The Best of Prague Old Town
Photo: © AleksandarGeorgiev/iStock
To walk the cobbled streets of Staré Město (Old Town) is to feel history radiate from every stone and walkway. With a market heritage dating back to medieval times, the bustling area is ideal for immersing yourself in Prague’s rich past. Start at the Old Town Square, then wander past attractions such as the St Nicholas Church, the Church of our Lady Before Tyn, the Prague National Gallery at Kinský Palace and the Clementium.
The Old Town Square
Acting as the central hub of Old Town, the square is a beautiful place to start your exploration. Choose a cobbled street and take a stroll along the network of streets, stopping at one of the many cafes or Baroque buildings along the way. A must-see is the astronomical Town Hall clock in the Old Town Square; this local attraction is surrounded by myth and legend, with one story claiming the clockmaker was blinded after its completion, in order to prevent him from creating anything better in the future.
St Nicholas Church
One of two St Nicholases in Prague (not to be confused with the one in Lesser Town), this beautiful Baroque church was built in 1735. Head inside to see stucco by Bernardo Spinetti and art by Petr Assamo, plus a large chandelier gifted to the church by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Used as a centre of learning since the 19th century, this Rococo building makes an eye-catching addition to the Old Town Square with its pink and white façade. While today it houses exhibitions from the Prague National Gallery, it was known to be frequented by the city’s greats, including Franz Kafka.
While you will find designer and chain store shopping in the newer areas of Prague, Old Town is where to find traditional boutiques and Prague’s famed gemstone, the garnet. Especially popular since the 14th century, this semi-precious stone is a Bohemian tradition, and makes for a beautiful souvenir. Try Celentá or Dlouhá roads, just off the square.
Head towards the Vltava River from the Old Town Square, and you’ll come across a collection of buildings that make up the Clementium. Originally a Jesuit college, it now plays host to concerts and performances, often centred around the Baroque arts. The Baroque Library Hall is also worth a visit, to see frescoes created by Josef Diebel.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
With its dominating presence on the Prague skyline, the 14th century Church of our Lady Before Tyn is hard to miss. Its gothic design and twin steeples are said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, however the interior is well worth a visit too, as it houses the oldest organ in Prague. Built in 1673, the organ is still in perfect working order, and now sits surrounded by the Baroque remodelling that took place in the 17th century.