It does not matter whether you are in Prague for first or the tenth time, you will surely spend some time exploring the Old Town in Prague. Prague's Old Town is mysterious and historical, yet vibrant and alive. The best thing is to get lost and just wander, but if you want to get lost and still be found, you can take our short walk and see some of the top sights as well as hidden places in Prague, try some good food and find some places to shop. We will start and finish our walk at Náměstí Republiky (Square of the Republic) on the yellow Metro line B.
The Municipal House is one of the most beautiful art noveau buildings that you can see in Prague. Interestingly, when it was built, contemporary architects insulted it for being outdated and old fashion. The Municipal House stands on the place where the old medieval palace used to be, right next to the city walls. It is an important building in Czech history because the Foundation treaty of independent Czechoslovakia was signed there in 1918. This building is certainly worth further exploration. You can stop by at the café or restaurant, but be careful, the food there is not rated very highly by Prague foodies. There are daily concerts in the beautiful Smetana hall. Visit some of the exhibitions or even take a guided tour. After exploring the Municipal House, move your attention to the Gothic tower next to it.
This tower is part of the medieval city fortification. It was founded in 1475, though it is not the first city gate that stood at this place. Its name is derived from the fact that in the 19th century it was used as a gunpowder storehouse. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower. There are 186 steps, and the entrance fee is 90 CZK. When you walk through the Powder Tower, you enter the touristy Celetná street, which is the first part of the old coronation way that stretches from the Powder Tower all the way to St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. Walk through Celetná street until you reach the small intersection with a street called Ovocný trh.
This house was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the cubist style by Josef Gočár. Prague is the only city, in which cubism was applied more broadly in architecture. The House of the Black Madonna is the oldest example of it and also the most famous one. Inside you can find the Museum of Cubism and the stylish Grand Café Orient. This café is certainly worth stopping by for its unique interior and squared větrníky (a Czech traditional dessert which is normally round, except here where it shaped to match the square nature of cubism). The house was named after the statue of Madonna on the corner of the house. This statue used to decorate the baroque house that originally stood at this place. After visiting the House of the Black Madonna, keep walking down Celetná street until the buildings of Charles University, which will be on your left. Look for number 18.
Charles University is the oldest and largest Czech university, which was founded in 1348 by famous Czech king, Charles IV. It was the first university in Central Europe and until today one of the most prestigious in the region, also popular among the foreign students. It does not have a single central campus; its buildings are scattered all over Prague. At Celetná street you can find the University bookstore and one building with lecture halls. Don't be shy, and enter through the big wooden door. In the hallway, you can find the logo of the university and the entrance to the student pub on the left. The pub is situated in a Romanesque basement. Stop by for a truly non-touristy glass of beer directly in the Prague city center.
#5 Old Town Square in Prague
The Old Town Square in Prague is on every what-to-see-in-Prague list. Take your time and observe the Astronomical Clock at the Old Town Hall, comprised of the four beautiful renaissance houses, which are connected on the inside. Have a look around as you stand next to the bronze statue of Jan Hus, the Catholic Church reformer from 15th century. The square is a mosaic of architecture styles – gothic, renaissance, baroque, rococo, classicism – can you recognize them? When walking through the square towards the Old Town Hall watch your step. You will find a golden line on the ground, the Prague Meridian from 1652, which measured the midday, when the shadow from former Mariánský sloup (St. Mary's column), reached it. When at Old Town Square be very careful for your belongings, and do not exchange money with the money lenders on the street. Also the restaurants there are mostly overpriced, you will eat better and cheaper a couple blocks away. When you have soaked in the atmosphere of the Old Town Square, head towards the small street next to the Týn Church (Church of our Lady before Týn). If you would like to stop inside the church, the entrance is from the Old Town Square through the arcades.
