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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  • 1. Karlův most

    Staré Mesto | Notable Building

    This is Prague's signature monument, and worth the denomination. The view from the foot of the bridge on the Old Town side, encompassing the...Read More

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  • 2. Chrám svatého Mikuláše

    Malá Strana | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    With its dynamic curves, this church is arguably the purest and most ambitious example of high baroque in Prague. The celebrated architect Christoph...Read More

  • 3. Franz Kafka Museum

    Malá Strana | Museum/Gallery

    The great early-20th-century Jewish author Kafka wasn't considered Czech and he wrote in German, but he lived in Prague nearly his entire short...Read More

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  • 4. Kampa

    Malá Strana | Neighborhood/Street

    Prague's largest "island" is cut off from the "mainland" by the narrow Čertovka streamlet. The name Čertovka, or "Devil's Stream," reputedly...Read More

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  • 5. Kostel Panny Marie vítězné

    Malá Strana | Religious Building/Site/Shrine

    This aging, well-appointed church on the Lesser Quarter's main street is the unlikely home of Prague's most famous religious artifact, the Pražské...Read More

  • 6. Malostranské náměstí

    Malá Strana | Plaza/Square

    Another one of the many classic examples of Prague's charm, this square is flanked on the east and south sides by arcaded houses dating from...Read More

  • 7. Museum Kampa

    Malá Strana | Museum/Gallery

    The spotlighted jewel on Kampa Island is a remodeled flour mill that displays a private collection of paintings by Czech artist František Kupka...Read More

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  • 8. Nerudova ulice


    This steep street used to be the last leg of the "Royal Way," the king's procession before his coronation. As king, he made the ascent on horseback...Read More

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  • 9. Palácové zahrady pod Pražským hradem

    Malá Strana | Garden

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

  • 10. Petřínské sady

    Malá Strana | City Park

    For a superb view of the city—from a slightly more solitary perch—the park on top of Petřín Hill includes a charming playground for children...Read More

  • 11. Schönbornský palác

    Malá Strana | Notable Building

    Franz Kafka had an apartment in this massive baroque building at the top of Tržiště ulice in mid-1917, after moving from Zlatá ulička, or Golden...Read More

  • 12. Valdštejnska Zahrada

    Malá Strana | Garden

    With its idiosyncratic high-walled gardens and superb, vaulted Renaissance sala terrena (room opening onto a garden), this palace displays...Read More

  • 13. Velkopřevorské náměstí

    Malá Strana | Plaza/Square

    This square is south and slightly west of the Charles Bridge, next to the Čertovka stream. The Grand Prior's Palace fronting the square is considered...Read More

  • 14. Vojanovy sady

    Malá Strana | City Park

    Once the gardens of the Monastery of the Discalced Carmelites, later taken over by the Order of the English Virgins, this walled garden is now...Read More

  • 15. Vrtbovská zahrada

    Malá Strana | Garden

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

  • 16. Villa Bertramka

    Smíchov | Museum/Gallery

    Mozart fans may want to make a sentimental pilgrimage to this villa. It's here that the great composer stayed on several occasions as a guest...Read More

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