PRAGUE

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic with a population of about 1.3 million inhabitants. It lies 177 m above sea level at 14°27'E longitude and 50°05'N latitude. It covers an area of 496 square kilometres and the whole city consists of 10 administrative districts. The oldest parts are the Old Town, The Lesser Town, the New Town, Josefov, Hradcany and Vysehrad.

PragueWhile the Czech Republic is the heart of Europe, Prague is its soul. Situated in the fertile basin of the river Vltava Prague has from time immemorial been a junction of European trade routes, attracting businessmen as well as artists since ancient times. Since the 10th century, it was the seat of Czech kings and princes. First a settlement around Prague Castle and, later the Vysehrad Castle, it became a town with all its privileges in the 1230s, and developed into a self-confident agglomeration of Prague towns. Prague became the centre of the medieval Roman Empire and the number of inhabitants made it the third largest city in Europe. Under Emperor Charles IV in the 14th century, it was one of the capitals of the Christian world, the seat of the first trans-alpine university and a huge building works. 250 years later, during the reign of Rudolph II, Prague was a mysterious metropolis full of artists, scientists and learned rabbis. The Baroque entered Prague, and the domes of its churches, the palace courtyards and gardens have since adorned the historic part of the town with the ancient Old Town horologe, the only just measure of its time.

Hundreds of years of architectural development resulted in an exceptionally large collection of splendid buildings with a unique concentration of artistic treasures. The architectural styles merge in Prague in a singular way and the result is a city with a very special atmosphere. Romanesque monasteries, a Gothic cathedral, Renaissance palaces and gardens, Baroque churches, Classicist manors, Art Nouveau and Cubist structures, as well as contemporary architecture, which have recently won the prestigious award of Time magazine, Prague has all of it. It is also home to a unique complex of Jewish monuments in the area of the former medieval ghetto. The unique relics surviving in the Jewish Town rank among the earliest in Europe. People of most religious beliefs would find their place of worship in the city. The most valuable part of the city centre was in 1981 designated a protected zone and in 1992 it was included in the list of UNESCO's world cultural heritage.

PragueAlthough the narrow lanes of the Old Town and Mala Strana invite to romantic walks, Prague also has its modern facets. Its Congress Centre has hosted the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in the year 2002, many of its hotels are a part of worldwide hotel chains, and there is a wealth of luxury restaurants and shops, exhibition halls, art galleries, theatres, museums and concert halls. The choice of cultural events organized in Prague is so rich and varied that the city has been nominated as one of the European Cities of Culture for the Year 2000. The city has 36 museums, 95 art galleries, 27 theatres and 20 concert halls. Important international events take place in Prague every year, including the Prague Spring Music Festival.

Parks, forests and sporting facilities offer relaxation to everybody. Botanical gardens, the zoo, observatories and the planetarium also welcome visitors. For longer breaks, there are nature reserves within and outside the city boundaries.

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