A history lovers guide to Prague
Prague is a city with a long and fascinating history of which echoes and reminders can be found around almost every corner. Prague’s has 3 really interesting periods in its history – Medieval times, the Golden Years period and 20th century history.
If you want to learn about these periods while exploring the city. Here’s how:
This is where things got started for the city, back in the 10th century, and one of the earliest landmarks – Vyšehrad Castle – was built during time. Visit today and you’ll find the Rotunda of St Martin proudly standing as Prague’s oldest surviving building. You’ll also find the more modern Vyšehrad Cemetery, which was established in 1869 and is the final resting place of many famous Czechs.
Had you been around in the 13th century you would have got to witness the founding of the city we know today. It was at this time both the Old Town (Staré Město) and the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) were established. Today you’ll find both still utterly charming to explore if a little overrun by eager tourists at times.
Prague’s Golden Years
Famous landmarks including Prague Castle, Old Town Hall, New Town, St Vitus Cathedral and Charles Bridge were all first built in the 1300’s and the Czech Republic was ruled at this time by its most popular king; Charles IV, who build the city into an economic and cultural super city.
The Hussite Wars that swept through the country in the early 1400’s were a setback for city and lead to the destruction of many historical artifacts and the deterioration of Prague Castle. But, the 1500’s ascension to power by Habsburg Dynasty saw a wave of Renaissance architecture take hold in the city, and when Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, was crowned the Czech king in 1575, the city cemented itself as a centre of science and modernity, a status it would maintain into the 17th century and the resulting Czech Dark Ages.
A trip to the Prague National Museum is a great way to find out more details.
20th Century Prague
Prague’s recent history was some of its most tragic, as the Czech Republic struggled to carve out an identity while surrounded by warring superpowers. As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it became the new newly independent Czechoslovakia – as it was then known – when the former was defeated during WWI. During WWII, the country fell under Nazi occupation and while the Red Army liberation that finally came in 1945 seemed for a brief period like it might be a good thing, it merely spelling the start of decades under the Soviet umbrella and communist oppression.
The city’s next push for freedom came during the “Prague Spring” in 1968 when local government leader Alexander Dubček tried to create “socialism with a human face”. The Soviets moved quickly, sending in Warsaw Pact troops to put down the movement, but resistance was surprisingly strong and political dissidents kept pushing for freedom behind the scenes all the way up until the famous Velvet Revolution in 1989 which finally secured the country it’s freedom and was followed by its first free elections in 44 years and the election Václav Havel as president.
Take a trip to Wenceslas Square and the famous monument at the top of the hill if you want to see where many of the biggest demonstrations took place. Or, a visit to the nearby Museum of Communism will give you a good in-depth look at what life under Soviet control was like.