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Prague, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic, Europe

Founded: 870
Location: North-central Czech Republic on both sides of the Vltava River, Central Bohemia, Europe
Time Zone: 1 pm = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: Czech, Moravian, Slovak, German, Polish, Gypsy, and Hungarian
Elevation: 300 m (1000 ft) above sea level
Coastline: Vltava River
Climate : Winters are cold, cloudy, and humid, with little snow and ice; summers are warm and sunny.
Annual Mean Temperature: January, high of 0°C (32°F) and a low of 6°C (22°F); July, high of 24°C (76°F) and low of 56°F
Government: Mayor and a city council
Weights and measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The koruna (Kc) equals 100 haleru.
Telephone Area Codes: Country code 420; area code 02 (It is sometimes necessary to dial several times before making a connection because the system is old.)

1. Introduction

Often called the "City of a Hundred Spires," Prague is an ancient European city, situated between hill and valley on the banks of the Vltava River. Renowned for its beauty, visitors travel from around the world to see the city's medley of Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, and art nouveau architecture, its bridges, domes, palaces, and especially its spires. However, a great deal of construction in recent years has transformed Prague into a modern city as well, with state-of-the art public buildings, an underground railway, and a newly designed highway system. The capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic, Prague is the nation's leading center of commerce and industry, an economic, social, and cultural hub.

2. Getting There

Although the roadblocks of communism have only recently been lifted, Prague is not hard to access these days. Numerous flights, trains, and buses connect with the city every day, and the roads are getting better as the city strives to forge closer ties with the West.


Prague has been undergoing a major reconstruction project, including a redesigned highway system that will connect this "Eastern" country with the West. The speed limits have been raised to other European standards, 121 kilometers (75 miles) per hour on four-lane freeways, 88 kilometers (55 miles) per hour on open roads, and 48 kilometers (30 miles) per hour in built-up regions. Seatbelts are compulsory on all roads in Prague, a transportation system that covers over 55,557 kilometers (34,524 miles).

Bus and Railroad Service

The city of Prague is connected to most major European centers by rail and bus, especially to locations in the Czech Republic, including Plzen, Kutná Hera, and Brno. Most trains arrive at Praha Hlavmi Nadrczi (Main Station), or Praha Holesovice, Praha Sovichori or Praha Marsarykovo Nadrezi stations. The major bus companies, CAD and the express coach of the CEBUS firm and Czech National Express, have buses running from Prague to Brno and other destinations.


The airport serving Prague and the general vicinity is Ruzyne Airport, located about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the city center. Transportation to and from the airport is provided by Cedaz shuttle bus 119, taxis, and Belinda, a private shuttle company. Air France, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, Sabena, Swissair, and other airlines operate at this airport.

3. Getting Around

The easiest way to get around Prague is by car, but it is relatively simple to see the city by foot and public transportation. Most guidebooks describe walking tours that allow plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

Prague Population Profile

Population: 1,225,000
Ethnic composition: Czech, Moravian, Slovak, German, Polish, Gypsy, and Hungarian
World population rank 1: 298
Percentage of national population 2: 12.9%
Average yearly growth rate: 0.1%
Nicknames: Golden Prague, City of a Hundred Spires, The Only Medieval City Still Standing in the World, A Town Built of Stone and Mortar

  1. The Prague metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the Czech Republic's total population living in the Prague metropolitan area.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

There are three metro lines, trams, and buses that traverse Prague. Tickets can be purchased from automats, ticket booth attendants, or local Trafika shops that offer tickets good for three, seven, and 15 days. Transportation information centers are located at Karlovo Namesti, Muzeum, Mustek, and Nadrazi Holecovice metro stops. The underground operates from 5:00 am until midnight.


Prices are not regulated for Prague taxis; therefore, rider and driver usually agree on a price before entering the car. It is necessary to call the taxi company in advance; AAA Taxi and ProfiTaxi are recommended companies.


Parks, public gardens, and a zoo adorn the city of Prague, and weekend excursions to castles and historical cities are popular. The city's many museums are accessible by bus and rail, especially close to the metro stations, and are sometimes located directly inside metro passageways. By train, one may also visit the famous Marianske Lazne spa town, a three-hour journey west from Hlavni Nadrazi train station. The Bohemian Express tour guide company organizes customized itineraries in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic.

