On the banks of the Vltava River, at the crossroads of Austria and Hungary, Prague is an important political and cultural centre in Central Europe. Running through this city of a hundred towers, one discovers both the remains of the medieval period and those of the Austro-Hungarian empire. From the Astronomical Clock to its magnificent castle, Prague is a city of exceptional architectural wealth.
"Prague, this rich, gigantic epic poem of architecture", in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, is a city where it is good to walk... and run!
On the one hand, you can admire Gothic masterpieces such as the Charles Bridge and St Vitus Cathedral in Prague. On the other hand, the city is overflowing with Baroque palaces and churches, which contrast with the many Art Nouveau, Cubist, Modernist and contemporary buildings. This richness has led to the historic heart of the city being included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
And at the end of your run or during your visit to Prague, enticed by the smell of pastry that permeates its streets, you might try a Trdelník, the traditional local cake. Made of dough wrapped around a wooden skewer, then grilled over an open fire and covered with sugar and crushed hazelnuts, it has a characteristic cylindrical shape and a pronounced smell of cinnamon.
Staré Město, the old town by the river
Prague's historic city centre stretches along both banks of the Vltava River. The Old Town, Staré Město, as opposed to the "New Town", Nové Město, is located on the right bank in a loop of the river. Today it is surrounded by boulevards built on the line of the old fortifications.
Known for its maze of streets and squares and the diversity of its architectural styles, baroque buildings stand side by side with a myriad of churches of very ancient origin. Historically, it was the bourgeois and commercial quarter, where the city's historic university was founded in 1348.
On your run, you should not miss its famous astronomical clock, which has stood on the south wall of the town hall since the 15th century. It is said that the clockmaker Hanus, who built it, had his eyes gouged out afterwards so that he could never reproduce his masterpiece. It marks the time with a ballet of automatons representing the twelve Apostles.
In the heart of the old town, you will also discover the old Jewish quarter of Josefov, with Staronová, the oldest active synagogue in Europe, and its famous cemetery with its lopsided graves. Indeed, before the Second World War, Prague was home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.
Nové Město, "new town" since 1348
Legend has it that Charles IV, then King of Bohemia and future Emperor of the Romans, was gazing at Prague one day with his court, rejoicing in its beauty. Suddenly, an astrologer told him that Mala Strana, the aristocratic quarter, would be burnt down and that Staré Město would suffer massive flooding. In order to ensure the survival of the town in such an eventuality, the monarch decided to build Nové Město, on the land of neighbouring villages.
Today, the "new town" has become a testimony to a rich past. The district was originally built around three central markets: the cattle market, the horse market, and the hay market. Nové Město was the result of a well-thought-out medieval town planning concept and from the very beginning it had the main axes that you will follow on your walk or bike ride through Prague. As for the markets, they have now become Charles Square, Wenceslas Square and Senovazne Square.
The huge Charles Square is lined with many buildings that cannot be ignored. While running, you will admire the church of Saint Ignatius, the house of Faust, the Charitas Palace... Wenceslas Square, the junction between the two parts of the city, was the scene of many historical events.
Finally, towards Senovážné, you will be dazzled by the flamboyant façade of the Jubilee synagogue in Moorish style.
Malá Strana, city of aristocrats and pearl of the Baroque
Malá Strana, which means "the small side", is also a district steeped in history. Located between the Vltava River and the Castle and Petřín Hills, the area takes its name from the comparison with the larger, adjoining Old Town, from which it is separated by Charles Bridge.
In the Middle Ages, due to its proximity to the Castle, the seat of imperial power at the time, it was home to many representatives of the nobility of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as to German communities. It was founded for this purpose by King Ottokar II of Bohemia in 1257, when the original inhabitants were expelled.
Today it is known as the "Pearl of the Baroque" and offers visitors a real urban spectacle, with a notable Italian influence. Between Renaissance palaces and rococo buildings, there are also imposing examples of Counter-Reformation architecture, particularly the Church of St Nicholas in Prague.
During your visit, don't forget to stop in front of the house "with two suns", the birthplace of Jan Neruda. This Czech realist writer, critic and poet was one of the best known members of the May School. And if his name reminds you of a more recent artist, that's normal! The surname Neruda, meaning 'not of the family' in Czech, became the pen name of the Chilean poet and writer Ricardo Eliécer Neftalí Reyes Basoalto... better known by the nickname Pablo Neruda.
With Runnin'City, dive into the fabulous history of Prague and uncover the mysteries that lurk around every corner!