Situated on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, Prague has been the political, cultural, and economic centre of the Czech state for over 1100 years. The city proper is home to more than 1.2 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 1.9 million.
Prague is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and is among the most visited cities on the continent.Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. According to Guinness World Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Nicknames for Prague have included “the mother of cities”, “city of a hundred spires” and “the golden city”.
The public transport infrastructure consists of an integrated transport system of Prague Metro (with 51 stations in total), Prague Tram System (including the “nostalgic tram” no. 91), buses, the Petřín funicular to Petřín Hill, and three ferries. All services have a common ticketing system, and are run by Prague Public Transit Co. Inc. (Dopravní podnik hl. m. Prahy, a.s.) and some other companies.
The city forms the hub of the Czech railway system, with services to all parts of the Czech Republic and abroad. Prague has two international railway stations, Hlavní nádraží (sometimes referred to as Wilsonovo nádraží) and Praha-Holešovice. Intercity services also stop at the main stations Praha-Smíchov and Masarykovo nádraží. In addition to these, there are a number of smaller suburban stations. In the future rail should play a greater role in Prague Public Transport System.
Prague is served by Ruzyně International Airport, the biggest airport in the Czech Republic and one of the busiest and the most modern in Central and Eastern Europe. It is the hub of the flag carrier, Czech Airlines and of the low-cost airlines SkyEurope and Smart Wings operating throughout Europe. Other airfields in Prague include the city’s original airport in the suburb of Kbely, and Letňany which is mainly used for private aviation and domestic flights. Tocna, is located in the southwest part of the City and serves mostly as an aeroclub.
Taxi services in Prague can 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 pickups on the street; cheating is mostly associated with these cars. The problem with overcharging is so huge, that it’s mentioned in Lonely Planet guide books and it was featured on CNN couple of years ago. Tourists taking taxi in Prague are being advised to be very careful, request a receipt and make sure to know the approximate amount to be charged before entering the cab.
Tourist Sites in Prague
Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prague has become one of Europe’s (and the world’s) most popular tourist destinations. It is the sixth most-visited European city after London, Paris, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. Prague suffered considerably less damage during World War II than some other major cities in the region, allowing most of its historic architecture to stay true to form. 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 the most known sights are:
Old Town (Staré Město) with its Old Town Square
The Astronomical Clock
The picturesque Charles Bridge
The vaulted gothic Old New Synagogue of 1270.
New Town (Nové město) with its busy and historic Wenceslas Square
Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter)
Prague Castle (the largest castle in the world) with its St. Vitus Cathedral
Josefov (the old Jewish quarter) with Old Jewish Cemetery and Old New Synagogue
Jan Žižka equestrian statue in Vítkov park, Žižkov – Prague 3.
The Lennon Wall
The museum of Heydrich assassination in the crypt of the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius
Petřínská rozhledna, an observation tower on Petřín hill, which resembles the Eiffel Tower
Anděl (neighborhood) which is probably the busiest part of the city with a super modern shopping mall and architecture
Žižkov Television Tower with observation deck – Prague 3.
The New Jewish Cemetery in Olšany, location of Franz Kafka’s grave – Prague 3.
The Metronome, a giant, functional metronome that looms over the city
The Dancing House (Fred and Ginger Building)
The Mucha Museum, showcasing the Art Nouveau works of Alfons Mucha
Places connected to writers living in the city, such as Franz Kafka (One popular destination is the Franz Kafka museum)
Prague is traditionally one of the cultural centres of Europe, hosting many cultural events.
Significant cultural institutions:
Estates Theatre, premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni was held there
The Rudolfinum (home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra)
There are hundreds of concert halls, galleries, cinemas and music clubs in the city. Prague hosts Music Festivals including the Prague Spring International Music Festival, the Prague Autumn International Music Festival and the Prague International Organ Festival. Film Festivals include the Febiofest, the One World and Echoes of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Prague also hosts the Prague Writers Festival, the Prague Fringe Festival, the World Roma Festival as well as hundreds of Vernissages and Fashion Shows.
Many films have been made at the Barrandov Studios. Hollywood movies set in Prague include Mission Impossible, Blade II and xXx. Among others, Czech films Empties and The Fifth Horseman is Fear were shot in Prague. Also, the music video to Diamonds from Sierra Leone by Kanye West was shot in Prague, and features shots of the Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock, among others. Prague restaurant Allegro received the 1st Michelin star in the whole Eastern Europe (post-communist Europe).
The city contains several universities and colleges:
Charles University (UK) founded in 1348 (the oldest university in Central and Eastern Europe)
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
The New Anglo-American College (AAC) founded in 1990
Institute of Chemical Technology (VŠCHT) founded in 1920
Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) founded in 1945
Czech University of Agriculture (ČZU) founded in 1906/1952
University of Economics (VŠE) founded in 1953
Institute of Information Theory and Automation (UTIA) founded in 1959
University of New York in Prague (UNYP) founded in 1998
Prague Adult Film Industry
Since the end of the Cold War, the adult film industry has continually looked to Prague to be an economically advantageous location from which to operate. More than 10,000 people are employed by the industry in Prague, including Euro Angel founder Christoph Clark and the business has been very successful though due to its secretive nature, reported accounting estimates may be somewhat understated. Prague is seen by many tourists looking to explore their sexuality as an alternative to the traditionally sexually liberal city of Amsterdam since the Dutch government has been taking steps to remove the stigma of uninhibited sex from the city’s reputation. Many of those employed in adult entertainment businesses are immigrants from other former Soviet Bloc nations such as the Ukraine and Slovakia.