4. People

The population of Prague stands somewhere around 1,225,000, a number that has been declining since the 1980s. Despite a sizable number of immigrants and foreign workers, the city (like most advanced European societies) has an extremely low birthrate. Most Czech citizens are Roman Catholic (43 percent) while the minority are Protestant (15 percent), and a total of 82 percent are Christian. Most of the population consists of Czech nationals, Moravians, Slovaks, Germans, Poles, Hungarians, and an unknown number of itinerant Gypsies. The official language is Czech, but many know Russian as well, and many more would have known German if, after World War II (193945), around 2.5 million ethnic Germans had not been expelled from the Sudenten region in retaliation for wartime atrocities.

5. Neighborhoods

Prague is divided into sections that are formed directionally and according to the position of historical monuments. To the east lies Zizkov, an old quarter with little tourism and few attractions, but the Letecke Meuseum (Aviation Museum) and Zizkov TV Tower, with a restaurant 63 meters (207 feet) above ground, are worth visiting. In western Prague, the city suburbs take visitors into more rural areas, where the Grand Hvezda (Star) hunting lodge and Brevnov Monastery lie in pastoral solitude. To the north lie Troja Chateau, which is used as lecture, concert, and theater hall, as well as an exhibition space by the Gallery of the Municipality of Prague, and the zoo, known especially for its exhibition of the rare Przewalski horse. The south hosts the famous Velka Chuchle Horse Racing Course. The Old Town, at the very center of Prague, is the showpiece of the city, including Mala Strana (Little Quarter or Lesser Town) with a marketplace in front of the church of St. Nicholas below Castle Hill. This part of town used to hold the Jewish Ghetto, but today the only vestiges are the synagogues and Old Town Hall. Hradcany, Prague Castle, was built in the ninth century, on one of the hills surrounding the community. Its rustic environs invite tourists to visit the ramparts and learn about Prague's history. In contrast, the New Town is the commercial center, or "Golden Cross," consisting of Wenceslas Square and the nearby roads, where in 1989, with the Soviet Union about to crumble, students gathered and demanded free elections in what came to be known as the "Velvet Revolution." Wenceslas Square is crossed by Narodni and Naprikope streets, making it the busiest shopping area with many markets.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Atlanta Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 1,233,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 870 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $177 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $61 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $15 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $253 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 15 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Blesk Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 420,000 1,159,450 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established n.a. 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

6. History

The erection of Prague Castle by Premyslid Prince Borivoj in 870 marks the first permanent settlement in Prague. Hradcany, or Prague Castle, then becomes the first seat of the Premyslid (Premyslovci) princes who rule the Kingdom of Bohemia after 894 (with the aid of the western Germans against the eastern Hungarian Maygars). During the next three centuries, the city is populated by many Germans and built up around the Vltava River, with Vysehrad Castle, the Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus, and Judith's stone bridge. The Bohemian Premsylid dynasty ends in 1305 when Vaclav II (r. 12801305) dies from consumption and excess, and his son is murdered, leaving no heirs.

Czech nobles give the throne to John of Luxembourg and his son Charles IV (13461378), who also becomes Holy Roman Emperor. He brings a great time of prosperity to Prague, second only to Rome, by founding Charles University, the first one in Central Europe. This "Golden Age" is followed by a period of unrest as the Hussite Revolution, started by the burning of Jan Hus, brings a reaction against domination of the Germans and the Catholic Church.

Ferdinand of Hapsburg is elected to the Crown of St. Wenceslas. As a result, the next three centuries are marked by the rule of the House of Catholic Hapsburgs, which experiences the opposition of a predominantly Protestant citizenry. There is a fire in 1541 at Prague Castle, Hradcany, and the Lesser Town, and many Bohemians lose property during anti-Hapsburg uprisings. However, this period also is known for its development of the arts under Emperor Rudolph II (15761612). In 1618, two Protestant churches are closed, precipitating the "Defenestration of Prague," when Protestants throw two Imperial Governors out of the windows of Prague Castle. This action, and the execution of 27 Protestant nobles, leads to the Thirty Years War (161848), pitting Catholics against Protestants, ending with the Peace of Westphalia and German-Catholic rule.

Industrialization brings growth to the city, and in 1784 Emperor Joseph II (174190) merges the four towns: Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town, and Hradcany, into the contemporary Capital City of Prague. In 1848, riots in Prague bring about a Pan-Slavic Congress, which emancipates the Czech nation from the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, under Bohemian historian Francis Palacky.

