Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is a city steeped in history and culture, with stunning architecture, world-class museums, and a vibrant arts scene. But beyond the well-known attractions and landmarks, there are many interesting and quirky facts that make Prague a fascinating destination.
From a statue that brings good luck to mummified arms hanging from ceilings, Prague is full of surprises and hidden gems. In this blog post, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the most interesting, cool, and quirky facts about Prague that you might not know about.
1. Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic
Whilst Prague’s location is not geographically in the centre of the Czech Republic, Prague is the biggest political, cultural and historical centre in the Czech Republic (and my Moravian friends will respectfully disagree, of course!). This becomes even more obvious when you venture out of Prague for a day trip and pretty much every town or large village will have a direct bus or train back to Prague.
2. Prague is the one of the most visited cities in Europe
The number of visitors have been rising sharply during the last 20 years and just before 2020 the numbers were as high as 8 million tourists a year. This number has dropped over the last three years, but it’s raising back up again.
In comparison, there is only 1.3 million of Czech people living in Prague (and only 2.1 million in the wider Prague area).
3. Prague has the largest castle in the world
According to the Guinness World Record book Prague Castle is the world largest castle in the world. It measures 7,28 acres ( or 70 280 metres square). The castle might not look like the typical fairy tale kind of castle – it is more of a large complex of different buildings from across the centuries with a large cathedral in the middle. You will find the old medieval castle, several churches, museums, art galleries, towers, old and newer palaces and even a medieval narrow street called ‘Golden Lane’ in the Prague Castle area.
4. Prague is nicknamed ‘THE town of a hundred spires’
This nickname was first used at the beginning of 19th century by a local historian Josef Hormayer and his colleague (a mathematician Bernard Bolzano) actually counted the towers and ended up with exactly 103 towers. He didn’t count private houses and water towers).
Prague is also sometimes called the Heart of Europe or Mother of all towns (that’s referring to just towns in the Czech Republic).
5. There are over 500 churches in Prague
There are well over 500 churches in Prague, ranging from small chapels to large cathedrals. Many of these churches are historic and have beautiful architecture with lavish decorations inside. Most churches are open for free during the day and if you are visiting Prague in June, you can also experience the ‘Night of Churches’ when the churches are open overnight and you can visit and listen to the music, talks or just sit down for a quiet contemplation.
6. The Prague Zoo is one of the best zoo’s in the world
And that’s a fact! The Prague Zoo was voted the 5th best zoo in the world.
The zoo was founded in 1931 and covers an area of 58 hectares and is home to over 5,000 animals from over 650 species.
Prague Zoo has always been about conservation and over the years the ZOO has been successful in breeding several endangered species, including the Przewalski’s horse, the Asiatic lion, and the Malayan tapir. To make sure that the animals feel at home, the ZOO is designed to replicate the natural habitats of the animals, such as the Indonesian Jungle, African Savannah, and the South American Pavilion.
My favourite thing is the cable car that takes you from the lower part of the zoo to the top as the ZOO is set in a fairly steep hilly area.
7. The large statue of st. Wenceslas is not the original one
When Wenceslas Square was being re-modelled in the 19th century, the original statue of St Wenceslas was not deemed to be good enough in keeping with the new shiny look and a much bigger (and younger and more masculine) version of Wenceslas was commissioned! The old statue, which was fairly small, was first put into storage and much later displayed in the park at Vysehrad Park.
8. The world’s oldest moving clock is in Prague
The Old Town Square tower has an intricate moving clock that shows the time, month, season and star constellations. It was built in 1490 and according to the legend, the town councillors blinded the creator of the clock to make sure that he can’t make a similar clock anywhere else.
This astronomical clock is the oldest working clock of its kind in the world.
9. Prague is a popular filming location for movies and TV shows
Prague is often being used as a ‘ready-made’ backdrop for a lot of national and international films. Filmmaking has a long history in Prague and whilst there are purposely made film sets at Barandov (Prague 5 area), films are often shot in real streets. And the best thing is that you can actually see the films being made if you are at the right time in the right place!
The most famous films, that have Prague as their setting include (quite often Prague is named as a different town if it suits the film storyline) – Mission Impossible (1996), Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Casino Royale, Amadeus, Spider Man – Far from Home, Jojo Rabbit, Anthropoid or The Gray Man amongst others.
10. The Smallest House in Prague
In Anežská Street, marked with a sign, stands the smallest house in Prague. It is only 2.25 meters wide. The house was built in 1853 by the architect Josef Liebel. Today, only the facade of the original house remains, and it’s used as an entrance to the back of the large house next to it, which is privately owned.
