Prague (Czech: Praha, see also other names) is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated on the Vltava river in central Bohemia, it is home to approximately 1.2 million people. (It can be derived from jobs statistics, however, that an additional 300,000 work there without having registered as residents.)
Nicknames for Prague have included "city of a hundred spires", "the golden city", "the Left Bank of the Nineties", the "mother of cities", and "the heart of Europe". Since 1992, the historic center of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
Prague was founded in the latter part of the 9th century as a castle (hrad) by the king Borivoj. Soon the city became the seat of the kings of Bohemia, some of whom also reigned as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in later times. It was an important seat for trading where mrchants coming from all Europe settled, including many Jews. King Wladislas II had a first bridge on the Moldava built, the Judith Bridge, which crumbled down in 1342. On its foundings the Charles Bridge was later built.
Under Otakar II (1235-1278) Staré Mesto and Malá Strana were founded in Prague: the latter was the district of the German people. These had the right to administrate the law in autonomous way, referring to the Magdeburg's lagislation.
The city flourished during the 14th century reign of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town (Nové Mesto), the Charles Bridge, Saint Vitus Cathedral: the oldest gothic cathedral in central Europe which is actually inside the Castle, and the Charles University: the oldest university in central Europe. Prague was then the third-largest city in Europe. Under Charles Prague was the actual capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and its rank was elevated to that of archbishopric.
Under King Wenceslas IV (1378-1419) the theologian and university lector Jan Hus held its preachers in Prague. He summoned his followers in the Betlehem's Chapel, speaking in Czech language in order to enlarge the diffuzione of his renovation ideas as much as possible. Having become too much dangerous for the political and religious establishment, Hus was burned in 1415.
The Emperor Rudolf II was elected King of Bohemia in 1576 and chose Prague as his home. He lived in the Castle where he held his bizarre courts of astrologers, magicians and other strange figures. This was a prosperous period for the city: famous people living there in that age include the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johann Kepler, the painter Arcimboldo and others.
In 1618 the famous Defenestration of Prague provoked the Thirty Years' War. Ferdinand II of Habsburg was deposed, and his place as King of Bohemia taken by Frederick V of Pfalz. But the Czech army was crushed in the Battle of the White Mountain (1620), not far from the city, and thenceforth Prague and Bohemia lived a harsh period in which religious tolerance was abolished and Catholic Counter-Reformation was preeminent in every aspect of life. Moreover, Ferdinand moved the court to Vienna, and Prague began a steady decline which reduce the population from he 60,000 of the years before the war to the 20,000 after its end.
In 1689 a great burning devasted Prague, but this spurred a renovation and a rebuilding of the city. The economic rise continued through the following century. In 1784, under Joseph II, the four municipalities of Malà Strana, Nové Mesto, Staré Mesto and Hradcany were merged into a single entity. The Jew district, caleld Josefov, was included only in 1850.
The revolutions that shocked all Europe around 1848 touched Prague too, but they were fiercely suppressed. In the following years the Czech nationalist movement (opposed to another nationalist party, the German one) began his rise, until in 1861 it gained the majority in the Town Council.
World War I ended with the defeat of the Austrian Empire, and the creation of Czechoslovakia. Prague was chosen as its capital. At this time Prague was a true European capital with a very developed industry.
For most of his history Prague had been a multiethnic city with an important Czech, German and (a mostly Yiddish- and/ or German-speaking) Jewish population. From 1939, when the country was occupied by Nazi Germany, and during World War II, most Jews either fled the city or were killed in the Holocaust. The German population, which had formed the majority of the city's inhabitants till the 19th century, was expelled in the aftermath of the war. Prague was the now the capital of a Communist Republic under the military and political control of Soviet Union, and in 1955 it entered in the Warsaw Pact.
The always lively intellectual world of Prague, however, suffered under the totalitarist regime. In the 4th Czechoslovakian Writers' Congress held in the city in 1967 they took a strong position against the regime. This spurred the new secretray of Communist Party, Alexander Dubček to proclaim a new deal in his city and country's life, starting the short-lived season of the "socialism with a human face". It was the Prague Spring, which aimed to the renovation of institutions in a democratic way. Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact reacted occupying Czechoslovakia and the capital in 1968, suppressing under tanks' tracks any attempt of renovation.
In 1989, after the Berlin Wall had fell, and the Velvet Revolution crowded the streets of Prague, Czechoslovakia could finally restart this program, and Prague benefited deeply of the new mood. In 1993, after the split of Czechoslovakia, Prague became capital city of the new Czech Republic.
