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Things to Do in Prague - page 3

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Prague Jewish Quarter (Josefov)
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A visit to Josefov will show you what remains of the old Jewish Quarter of Prague. Although much of it has been destroyed and built over by modern buildings, you can still get a feel for its past and visit the synagogues and cemetery overseen by the Jewish Museum. The Jewish population of Prague began to be persecuted during the Crusades and was eventually contained in a walled ghetto. Periods of relative prosperity and peace, with a certain degree of self-administration, alternated with oppression and horrific massacres. Ironically, the survival of much of the Old Quarter and many of the artefacts in the Jewish Museum's collection is due to the Nazis, who assembled the objects and marked out the sites for a museum of an 'extinct race'.
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St. Vitus Church (Kostel sv. Vita)
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Not to be confused with the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague’s Hradčany Castle District, the Church of St. Vitus lies in the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, three hours south of the capital. Sited in the grounds of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Krumlov Castle, the second largest castle in the Czech Republic, visiting the Church of St Vitus is a popular pastime for visitors and day-trippers from Prague.

Built back in 1340 by German architect Linhart of Aldenberk, the church underwent extensive redevelopment at the turn of the 15th century and its gothic façade is one of the town’s most memorable architectural works. Reminiscent of Prague’s cathedral, the church’s most striking feature is its octagonal neo-gothic bell tower and the looming spire, along with the neighboring tower of Krumlov Castle, have long framed the iconic skyline of the Cesky Krumlov, thought to be symbolic of the power balance between religion and the monarchy.

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More Things to Do in Prague

Prague Zoo

Prague Zoo

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The Prague Zoo is one of the best zoos in the world and aims to educate the public about wildlife while protecting the animals that live there. Many of the exhibits allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals. Despite being in the middle of a city, there is lots of greenery at the Prague Zoo, making it a nice escape as well as a fun place to see a wide variety of animals. There are several areas geared towards children such as play areas, a petting zoo, and a viewing train.

Some of the more interesting animals you can see at the zoo include the Komodo dragon, western lowland gorilla, polar bear, honey badger, Galapagos tortoise, Malayan tapir, camel, kangaroo, southern cassowary, Malayan tiger, antelope, aardvark, Przewalski's horse, eastern black and white Colobus monkey, Steller's sea eagle, cape fur seal, Red River hog, giraffe, river stingray, Humboldt's penguin, lesser panda, rhinoceros hornbill, Asian elephant, and hippopotamus.

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Prague New Town Hall (Novomestská Radnice)

Prague New Town Hall (Novomestská Radnice)

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Prague's New Town Hall isn't as new as its name might suggest. It dates back to 1377 after Charles IV founded the New Town, and it served as the seat of municipal government until 1784. At that point, the building was converted into a criminal courthouse and prison. Today the New Town Hall building is a heritage center and is used for exhibitions, social events and weddings.

Not much remains of the original building from the 1300s, but today you can see additions and renovations from different periods in history. The Gothic tower, which was added in the 15th century, stands at almost 230 feet tall and offers visitors who climb the 221 stairs views of the New Town and Karlovo (Charles) Square. The south wing of the building was designed in a Renaissance style in the 16th century, and if you look closely, you'll notice a chain fixed to the building. This is from a time when the streets in Prague were closed off by chains.

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Prague State Opera (Státní Opera)

Prague State Opera (Státní Opera)

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A short walk from the New Town’s central Wenceslas Square, the grand Prague State Opera house is one of the city’s most exquisite buildings, undergoing several name changes over the years. Originally built as the German Theater, the ornate Neo-Rococo structure was designed by Viennese architects Fellner & Hellmer and opened to much acclaim in 1888. Despite falling into disrepair during the post-WWII communist years, the Prague State Opera has now been fully restored to its previous glory and the opulent interiors are truly magnificent, blending elegant white and gold décor with plush red velvet and glittering chandeliers.