Location: Anežská Street leads from Haštalské Square to Na Františku Street and you can find it close to the St. Agnes Abbey (now an art gallery) in Old Town, Prague 1
11. Karlovo Namesti – Charles Square – The biggest square in Prague
I’m surprised at this one as much as you are! The biggest square in Prague is not Wenceslas Square, but Charles Square which most tourists hardly ever visit.
More to the point, the reason why I was surprised when I first learned this, is that Charles Square doesn’t look like a square! When you visit today, you won’t even realise that the ‘square’ is a ‘town square’ as it looks like a town park and has trams running through the middle!
When Charles IV founded the square in the 15 century, the square was a bustling place with stalls selling meat produce and modest houses and shops were being built around the square. There was also a church in the middle of the square (at the same place as the tram line now cutting through the park). As the town grew, more affluent people were moving in and building fancy townhouses around the square. And of course, the smelly and noisy market started to become an eye sore and finally, in mid 19th century, the decision was made that the market will be moved and the area turned into a park.
You can still get an idea of the old square when you walk around the New Town City hall which is in the corner of the square (there is a museum and you can also climb the stairs to get a great view of the whole area).
Measuring a whopping 80 550 metres square, Charles Square is the biggest square in Prague, but also the biggest one in the whole Czech Republic and one of the biggest squares in Europe.
12. The oldest building in Prague
The oldest building in Prague is the Rotunda of St. Martin, standing in the Vysehrad Fortress area park. It was built in the 11 century and it’s also one of the few remaining rotundas in Prague. You can see the rotunda any time and join the service which is regularly held in the evening several times a week.
13. Over 50% of the Prague area is green
You might think that you are visiting a historic city (and you are right…) but did you know that approximately 56% of the area of Prague is covered by greenery, including parks, forests, and gardens?
This makes Prague one of the greenest cities in Europe and it means that you are never too far from a park or a garden where you can sit and enjoy the world to go by. It’s also great in the hot summer weather when the temperatures in the city are rising and you can hide in the shade of trees in the gardens or go for a hike in the larger parks in the outskirts of Prague.
14. The hill slopes of Prague are used as vineyards
Prague has a surprising amount of green spaces, gardens and parks, but it also has 15 acres of vineyards.
You can see some at the Prague Castle, Vysehrad, Grebovka Park and Troja Botanical Garden and if you are visiting Prague in September you can enjoy the many vine celebration harvest festivals that are being held in Prague.
15. Cathedral of st. Vitus is the biggest church in Prague
It is not surprising that the Cathedral of St Vitus in Prague Castle is the biggest church in Prague, but it’s also one of the churches that has been built over the longest period of time. The church stands on the previous rotunda built at the end of 10th century.
At the beginning of 11th century, work started on the basilica but work had to be stopped during the Husita wars in the 14 century. The work only re-started in 1873 after 500 years and the cathedral was finally finished in 1929.
16. The oldest meteorological station is at Klementinum
One of the oldest weather stations that have been in operation since 1752 is based in Klementinum – a library complex that you can see as you walk towards the Charles Bridge.
17. The tallest tower in Prague is one of the newest one
The tallest tower in Prague also one of the tallest in Europe is Zizkov TV tower in Prague 3, Zizkov, which is 216 metres high. You can see it practically from any part of Prague. When it was built people had a very mixed feeling about the look of the tower and at one point the tower was voted one of the ugliest ones in the world.
The tower was built between 1985 and 1992 and was designed by the architect Václav Aulický and the structural engineer Jiří Kozák. It was originally built as a transmitter tower for television and radio signals, but it’s now used as an observational tower and a tourist attraction. The view from the tower is pretty spectacular and you can even have a meal at the restaurant or drink in a bar with a view of Prague.
The tower has a strange enough design (it kind of looks like an electric toothbrush), but to make it even more bizarre you can also see giant babies crawling up and down the tower. The sculptures are the creation of Czech artist David Cerny and you can see more of his fun sculptures around Prague.
19. Prague has over 150 museums, galleries and historic houses
Prague has so many different museums, that no matter what you are interested in, you will probably find it! For children, there is a Lego museum, Animated Films Museum, Museum of Toys or Train model museum. If you are looking for something quirky, then you can visit the Alchymist Museum, the Old water cleaning museum or the Chamber pots museum.
And of course, there is the more traditional National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square. Prague also has the largest aviation museum in Europe – the Kbely Aviation Museum, which is also one of the many free things you can see in Prague and one of my favourite museums!
20. Namesti Miru – The Peace Square – The longest escalator in the Prague Underground
Namesti Miru stop is 53 metres under the surface, which makes it the deepest underground station in Prague. The escalators are the longest ones in the Prague Underground too and it takes a couple of minutes to get from the platform level to the top.