Most important moments of Prague history in chronological sequence:
- 870 Prague Castle founded
- 1085 Prague became the seat of kings - 1st king Vratislaus II.
- 1344 the Prague Bishopric became Archdiocese
- 1346 the rule of Charles IV. - Prague capital of Holy Roman Empire
- 1348 founded University of Prague (Charles University)
- 1378 Jan Hus´s reformations
- 1419 1st Prague defenestration
- 1420 battle on Vítkov Mountain - Hussites win over crusaders
- 1583 rule of Rudolf II - city for the 2nd time the capital of Holy Roman Empire and cultural center of Europe
- 1618 2nd Prague defenestration sparked off the Thirty Years' War
- 1621 there was an execution of 27 Czech lords on the Old Town Square as a consequence of the Battle of White Mountain
- 1648 the west bank of Prague (including the Prague Castle) occupied and looted by Swedish armies
- 1741 occupation by French-Bavarian armies
- 1744 occupation by Prussian armies
- 1848 revolutionary uprising crushed by imperial army
- 1890 big flood caused extreme damage
- 1918 after the World War I Prague became the capital of Czechoslovakia
- 1938 after political betrayal of allied (France and Britain at Munich) Germany occupied Sudetenland and in 1939 whole country
- 1942 Czechoslovak paratroopers killed Reinhard Heydrich, Nazis respond with wave of terror
- 1945 U.S. Air Force bombing raid kills hundreds of Praguers by mistake. (Target was Dresden, 83 miles away).
- 1945 uprising against the Nazis during the last days of World War II, ended with the arrival of the Red Army.
- 1948 communist takeover of power
- 1968 Soviet army invasion to repress the Prague Spring
- 1989 Prague is the main center of Velvet Revolution (the fall of communist regime)
- 2000 Anti-globalization Protests in Prague (some 15,000 protesters) turned violent during the IMF and World Bank summits
- 2002 Prague suffered from flooding, parts of the city were evacuated but no major landmarks destroyed
The four independent boroughs that had formerly constituted Prague were eventually proclaimed a single city in 1784. Those four cities were Hradčany (the Castle District, west and north of the Castle), Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana, south of the Castle), Old Town (Staré Město, on the east bank opposite the Castle) and New Town (Nové Město, further south and east). The city underwent further expansion with the annexation of Josefov in 1850 and Vyšehrad in 1883, and at the beginning of 1922, another 37 municipalities were incorporated, raising the city's population to 676,000. In 1938 population reached 1,000,000.
Prague is a popular tourist destination. There are lots of old buildings, many with beautiful murals on them. It contains one of the world's most pristine and varied collections of architecture, from Art Nouveau to Baroque, Renaissance, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical and ultra-modern. Some of its many tourist attractions are:
- Old Town (Staré Město)
- Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana)
- Prague Castle (the largest castle in the world) with its St. Vitus Cathedral
- the Charles Bridge
- the Lennon Wall
- Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock
- Josefov (the old Jewish quarter)
- Wenceslas Square
- National Museum
- Vyšehrad castle
- Petrinska Rozhledna, an observation tower, which is nearly a 1:5 copy of Eiffel Tower
- Žižkov Television Tower with observation deck
- Žižkov cemetery, location of Franz Kafka's grave
- the Metronome, a giant, functional metronome that looms over the city
- The Dancing House (Fred and Ginger)
- Various places connected to Franz Kafka
Prague is a traditional cultural centre of Europe, hosting many cultural events.
Most Important Cultural Institutions:
- National Theatre
- The Rudolfinum (home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra)
- National Opera
- National Museum
- National Library
- National Gallery
- Prague Spring International Music Festival
- Prague Autumn International Music Festival
- One World Film Festival
- Echoes of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
- Barrandov Studios
- Prague Writers Festival
- Prague International Organ Festival
- Prague Fringe Festival
- World Roma Festival
- Mozart´s Don Giovanni premier
- Michael Flatley Celtic Tiger European premiere
Prague is the wealthiest city in Eastern Europe. The GDP per capita of Prague is more than double that of the Czech Republic as a whole. The city is becoming a site of European headquarters of many international companies.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s Prague has become a popular filming location for international productions and Hollywood motion pictures. Unlike many other European cities, Prague did not suffer great destruction during World War II, and the city is often used as a "stand in" for other pre-WW2 European cities, such as Amsterdam or London.   A combination of architecture, low costs, tax breaks and the existing motion picture infrastructure have proved attractive to international film production companies.
