Prague Routes

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Old Town and Josefov

You need a bit more time to complete this tour. Its first part is dedicated to the former Prague Jewish ghetto (and takes 4 -5 hours); the other focuses on other places of interest across Prague’s oldest part, and can be followed by a tour of the National Gallery collections (which takes another 4-5 hours).
Prague’s former Jewish Town is called Josefov, and was established following the emancipation of the Jewish population after 1850. It was named after Joseph II, who granted Prague’s Jews at last some civil rights. The former ghetto used to be one of the poorest parts of the city and most of it was demolished at the end of the 19th century. The only preserved structures are the synagogues, the town hall and the old Jewish cemetery. The Early Gothic Staronová synagoga (Old-New Synagogue) consisting of a nave and an aisle dates from the 3rd quarter of the 13th century and has preserved its original appearance in spite of later partial reconstruction. The synagogue still serves its original purpose.
Opposite it on Červená street stands the Vysoká synagoga (High Synagogue) from the late 16th century. The former Jewish town hall (Židovská radnice; Maiselova street 18/250) dates from the same time and has a clock with a Hebrew face. U židovského hřbitova street takes you to Klausová (Klaus) Synagogue built in the early baroque style in the late 17th century.
The Pinkasova (Pinkas) Synagogue, built in the late 15th century, can also be found there. During its recent restoration, the Jewish ritual bath mikvah was discovered in the basement. Inside the synagogue is a memorial bearing the names of 77,000 Czech Jews who died during Holocaust. By Pinkasova Synagogue is the Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý židovský hřbitov). The 12,000 tombstones have been erected here in the course of 350 years, and because of lack of space the cemetery has several layers. The best known is probably the tombstone of Rabbi Löw, allegedly the creator of the Golem.

Other important buildings to see in the former Jewish ghetto are the Maiselova (Maisl) Synagogue (Maiselova street 8/63), and Španělská (Spanish) Synagogue, located on Dušní street.
There are also many Christian structures as well as modern buildings in pseudo-historic styles, the Art Nouveau and the Cubist style of the turn of the 19th century. ÄŚechĹŻv most (bridge), not far from the former ghetto, is the only one in the Art Nouveau style. It is remarkable for its rich decorations and illumination.

Continue along the embankment past the ancient Na Frantisku hospital to the large complex of the Convent of St. Agnes (Anežský klášter; Na Františku 811). It was founded at the same time as the Old Town of Prague in the 1230s by King Wenceslas I, his wife Cunigund, and his sister Agnes of Bohemia, who became its abbess. It was the first Gothic structure on Bohemian territory. These days, the complex serves as one of the exhibition spaces of the National Gallery.
The border between Prague’s two historic towns, the Old and the New Towns, runs along Revoluční street across náměstí Republiky square, Na příkopě and Národní streets. Most buildings come from the 19th and 20th centuries and are a textbook of modern styles. Walking along the Revolucni and Na prikope streets to the lower end of Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square), you reach Můstek, which means a little bridge. In the Middle Ages, there really was one connecting the two towns and its remains can be seen on the basement level of the Metro station of the same name.
The short Na můstku street takes you to another of old Prague’s towns, the New Town of St. Gall (Havelské Město). Located between Ovocný trh (Fruit Market) and Uhelný trh (Coal Market), it was founded at the time when the Old Town walls were built. In the centre of this former settlement stands the Church of St. Havel (St. Gall), originally built in the Gothic style, and rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries in the baroque style.
In front of the church, a roofed marketplace was built in 1362, and, though in a different form, has survived there till today. The neo-Renaissance building of the Česká spořitelna (savings bank; Rytířská street 29/536), designed by the leading architect Antonín Wiehl, comes from the late 19th century.
At one end of Rytířská street stands the Estates Theatre (Stavovské divadlo), at the other end, on the Uhelný trh (Coal Market) Square is the house U tří zlatých lvů (At Three Golden Lions) with a tablet commemorating the stay of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On the opposite corner known as Platýz, another tablet commemorates the stay of Ferencz Liszt.
Not far from here stands the Church of St. Martin in the Walls named so because the 12th-century Romanesque church was later rebuilt in the Gothic style and partly integrated into the town walls. 
There are many other ancient churches and chapels nearby. In Husova street stands the Church of sv. Jiljí (St. Giles), originally a medieval church which was rebuilt in the baroque style and decorated with frescoes by Václav Vavřinec Reiner. Husova street has a history dating back to the Romanesque period but archeological research suggests that it may be even older. Husova street leads you to Betlémské náměstí (Bethlehem Square) with the reconstructed Bethlehem Chapel (Betlémská kaple), which was built in 1391 and where Master Jan Hus preached for several years from 1402. His execution by burning at the stake on July 6, 1415 in Constance (Germany) became a milestone in Czech history. Martin Luther called him his teacher and there is an exhibition in the chapel on the development of the non-Catholic Churches and thinking.

