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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.

His feckless descendants, however, frittered Charles' legacy away 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. The Russians, leaving Prague's inhabitants cowed and despairing, ruthlessly crushed any dissent, most notably during the 1968 Prague Spring.

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 which is now closed.
• 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.

Featured Hotels

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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.

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.

Savic Hotel

Located in the Old Town Square, close to the famous astronomical clock, this Prague hotel occupies a Gothic and Renaissance building dating from 1319, a historic rarity even for Prague. Spacious rooms retain original features such as painted ceiling beams; parquet floors have been restored and all mod-cons are at hand. There's also a comfortable bar and restaurant, as well as the opportunity to relax out front on a hotel terrace in Prague's historic heart.

Florentina Ship Hotel

For great value and something completely different in Prague, you'd be hard pushed to find a better concept than this floating hotel, converted from a large river cruiser and moored at the river's edge in the middle of the Old Town for the winter season. Fully refurbished to include 54 snugly comfortably cabin rooms and a café/bar, the ship's spacious sundeck would be the perfect cocktail spot if you were paying twice the price.

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.