Thomas Masaryk (18501937) becomes the first Czechoslovakian President from 1918 to 1937, ruling Bohemia, Moravia, and Slovakia, but in 1939 Hitler occupies the Sudetenland, ending independent rule. By 1945, the Communist Party had grown considerably in the Czech nation under Russian influence, allying the government with the Soviet Union until the 1968 Prague Spring and revolution. Under President General Ludwik Svoboda (18951979), the country begins to liberalize, but the U.S.S.R. and the Warsaw Pact allies quell this rebellion by occupying Czechoslovakia with 650,000 troops. By 1989, the Soviet Union is ready to crumble. In what is known as the "Velvet Revolution," students gather on Wenceslas Square and demand free elections. In 1990, Vaclav Havel becomes president of Czechoslovakia and later of the Czech Republic. In 1993, Czechoslovakia splits into the more affluent, western, democratic Czech Republic and the eastern, left-leaning Slovakia, making way for Prague, as part of the Czech Republic, to enter the European Union.

7. Government

Prague's city government is administered by a mayor and city council. The mayor and city council members are popularly elected to four-year terms. For administrative purposes, the city is divided into ten districts that possess separate offices. Some major concerns of contemporary politicians include the housing shortage caused by communist neglect, pollution, and a recent rise in crime. Prague is one of eight regions of the Czech Republic, all governed by President Vaclav Havel (b. 1936) and Prime Minister Milos Zeman (b. 1944).

8. Public Safety

The rise in crime in Prague during 1999 is largely a result of the financial collapse of Russia, with Russian gangsters operating in most major central and eastern European cities. This kind of crime will not affect most travelers, but pickpockets and petty thieves abound in Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and near Prague Castle. In case of emergency, citizens and visitors can dial 158 for the police, 155 for an ambulance, and 150 in the event of a fire. Na Homolce Hospital has a foreigner's clinic.

9. Economy

The monetary denomination of the Czech Republic is the Koruna (Kc), which has an exchange rate of about 30.5 Kc to one U.S. dollar, remaining fairly stable since its inception. The city of Prague has a well-diversified, highly industrial economy. Main products are metals and machinery, aircraft engines, automobiles (Volkswagen AG), diesel engines, machine tools, refined oil products, electronics, beer, chemicals, and food. During the communist era, Prague and the surrounding countryside produced approximately 80% of the products it consumed, but recently there has been a boom in the newly privatized service sector as the country strives for free-market, democratic practice. Unemployment holds steady at about three percent, and inflation continues to level out through excellent economic planning, but the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is still below most other industrialized countries, at a purchasing power parity of about $10,000. The collapse of the Russian economy negatively affected the banking system and caused a short recession in 1999, driving away investors. However, eventual entrance to the European Union is expected to balance out the effects. The city still depends on Russia for its oil and gas, but officials are looking for alternatives, such as solar power, nuclear plants, and new sources of oil and gas.

10. Environment

Due to rapid industrialization during the twentieth century, there are serious levels of air, water, and soil pollution in Prague and its surrounding environment. The levels of air pollution are exacerbated during the winter months by the burning of soft coal to provide heat. For this reason, lung cancer is prevalent in the city, and in 1992 the country was measured as having the world's highest industrial carbon dioxide emissions levels. The air is also contaminated by sulfur dioxide emissions, mainly from ore of lignite, also a popular heating fuel, which contributes heavily to the occurrence of acid rain throughout Europe. Acid rain floating over from Poland and Germany has also destroyed a large portion of forest in the northern part of the country. Western nations offered $1 billion to the Czech Republic for environmental reforms in the early 1990s, but economic growth was more important to the government at the time. Rich in natural resources, there are more than 15,000 lakes and ponds in the Czech Republic and 2,000 medicinal mineral springs in 30 spa towns, but unfortunately most of these are polluted. Clay, tin-tungsten, lead, zinc, and uranium mining adds to the agricultural deforestation and soil erosion of the land, and a nuclear power plant at Dukovany adds the danger of radioactive poisoning in the event of a nuclear meltdown. Prague also acts as the country's transportation hub, making pollution from aircraft, trains, and boats prevalent.

