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Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic. It is the seat of the country's president, parliament, government, many international organizations, and also of the major national and state-run cultural institutions with long-standing tradition, e.g. Charles University, the National Museum, or the National Theatre.
Prague spreads out on the banks of the Vltava River, in the rugged area of the Prague Basin and on the foothills of the Central Bohemian Highlands, on an area of 498 square km. The lowest point in the city is 190 metres above sea level, and the highest point is 380 metres on the White Mountain (Bílá Hora). Prague has 1,213,800 permanent inhabitants, but the number of people in the city is actually much higher due to large numbers of commuters and foreign tourists.
Prague, often described as one of the finest cities in the world, has been left almost untouched by wars for many centuries, and it is extremely rich in real jewels of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Art Nouveau and Cubist architecture. Prague's historical centre was included in the UNESCO list of cultural and historical monuments of world significance in 1992. The city's architectural beauty combines with its rich cultural life. There are more than twenty house-resident theatre companies, a large number of concert and exhibition halls, jazz and rock clubs, large and small cinemas, and many large and small galleries. The city is the venue of major cultural and scientific events, congresses, conferences and festivals all through the year.
Prague is closely connected with the creative activity of many outstanding artists, among them composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, and Gustav Mahler, writers Franz Kafka, Karel Čapek, and Jaroslav Hašek, poets Rainer Maria Rilke, Jaroslav Seifert, and many others.
Yet it is not only the extraordinary grace and cultural wealth that makes Prague, the city at the heart of Europe, so attractive both for Czechs and for foreign visitors. The city is very hospitable, abounding in most varied pubs and restaurants, bars and wine bars, poetic cafés and other outlets serving meals of both the Czech and international cuisine, but primarily famous Czech beer offering a taste which is beyond compare according to many.
Both the inhabitants of Prague and its foreign visitors highly praise the city's superb public transport system. Its backbone is the metro (underground) whose three lines are inter-linked with a dense network of tram and bus lines. Given the historical character of the city centre, individual car transport is often very slow and distressing.