Colleges and universities
The city contains 8 universities and colleges including the oldest university in Central and Eastern Europe:
- Charles University (UK) founded in 1348
- Czech Technical University (ČVUT) founded in 1707
- Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) founded in 1800
- Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (VŠUP) founded in 1885
- Institute of Chemical Technology (VŠCHT) founded in 1920
- Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) founded in 1945
- Czech University of Agriculture (ČZU) founded in 1952
- University of Economics (VŠE) founded in 1953
Prague is served by Ruzyně International Airport (10,000,000 passengers per year), which is the hub of the flag carrier, CSA Czech Airlines. There are several cheap flights per day from UK (Easyjet) and from other cities (Smartwings).
The taxi service in Prague has had a somewhat chequered history. During the rule of Communist Party in Czechoslovakia (1948–1989), the taxi service was nationalised into one umbrella company, and, with a short exception during liberalization related to Prague spring, no independent taxi drivers were allowed. The quality and availability of the service was low. This caused many enterprising people to run illegal taxi services. Their earnings were far above income of typical citizens and became a source of envy. After the fall of the Communism regime, the service was liberalized, and anyone could become a taxi driver. Unfortunately, the chaos of transition from planned to market economy did not leave any time to implement sufficient regulations. The lack of planning and controls has led to a number of serious taxi scams operating in the city; some of which have been linked with organised crime. Many of the victims of overpricing are tourists.
Taxi services in Prague can currently be divided into three sectors. There are major taxicab companies, operating call-for-taxi services (radio-taxi) or from regulated taxi stands, where overpricing is rare and regulation mostly in place. There are independent drivers, who make pick-ups on the street; cheating is mostly associated with these cars. Lastly, there are fake taxi drivers, who operate as "contractual transport services" in order to avoid government regulation.
- Prague International Marathon
- Sparta Prague -> UEFA Champions League
- Slavia Prague -> UEFA Cup
- Sazka Arena -> 2004 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships and Euroleague Final Four 2006
- Strahov Stadium - the largest stadium in the world
- and more
Prague is also the site of most important offices and institutions of the Czech Republic and Central Europe.
- President of Czech Republic
- The Government and both houses of the Parliament
- Czech Television and other major TV stations
- Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty
- Prague Institute for Global Urban Development
- People in Need - humanitarian organization
- Forum 2000 - international political, sociological, economical and philosophical conference
- and more
Prague - Venue
Major events of recent years:
- NATO Summit 2002
- International Monetary Fund and World Bank Summit 2000
- International Olympic Committee Session 2004
- International Astronomical Union General Assembly 2006
- and thousands of smaller events
Famous People connected with Prague
- See main article Famous People Connected with Prague for detailed list.
As cultural and economical center of Czech lands Prague attracted many famous people. Some of most known are: Charles IV - Rudolf II - Jan Hus - Bohumil Hrabal - Franz Kafka - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Antonín Dvořák - Václav Havel.
- 1230: cca 3-4,000 inhabitants 1
- 1370: cca 40,000 2
- 1600: cca 60,000 2
- 1804: 76,000
- 1837: 105,500
- 1850: 118,400 (157,200 incl. suburbs)
- 1880: 162,300 (314,400 incl. suburbs)
- 1900: 201,600 (514,300 incl. suburbs)
- 1925: 718,300
- 1950: 931,500
- 1980: 1,182,800
- 1998: 1,193,300
- 2001: 1,169,100
- 2004: 1,170,571
- 1 Staré město only
- 2 Staré město, Nové město, Malá Strana and Hradčany quarters
- Numbers beside other years denote the population of Prague within the administrative border of the city at that time (and population including present suburbs in parentheses).
- Prague specifics
- Prague city districts
- Prague Spring (liberalization attempt in 1968)
- Prague Spring International Music Festival
- Clementinum (complex of libraries)
- Infant Jesus of Prague
- Defenestrations of Prague
- Prague Zoo
- Czech Republic at Wikitravel
- Average Weather Conditions
- Official Website
- Prague Daily Monitor - Czech news in English
- Prague.tv - travel guide
- Metro, trams, and buses operated by Dopravni podnik hl.m Prahy, a.s.
- National Theatre
- State Opera
- A few picture of the city under Creative Commons licence (CC-BY)
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