Of course, the only way to truly experience the old world ambiance of Prague’s Opera House is to attend a performance, and there are plenty of opportunities during the Prague State Opera season between September and June. A varied program of opera and ballet features works by all the greats, including Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Rossini, Verdi.

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Konopiste Castle (Konopiste Chateau)

Konopiste Castle (Konopiste Chateau)

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Built in the 13th century, the Konopiště Chateau was originally built in the Early Gothic era on the model of a French castellum near Prague. Renaissance and Baroque reconstruction changed the castle into a grand stately home. At the end of the 19th century Konopiště Chateau was refurbished in the Romantic style for Franz Ferdinand d'Este, successor to the Habsburg throne, and famous for his death in 1914 which acted as a pretext for the start of WWI.

The chateau offers a fine display of furniture, drape tapestries, sculptures, paintings and a cornucopia of hunting trophies. There is also a baroque rose garden and a greenhouse.

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Zizkov District

Zizkov District

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Museum of Communism

Museum of Communism

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Following World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under Soviet rule between 1948 and 1989; during this time the Communist authorities arrested more than 205,486 Czech nationals and executed 248 after show trials, with 4,500 prisoners dying in jail. Around 170,940 people were driven into exile, with many more killed trying to flee the country. These dark days behind the Iron Curtain are explored at the Museum of Communism -ironically housed alongside a casino on the first floor of the Baroque 18th‐century Savarin Palace. Using photos, political posters, medals, a jumble of busts of Lenin and Marx, Soviet uniforms and movie reels, the displays deal with the perils of living under state‐sponsored terrorism, showcasing anti‐capitalist propaganda; the constant threat of Cold War warfare; work conditions in a Soviet factory and Russian teaching in schools.

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Franz Kafka’s Birthplace (Expozice Franze Kafky)

Franz Kafka’s Birthplace (Expozice Franze Kafky)

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Franz Kakfka was born in Prague in 1883 in a home on the corner of Maiselova and Kaprova, next to the St. Nicholas Church. The original building was torn down years ago, although the door was preserved. A bust of Kafka and plaque now commemorate the site and a small museum has opened in his family home nearby. The Franz Kafka Exposition retells Kafka’s life using simple displays of pictures, quotes and a timeline. Also on display are first editions of several Kafka books, including a 1916 edition of the Metamorphosis. The exposition also features artifacts from Jewish life in Prague and a small gift shop sells Kafka related memorabilia.

Across the river in Prague, the Kafka Museum presents a multimedia exhibit of even more Kafka memorabilia, including photographs and original letters.

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Nizbor Glass Factory (Rückl Crystal)

Nizbor Glass Factory (Rückl Crystal)

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Located less than an hour outside of Prague, the Nizbor Glass Factory is home to Rückl Crystal. This factory carries on the tradition of making high quality Czech glass and crystal, originally known as Bohemian crystal. All stages of production are carried out here, including glass blowing, painting, crackling, and cutting. The Nizbor Glass Factory has an extensive range of cut 24% lead crystal products. Just a few of the things they produce are champagne glasses, bowls, plates, vases, perfume bottles, and lamps.

Though much of their crystal stays in the Czech Republic, many items are exported to the USA, Japan, Singapore, and several other parts of the world. A portion of the factory is open to tours where visitors can learn all about the 300 year old tradition of Bohemian glass and crystal making. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase some of their beautiful crystal to take home.

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Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)

Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad)

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Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad) is a charming spa town about a 2 hours west of Prague, all higgledy-piggledy Art Nouveau buildings and wealthy Russian tourists. Legend has it that Charles IV discovered the spring while out hunting with his dogs and founded the town - hence the name.

It enjoyed a vogue in the 19th century, when all manner of fashionable folk (including Beethoven and Chopin) rolled up to take the medicinal waters. You can still take a number of treatments here, including drinking the whiffy waters of the springs, but most Western visitors prefer to try out Becherovka, the town's signature herbal liqueur.

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