With fairytale Baroque façades woven through with labyrinthine lanes, the capital of ancient Bohemia has many stories to tell. The medieval mystery of its architecture has an enduring allure for explorers, and there’s plenty more to discover beyond it. From record-breaking castles to esoteric architecture, here are 10 interesting facts about Prague that aren’t in the guidebooks.
It’s unlikely that the graffitist who painted a portrait of John Lennon after his assassination in 1980 knew quite what he was setting in motion. Since then, fans have daubed their devotion to the late singer and his band on that same wall in Mala Strana. Every so often, the John Lennon Wall gets repainted over, only for a new generation of fans to repopulate it with imagery and Beatles lyrics.
When it comes to hedonism, Prague ranks with party capitals Ibiza and Berlin. It’s home to the largest nightclub in central Europe, Karlovy Lázně, found in the city centre. Occupying a vast, 15th-century building, the sprawling nightclub spreads across five thumping floors.
No account of interesting facts about Prague would be complete without a nod to the city’s tipple of choice. Prague’s residents are entirely devoted to beer. Quaffing an incredible 143.4 litres per capita, locals consume more of the amber nectar than anywhere else in the world—a record the city has held for 24 years.
It’s not only nightclubs that Prague does on a grand scale—its ancient monuments are vast, too. Sprawling across an area of 70,000 square metres, Prague’s castle complex is the largest in the world, and includes St Vitus Cathedral and St George’s Basilica.
Here’s an interesting fact about Prague’s legendary astrological clock, the Orloj, whose beguiling gold and blue dials attract the lenses of endless tourists. An exact replica exists in the most unlikely of places: Seoul, Korea, where the Czech brewery and restaurant, Castle Praha is a carbon copy of Prague’s Clock Tower.
When it’s illuminated after dark, Prague Castle is at its most bewitching, and we have Mick Jagger and Co. to thank. So taken by the castle’s majesty were The Rolling Stones when they played Prague in 1995, they funded a $32,000 overhaul of the castle’s lighting system. Created by their lighting designer, the spotlighting strategically casts beams across the architectural wonder.
An interesting fact about Prague’s landmarks is that they aren’t just stunning—there’s esoteric numerology encoded in their construction. With a staunch belief in the mystical relationship between numbers and events, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV consulted numerologists to establish the perfect day to lay the foundation stone for the Charles Bridge. It turned out to be 1357, the 9th day of the 7th month at 5.31 am, thus creating the palindrome; 135797531.
There’s no higher accolade for a restaurant than receiving a much-coveted Michelin star. In 2008, Prague’s Allegro was the first restaurant from the post-communist Eastern Bloc to receive one. Sadly, it has since closed but has been replaced by two more Michelin-starred dining rooms.
Overlooking the Vltava River, Prague’s Dancing House resembles two buildings caught in an embrace. Its evocative curves led its architects, Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry to initially dub it the Fred & Ginger Building, after the iconic dance duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Unlike many of Europe’s Jewish quarters, Prague’s remained intact through WWII and the city has the best-retained Jewish history in the continent. The reason? Hitler allegedly wanted to retire to Prague and turn the Josehof Quarter into a memorial museum. After his defeat in the war, Prague’s Jewish Quarter became a destination of inspiration for Jews around the world.