11. Shopping

Most stores in Prague are open during the week from 9:00 am until 6:00 pm (some until 9:00 pm. with lunch breaks, closed from noon until 4:00 pm on Saturday and closed all day Sunday. Prague is well known for its beautiful glass works, most notably from Moser glass-works in Karlovy Vary, from Bohemia Podebrady, Crystalex Novy Bor, Lustry Kqmenicky Senov, Zelezny Brod, and Svetla nad Sazavou. Crystal, porcelain, and red garnet stones are also popular items that can be purchased in many tourist shops and city stores, especially near the center of town. The biggest shopping area is located at Wenceslas Square and the surrounding streets, with a number of daily markets. At restaurants, it is normal to tip around ten percent of the total bill, and it is better to tell the waiter how much you are tipping before he takes the payment.

12. Education

In Prague, children generally attend school from ages six to 11; they then have eight years of secondary schooling in the academic and technical tracks and for teaching careers. Twenty-three universities operate in the Czech Republic, and students must pay only one-quarter of the fees. Charles University, founded in 1348, is one of the oldest and best-known institutions of higher learning in Europe. The Czech Academy of Sciences and a large technical university also reside in Prague. For centuries, education in Prague has been heavily influenced, first by the Hapsburgs, who forced the German language on Czech natives, and then by the Communists, who forced socialist principals and the Russian language and banned religion. Now, education in Prague is notably free of religious and political persuasion. The International School of Prague, founded in 1948 for foreign students, teaches pre-kindergarten through eleventh grade, and the French Cultural Center teaches in French to nursery and kindergartenaged children. With 100 percent literacy levels since the early twentieth century, Prague's educational system is more successful than those of many countries.

13. Health Care

Health care in Prague under communist control was under strict state administration. Standards were not high, and equipment was outdated in clinics and hospitals. Since 1990, privatization has improved services under the guidance of the Ministry of Health through the National Health Service. Factories and offices often still have on-site facilities for employees, but the government is encouraging private medical practices. Life expectancy is between 69 and 77 years, which is rising due to new medicines and inoculations, while the birthrate is falling. One interesting facet of Prague health care is that insurance companies are required by law to pay doctors within five days of treatment. Citizens and visitors can dial 155 for emergency medical service.

14. Media

The Prague Post puts out a weekly paper for English speakers; Prague Guide comes out monthly; and What, Where, When is also published monthly. Czech publications from Prague include Lidove Noviny, Mlada Fronta, Rude Pravo, Svobodne Slovo, Prace Revolutionary Trade Union Movement, and ZN Noviny. Radio Prague broadcasts daily in five languages. Nova TV is the most popular television station but is also known for its low-brow programming.

15. Sports

Skiing and ice skating are popular winter sports in Prague, and most skiing hills are close enough for a one-day outing. Indoor and outdoor skating rinks are open to the public. Prague inhabitants also enjoy their natural surroundings by hunting, hiking, fishing, and camping, while water sports are enjoyed on the many lakes. There are three golf courses, Marianske Lazne, Lis-nice, and Karlovy Vary. Tennis has become very popular because of Czech greats Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl, and Jana Novotna. Soccer, hockey, volleyball, and basketball are also played in Prague.

16. Parks and Recreation

Some of the most relaxing places to go in and near Prague are the spas and mineral springs whose waters boast medicinal properties. The well-known ones are Karlovy Vary spa, which is said to help disorders of the digestive system and which hosts the International Film Festival; Janske Lazne, which treats nervous diseases; and Luhacovice which offers unspecified treatment for the whole body. At Marianske Lazne, one can stroll through gardens, drink from the hot springs, walk in the nearby woods with waterfalls, and view the gorgeous architecture. Other places to go are the Prague Zoo, Botanical Gardens (among the finest in Europe), Prague Castle, and the famous steeplechase at Pardubice. Walking through the city to see the historical sites and municipal parks is a recreational activity as well. There are 147 castles and mansions and 41 protected urban reservations in the Czech Republic. Most of Prague survived World War II relatively intact, so its palaces and churches from the Renaissance (14501600) and Baroque (16001750) periods still stand as they have for centuries.

