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Prague History

History of Prague

The history of Prague is an epic story: it has witnessed the Austro-Hungarian Empire, independence, Nazi control, communism, and eventually capitalism - and that only covers the 20th century! Discover the significant events in the city's past.

Prague History

5500-4500 BC: First evidence of continuous occupation of the area surrounding Prague (Praha). Germanic and Celtic tribes establish settlements, and trade routes leading from Southern to Northern Europe pass through the area.
500 BC (Around): One of the Celtic tribes, the Boii, are the first inhabitants of the area known by name. The Boii called the region 'Bohemia' and the river 'Vltava'.
6th Century: Slavic settlements are established alongside the Germanic settlements. Eventually the Slavs become the dominant people in Prague.
The Czech name for Prague, Praha, is derived from an old Slavic word, práh, meaning "ford", referring to Prague as a crossing point of the Vltava River. Another translation of práh is "threshold". Legend suggests this refers to the low lying areas of Prague as the "threshold" to the mighty Prague Castle, which will one day be built on a hill overlooking the city (see below).
8th Century: First settlement established on the site of present day Prague, in the Lesser Town (Mala Strana).
9th Century: Settlement established on a hilltop above the Lesser Town, which leads to the construction of Prague Castle.
880 (Around): Foundation of Prague Castle.
926 (Around): Construction of a Romanesque rotunda, the original church built on the site of St. Vitus Cathedral, in the grounds of Prague Castle.
965: The first written evidence of Prague appears, in a narration of the merchant Ibrahim Ibn Jakub.
973: Foundation of Prague bishopric.
10th Century: Foundation of a trading post and church (and later a castle) at Vysehrad, several kilometres upstream, on the opposite bank of the Vltava river from Prague Castle.
1085: Prague becomes the residence of the first Bohemian king Vratislav I.
1158–1172: Construction of Judith Bridge, the second stone bridge built in Central Europe, and the predecessor of Charles Bridge.
Prague Castle
St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle
1230 (Around): Foundation of the Old Town (Staré Město).
1257: Premysl Otakar II formalises the establishment of the Lesser Town, giving it town status and encouraging migrants from Northern Germany to settle here.
1310-1346: John of Luxembourg rules as the King of Bohemia.
1320 (Around): Hradcany, the area around Prague Castle, is established.
1338: Foundation of the Old Town Hall - the importance of the city increases.
1344: Prague bishopric upgraded to archbishopric. Construction of St. Vitus Cathedral begins (finishes in 1929).
1346: Charles IV is crowned King of Bohemia. He goes on to become Holy Roman Emperor, with Prague as the capital of the empire.
1348: Foundation of the New Town (Nové Město) and Charles University, the first university in Central Europe.
1357: Construction begins on the present day Charles Bridge, under the auspices of King Charles IV, replacing the old Judith Bridge. This new bridge was originally known as the Stone Bridge or Prague Bridge, but was renamed Charles Bridge in 1870.
1410: The Astronomical Clock, which is built into one side of the Old Town Hall Tower at the Old Town Square, is constructed. The mechanical clock and astronomical dial were assembled first, other parts were added later.
1419-1437: Attempts by the clergy to reform the church result in the Hussite's revolutionary movement led by Jan Hus, the reform preacher and martyr.
1526: The Habsburg dynasty ascends the Bohemian throne (lasts until 1918).
1541: Great Fire of the Lesser Town. The fire started in the Lesser Town Square and swept up to Prague Castle and Hradcany, damaging and destroying many properties. As a result, much of the Lesser Town was rebuilt in the Renaissance style (with later Baroque additions), with the nobility constructing their palaces here.
1575: Rudolf II becomes King of Bohemia, and in 1576, Holy Roman Emperor. Prague becomes the emperor's residence, and the centre of social and cultural life in the region.
1620, 8th November: The Battle of White Mountain (Bitva na Bílé hoře). The Defeat of the Czech nobles' marked the end of the Bohemian period of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) and dramatically changed the religious landscape. After a century of Protestant dominance, Roman Catholicism became the major religion, and remains so to this day. Following the battle, Ferdinand II abolished the constitution and installed authoritarian rule; the Czech language and Czech national consciousness fell into decline.
1784: Union of the four hitherto independent Prague urban units (Hradcany, Lesser Town, Old Town and New Town).
1784-1848: Period of Czech national revival, beginning of the industrial revolution, establishment of Czech institutions.
1818-1891: Construction of the National Museum as an architectural symbol of the Czech National Revival, and to advance an appreciation of the history and nature of Czechia.
1867: Austro-Hungarian Empire is formed as a result of the constitutional union of the Austrian Empire (which includes Prague) and the Kingdom of Hungary.
1868-83: Construction of the National Theatre as an architectural symbol of the Czech National Revival, and to advance the development of the Czech language, music and dramatic arts.
Kampa Island in Prague
Old Town Square in Prague
1918: Proclamation of the independence of Czechoslovakia, following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Prague becomes the capital of the new state.
1938: Nazi Germany annex the Sudetenland.
1939-1945: Nazi Germany occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia and create the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
1945: The Prague uprising and the "liberation" of Prague by the Soviet army.
1948: Czechoslovak coup d'état - Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, with Soviet backing, assumes control of the country, leading to four decades of communist rule.
1968: The Prague Spring - a period of political liberalisation led by Alexander Dubček, who was elected the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. Efforts to reform communism were ultimately thwarted by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact.
1969, 21st August: To mark the anniversary of the Warsaw Pact, some of the largest demonstrations against the communist regime are held in Prague. A brutal crackdown by the authorities ensues, resulting in the death of 5 people and 2414 arrests.
1989: The Velvet Revolution, so named because it is non-violent, starts on the 17th November. Student and other popular demonstrations against communism result in the collapse of communist rule, and the country's conversion to a parliamentary democracy. Vaclav Havel is elected President of Czechoslovakia.
1990: First free elections after the communist era.
1993: 01 January, Czechoslovakia splits in two and the Czech Republic is founded.
1993: 26 January, Vaclav Havel elected first president of the Czech Republic.
1999: 12 March, Czechia becomes a member of NATO.
2002, August: Following a week of continuous heavy rain, the river in Prague rose to record levels. Low lying areas of the city were flooded, and many buildings in the Jewish Quarter, the Old Town and Lesser Town received significant damage. The Prague Metro suffered, as much of it was completely flooded. Prague Zoo was also swamped.
2004: 01 May, Czechia joins the European Union (E.U.).
2008: 01 January, Czechia accedes to the Schengen agreement and removes internal borders with Schengen area countries. This allows travel to and from these countries without checks, both at land borders and airports.
2016: The country adopts "Czechia" as its official short name in English, and recommends its use in an international context. "Czech Republic" remains the official full name of the country. The change has been brought about to mirror naming conventions in other countries, for instance "France" and the "French Republic".
2017: 31 May, Smoking ban in Prague and Czechia comes into force. It becomes illegal to smoke in enclosed public places, including in pubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and theatres.
2018: Czech Republic and Slovakia celebrate 100 years since the proclamation of the independence of Czechoslovakia. Major historical buildings in Prague are cleaned and renovated to coincide with the festivities.
2020-22: The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic leads to a series of national lockdowns and closures of Czechia's borders. In summer 2022, life returns more-or-less to normal.
2023: With Czechia now well established as the official short name of the country in English, the Czech Ministry of Tourism fully adopts "Czechia" in its promotional material. "Czech Republic" remains the official full name of the country, but its use will be restricted to official state documents.

More Information

For more historical facts and a guide to the highlights of Prague, view Prague Tourism.

For practical information on the Prague of today, view Prague Tourist Information.

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