Environnement - Activités
Prague’s oldest bridge, and one of its most iconic structures, is Charles Bridge, which connects Old Town with Malá Strana. Dating to 1357, it was originally called the Stone Bridge, or Prague Bridge, before being named Charles Bridge in 1870, after its founder King Charles IV.
One of the city’s most popular and recognisable sites, Charles Bridge is adorned with 30 stone statues of saints and personages, added between 1683 and 1928; however, these are all replicas today. The originals are housed in the Lapidarium museum in Holešovice. The most famous statue on the bridge is that of St. John of Nepomuk (1345 – 1393), and rubbing his foot is rumored to bring good luck. There’s an earlier legend, though, that says to find the spot where St. John was thrown from the bridge, marked by a small brass cross, and make a wish.
The sandstone bridge replaced the former Judith Bridge, which had been badly damaged by floods in 1342, and served as an important connection for trade between the east and west. It was completed by Petr Parléř, who also designed St. Vitus Cathedral, in 1402. The bridge was open to cars through 1965.
Each end of the 515-meter-long span is fortified by the Malá Strana Bridge Towers and the Old Town Bridge Tower, respectively. The smaller of the Malá Strana towers is a relic of Judith Bridge dating to the 12th century and was used as a jail for more than 200 years. The other was built in High Gothic style, drawing upon Parléř’s Old Town Bridge Tower. Both are accessible to the public and afford great views.
On the Old Town side, the Bridge Tower is one of Europe’s most striking examples of High Gothic architecture. Completed in 1380, its exterior is richly adorned with sculptures, statues and coats of arms.
Despite being only a fraction of its former self, Prague’s Jewish Quarter comprises the best current complex of Jewish historical monuments in all of Europe. The smallest of Prague’s districts was walled off as a ghetto in 1096, following a pogrom against its inhabitants, who were mainly Jewish immigrants. The ghetto thrived for centuries, giving birth notably to the legend of the Golem around the 16th century. Between 1893 and 1913, however, the district was razed to the ground as part of expansive redevelopment plans, leaving only a few significant buildings as the living testimony of many centuries of Prague Jewish life.
Municipal House/ Powder tower
The Municipal House stands at the site of the royal residence called King's Court. It was a building from the time of Wenceslas IV around 1383, which served as an interim dwelling of King Zikmund; Ladislav Pohrobek died here and the coronation procession of Jiří z Poděbrad started its journey here. The King's Court was demolished in 1902 - 1903. The intention of the Prague City Hall to build a representative building and the desire of the most important Czech Burgher Association Měšťanská beseda to expand its facilities with the costs being paid by the City were at the birth of a new building, which would represent the capital city of the Kingdom and support the Czech social life. In 1902 the City Council approved the construction and in 1903 it approved the purchase of land next to the Powder Gate. In 1904 the project was approved and construction works began in 1905. The building was built from 1905 to 1911 according to the project of architect Antonín Balšánek and Osvald Polívka as a centre of the Czech cultural life and as a counter balance of the nearby German House and Casino and the German promenade at Na Příkopě Street. It became the centre of social life and a place of important historical events, which is evidenced by the bronze plaque by Ladislav Šaloun that is located outside next to the Powder Gate.
The beginnings of theatre in today’s Czech Republic date back to the 12th century, when the theatre was played in a church environment in relation to the liturgical rites of the church year (Easter and Christmas plays, the plays of feasts of saints, stories from their lives, etc.). The opening performance was the premiere of Bedřich Smetana's Libuše, which was conducted by the already deaf composer himself. Several performances were played, the theatre was closed for the summer and the finishing works continued. During these works the carelessness of construction workers who badly extinguished charcoal during their work on the roof, lead to the fire on 12 August. On 18 November 1883 the theatre was reopened again by Libuše performance and it served with no major repairs nearly 100 years. The National Theatre is the leading Czech stage and its repertoire consists of drama, opera and ballet. It seats in the Neo-Renaissance building erected from 1868 – 1881 thanks to national financial collection.
Old Town Square
Arguably Prague’s most identifiable icon, the Astronomical Clock built into the façade of the Old Town Hall on Old Town Square continues to draw crowds waiting to see the hourly chiming of this amazing mechanical structure that dates to 1410.
The Astronomical Clock was built as a cooperation between clockmaker Mikulas of Kadane and Jan Sindel, a mathematics and astrology professor at Charles University. Its intricate and colorful design depicts the movement of the sun, moon and stars, as well as a monthly calendar. The statues of the apostles make a charming mechanical procession on the hour between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Old Town Hall has played a part with the most significant events in country’s history. Established in 1338, when King John of Luxembourg granted Prague’s Old Town the right to establish its own administrative centre, it was the site for George of Poděbrady’s selection as king of Bohemia in 1458. Following the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, leading revolutionaries were imprisoned here, and 27 were executed in front of the hall on 21 June 1621.
When the four districts of Prague merged in 1784, the Old Town Hall became the seat of the city’s unified official administration. At the end of World War II, the Old Town Hall was the focal point of an insurrection, and the Czech National Committee directed operations from its basement. On 7 May 1945, the Town Hall was bombarded by tanks. In the confrontation that followed, the east and north wings of the building, opposite Týn Church, were completely destroyed. The tower with the Astrological Clock and a chapel were also heavily damaged.
Within the Old Town Hall, the most important room is the Council Hall, which dates to the first half of the 15th century and was the site of all official proceedings. The joist ceiling, with its rich Renaissance ceiling decor from the second half of the 16th century and gilded chains, is authentic.
Climbing to the top of the Old Town Hall tower, visitors will be rewarded with bird’s eye views over the rooftops and spires of Old Town.
