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More of a boulevard than a square, the vast open space that is Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square), was originally planned as a horse market by King Charles IV (of bridge fame) when laying out the new town.

All the earlier houses were replaced in the 19th and early 20th centuries many of which are very fine examples of Czech architecture of this period, the art nouveau Europa Hotel being one of the finest.

It is only when you stand in the square that you can really appreciate the enormous size of the crowds that gathered here in November 1989 in the protests that brought about the fall of communism.

However, it is the little memorial to Jan Palach and the other victims of Communism, near the base of the equestrian statue of Good King Wenceslas, that is the most poignant reminder of that sorry period in Czech history. Palach, a 20-year old philosophy student, set fire to himself on 16th January 1969 in protest against the Soviet invasion of Prague, and the supression of the so called Prague Spring.