The Vltava River
Since the time of its settlement in the Neolithic era, the city's oldest residential centre has been by today's Lesser Town Square (Malostranske namesti), at Ujezd and along At the Lusatian Seminary Street (ulice U luzickeho seminare). The most substantial was certainly around todays Parliament (Snemovni), where the oldest marketplace was also located, positioned by a stream along the route of today's Marketplace (Trziste) and along the river.
A bishop's court and fortified convent of the Knights of Malta were developed separately here. In 1257 Premyslid Otakara II founded New Town under Prague Castle (nova civitas sub castro Pragensi – Nove mesto pod Prazsky hrad) in the relatively densely settled area. During the establishement of New Town under Charles IV, this name was changed to the Smaller Town of Prague (Mensi Mesto prazske) in 1348. In the 15th century the district got its current title: Lesser Town (Mala Strana).
New fortifications uncompromisingly cut through the old residential centre. The original inhabitants were evicted from their homes and sent to the Prague outskirt towns of Unhost, Jenec and Hostivice. The royal locator summoned colonists from northern Germany to replace them.
Based on the design of the new town, the immense rectangular central space became a square at the crossroads of major trade routes. From its corners more streets were connected with older ones (today's Mostecka, Tomasska, Letenska, Nerudova, and Zamecka).
St. Nicholas Cathedral
The square's surface area, larger than that of Old Town Square on the other side of the Vltava, formed one-eighth of the city's ground plan. In order to get an idea of just how large this is, one must disregard the huge collective mass of the St. Nicholas Cathedral, the Jesuit College, and the buildings between the upper and lower parts of the square.
In 1360 – 1361 Charles IV expanded the town further with the construction of new fortifications. The Hussite Revolution, however, caused it so much damage that it actually ceased to exist both physically and legally. Prior to the revolution the town had 177 buildings; in 1436 only 54 remained.
Proper reconstruction work on the city did not really begin until Vladislav of Jagiello took up residence at the castle. The Lesser Town became the site of building activity for the subjects of his court. Due to its location under the castle, the residences of the court's nobility were built in the Renaissance, Manneristic and Baroque styles. Burghers and religious orders embedded in the city also participated in the town's construction. The Josephine Reform forced most of the monasteries out.
The transformation of the residential town into a town of authority offices and a military treasury protected it from the building boom of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century until the point when the world started to acknowledge the value of historical monuments.