17. Performing Arts

The National Theater company, also producer of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (c. 1896), offers three types of ensemble: opera, ballet, and drama. These companies alternate performances at the National Theater, Theater of the Estates (Stavovske divadlo, which premiered Mozart's Don Giovanni and the Clemency of Titus ), and Kolowrat Theater, performing both classical and contemporary pieces. The Theater of the Estates is one of the only eighteenth-century theaters still in existence in Bohemia. The State Opera (c. 1783) has boasted such famous conductors as Maria von Weber, Gustav Mahler, and Carl Muck. The Spring International Music Festival holds a world-class competition in May. Smaller but still well-known theaters include Archa, Celetna Theater, Cerne Divaldo Jiriho Srnce, Labyrinth, Laterna Magika, Original Music Theater Prague, Theater Ta Fantastika, and Theater Image. Many perform in English and often provide experimental "Black Theater," combining dance, music, and pantomime to tell a story. There are also marionette shows for children.

18. Libraries and Museums

The Prague National Library is one of the largest and best libraries in the world. Established in 1958, it is an amalgamation of six Prague libraries and holds a collection of Mozart's papers and manuscripts. The National Museum of Prague holds permanent exhibitions on the prehistory of Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Minerology and Petrology, Paleontology, Zoology, and Anthropology. Lubkowitz's Palace, located at Prague Castle, is open to the public for a nominal fee. Naprstek's Museum contains pieces from Australian and Oceanic Cultures, Indian Cultures of North and South America, and Asian Cultures. At Tyrs's Museum of Physical Culture and Sport, the history of the Sokol physical education movement (18621992) is documented. There is also a Museum of Czech History and literature, as well as the fascinating Prague Wax Museum, featuring Prague's celebrities through history. Many galleries and castles are closed on Mondays, and the National Museum is closed the first Tuesday of each month.

19. Tourism

There are many housing options for the holiday traveler visiting Prague, including hotels which are more expensive near the center of town, but which are closer to the major sights. Bed-and-breakfast inns offer a glimpse into the private lives of Czech citizens, as do private homes that rent rooms, but apartments near the city center afford more privacy. For the more adventurous, Youth Hostels are available in Prague, but there are very few. Camping sites are very cheap, and "Botels" float on the Vltava River not far from the city center. As for the food, Czech cuisine is a bit fattening, consisting mostly of meat and potatoes. The most popular dishes are roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings, and goulash, usually accompanied by a hearty Czech beer, like Pilsner Urquell or Budweiser Budvar. If visitors are lucky enough to be invited into a Prague native's home for a meal, the hospitality should be overwhelming and the food more than ample.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Paleni Crodejnic (the Burning of the Witches)

The Spring International Music Festival
Labor Day

Celebration of the arrival of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Byzantine priests who brought Christianity to Prague)
Anniversary of Jan Hus's death

Czech Independence Day

Commemoration of the Velvet Revolution

St. Nicholas Day
St. Stephen's Day

21. Famous Citizens

Eduard Benes (18841948), statesman.

Karel Capek (18901938), author.

John Amos Comenius (15921670), educational reformer and theologian.

Antonin Dvorak (18411904), composer.

Vaclav Havel (b. 1936), dramatist, statesman, and president.

Jaroslav Heyrovsky (18901967), chemist and Nobel Prize laureate for polarography.

Jan Hus (c. 13691415), religious reformer.

Franz Kafka (18831924), writer.

Ivan Klima (b. 1931), author.

Oskar Kokoschka (18861980), artist and writer.

Milan Kundera (b. 1929), writer.

Thomas Garrique Masaryk (18501937), founder-president of Czechoslovakia.

22. For Further Study


Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. [Online] Available (accessed January 7, 2000).

Official site of the Czech Republic. [Online] Available (accessed January 7, 2000).

Prague cybercafe. [Online] Available (accessed January 7, 2000).

Prague Post. [Online] Available (accessed January 7, 2000).

Government Offices

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
Consular Department
125 10 Prague 1
tel.: (12) 2418 2125
fax: (12) 2431 0018

U.S. Embassy
Trziste 15
Mala Strana
tel.: (12) 2451-0847)

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

CKM: Zitna (Student Travelers)
Tel.: (12) 2491-5767
Fax: (12) 2435-1297

Prague Informtion Service (in Czech only)
Staromestske nam 22, Napikoke 20er
Betlemske nanesti 2
Tel.: (12) 264022

Salvatorska 10
110 000 Praha 1
Tel.: (12) 2481-4020
Fax: (12) 2481-4021


The Prague Post
Tel.: (2487-5016)
Fax: (2487-5050)

What, Where, When
Tel.: (691-0905)
Fax: (691-1497)


The Czech Republic and Economic Transition in Eastern Europe. San Diego, Calif.: University Press.

