Home Prague Basic Information about the City

Basic Information about the City

Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic situated in the middle of Bohemia on the Vltava River. It took the city eleven centuries to get the look we know today. Nowadays it covers an area of 496 square kilometres and has about 1 240 000 inhabitants.

Since 1920, the full official name of the city is the “Capital City of Prague”. There is also a collocation, “Prague – Heart of Europe”, which refers to the position of the metropolis: it is located both in the middle of Bohemia and in the middle of Europe.

A legend about the foundation of Prague says that the establishment of the city was predicted by the mythical Princess Libuše, who uttered the famous prophecy: “I see a great city, whose fame touches the stars. In the forest, one day’s walk from here, there is a place where you will find a man. When you arrive there, you will find him making a wooden threshold. Therefore the city you will build you will call Praha [from “práh” – “threshold”].”

Prague soon became the centre of the emerging Czech state. Rulers started to control the surrounding areas from Prague Castle. Prague flourished remarkably in the 14th century under the reign of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. The city was significantly expanded by the Prague New Town and the ruler established a university which is still there, bearing his name to this day.

On the website Charles IV and Prague – 700 years you will find interesting information about the 700th birth anniversary of the birth of Charles IV. You can for example learn here that under his reign, Prague was one of the major artistic centres. During the high gothic period there were leading architects, sculptors and painters present at the Prague court. At the same time, Prague became one of the major centres for universal education. In 1348 Charles IV founded a university here. As a result, university education became more accessible for inhabitants of the Bohemian Kingdom as well as other Europeans who lived “north of the Alps”. The lessons were held at the same site as today’s Charles University buildings.

Another important period in the history of Prague was the rule of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia from the house of Habsburg. Due to a long-lasting threat from the Ottoman Empire Rudolf moved the imperial court from Vienna to Prague. Prague Castle became the imperial residence again and a part of the Vienna court moved to Prague. Rudolf II was famous for supporting culture and art and he also established a lot of art collections. In particular he supported science and astronomy and he believed in astrology and alchemy. Rudolf II was the last Czech ruler with a permanent seat in Prague.

In 1784, under the reign of Joseph II, the unification of the individual Prague towns took place: the Old and the New Town, the Lesser Town and the Castle District. Gradually, more and more parts joined the city. During 19th century, Prague underwent fast development and industrialisation.

At the end of World War I, on 28th October 1918, the independent Czechoslovakia was formed with Prague as the capital city. Prague Castle became the seat of President. This tradition persisted through the whole of 20th century, even after the independent Czech Republic was formed in 1993.

The history of Prague is long and therefore it is no wonder that quite a few world-famous personalities were born here or lived here for some time. Among the most renowned ones were the Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV, the composer Antonín Dvořák, the opera singer Emmy Destinn and writers Franz Kafka, Karel Čapek and Jan Neruda. Even the composer W. A. Mozart spent a short time living and working in Prague. Prague is also a popular place for shooting a lot of films by Czech as well as international directors.

The territory of Prague is very large. The historical city centre is the place where you can find the most sights and historical buildings (mainly Prague 1, 2). Further from the historic core, the number of shopping centres and housing estates grows. Lately, there have also been more and more satellite towns – newly built houses on the edge of the city creating urban areas.

The seat of the Government of the Czech Republic is also in Prague. Territorial administration of the city is performed by the City Hall of the Capital City of Prague, which also works as a municipal and regional office. Prague is divided into 57 city parts and 22 administrative districts (Prague 1 – 22). To learn more, have a look at the Offices section.