If you are visiting Prague for the first or the tenth time, you are sure to stroll through the Old Town Square. It is simply there, in the middle of the Old Town and has a different “mood” every time of day and season. You will watch the “show” on the Astronomical Clock, after a bit of struggle you will find the entrance to the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, take a picture by the carriages or with the monumental statue of John Huss (Jan Hus). You might be tempted to try some of the overly expensive restaurants, but it will be better to buy a hot chocolate and “trdelník’’ at the stands and go for a bite somewhere farther away from the center.
However, for sightseeing, there is so much more to do at the Old Town Square. Our recommendation is to explore the Old Town Hall from the inside. The Town Hall is a complex of five connected Gothic buildings. Not everyone knows that just 70 years ago there was another building to visit. The Eastern Wing was bombed and burned down on May 9, 1945, the last day of the WWII for the Czech lands. The resistance against the Nazi regime was hiding in the Old Town Hall. Also the Nazis knew the war was lost and wanted to strike the Czechs somewhere painful and the destruction of part of the Town Hall accomplished that.
You can go alone to the top of the Old Town Hall tower and enjoy the beautiful view, but it might be worth while to get the whole ticket (Tower, Historical Halls and Underground) for 160 Kc. There are several guided tours throughout the day in English. Check out the website, or ask at the information desk. With the guided your visit will be so much better!
We decided to learn more about the Town Hall ourselves and booked one of the evening guided tours. We got a nice overview of Czech history as well as many interesting details about the architecture and the usage of the different rooms in the past and today. The highlight of the tour was certainly the visit to the underground. Within a few steps down, you enter completely different world! Part of the underground is from Romanesque and Gothic periods. But, do not be mistaken. You are not in the cellars of the house, you are in the ground floor of the original houses, which were buried when the pavement in the Old Town was raised up in order to prevent damage by frequent flooding from the nearby river. The underground chambers do not correspond to the current streets, so you can cross a street underground, above which a different house stands today. When the Jewish Town was demolished and reconstructed (1896 – 1914), a whole labyrinth of underground chambers were found, all together 70 houses! Brr…it would not be fun to get lost there.
Prague is beautiful from outside, but in order to learn more about its history and connections between the past and today, it is worth it to step out of the street and explore the interiors of the remarkable buildings. Have fun!
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