Holy, Ladislav. The Little Czech and the Great Czech Nation: National Identity and the Post-Communist Transformation of Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

King, John and Richard Nebesky. Lonely Planet Prague. Hawthorne, Aus.: Lonely Planet, 1999.

Skalnik, Carol. The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic: Nation vs. State. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.

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PRAGUE. Prague was one of the largest and most influential cities in the Holy Roman Empire and central Europe in the early modern period. It was remarkable for its bilingual and multireligious population of Czech- and German-speaking Catholics, Protestants, and Jews; its distinctive geographic and political landscape; and its Reformation and cultural achievements. It was also the site of events of central importance in the histories of both the Bohemian kingdom and the empire. In reality, Prague was a complex of four legally and politically independent though socially and economically linked cities. The Old and New Cities, on the right bank of the Vltava River, were the center of artisanal and commercial activities. The Castle Hill (autonomous since 1592) and the Small Side, on the left bank, were home to royal and estate governments and were the seat of an archbishopric.

In 1346 Charles IV (ruled 13551378), king of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperor, chose Prague as his imperial residence. In 1348 he founded the University of Prague, the first university in central Europe, and he expanded and renovated the city. The new construction included the first stone bridge across the Vltava River and the monumental Saint Vitus Cathedral, which became the seat of a newly established archbishopric. Fifty years later Prague became the birthplace of the religious reform movement centered around Jan Hus (c. 13721415), rector of the Bethlehem Chapel in the Old City. In 1419 the reform movement turned into a revolution when a mob threw anti-Hussite councillors out of windows of the New City government building (an event known as the first Prague defenestration). During the Hussite Revolution religious orders and German speakers were forced to flee the city, and churches, monasteries, and other structures were destroyed in direct attacks and battles between competing forces. In the wake of the revolution Prague came into the hands of an Utraquist elite, a religiously and socially moderate group descended from the Hussites. Prague's population began to grow again, and schools and literary brotherhoods flourished in parish churches. Under the reign of King Vladislav II Jagiellon (ruled 14711516) Catholic religious orders began to return to the city, and Renaissance architecture first appeared in Bohemia at the Prague Castle. In 1483 the installation of new councillors sympathetic to the king's policies led to a revolt that culminated in a second defenestration of city councillors, this time from both the Old City and the New City government buildings. This revolt paved the way for the 1485 Peace of Kuttenberg, which established legal parity between Roman Catholics and Utraquists (though it forbade other religious groups).

By the beginning of the sixteenth century Prague had a population of about twenty thousand. The arrival of Lutheran ideas in the 1520s assisted in the ongoing development of Utraquism. In 1526 Ferdinand I (ruled Bohemia 15261564; ruled the Holy Roman Empire 15581564) was elected king of Bohemia. The first years of his reign were marked by maintenance of the status quo in religion and politics. However, in 1547, when the Prague cities refused to send troops to support the Catholic imperial army in the Schmalkaldic War, Ferdinand punished them with sanctions and sent his son, Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol, to reside in Prague as his viceroy. The residence of the viceroy helped draw Bohemian nobles, artisans, and some foreigners to the city. The mid-sixteenth century also witnessed a flowering of printing houses and literary societies and the spread of Renaissance innovations to noble palaces and burgher houses. In 1555 the first Jesuit college in Bohemia was founded, and in 1561 a new archbishop, who established the foundations of Catholic reform, was installed. In 1583 Rudolf II (ruled 15761612), Bohemian king and Holy Roman emperor, moved the imperial court from Vienna to Prague, making the city an imperial capital for a second time. At the Prague court Rudolf assembled a large array of foreign artists, artisans, and scientists. Among these notables were the astronomers Johannes Kepler (15711630) and Tycho Brahe (15461601), the painters Bartholomeus Spranger (15461611) and Giuseppe Arcimboldo (c. 15301593), and the sculptor Adriaan de Vries (c. 15601626). Rudolf's Kunstkammer, located in the Prague Castle, was the largest art collection in the Europe of that day.

