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Prague History

Prague's history goes back much further than its mediaeval skyline, beginning in the distant days of the Celtic Boii tribe who founded the city around 500BC. Unlike the Celts in the rest of Europe, it wasn’t the Romans who displaced the tribe in AD9 but the German Marcomanni.

The Marcomanni gave birth to the ruling Přemyslid dynasty, which remained pre-eminent in Prague until the 14th century. Among the Přemyslid rulers was Wenceslas (he of Christmas carol fame) who was killed by his brother Boleslav and now lies buried beneath St. Vitus’s Cathedral. Despite political convulsions, the era saw Prague grow in importance as a trading centre.

But for all the Přemyslid’s success, Prague’s real golden age commenced when Charles IV of Bohemia was elected Holy Roman Emperor in the mid-14th century. Flush with cash, Charles decided to overhaul the city and initiated an ambitious building programme, with St Vitus Cathedral and the Charles Bridge among the completed projects.

Charles’ legacy, however, was frittered away by his feckless descendants and when the last direct heir died childless, a Calvinist king called Frederick V of Pfalz was elected. His religion brought him into conflict with the powerful Hapsburgs and Catholic armies rode out and defeated him in 1620, leaving Emperor Ferdinand II in charge. With political power now concentrated in Vienna, Prague began to decline.

After 400 relatively uneventful years of Hapsburg rule, the 20th century was traumatic for Prague: first it was occupied by the Nazis and then yoked to the oppressive Soviet Union. Any dissent, most notably during the 1968 Prague Spring, was ruthlessly crushed by the Russians, leaving Prague’s inhabitants cowed and despairing.

Although daunted, the Czech spirit remained undimmed, and when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the people took the opportunity to break away from Communism in what is now known as the Velvet Revolution. The Velvet Divorce followed as the Slovak portion of the old Czechoslovakia went its own way, leaving Prague the capital of the brand new Czech Republic.

Did you know?
• Prague was the first Eastern Bloc city to gain a Michelin-starred restaurant – the Allegro at the Four Seasons Hotel.
• It was in Prague in 2006 that Pluto was downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet.
• The grave of hard-line Communist president Antonín Novotný doesn’t have his name on it – the only sign of his presence is a carved signature.

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Featured Hotels

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Hilton Prague Old Town

The location of this hotel in Prague is spot on, only a short walk from Námìstí Republiky, the Municipal House and the beginning of the Royal Road. Guests have access to a health club, pool, gym and sauna, as well as local tennis courts and a golf course. The rooms blend state-of-the-art facilities with comfortable furnishings and contemporary styling.

Jurys Inn

Near to a metro station and a 20-minutes walk to the Old Town Square, this modern hotel offers great value for money with its 214 clean and bright rooms coming in five categories - double, premium king, twin, triple and family, all of which are generously proportioned and come with free Wi-Fi. This is also a comtemporary restaurant and bar.

Four Seasons Hotel Prague

As you’d expect, Prague’s luxurious Four Seasons Hotel enjoys an unbeatable location, perched below Prague Castle and only a stone's throw from Charles Bridge. Everything here is as it should be at a Four Seasons. There are 19 suites, including the sumptuous Presidentia, furnishings are elegant and artwork original, and there’s a 24-hour concierge service, state-of-the-art gym and spa. The hotel also goes out of its way to create a child-friendly environment, with complimentary cots and a babysitting service.

Hotel Josef

This light, bright and super-modern hotel in Prague provides the perfect antidote to the heavy gothic architecture that dominates the surrounding city centre. Designed by Eva Jiricna, with a spectacular glass atrium as its focal point, the hotel's 110 luxury rooms all come with equally contemporary facilities, from high-end designer bathroom suites to Wi-Fi access.

Hotel Cloister Inn

Dating from 1772, this fascinating historic building, enviably situated in the Old Town between Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square, was once a Jesuit convent, before serving as offices for the Soviet secret police. This cheap hotel in Prague now provides 73 comfortable rooms ranging from singles to triples. Unlimited buffet breakfasts are served in the former chapel.

Hotel Savoy

Situated between the city centre and the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, this small but comfortable hotel has two underground and bus stations nearby and the Exhibition Grounds are 25 minutes away by car or U-Bahn.