PRAGUE OLD TOWN
Mentioned in 1091, it is the oldest of the towns of Prague gained the privileges of a town in the 13th century. However, its name dates back to the 14th century when the New Town was founded. The centre of the Old Town has always been the Old Town Square dominated by the Church of Our Lady of Týn and the Town Hall.
The 65m-tall Powder Tower was begun in 1475 during the reign of King Vladislav II Jagiello to form one of the 13 entrances to the Old Town. In 1483 it was left unfinished because the king moved to Prague Castle. Between 1875 and 1886 the tower was rebuilt, decorated and steepled by Josef Mocker. The gate acquired its present name in the 17th century when it was used to store gunpowder. Today, there is a small exhibition about the tower and it is open for great views.
Built on the site of the royal court between 1906 and 1912, it is Prague's most prominent Art Nouveau building. Above the main entrance there is a huge mosaic “Homage to Prague“ by Karel Špillar. Inside, there is the Smetana Hall – the biggest concert hall in Prague, number of smaller halls, conference rooms and offices, cafés and restaurants to relax and enjoy the inner decoration. On 28 October 1918, the Czechoslovakian Republic was proclaimed here and meetings between Civic Forum and the communist regime were held here in November1989.
Named after the plaited bread rolls that were first baked here in the Middle Ages, the Celetná Street is a pedestrianised lane from the Old Town square to the Powder Tower. There are lots of architecturally and historically important houses, such as At the Three Kings, At the White Lion, At the Black Sun and At the Vulture. The most interesting one is the Cubist facade on the House of the Black Madonna, which dates only from 1912 and houses a branch of the Czech Museum of Fine Arts with a permanent exhibition on Czech Kubism..
Church of St James (Kostel sv. Jakuba)
This attractive Baroque church began in the 14th century as a Minorite monastery church. There are about 20 altars decorated with works by Jan Jiří Heinsh, Petr Brandl and Václav Vavřinec Reiner. A tomb of Count Vratislav of Mitrovice is the most beautiful Baroque tomb in Bohemia. Hanging to the left of the main door is a mummified forearm. It has been there for over 400 years, since a thief tried to steal the jewellers of the statue of the Virgin. Legend says that the Virgin grabbed his arm and held on so tightly that it had to be cut off. Because of its excellent acoustics many concerts and recitals are given in the church.
Built in 1783 it is Prague's oldest theatre and one of the finest examples of Neo-classicism. Renamed the Tyl Theatre after WWII in honour of the 19th century Czech playwrite Josef Kajetán Tyl, its name reverted to Stavovské divadlo in 1990s.
Mozart's opera “Don Giovanni” had its premiere there on 29 October 1834 and in 1834 it was a musical comedy “Fidlovačka”. One of the songs became later the Czech national anthem.
Founded by Emperor Charles IV on 7 April 1348, it is the oldest university north of the Alps.
Thousands of German students left the university in 1420 when the reform preacher Jan Hus became rector.
Today the Charles University has faculties all over Prague and the Carolinum houses only some medical faculty offices, the University Club and occasional academic ceremonies.
Being Prague's heart since the 10th century and its main market place until the beginning of the 20th century, the spacious 1.7 hectare Old Town Square has been the scene of great events, both glorious and tragic. There are beautiful pastel-coloured buildings of Romanesque or Gothic origin with fascinating house signs. Some of the most prominent examples include the Kinský Palace, the House of the Stone Bell and the Štorch House. Today, the Old Town Square offers visitors a tourist information office, number of restaurants, cafés, shops and galleries.
Church of Our Lady before Tyn (Kostel Panny Marie před Týnem)
This Gothic church was built in 1365 on the site of an earlier Romanesque church. Its magnificent multiple steeples are 80m high and dominate the square. Between the early 15th century and the year of 1620 it was the main Hussite church in Prague. A beautiful entrance portal decorated with scenes of Christ's passion and a huge Rococo altar on the northern wall are its most striking features. Right of the altar there is a tomb of the Danish astronomer Tycho de Brahe who worked at the court of the Emperor Rudolph II. Týn church has a grand-sounding pipe organ and occasionally, it is a concert venue.
Kinský Palace (Palác Kinských)
Built between 1755 and 1765 by Anselmo Lurago according to the designs by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, it is the most beautiful Rococo building in Prague. In 1768 it was bought by Štěpán Kinský, an Imperial diplomat. In February 1948 Klement Gottwald proclaimed communist rule in Czechoslovakia from the palace balcony. Nowadays, the Kinský palace belongs to the National Gallery.
Jan Hus Monument (Pomník Jana Husa)
Completed in 1915 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus, the Czech Hussite reformer, the massive monument dominates the square. It shows two groups of people, a young mother symbolising national rebirth and the figure of Hus emphasising the moral authority of the man who gave up life rather than his beliefs.