By 1600 Prague had become a major European center of late Renaissance culture and, with a population of about sixty thousand people, the largest city in the empire and in central Europe. Growing tension between Catholics and Protestants within the ruling elite led in 1618 to an Estates revolt, which culminated in a third defenestration. This time Protestant noblemen tossed two Catholic imperial governors from a window in the Prague Castle. Although the men were not badly hurt, this action was the catalyst for the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (16181648). In 1620 the Bohemian Estates and their Protestant allies were defeated by Catholic imperial troops at the Battle of White Mountain, just outside of Prague. A year later twenty-one leaders of the revolt were executed on Old Town Square, and their heads were displayed on the bridge, an event publicized throughout the empire. The Edict of Restitution in 1629 firmly entrenched Habsburg rule and the Counter-Reformation and resulted in property confiscations and the exile of Protestants from the city. At the same time Prague's baroque culture flowered, which continued into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (ruled 17401780) a new wing was added to the Prague Castle. In 1781 the Edict of Toleration of Emperor Joseph II (ruled 17651790) brought with it the dissolution of cloisters and monasteries. In 1787 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came to Prague for the premiere of Don Giovanni, which was widely acclaimed and affirmed Prague's importance as a major cultural center.

See also Bohemia ; Habsburg Dynasty: Austria ; Holy Roman Empire ; Hussites ; Jagiellon Dynasty (Poland-Lithuania) ; Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus ; Reformation, Protestant ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) .


Demetz, Peter. Prague in Black and Gold: Scenes from the Life of a European City. New York, 1997.

Fučíková, Eliška, et al., eds. Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City. Prague, London, and New York, 1997.

Pešek, Jiří. Měšťanská vzdělanost a kultura v předbělohorských Čechách 15471620. Prague, 1993.

Vlk, Jan, and Jaroslav Láník, eds. Dějiny Prahy (The history of Prague). 2 vols. Prague and Litomyšl, 19971998.

James R. Palmitessa

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Prague (präg, prāg), Czech Praha, Ger. Prag, city (1993 pop. 1,216,500), capital and largest city of the Czech Republic and former capital of Czechoslovakia, on both banks of the Vltava (Ger. Moldau) River. A road, rail, and air transportation hub, the city also has an inland harbor that is the terminus of shipping on the Vltava river. Prague is a leading European commercial and industrial center and is the Czech Republic's most important industrial city. There are large engineering plants, machine-building and machine tool enterprises, printing and publishing houses, electronics factories, chemical plants, and breweries.

Prague is also the see of a Roman Catholic archbishop, an Eastern Orthodox archbishop, and the archbishop of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. Educational and cultural facilities in the city include Charles Univ. (founded 1348), one of the oldest and most famous in Europe; a technical university (1707); the Czech Academy of Sciences; the National Gallery; the National Museum; and many other museums and theaters.

Culture and Landmarks

Until World War II, Prague was characterized by the generally peaceful coexistence of Czech, German, and German-Jewish cultures. It was the city of Rilke and Kafka as well as of Smetana, Dvořák, and Čapek. The city's literary, artistic, and musical life, which has a long and distinguished tradition, was very active between the two World Wars.

The old section of Prague, which occupies the center of the city, is an architectural treasure enhanced by the beauty of its location on the hilly banks of the Vltava. Hradčany Castle dominates the city; the seat of the president of the Czech Republic and the former royal residence, it is an imposing and many-winged structure, dating mostly from the reign of Charles IV. Next to it stands the largely Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus, first built in the 10th cent., which contains the tomb of St. Wenceslaus. The Hradčany quarter also contains many other fine churches and palaces, notably the Romanesque basilica of St. George; the baroque churches of Our Lady of Victory (with the miraculous statuette of the Infant Jesus or Holy Child of Prague) and of Loretto; the magnificent Waldstein Palace, built for the imperial general Wallenstein; and the Czernin Palace.

The Old Town, on the Vltava's east bank, contains the Carolinum, the oldest part of the university; the adjacent Stavovske Theater, where Mozart's Don Giovanni had its first performance; the vast Clementinum Library; the Gothic Old Town Hall (13th cent.; burned in May, 1945) and its astronomical clock (1410); the baroque Church of St. Nicholas (18th cent.) and the Gothic Tyn Cathedral (14th cent., formerly the main Hussite church, with the tomb of Tycho Brahe); the Powder Tower (15th cent., the last city gate), and the art nouveau Municipal House (1912). Situated in the adjacent former Jewish quarter is the Old Synagogue (c.1270), Europe's oldest remaining synagogue.

