Prague in the Czech Republic has earned the nickname of Europe's medieval city due to its number of well preserved sights from the time period. The entire city centre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its medieval splendor and striking Gothic architecture. Every street and alley way within the city seems to only lead to yet another ancient wonder or architectural marvel. Even those not interested in the vast history of Prague will be blown away by the sheer magnificence of the city itself.
The Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock
The Old Town Hall in Prague's town centre is arguably the most recognizable icon within the city. This beautiful gothic structure dates back to 1388 and hosts a magnificent mechanical clock on the facade. The clock draws crowds every hour, waiting just to hear and see its chime. The astronomical clock was the brain child between clockmaker Miklaus of Kadane and professor of mathematics and astrology at Charles University, Jan Sindel. It is among one of the most magnificent inventions that still remains from the medieval world. The town hall itself has been integral to the city since its creation. It served as the seat of governing powers and the sight of revolutions, but even among all the blood and strife, it has persisted as an immortal landmark.
Vysehrad is a sprawling walled fortification by the Vltava River that runs through Prague. Within the tall, safe walls are the Romanesque Rotunda of St Martin, the Gothic Church of St Peter and St Paul and the Slavin Cemetery where some of the Czech Republic's greatest people are laid to rest. The fortifications and the structures within date back to the 10th century when it was used as the main residence of the Premyslids Dynasty. While both the rotunda and church were constructed in the 11th century by King Vratislav, the Church of St Peter and St Paul was updated to its current neo-Gothic appearance in the 19th century. The gates and walls were updated in the 17th century to be better fortified during the Thirty Years' War. Today, visitors can tour the whole area to visit the graves and marvel at the architecture of the church and rotunda.
Although the Old Town Hall and its clock may be more famous in Prague, Prague Castle is the city's largest medieval landmark. The castle has even been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest castle complex in the world, covering 70,000 square metres. Built in the 9th century surrounding the St Vitus Cathedral by Prince Borivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty, Prague Castle bears the mark of each historical and architectural era that it has survived. While the castle originally had Roman-inspired architecture, much of it has since been joined by Gothic extensions. Today, Slovenian architect Josip Plecnik is updating some of this castle to a more modern appearance and function. Aside from the cathedral, the castle grounds also protect the St George's Basicilia as well as numerous gardens and courtyards. While visitors can tour the grounds of the castle and many of its rooms and structures, it is currently the seat of the Czech government, so some areas may be off-limits for day-to-day government activities.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
Located in the Old Town Square near the Old Town Hall is the most important church in Prague, Our Lady Before Tyn. Like the town hall, this is one of the more iconic sights in the city of Prague. Originally, a Roman chapel once stood on this spot in the 11th century until it was replaced with the current High Goth structure in the mid-14th century. The appearance of the church was highly influenced by Emperor Charles IV's court workshop and richly decorated as to befit a king. The church has served as the spiritual center of Prague since its erection. Today, Our Lady Before Tyn hosts an extensive collection of Gothic, Renaissance and Early Baroque works of art housed within its protective walls as well as the oldest church organ in the city of Prague. Visitors hot off touring the town hall flood into this place of worship to marvel at the works of art within and without as well as tour the tombs where many historical figures in the Czech Republic are entombed.
Josefov - The Jewish Quarter
Although the Josefov Jewish Quarter is only a small portion of its former glory, it is still the best persevered complex of Jewish artifacts in Europe. Josefov was the smallest of Prague's many districts and was walled off and turned into a ghetto in 1096. The area had already inhabited many of the city's Jewish residents, but was packed to the brim with even more. Although it was tightly packed, the ghetto moderately thrived. However, it was said to be the birthplace of the Golem legend, a statue that comes to life to protect Jews in strife, so it was likely not the greatest life. In the early 1900s, much of the quarter was razed to make room for other development projects. Today, only a few key buildings stand like Central Europe's oldest synagogue--the Old-New Synagogue--as well as the Jewish Town Hall and Old Jewish Cemetery that feature's 100,000 people in just 12,000 graves with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque tombstone styles. These few spared monuments continue to be a living testimony of the Jewish life in Prague throughout the centuries.