Across the square begins Karoliny Světlé street where you find another Romanesque church which has survived till these days - Rotunda sv. Kříže (Rotunda of the Holy Rood). It dates from the 12th century and is still used for religious purposes.
The tour ends in the Smetanovo nábřeží (embankment), Prague’s oldest one, offering a beautiful view of Prague’s famous skyline.

Mala Strana

The tour of Mala Strana takes between half and a whole day. The best starting points are either Malostranská Metro station or Hradčanské náměstí (square) from where you go down Zámecké schody (The Castle Staircase).
Either way, if you want to visit the baroque palace gardens below Prague Castle, one of the specific features of Prague’s architecture, you need to get to the Valdštejnské náměstí (The Wallenstein Square). There is the entrance to the Ledebour Palace Garden (Ledebursky palac; Valdštejnské náměstí 3/162). The others are the Pálffy, Kolowrat, and Fürstenberg Gardens. All gardens are terraced, offering beautiful views of the entire city.
From the Valdštejnské náměstí, you can walk through Valdštejnský palác (The Wallenstein Palace) which was built in the 1620s. The palace has richly decorated interiors and a large garden (Valdštejnská zahrada), connected with the palace by a sala terrena. The garden is adorned with the copies of the bronze statues by famous sculptor Adrien de Vries.
U lužického semináře street takes you from Klarov to Vojanovy sady, Prague’s oldest gardens, founded in the second half of 12th century as a part of the bishop’s court. After the palace had been destroyed, the garden was integrated into the Carmelite convent. Later on, it served as a recreational ground for young girls attending the school of the Order of English Virgins, and finally became accessible to the public in 20th century.
U lužického semináře street leads to Kampa island formed by an arm of the Vltava River just next to the Charles Bridge. The island’s current appearance dates from the 16th century when remains of Malá Strana houses destroyed by fire were dumped here, raising the ground level and making it firm enough for houses to be built on. The other half of the island is formed by parks. Kampa Island offers a unique collection of old mills, for example the Štěpánovský mlýn (mill) in the Renaissance style, or the Velkopřevorský mlýn with a huge wheel which can be seen from the Charles Bridge. Further upstream the Čertovka channel stands the Huť Mill with a smaller wheel. The Sovovy mlýny compound has been recently reconstructed, and is used as an art gallery.
Leave the Kampa Island at Svaty Jan na Pradle (St. John at the Laundry) Church, whose strange name originates in the times when the building was used as a laundry. The church was built as in early as in the 12th century, and its current appearance is the result of several reconstructions.
Taking Ricni street, you get to Ăšjezd and have two options:
1. Either to go up the Petřín Hill, taking the funicular railway or walking. The main feature is the Rozhledna (Petrin Tower), a downsized copy of the Eiffel Tower built in 1891, but there are other interesting things to see: the Hladová zeď (Hunger Wall) from the time of Charles IV, a nice wooden church moved to Prague from Sub-Carpathian Ukraine in the 1920s, the Štefánikova Observatory (Hvězdárna), or the mirror Maze (Bludiště) right under the tower. You can either return back to Újezd or walk to the Strahov Monastery in Pohořelec.
2. Or you may decide to see more of Mala Strana, continuing the Ăšjezd street to Karmelitská, and passing by the small Church of St. Lawrence (sv. VavĹ™ince) in Hellichova street. This church, older than Malá Strana itself, used to be a part of Opatovice settlement in the 12th century. The Church of Our Lady Victorious in Karmelitská street is especially famous for the statue of the Bambino di Praga (Baby Jesus of Prague), donated to the church by Polyxena of Lobkowicz in 1628. Also in Karmelitská stands the VrtbovskĂ˝ palác (Vrtba Palace; Karmelitská 25/373). Walk through the passageway to the Vrtbovská zahrada (Vrtba Garden), and visit one of Prague’s most beautiful baroque gardens. It is also a terraced one, designed by František Maxmilian KaĹ?ka, and decorated with sculptures by Matthias Bernard Braun, and the frescoes by Václav VavĹ™inec Reiner – the leading artists of their time. Take the narrow Prokopská street to MaltĂ©zskĂ© námÄ›stĂ­ square. The St. John the Baptist group statue stands in front of the Church of Our Lady below the Chain, another church dating from the 12th century.
Enjoy the unusual calm of Velkopřevorské náměstí square with several Renaissance and baroque buildings, and walk past the Velkopřevorský mlýn (mill) back to the Kampa Island or up the stairs to the Charles Bridge.