Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the fourteenth-largest city in the European Union. It is also the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.
Prague has been a political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe with waxing and waning fortunes during its 1,100-year existence. Founded during the Romanesque and flourishing by the Gothic and Renaissance eras, Prague was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors and thus also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It was an important city to the Habsburg Monarchy and its Austro-Hungarian Empire and after World War I became the capital of Czechoslovakia. The city played major roles in the Protestant Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, and in 20th-century history, during both World Wars and the post-war Communist era.
Prague is home to a number of famous cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. Main attractions include the Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter, the Lennon Wall and Petřín hill. Since 1992, the extensive historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Prague is the capital of Czech Republic, which used to be joined with Slovakia but they separated.
The city boasts more than ten major museums, along with numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits. A modern public transportation system connects the city. Also, it is home to a wide range of public and private schools, including Charles University. Prague is classified as a Beta+ global city according to GaWC studies, comparable to Berlin, Rome and Houston. Its rich history makes it a popular tourist destination, and the city receives more than 4.4 million international visitors annually, as of 2011. In 2011, Prague was the sixth-most-visited city in Europe.
The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city's Old Town and adjacent areas. This "solid-land" connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.
The bridge is 621 m long and nearly 10 m wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.