In the heart of modern Prague is Wenceslaus Square, with its statue of St. Wenceslaus. It was the center of Czech resistance to the 1968 Soviet invasion and a rally site for the support of political change in 1989.


The earliest settlements, dating from at least the 9th cent., began around the castles standing on top of the Hradčany and Vysehrad hills (on the left and right bank, respectively, of the Vltava) that still dominate Prague's skyline. Already an important trading center by the 10th cent., it achieved real prominence after King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia established (1232) a German settlement there.

Prague grew rapidly in size and prosperity as Bohemia's capital and became under Emperor Charles IV (14th cent.) one of the most splendid cities of Europe. The city's location at the intersection of vital trade routes stimulated its economy, while scholars and students from all over Europe came to its university. From the 14th to the early 17th cent., the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire resided at Prague as well as at Vienna. Rivalry between the Czech and German elements in the city was a major factor in the popular religious reform movement led by John Huss, a professor at the university. Huss, who also condemned the secular power of the Roman Catholic Church, was burned at the stake in 1415; his martyrdom sparked the Hussite Wars. Prague's attempt to follow a moderate course in the wars was frustrated (1424) by an army led by John Zizka.

Hapsburg rule of Prague began in 1526, when the Ottoman Turks were threatening Europe. In the late 16th and early 17th cent., under Emperor Rudolf II, Prague shone as a center of science where the astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler worked. In 1618, when the Protestant Czech nobles felt the liberties of Bohemia threatened by Emperor Matthias, they vented their dissatisfaction by throwing two royal councilors and the secretary of the royal council of Bohemia out of the windows of Hradčany Castle (May 23, 1618). Although none of the victims of the so-called Defenestration of Prague were hurt, the event opened the Thirty Years War. The battle of the White Mountain (1620), fought near Prague, resulted in Bohemia's subjugation to Austrian rule. Until 1860, German was Prague's only official language. The Peace of Prague (1635) failed to end the Thirty Years War, in the last year of which (1648) a section of the city was occupied by the Swedes.

In the War of the Austrian Succession, Prague was occupied by the French (1742) and the Prussians (1744); and in the Seven Years War it was (1757) the scene of a major victory of Frederick II of Prussia. Although it had lost much of its former importance, Prague in the 18th cent. remained a brilliant cultural center. The building activities of Empress Maria Theresa and the great Bohemian nobles gave the city a predominantly baroque and rococo character. The center of the Czech national revival in the 19th cent., Prague played an important part in the Revolution of 1848 until its bombardment and capture by the Austrian field marshal Windischgrätz.

In 1918, Prague became the capital of the newly created Czechoslovak republic. Occupied (1939–45) by the Germans, it suffered hardship in World War II, but little structural damage. Prague was liberated in May, 1945, by Soviet troops after an anti-German rebellion (May 5). In 1968 the "Prague Spring," a brief period of liberal reforms attempted by the government of Alexander Dubček, was ended with the invasion of the Soviet military. In 1989 the city was the scene of massive demonstrations during the "Velvet Revolution," which brought down the Communist regime. With the breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Prague became the capital of the Czech Republic.


See P. Demetz, Prague in Black and Gold (1997); D. Sayer, Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century (2013).

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"Prague." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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Prague (Praha) Capital of the Czech Republic, on the River Vltava. Founded in the 9th century, it grew rapidly after Wenceslaus I established a German settlement in 1232. In the 14th century it was the capital of Bohemia. It was the capital of the Czechoslovak republic (1918–93). It was occupied in World War II by the Germans and liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. Prague was the centre of Czech resistance to the Soviet invasion of the country in 1968. Sights include Hradčany Castle and Charles Bridge. It is an important commercial centre. Industries: engineering, iron and steel. Pop. (1999) 1,178,576.

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"Prague." World Encyclopedia. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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Prague the capital of the Czech Republic, which was the capital of Bohemia from the 14th century, and the scene of much religious conflict.
Prague School the name of a group of linguists established in Prague in 1926 who developed distinctive feature theory in phonology and communicative dynamism in language teaching. Leading members were Nikolai Trubetzkoy (1890–1938) and Roman Jakobson.
Prague Spring a brief period of liberalization in Czechoslovakia, ending in August 1968, during which a programme of political, economic, and cultural reform was initiated.

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"Prague." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 17 Jan. 2018 <>.

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PragueCamargue, Den Haag, Prague •Reichstag • Bundestag

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