Prague Sights

Full of fairy-tale vistas, Prague is beautiful in a way that makes even the most jaded traveler stop and snap pictures. The city is physically divided in two by the Vltava River (also sometimes known by its German name, the Moldau), which runs from south to north with a single sharp turn to the east.

Originally, Prague was composed of five independent towns: Hradčany (the Castle Area),

Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter), Staré Město (Old Town), Nové Město (New Town), and Josefov (Jewish Quarter), and these areas still make up the heart of Prague—what you think of when picturing its famed winding cobblestone streets and squares.

Hradčany, the seat of Czech royalty for hundreds of years, centers on the Pražský hrad (Prague Castle)—itself the site of the president's office. A cluster of white buildings yoked around the pointed steeples of a chapel, Prague Castle overlooks the city from a hilltop west of the Vltava River. Steps lead down from Hradčany to the Lesser Quarter, an area dense with ornate mansions built for the 17th- and 18th-century nobility.

The looming Karlův most (Charles Bridge) connects the Lesser Quarter with the Old Town. Old Town is hemmed in by the curving Vltava and three large commercial avenues: Revoluční to the east, Na příkopě to the southeast, and Národní třída to the south. A few blocks east of the bridge is the district's focal point: Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square), a former medieval marketplace laced with pastel-color baroque houses—easily one of the most beautiful central squares in Europe. To the north of Old Town Square the diminutive Jewish Quarter fans out around a tony avenue called Pařížská.

Beyond the former walls of the Old Town, the New Town fills in the south and east. The name "new" is a misnomer—New Town was laid out in the 14th century. (It's new only when compared with the neighboring Old Town.) Today this mostly commercial district includes the city's largest squares, Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square) and Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square).

Roughly 1 km (½ mile) south of Karlovo náměstí, along the Vltava, stands what’s left of the ancient castle of Vyšehrad high above the river. On a promontory to the east of Václavské náměstí stretches Vinohrady, the home of Prague's well-to-do professional set. Bordering Vinohrady are the scruffier neighborhoods of Žižkov to the north and Nusle to the south. On the west bank of the Vltava lie many older residential neighborhoods and several parks. About 3 km (2 miles) from the center in every direction, communist-era housing projects, called paneláks, begin their unsightly sprawl.

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Staré Město (Old Town) 24

Nové Město (New Town) and Vyšehrad 15

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Nové Město (New Town) 13

Malá Strana (Lesser Quarter) 15

Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle) 12

Josefov (Jewish Quarter) 10

Letná, Holešovice, and Troja 8

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Holešovice 3

Letná 2

Troja 3

Hradčany (Castle Area) 6

Vinohrady and Žižkov 4

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Vinohrady 2

Žižkov 2

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Archaeological Site/ Ruins 1

Arts/ Performance Venue 4

Building/ Architectural Site 11

Castle/ Palace/ Chateau 1

Cemetery 2

Fountain 1

Garden/ Arboretum 4

Information Center 1

Library/ Archive 2

Museum/ Gallery 18

Neighborhood/ Street 7

Park/ Playground 4

Plaza/ Square/ Piazza 10

Public Art (Mural/ Sculpture/ Statue) 2

Religious Building/ Site/ Shrine 19

Viewpoint/ Scenic Overlook 2

Zoo/ Aquarium 1

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Prague Sights

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Vrtbovská zahrada

  • Garden/Arboretum

An unobtrusive door on noisy Karmelitská hides the entranceway to a fascinating sanctuary with one of the best views of the Lesser Quarter.

Vyšehrad Citadel

  • Archaeological Site/Ruins

Bedřich Smetana's symphonic poem Vyšehrad opens with four bardic harp chords that echo the legends surrounding this ancient fortress.

Václavské náměstí

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

This "square"—more of a rectangle, actually—was first laid out by Charles IV in 1348, and began its existence as a horse market at...

Zahrady pod Pražským hradem

  • Garden/Arboretum

A break in the houses along Valdštejnská ulice opens to a gate that leads to five beautifully manicured and terraced baroque gardens,...

Zlatá ulička

  • Neighborhood/Street

A jumbled collection of tiny, ancient, brightly colored houses crouched under the fortification wall look remarkably like a set for ...

Zoologická zahrada v Praze

  • Zoo/Aquarium

Flora, fauna, and fresh air are the main things you can find in Prague's zoo. Hit hard by the floods in 2002 when some 134 animals perished...

Španělská synagóga

  • Religious Building/Site/Shrine

This domed, Moorish-style synagogue was built in 1868 on the site of an older synagogue, the Altschul. Here the historical exposition...

Šternberský palác

  • Museum/Gallery

The 18th-century Šternberský palác houses the National Gallery's collection of paintings by European masters from the 15th to the...

Židovská radnice

  • Building/Architectural Site

The hall was the creation of Mordechai Maisel, an influential Jewish leader at the end of the 16th century. Restored in the 18th century,...

Žižkov TV Tower

  • Building/Architectural Site

Looking like a freakish, futuristic rocket ready to blast off, the Žižkov TV Tower is easily visible from around the city and perennially...

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