Walk through Týnska Street towards the gate to Ungelt. Notice the houses, which have carved pictures above their door, the famous Prague house sings. Inside Ungelt enjoy the architecture and small stores. The courtyard served as the “hotel” and storage area for merchants who were coming to sell their goods in Prague or were traveling through the city to other destinations. The beautiful renaissance palace on the left side, where you can still see the remains of sgraffito, once belonged to the tax collector. There are also many ghosts stories connected to this courtyard, so beware of headless knights when walking through during the night! Exit Ungelt on the other side and turn to the left. On the opposite corner you will see Chapeau Rouge, one of the oldest bars in Prague.
#7 Beer Stop
Go to the left through Malá Štupartská street passing the gorgeous, baroque St. James´s Church. Then turn to the right and walk along Masná street, and turn left again into Rybná street until you reach the “party street of Prague” – Dlouhá street. This street is home of one of many Lokál pubs in Prague. Lokál is a busy place, where it is often quite hard to find an empty chair, but it is quite ok to have a beer by the bar, or even outside the pub. The food is pretty good as well, our favourite is smažený sýr (fried cheese). All sides at Lokál are “all you can eat”, so do not be shy and ask for more mashed potatoes or dumplings. After you refuel, walk through Rybná street to the truly forgotten part of the Old Town.
#8 The Real Prague Old Town
Allow yourself to forget this guide for a little bit and walk around the Svatý Haštal Church and enjoy the “emptiness” of the streets in comparison to the area around the Old Town Square. If you wander through Anežská street, you can see a house with the restaurant, U Červeného kola, where an old post office once stood – look for the red wheel (the old sign of postal service) on the wall. The smallest house in Prague, a former brothel, which is just few steps past the restaurant.
#9 The Best Gingerbread
After your stroll, go back to the corner of Rybná street, and walk in the other direction from the city center to Haštalská street. There, you will find a little store called Perníčkův sen (Gingerbread heaven), which we learned about thanks to Eating Prague Tour. This little homey store is full of traditional Czech sweets and cookies. Most of the products are homemade and cooked according to old Czech recipes. A perfect place to buy original souvenirs from your travels or to just get a quick sweet snack.
#10 Snack Time: The Best Meat & The Best Open Face Sandwich
For those who do not feel like sweets, we have savory alternatives. Walk through the passage by the end of Haštalská street all the way back to Dlouhá Street. By the end you will find two amazing places, which are rated very highly by local Prague foodies. One is the butcher, Naše Maso (Our meat), where you can not only buy raw meat to go, but also get tasty meals. There are ALWAYS (local Czech) people there, and the place is tiny, but it is really worth it! On the opposite side is a cozy open-sandwich bar called Sisters. There you can try a modern variation of popular Czech party food – chlebíčky.
#11 Communist Style Shopping in Kotva
When you find yourself at Dlouhá street again, walk couple meters away from the city center and turn to Benediktská street. In the end of this street you will find another passage that will take you back to the square of the Republic. You will find yourself standing right in front of the shopping mall Kotva (Anchor). This mall was built in 1975 by a Swedish company – very unusual for the Communist time. At the time, it was a very modern building with large window displays, and people came here to shop from all around the country. Today it might not be as exciting a shopping experience anymore, but it has a very nice beer garden at the top with a splendid view of Prague and 9 beers on tap!
#12 Shopping in old barracks: Palladium
Opposite Kotva is one of the newest and biggest shopping malls in Prague, offering several levels of shopping and many restaurants and coffee places. Palladium stands on the place of a former monastery, which was later changed to barracks. The Czech army sold the property to a private company in 1990s. What is left from the old barracks is the façade and part of the wooden ceiling at the top level of the mall. During the reconstruction, a big complex of medieval buildings was discovered. Some of these you can see on the lowest level of the mall, but many were removed after excavation. Many people protested the creation of Palladium, as it resulted in the destruction of many historical artefacts.
We hope that you had fun on our walk! Let us know what you liked the most in the comments below!
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