Sept 8th Prague Old & New Towns

Saturday, September 8th: Getting into sync with the nine hour time difference. Another great hotel breakfast. Today we toured Old & New Town Prague with our personal tour guide. Little need for lunch, but we did stop for a mid-afternoon snack of a small scoop of ice cream with cookie wafer at a restaurant that was frequented by Albert Einstein.

We stepped into the Old Town Square in Prague and journey back in time, 600 or 700 years. As you stand in awe, the dramatic history of Prague permeates the air. The Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) is one of two main squares in Prague (Wenceslas Square is the other, just 5 minutes walk away).

With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sights in Europe.

Dating from the 12th century, the Old Town Square started life as the central marketplace for Prague. Over the centuries buildings of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles were erected around the market, each bringing with them stories of wealthy merchants and political intrigue.

The Old Town Square’s most notable sights are the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and St. Nicholas Church.

At the center of the Old Town Square is the Jan Hus statue, erected on the July 6th, 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s death. The groundswell of supporters for his beliefs during the 14th and 15th centuries eventually led to the Hussite wars.

To fully appreciate the beauty of the Old Town Square, we climbed the Astronomical Clock Tower for a stunning view over old town.

The New Town in Prague has a misleading name – it was actually founded by Charles IV in 1348, following his coronation as king under the Holy Roman Empire. Consequently, the New Town (Nové Město) has historic buildings and squares, around which much of the modern development of the city has taken shape.

Wenceslas Square lies at the heart of the New Town, and is a vibrant area of hotels, shopping, commerce, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife.

Charles Square and Republic Square are other notable areas in the New Town.

The New Town covers a sizeable area. It wraps right around the Old Town on one bank of the River Vltava (across the river is the Lesser Town and the Castle District. Together these 4 areas form the city centre of Prague).

The New Town is an ideal area to stay in. It has an intriguing history, but is graced with more modern hotels and amenities than elsewhere in the city. It also has excellent metro and tram connections.

And as Prague is a compact city, walking from the New Town to the Old Town or Lesser Town is easy. Indeed Wenceslas Square is only 5 minutes from the Old Town Square, the centre of the Old Town.

Back in the 14th century, with the construction of the New Town, Prague became the third largest city in Europe.

Wenceslas Square was laid out to serve as the city’s new horse market, Charles Square as the cattle market, and a hay and straw market was set up at Senovážné Square – the modern day Vodičkova and Jindřišská streets still interconnect these three squares.

Residents of the overcrowded Old Town and the areas surrounding Prague, flocked to the New Town to build houses and establish businesses.

Great churches were erected, the New Town Hall was constructed, and more large squares laid out – all within a period of just fifty years.

As part of the construction, at the end of the 14th century the Royal Court Palace was built next to the Powder Gate, one of the original 14 entrances to the Old Town.

King Wenceslas IV even made the Royal Court Palace his main residence, and the city’s rulers continued to live there for another one hundred years, before transferring to Prague Castle in 1483.

In 1911, Municipal House was built on the site of the Royal Court, and today forms the centre piece of Republic Square.

We finished up the day, our stay in Prague and our September birtbdays with a meal at a five-star restaurant, followed by a long walk along the river back to our Hilton Hotel — dodging marathon racers at some road crossings!

(watch for pictures soon)

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