Hradcÿany, the residential area around the west gate of Prague Castle, was made a town in its own right in 1320. Before it became a borough of Prague in 1598 it suffered heavy damage in the Hussite wars, and in the Great Fire of 1541. Nevertheless, the area is an outdoor museum of well-kept antiquities.
Hradcÿany N‡meÿst’ has kept its shape since the Middle Ages. At its centre is a column by Ferdinand Brokoff (1726) commemorating Pragues struggle against the plague. Startling Scwartzenburg Palace and other examples of baroque- and rococo-style residences make the area an architecture buffs dream.
A short walk west will bring you to Loret‡nsk’ N‡meÿst’, created in the 18th century when Cernin Palace (now home to the foreign ministry) was built. The squares main attraction is the Loreta (1626), an extraordinary baroque place of pilgrimage designed to resemble the house of the Virgin Mary. Its surrounded by several lovely chapels and an eye-popping treasury, which features the tasteful Prague Sun, made of solid silver and plenty of gold and inlaid with 6222 diamonds.
Another worthwhile destination in the Hradcÿany is Strahov Monastery (1140, completed in the 18th century), which features a baroque church where Mozart is said to have tickled the ivories, and the Strahov Library, with its unreal collection of tomes and education-themed frescos. It was a functioning monastery until the communist government closed the doors (and imprisoned most of the monks); monks have been trickling back in over the past few years.
A visit to Nebozizek will ensure the finest view of the whole city, and ideal photo opportunity not to be missed. Use the Pet¿in Funicular - Lanouka Dr‡ha - the funicular railway or, if you are fit enough, the path up Pet¿in Hill. There is a restaurant - previously a vineyard cottage - with a terrace garden and a cafe serving the best waffles with fruit and cream.
The Old - New Synagogue (the oldest in Europe) and still used for worship as well as the Old Jewish Cemetary is fascinating - the oldest tombstone is dated 1439. The novelist Frans Kafka is the most famous person associated with Josefov. He spent most of his short life in the area. Childrens artwork from the concentration camp is on display in the 19th century House of Ceremonies. In Josehof, a small corner of Prague, you will find a wealth of history.
This slice of Star? Meÿsto contains the remains of the once-thriving neighbourhood of Josefov, Pragues former Jewish ghetto.
The half-dozen old synagogues, a ceremonial hall and the powerfully melancholic Old Jewish Cemetery were perversely preserved by Nazi leaders, who declared them to be a museum of an extinct race. Instead, all have survived as a memorial to seven centuries of oppression.
The Old-New Synagogue (1270) is Europes oldest working synagogue; you step down into it because it predates the raising of Star? Meÿstos streets against floods. Men must wear hats (conveniently for