Church of St Nicholas (Kostel sv. Mikuláše)
This church was completed in 1735 by Kilian Dientzenhofer; its statues are work of Antonín Braun. Originally a church of a Benedictine Monastery, now belongs to the Czechoslovakian Hussite Church. There are beautiful ceiling paintigs that shows scenes from the life of St Nicholas and St Benedict, and a wonderful chandelier. It is a concert venue during the summer.
Old Town Hall (Staroměstská radnice)
Old Town's ancient town hall was established in 1338 after the agreement of King John of Luxemburg to set up a town council. Several old houses had to be knocked together over the centuries as the Old Town Hall expanded. A Gothic chapel and a neo-Gothic north wing were destroyed by the Nazis in spring 1945. The chapel has been reconstructed. The most popular part of the tower is the Town Hall Clock (Orloj). Originally instaled in 1410, the clock was rebuilt by the Master Hanuš in 1490. It consists of three parts – the procession of Apostles, the astronomical clock and the calendar. The main attraction is the hourly procession of the 12 Apostles. The height of the tower is 69,5 m and it offers a great view of the city.
House at the Two Golden Bears (Dům u dvou zlatých medvědů)
Constructed from two earlier houses in 1567 it is a building with one of the most beautiful Renaissance portals in Prague, added in 1590. In 1885 Egon Erwin Kisch, known as the “Furious Reporter” was born here.
Church of St Gall (Kostel sv. Havla)
Founded in the 13th century it was one of the four Old Town parish churches. It was an important centre of the reformation movement and Jan Hus and Jan of Nepomuk also preached here. In the chapel, there is a tomb of the well-known Bohemian Baroque artist Karel Škréta. Since the middle ages Prague's best-known market has been held in Havelská Street.
Church of St Martin in the Wall (Kostel sv. Martina ve zdi)
Used to mark the boundary between the Old Town and the New Town, its name dates from the time when the church was a part of the town wall during the fortification of the Old Town. Originally a Romanesque building it was renovated in Gothic style twice. During the Hussite Movement in 1414, it was this church where communion was offered for the first time to everyone, not only to priests.
Church of St Giles (Kostel sv. Jiljí)
The church was founded in 1371 on the site of an old Romanesque church. In 1420 it became a Hussite parish church but during the Counter-Reformation the Dominicans gained possession. There is a tomb of Václav Reiner, a painter who created the ceiling frescos.
Bethlehem Chapel (Betlémská kaple)
It is a faithful reconstruction of the original 14-th century church in which Jan Hus preached between 1402 and 1413. Handed over to the Jesuits after the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, the church was completely rebuilt and in 1786 a residential house was built on the side. Following old illustrations the chapel was reconstructed after the WWII.
Clam-Gallas Palace (Clam-Gallasův palác)
Named after the wealthy patron of the arts, Václav Gallas, this outstanding Baroque palace was built by Johann Bernhard Fischer of Erlach between 1713 – 1719. There are statues made by Matthias Bernhard Braun and a theatre where Beethoven performed some of his works. The palace has been restored and today it houses the Municipal Archives of Prague.
Mariánské Square (Mariánské náměstí)
A statue of Rabbi Löw and a statue of the Iron Man dominate the square from the corners of the Town Hall built in 1912. A garden wall of Clamm-Gallas Palace encloses the southern side of the square. There is a statue of the River Vltava made by Václav Práchner in 1812. This sculpture is popularly called Terezka.
Charles Street (Karlova ulice)
Originally called Jesuits street, in the 12th century this narrow medieval street was part of the Royal Route and it has always connected the Old Town by way of Charles Bridge with the Old Town Square. There are several original Gothic and Renaissance houses, such as the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace, At the French Crown, the Schönfeld Palace, At the Blue Pike, At the Golden Snake. Many of them are converted into shops to attract the tourists.
Palace of the Lords of Kunštát (Dům Pánů z Kunštátu)
The palace was built around the year of 1200. On the basement, there are three of the best-preserved Romanesque rooms in Prague. The house was enlarged in Gothic style by the Lords of Kunštát and Poděbrady in the 15th century. Today it houses a historical exhibition devoted to George of Poděbrady, a hussite king, who stayed here for a time.
Formerly a Jesuit college established in the former Dominican monastery of St Clement between 1653 – 1723. It is the largest complex of buildings in Prague after Prague castle. The Church of St Clemens and the Church of St Salvator are its part. When the Jesuits had to leave Prague in 1773, the Clementinum became the Prague University and National library. Concerts are often held in the Mirror Chapel.
Knights of the Cross Square (Křížovnické náměstí)
Located in front of the Old Town Bridge Tower, there are nice views across the Vltava. This small square is bounded on three sides by the Church of St Francis, the Baroque Church of St Salvator and the Old Town Bridge Tower. In the centre of the square there is a bronze Neo-Gothic statue of Charles IV unveiled in 1848 in honour of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Prague's Carolinum University.