Wenceslas Square (Václavské námestí)

Staré Mesto
Prague 1
Wenceslas Square

Originally a horse market laid out by Emperor Charles IV in 1348, Wenceslas Square was renamed in 1848 to honour one of Prague's two patron saints and martyrs. Measuring 750 metres (820 yards) in length by 60 metres (65 yards) wide, it is more of a boulevard than a square and is lined with hotels, restaurants and exclusive shops; a microcosm of the best and worst of twentieth-century architecture and the city's free-market post-communist legacy.

The square is the central axis of the Nové Mesto (New Town), the hub of Prague life and has been the site of memorable events in Czech history. In 1919, when Czechoslovakia gained independence from the Habsburg dynasty, the Republic was proclaimed to cheering crowds in the square. Fifty years later, protesting the lack of resistance to the Soviet invasion, a philosophy student, Jan Palach, set fire to himself in the square. Twenty years later, the unofficial shrine to Jan Palach and other compatriots who followed his example became the rallying point for the Velvet Revolution when a quarter of a million people assembled in the square and began the process of separation from the Soviet Union.

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