21. The oldest hospital still working in Prague
The oldest hospital in Prague is called ‘Na Frantisku’. It was founded in 1354 and it’s being used today. The hospital is in the former monastery and also has a cloister, garden courtyard and chapel. The church, which used to be part of the hospital still has a door to the pharmacy, which was used for the doctors to dispense medication.
22. The most famous and the oldest bridge – the Charles Bridge was once the least favourite bridge in Prague
Founded in 1357 by Charles IV, Charles Bridge is one of the most visited attractions in Prague. But there were times when Charles Bridge was not as popular as you might think! At the beginning of the 19th century, Charles Bridge was still the only bridge in Prague. As the town expanded more bridges were built and each had a toll that had to be paid by everyone crossing the new bridges in Prague. This made Charles Bridge the only bridge in Prague where you didn’t need to pay toll!
This of course meant that the bridge was busier than ever, especially with people who couldn’t afford to pay the toll at the other bridges. A well-known journalist at the time pointed out in his newspaper column that some upper-class people would rather pay to cross the other bridges than join the crowds of people walking across the Charles Bridge!
23. Prague is famous for beer drinking
If you like beer you are in good company! Czech people (and of course people living in Prague) consume on average 180 litres of beer per person per year and that’s the world record! I must be the only Czech person who happily poses for a photo with a beer glass, but doesn’t actually drink it!
24. The largest statue of a man riding a horse
You can find the largest statue of a man riding a horse on the top of Vitkov National Monument on the top of Zizkov Hill. The 9 metres high and nearly 10 metres long statue of army commander Jan Zizka is also one of the largest statues of a horse in the world.
25. The oldest coffee place is Slavia
The oldest coffee place that’s still serving coffee is Slavia, which was opened in 1881.
Café Slavia, one of my favourite places to have breakfast in Prague, was originally opened as a coffeehouse and quickly became a popular meeting place for intellectuals, artists, politicians and writers. You can still get a really good coffee and pastries there and sit at the window table with the views of the National Theatre, Prague Castle and the Vltava River.
Location: Smetanovo nabrezi 1012/2 (Smetana’s Embankment), 110 00 Prague 1, Old Town. The Cafe Slavia is located on the corner of Národní street and Smetanovo nábřeží, next to the Vltava river and opposite the National Theatre.
26. Prague has its own Eiffel Tower
The Petrin Lookout Tower in Prague is a mini version of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The tower was built in 1891 as part of the Jubilee Exhibition, which was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. The tower was designed by the Czech architect Vratislav Pasovsky and was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, which had been built just a few years earlier for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.
The Petrin Tower is much smaller than the Eiffel Tower. Petrin is only 63.5 meters high, which is about a fifth of compared to the Eiffel Tower’s height of 324 meters.
27. The oldest puB in Prague
The oldest pub in Prague is the ‘Pivovar u Fleku’ and they have been serving beer (and brewing it at some point too) since 1499.
28. John Lennon Wall
Prague has a famous John Lennon Wall, but guess what? John Lennon never visited Prague!
Despite this, the city has a strong connection to the Beatles and to Lennon in particular. The famous John Lennon Wall is in Lesser Town – very close to the Charles Bridge and since 1980s has been a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of peace and free expression. The wall is covered in graffiti and murals dedicated to Lennon and the Beatles, as well as messages of peace and love.
29. Strakonicka Ulice – The longest street in Prague
The longest street in Prague is called Strakonicka and it’s 15,5 km long! The street starts at Smichov, in Prague 5 district and if you were to follow it it will take you through five different Prague areas.
The street was originally built in 1972 and later on, more streets were added to extend it. Since 1988 it’s been the longest street in Prague.
30. The narrowest street in Prague
Hidden between two houses, the narrowest street in Prague is controlled by a traffic light. The street has no name, it doesn’t lead anywhere, but for a long time, this street has been one of the must-see places in Prague for most tourists visiting the city.
You can find the street as you walk from Charles Bridge towards the Malostranska Underground Station on U Luzickeho Seminare street, right next to a restaurant and a Kafka Museum nearby. At the narrowest point, the street is about half a meter and you can walk down to the garden of a restaurant next door.
And if you are wondering why to build such a small street, I should explain that the street is really an alley or a gap between two houses.
And it’s purpose? It is the last surviving fire escape route in Lesser Town, which was required by the town council to help to prevent the spread of flames in a case of fire. This was back in the middle of the 16th century when after particularly damaging fires of 1503 and 1541, the town council ordered for all houses to be built apart to slow down the spread of fire in the densely built-up area.
This blog post was originally written on 14 June 2023 and last updated on 14 June 2023