The funicular on Petřín Hill was first put into operation on 25th July 1891 and ran until the beginning of the First World War. It was put back into operation again on 5th June, 1932. In July 1965 heavy rains caused the Petřín slope to soften, and the funicular had to be stopped. After a twenty-year break, it started running again on 15th June 1985.
The Funicular to Petřín Hill operates along the route Újezd - Nebozízek - Petřín. The funicular operates daily from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (April - October) and from 9 a.m. to 11:20 p.m. (November - March) with traffic intervals from 10 to 15 minutes.
Rising up from atop the leafy Petřín Hill, which forms a backdrop to Malá Strana, the Petřín Lookout Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, although it is not a scale model. Built in 1891 for the occasion of the Jubilee Exhibition, the 60-meter-high tower has 299 steps (as well as an elevator) leading up to the top viewing platform.
The Petřín Lookout Tower was built by the Czech Tourist Club, which had attended the Exposition Universelle in 1889 in Paris and decided to construct a similar tower in Prague. On 16 March 1891, work began with the help of engineers František Prášil and Julius Souček. It opened on 20 August of the same year.
The heart of the lookout tower is an octagonal tube structure, which contains the elevator. Two spiral staircases wind around this – one for the journey up and the other for the way down. The lookout tower has two observation decks.
The tower is accessible either by walking up the steep paths of Petřín Hill or by taking the funicular that runs from Újezd.
Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Originally dating to the 9th century, this landmark, which surrounds St. Vitus Cathedral, bears the mark of each architectural and historical era that it has lived through. To this day, it serves as the seat of the Czech state.
Located in the district of Hradčany (the Castle Quarter), overlooking Malá Strana, this sprawling series of connected palaces, courtyards and gardens covers almost 70,000 square meters. It’s well worth dedicating a day to exploring the grounds both inside and out, as most of the castle is accessible to visitors despite being home to the day-to-day functioning of the Czech government.
The most popular sites within the castle are the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the preserved medieval Golden Lane and St. George’s Basilica. Make sure to catch the changing of the guard on the hour outside the castle’s main entrance on Hradčanské náměstí – or the daily ceremony in the First Courtyard at noon, which includes a fanfare and flag ceremony – and visit one of the several museum exhibits housed within.
The castle is itself a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it is thought to have been founded in 880 by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty. Over the centuries, its original Romanesque buildings were joined by Gothic extensions before getting much of its modern-day appearance thanks to renovations by Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik during the First Republic.
St. Vitus Cathedral, distinctly visible from much of the historical center of Prague, houses many priceless works of art, as well as St. Wenceslas Chapel and the Crypt, which is the final resting place of the Bohemian kings. The Bohemian Crown Jewels, which are displayed with much fanfare to mark special occasions, are also kept here.
St. Nicolas Church
An eye-catching part of the Malá Strana skyline, St. Nicholas Church is one of the most significant buildings from the Prague Baroque period, notably for its copper dome and belfry, making it one of the most stylistically pure examples of High Baroque architecture north of the Alps. Not be confused by the Old Town church of the same name, this building dates to 1703.
Originally an Early Gothic church founded at the beginning of the 13th century, it was also consecrated in honor of St. Nicholas of Myra. The Baroque St. Nicholas Church was built under the supervision of architect Christoph Dientzenhofer, and later his son, Kilian Ignaz.
While the property belonged to the Catholic Church, the adjacent tower belonged to the municipality of Malá Strana.
St. Vitus Cathedral
The main and the largest Prague temple, spiritual symbol of the Bohemian state. It has been built in place where the episcopate was located, and later the archiepiscopate. In the choir, there is the bishops’ tribune, or cathedra, thus the term cathedral.
On the 23rd April 1997, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk issued a decree on the basis of which the object acquired its original name again, Cathedral of St. Vitus, Václav and Vojtěch. The cathedral has been consecrated to three saints: Prince Václav (canonized later) established the third church at the Castle around 925 - Rotunda of St. Vitus.
The cathedral is made up of two parts: the Eastern part, which contains a choir with chapels and large bell tower, was built in the Gothic era of the 14th and 15th centuries; the Western part with the transept, a three-aisled space and the front with towers was only annexed in the 2nd half of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century.
The Valdštejn garden is probably the first palace garden in Prague built in connection with the palace object. It belongs to the Valdštejn Palace No. 17, accessible from the square Valdštejnské náměstí, No. 4. Strictly geometrical garden representing early Baroque spreads between the palace, the Valdštejn Riding School and Letenská Street, and it is enclosed by a wall. Its surface area is 1.7 ha. The palace complex, including the garden, was built in the years 1623 - 1630. Albrecht of Valdštejn, imperial army general of Ferdinand II, created the premises in place of 25 houses, 7 gardens, a brick-kiln and other land plots.
The grandly conceived square originated at the New Town establishment by Karel IV in 1348. It is 750 m long and 63 m wide in the upper part and 48 m wide in the bottom part. Within a few years, houses and workshops of craftsmen, malt houses and breweries were built around the assessed area. The square was called the Horse Market, as it was intended for trading horses, and in addition to the sale of various agricultural products. Later cots were built at the bottom of the square for sale of saddler’s and case goods, fabrics and spices. Markets took place here till 1877. From 1912 to 1913 the Statue of St. Wenceslas by Josef Václav Myslbek (see separate document Monuments and statues) was built at the top of the square. Saint Wenceslas, the patron of Czech lands, witnessed many famous and tragic events in the modern history of the country and the people of Prague. Likewise, Wenceslas Square has always been and still is primarily a natural centre of Prague New Town inhabitants and Prague citizens in general.