Old Prague - The ancient, eclectic capital of historic Bohemia (29 May)
Interesting Facts about Old Prague
VISITORS OFTEN USE WORDS like “fairy tale” and “romantic” to describe the “city of a hundred spires,” and they’re absolutely right. This city on the Vltava River, with impressive Gothic and baroque architecture, is captivating. Old Town Square hasn’t changed much since the 15th century; two of its most famous landmarks are a distinctive astronomical clock mounted on the 14th-century Old Town Hall and the Gothic, two-spired Church of Our Lady Before Týn.
A maze of cobbled lanes meander past ancient burgher houses, and the beautiful 14th-century Charles Bridge is lined with baroque religious statues. Prague Castle is a huge medieval fortress set high on a hill; one of its wings is owned by a royal family whose lineage dates back 700 years. The Lobkowicz family was once one of the most powerful in Central Europe, but it was forced to flee Czechoslovakia in 1948 under the Communists. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, it has had many of its royal holdings restored.
There are modern flourishes in Prague, too. In Lucerna Palace off Wenceslas Square, a suspended statue features St. Wenceslas riding an upside-down and apparently dead horse. It’s one of local artist David Černý’s controversial public sculptures. There’s also Frank Gehry’s Dancing “Fred and Ginger” House, an arresting deconstructivist building with dynamic, curvy lines that evoke the iconic dancing Hollywood duo. Elsewhere, you’ll stumble on art deco, art nouveau, and cubist buildings—modern structures that retain a grace of their own amid their historic settings.
Prague has been a center of progressive ideas since Charles University in Prague was established in 1348. It is credited with developing much of the thought behind the Protestant Reformation. Artists and scholars have long been drawn here, Mozart, Dvořák, Kafka, and Einstein among them. And it’s here that a student protest on November 17, 1989, against communism led to the election of popular playwright Václav Havel as president that December 29.
The city continues to reinvent itself. Since emerging from its communist regime in 1989, Prague has blossomed into one of the world’s trendiest destinations, with hip bars, world-class restaurants, innovative music, and contemporary architecture among its attractions. That’s the allure of Prague: It retains a magnificent Old World dignity and charm while making room for a lively strain of modern expression. This is Bohemia, after all.