Prague Neighborhoods

Prague TV's at-a-glance guide to the city's most important districts

Perhaps because it's built on seven hills, Prague sometimes feels more like a collection of small towns than a sprawling metropolis.

Because of this, recognizing each area's distinctive character and identity goes a long way toward getting to know the city, either as a tourist or a resident.

Here's a brief introduction to some of the city's most important districts... Click on the picture next to the name of the district to see some photos.



Staré Město (Old Town)

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Its narrow lanes may be permanently clogged with tourists but many of Prague's must-see sights - among them the Old Town Hall's astrological clock and the Týn church's fantastic spires - are packed into the area, mainly around Old Town Square. This is Prague as seen as on picture postcards.


Josefov (Jewish Quarter)

An area of the Old Town bordered by Kaprova, Dlouhá and Kozí. Once the site of Prague's Jewish ghetto, Josefov was demolished and rebuilt at the end of the 19th century. The area's main thoroughfare is Pařížská, an Art Nouveau-influenced boulevard that's now lined with ritzy shops and restaurants. The area's Jewish heritage lives on in the shape of several synagogues, the eerie Old Jewish Cemetery, and a town hall and a ceremonial hall that once played key roles in ghetto life.


Malá Strana

Across the Charles Bridge from the Old Town, the largely Baroque-style "Small Side" or "Lesser Quarter" (depending on how literal you want to be) is another must-see area for tourists. The central square, Malostranské náměstí, is dominated by the spectacular Church of St. Nicholas while the steep climb up Nerudová toward Prague Castle is another big attraction. If you're not a tourist, there are still some nifty pubs and restaurants here, plus the Czech Parliament buildings and many of the major foreign embassies.


Nové Město (New Town)

Don't be fooled - it's not that new. Nové Město was established in the 14th century to take the weight off the Old Town. Stretching out to the east and west of Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí), the New Town is home to many of the city's best shops, most of its main financial institutions, and a diverse collection of pubs, restaurants and clubs. The growing number of "night clubs" (brothels, basically) means that the area is popular with British stag parties.


Hradčany

The area's main attraction, which gives Hradčany its name, is Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), though the palaces of nearby Hradčanské náměstí square rival the castle complex for grandeur. Other highlights include the Loreto and Strahov Monastery (Strahovské klášter). Strictly for the tourists and the fabulously wealthy.


Nusle

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Below the New Town, on cliffs overlooking the Vltava, Vyšehrad has history on its side. As any guidebook will tell you, this is where it all began: Sometime in the eighth century, Libuše comes over all funny at the top of Vyšehrad hill, decides to build "a city whose splendor will reach to the stars," and the rest is Prague history. While the "splendor" of some of Vyšehrad's newer landmarks - the Congress Center, for instance, or the "suicide bridge" leading to Nusle - is debatable, the area is home to some grand historical sights, including the Rotunda of St. Martin and a magnificent cemetery.


SoNa

SoNa ("South of Národní") may be an English-language-media invention but the area enclosed by Národní třída, Spálená and Myslíková is still an appealing part of town. At its height, this section of the New Town was buzzing with cool cafés and hip bars, populated by the frazzled folk who worked at the area's many internet start-ups. The start-ups are a thing of the past but SoNa's reputation as a place to drink, dine and dance remains.


Holešovice

Combining industrial grime, artsy enclaves and new developments, Holešovice is a curious mix, centered on Strossmayerovo náměstí square. This is a place to live or work rather than to visit, but in the National Gallery's modern art collection, at Veletržní palác, the area has one of Prague's most underrated attractions, and the Letná and Stromovka parks are close at hand. Across the rail tracks, meanwhile, the ambitious new Lighthouse development could do much to revitalize the riverside area.


Letná

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Letná is more than just a park - but the close proximity of Letenské sady, downtown Prague's largest expanse of greenery, is certainly a bonus. Up the hill from Holešovice and with specctacular views across the river into the Old Town, Letná offers a laidback lifestyle within striking distance of the downtown core - a combination that's made the area popular with young expats. The area's also home to the country's finest football stadium, Toyota Arena, which stages Sparta Praha and Czech national team games. And the Letenské sady beer garden's pretty good too.


Vinohrady

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Voted the city's "best neighborhood to live in" by PTV's 2004 Best of Prague panel, Vinohrady is a winning combination of city-center amenities, handsome 19th century apartment buildings, and suburban tranquility, based around Náměstí Míru square. Wenceslas Square is just a short stroll down Vinohradská, but the hussle and bustle of New Town can seem a world away.


Vršovice

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Bordered by Žižkov, Vinohrady, Nusle, Strašnice and Michle, Vršovice is fast becoming the hip place to live in Prague. The upper edges, nicknamed "Upper V" by the area's ever-expanding expat community, boast quiet tree-lined streets and great local bars and restaurants. The Grebovka park - actually a vineyard - has had a makeover and new "condominium" style housing estates are popping up at its edges. The area is rapidly being reconstructed and property prices are soaring, making this Prague's hottest investment area. There's also a new Carrefour shopping center, giving residents less need to travel downtown.


Žižkov

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While some Praguers still recoil in fear at the very mention of Žižkov's name, the neighborhood - home to a large Romany (Gypsy) population and historically one of the city's poorer districts - is increasingly respectable. In spite (or, more likely, because) of its slightly sordid reputation, the area continues to attract expat hipsters and is probably the closest Prague gets to a genuine counter-culture. Among the attractions are the plentiful pubs, the idiosyncratic clubs, a strong sense of identity, and the strangest looking TV tower you've ever seen.


Dejvice

Home to several embassies and some terribly nice housing, the once and future king of Prague suburbs is slowly returning to what it was prior to World War II - pleasantly affluent and more than a little snobby.. The central square, Vítězné náměstí, is little more than a colossus communist-era roundabout, but the main shopping area, off Dejvická street, is improving fast ahead of redevelopment plans.


Smíchov

Developers may have dropped two mega-malls - Nový Smíchov ("New Smíchov") and Zlatý Anděl - on the area, but grotty "old" Smíchov - grubby, industrial and rather sleazy - lives on around the edges. An increasing number of new bars and restaurants, plus Smíchov's location, across the river from the New Town, suggest, however, that gentrification will eventually gain the upper hand.

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