.
Tourism has driven the regeneration of Prague, transforming run-down buildings into fine restaurants, vibrant bars and stylish hotels.
Prague Tourism Fact: In 1992 the historical centre of Prague, all 866 hectares, was listed in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Register.
The highlights of Prague
Prague’s city centre is compact. From Wenceslas Square on one side to Prague Castle on the other is just a 30 minutes stroll (walking via the Old Town, across Charles Bridge and through the Lesser Town).
With many of the city’s finest areas pedestrianised, the sights and attractions are therefore best explored on foot. Prague is effectively an open air museum.
In addition to the pure beauty of the city itself, opera, ballet and classical concerts are a true highlight of Prague. Performances are held all year round in magnificent opera houses, grand concert halls and ancient churches.
Estates Theatre in Prague
Blacklight theatre shows are also unique and will appeal to both adults and children.
Prague restaurants enjoy a reputation for serving good, often excellent cuisine. Czech pub-style restaurants serve hearty food and well-priced drinks, while at the top end there is fine dining to be enjoyed in a range of settings from intimate cellars to riverside restaurants, to rooftop restaurants with views over the whole city.
For refreshment at any time of the day, the world-famous Czech beer is deeply embedded in the national physique and is enthusiastically consumed in cafés and bars all over Prague; the Czechs are the largest consumers of beer per capita in the world!
Another well-known export of the Czech Republic is Bohemia Crystal. The finest glass products can be found in shops in Prague. Visitors can also sign up for a tour to a glass factory, such as to Moser Glass.
Charles Bridge & Prague Castle
The layout of Prague’s City Centre – map of Prague
The city centre of Prague is divided into five areas, which span both banks of the Vltava River.
On one side of the river is the Old Town (Staré Město), with the Old Town Square at its heart; the New Town (Nové Město), with Wenceslas Square at its heart; and the Jewish Quarter (Josefov).
On the other side of the river is the Lesser Town (Malá Strana); and above this, the Castle District (Hradčany), which is dominated by Prague Castle.
Charles Bridge is the main pedestrian route linking the two sides of Prague.
The city centre is denoted by the postal district Prague 1.
If you stay in a hotel or apartment anywhere in Prague 1 (or close by in Prague 2), on either side of the river, it is possible to walk around the whole city with ease and explore all the sights and attractions on foot.
Just outside the city centre there are other areas easily accessible by tram and metro: Vinohrady, Holešovice, Smichov, Karlin and Vysehrad.
Prague’s Most Beautiful Views
Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) is the No.1 tourist attraction in Prague. Set on a hill, it affords visitors exceptional views over the whole of Prague.
You can also climb and enjoy views from the following towers and attractions: Old Town Hall Tower, Old Town Bridge Tower, Lesser Town Bridge Tower, Klementinum, Petrin, Jindrisska Tower and Vysehrad.
Prague tourist guides often use English names for famous sights. This can be confusing for visitors, as maps and street signs are nearly always in Czech.
Prague tours can help visitors to fully appreciate the city. While river cruises are also a popular way to see the sights, as many of the attractions in Prague border the river.
The Czech Language
Czech, a consonant-rich Slavic language, is one of the most difficult European languages to learn. English speakers find certain sounds very hard to pronounce.
Fortunately, tourism and global commerce mean many Czech’s speak English, particularly in Prague.
Prague in the Czech Republic, and its People
The Czech Republic covers 78,864 square kilometres (30,449 square miles). It borders Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Poland. The highest mountain is Snezka (1604m). The longest river is the Vltava (434km).
St. Nicholas Church in Prague
Czech Republic in Central Europe
Czech Republic in Europe
The population of Prague is 1.26 million. The population of the Czech Republic is 10.5 million.
Czechs belong to the West Slavic group of peoples, along with Poles, Slovaks and Luatians. Romanies (or Gypsies) form the most conspicuous minority – they are thought to descend from Indian migrants in the 15th century.
A significant number of people from Central and Eastern European countries, along with former Soviet Union states such as Ukraine, migrate to Prague to work in tourism and construction.