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Prague has a wonderfully complex character and therefore offers a myriad of sights and attractions within its four main districts. Originally independant towns in their own right, they now make up the historic core of the city. Hradcany, known as The Castle quarter is built on a rock spur commanding the bend in the Vltava river and the rest of the city. It would take an entire day to see all the sights here, however the one 'must' at Prague Castle is St Vitus Cathedral, the spiritual heart of the Czech lands, though today more a national than religious symbol. Mala Strana, sometimes called the Lesser Town or Quarter (but don't be fooled by labels), between the riverbank and the Castle Hill, this is the most perfectly preserved district of Prague, with a wealth of aristocratic palaces and gardens, including the greenery of Petrin Hill. Nove Mesto, The New Town, a planned development of the 14th century, extends south and east of the Old Town, and is focused on a series of former marketplaces, including Wencelas Square. It is the commercial heart of Prague. Stare Mesto, The Old Town, on the east of the Vltava river, is contained with the river bend, bounded by boulevards running along the line of its long-demolished medieval walls, and focused on the Old Town Square with its town hall and astronomical clock. The Old Town includes Josefov, the former Jewish ghetto. So with four districts to explore in Prague and so many places of interests, you will not be short of things to do in this beautiful city.
Read more on this destination in The AA Keyguide to Prague.
Must-see attractions in Prague
St Vitus Cathedral: This is Prague's most popular national landmark and you can see why. The St Vitus Cathedral is a must see. The cathedral reflects the spirit of Charles IV, who ordered it to be built in 1344 as part of his plan to make Prague a worthy capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The cathedral was not completed until 1929, when it was reconsecrated. The building's atmosphere is best appreciated if you take part in one of the services, as at other times the interior can seem overwhelmed by the sheer number of visitors.
Prague Castle: This magnificent castle dominates the skyline of Prague. Contained within its boundaries are the Romanesque Basilica of St George and of course St Vitus Cathedral. To get a sense of the deep roots of the Bohemian kingdom, spend time in the cathedral, then explore the labyrinthine substructure of the Stary kralovsky palac (Old Royal Palace), with its enthralling displays on the castle's past. No visit is complete without enjoying the glorious prospect of Prague from viewpoints in and around the castle.
Loreta Palace: The Loreta Palace is a stunning building and is amongst Pragues busiest tourist hot spots. Its exterior and interior displays a superb example of baroque extravagance drawing in the crowds daily. Its light-hearted baroque facade, alive with statuary, makes a striking contrast to the great mass of the Cerninsky palac (Cernin Palace) on the high terrace opposite. Beyond the facade are cloisters whose focal point is the Santa Casa, a supposed replica of the house of the Virgin Mary in the Holy Land.
Svateho Mikulase: This church is perhaps the supreme example in Bohemia of the way in which the Catholic Church of the Counter-Reformation sought to seduce the public by appealing directly to the senses rather than to the intellect. The interior of this magnificent baroque church is wonderfully ornate and possibly overwhelming. To experience something of what St. Nicholas's Jesuit builders intended, rather than just wandering around, it's better by far to attend one of the evening concerts held here,when sound and artificial light enhance the sumptuous setting.
Bertramka: If you love Mozart, you'll love this picturesque villa where the famous composer finished off his amazing opera Don Giovanni. Prague's Mozart Museum could not have found a better home, nor could summer concerts be staged in a more appropriate setting. Tasteful restoration has overcome past neglect and fire damage, and the villa radiates the rococo atmosphere of Mozart's times, with memorabilia including the harpsichord on which he is supposed to have played.
Wenceslas Square: Everyone is eventually drawn to Wencelas Square, the most popular meeting place in Prague. Although a boulevard is perhaps a better description than a square. From its lower end, known as the Golden Cross, it runs gently uphill for just under 700m (765 yards) past the famous statue of St. Wenceslas to its crowning feature, the Narodni Museum (National Museum). The broad sidewalks are paved with the patterned (and slightly uneven and rather slippery) granite sets so characteristic of the city, and are lined with graceful lime trees.
Old Town Square: Merchant's houses, two great churches and the tall tower of the Old Town Hall, with its astronomical clock, preside over this theatrical space, the stage for many a historic drama. Old Town Square is where Pragues ancient heart beats most strongly. The square attracts its largest crowd when the Orloj (Astronomical Clock) marks the passing hours. There's plenty of space for milling about and any number of places to eat and drink. From the Old Town Hall tower there is a dizzying view of the bustling activity in the square.
Josefov: This atmospheric ancient cemetery and a cluster of synagogues are evocative testimony to a thousand years of Jewish life in Prague. Josefov - or Josephstadt - was the name given to Prague's famous ghetto after the emancipation of its inhabitants by enlightened Emperor Joseph II in 1781. The close-packed houses and crooked streets of the ghetto were demolished in the late 19th century, but its synagogues remain. Some are museums, others are still used as places of worship by today's tiny community.
Wallenstein Palace: Mala Strana's most ostentatious palace is a monument to the ambition of its builder, General Wallenstein. The palace's formal garden makes a magical setting for summer concerts. Now the seat of the Czech senate, the late-Renaissance Wallenstein Palace sprawls over a whole city block at the foot of the castle. Built between 1624 and 1630, its construction involved the demolition of two dozen houses, a brickworks and one of the city's gateways.
Trade Fair Palace/National Gallery: Only part of the huge Trade Fair Palace is given over to the National Gallery's collection of art of the 20th and 21st centuries, but with more than 2,000 exhibits displayed on four floors, there is more than enough to keep you busy. Paintings and sculpture predominate, but the cool white spaces of the galleries leading off the great building's central atrium are enlivened by furniture, applied arts, stage design, architectural models and drawings and even a couple of motor cars.