Prague's central boulevard and largest public square, Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske namesti) has been the social and political heart of the city for hundreds of years and is home to some of the city’s finest works of architecture. Originally laid out in the 14th century as the centerpiece of King Charles's Nové Město (New Town), the square was used as a horse market until being renamed after the patron saint of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslas, in the 19th century.
Today Wenceslas Square is the commercial center of the city, dominated by grand monumental buildings and making the perfect starting point for walking tours of the city’s attractions. At the top of the square looms the striking neo-renaissance façade of the Prague National Museum, with its iconic dome marking an important strategic landmark. Other notable structures include the famous Art Nouveau style Grand Hotel Evropa, the early 20th-century Palác Lucerna and the neo-Renaissance Wiehlův dům (Wiehl House), along with the iconic St Wenceslas Monument and the poignant Memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc, legendary victims of the Soviet occupation. Many of Prague’s hotels, shops and restaurants are also concentrated on or around the boulevard, along with a central strip of greenery that makes Wenceslas Square the ideal place to meet for coffee or take a break after a long morning’s sightseeing.
The historic square has also played a key role in shaping the history of Prague – this was the location where the First Republic was declared in 1918, where the notorious 1969 protests took place against the Soviet occupation and where the 1989 protest marches kick-started the Velvet Revolution and ultimately the end of the Communist era.