The first written record of Prague goes back to the 10th Century, when at the edge of the known world, an amazed Jewish merchant came across a large city built of stone. Czech legends say that Prague had been founded nearly 200 years earlier by Princess Libuse and her husband Premysl, who began a dynasty of the same name. Endowed with the gift of seeing the future, the Princess chose the site for settlement, prophesying its eternal fame.
Historical facts don’t defy the legend – the nucleus of the city was established in the 9th Century around a castle on a hill on the right bank of the river Vltava, known today as the Vysehrad (‘high castle’). Soon afterwards, the city became the official residence of the kings of Bohemia. With time, it developed into Central Europe’s major trade centre, attracting merchants from the remotest parts of the continent. The first bridge, known as the Judith Bridge, linked the two sides of the Vltava in 1170, but it crumbled in the 14th Century. It was then replaced by the famous Charles Bridge, which survives until this day.
In the 13th Century, King Otakar II established an autonomous German district called Mala Strana ("small side") in the future area of Hradcany. Today, the narrow winding streets of the district located at the foot of Prague Castle constitute one of the most charming areas of the Czech capital. Mala Strana and Stare Mesto (Old Town), situated on the opposite sides of the river and connected by a number of bridges, are the very heart of Prague, a magical place in which the spirit of the old days still lingers.
Throughout its history, the capital of the Czech Republic has always been a cosmopolitan city. Its specific historical heritage has been forged as a blend of Czech, German and Jewish cultural influences, all visibly marked in the topography and atmosphere of the city. The multitude of architectural styles and their unique combination determine the spirit of Prague. The Czech capital casts a powerful spell on the great minds who visit it. It charmed Mozart, whose 'Don Giovanni' was performed here for the first time,Alfons Mucha, Albert Einstein, Andre Breton and the Rolling Stones, who come back here to play at least once every year.
The city is warm and welcoming, radiating the strong Bohemian spirit of a life spent drinking beer in pubs, eating mighty portions of delightful pork. This specific Czech approach to life is best felt at one of the numerous traditional inn-like restaurants scattered throughout the historical centre. There, you can sample the best of the region’s specialties, such as veprova pecene s knedliky a zelim, or roast pork with dumplings and cabbage, which is probably the most popular Czech dish. Then there’s bramboracky, fried potato pancakes, and the Czech classic smazeny syr, a thick slice of fried cheese served with tartar sauce.
However, it’s not only the architectural gems and cultural splendour that earn Prague the nickname of the Golden City. It’s also famous for the production of various kinds of superb beer, served in the countless bars and tavern, many of them featuring their own brewery.