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Old Town (Staré Město)

photo:  (mojefoto.cz)

Old Town, formerly also called Prague Town, Greater Town or Old Prague Town, is an historic town, a city district and a cadastral area of Prague that is located on the right bank of the Vltava River, with an area of 129.3 ha. It is part of the Prague 1 City District. The area of Old Town completely surrounds the miniature quarter of Josefov. Střelecký Island is also a part of Old Town.


A more coherent settlement started to rise here in the 11th century. The town was fortified during the reign of Václav II, after 1230. In1338, Johann of Luxemburg granted the town the right to set up its own town hall. The OldTownwas the major agent in the bonding of Prague towns, and the central administration was instituted there in 1784.  Josefov, the Jewish Quarter, demolished in the 19th and 20th centuries, joined the town in 1850.

Monastery of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star and St. Francis Church (Klášter křižovníků s červenou hvězdou a kostel sv. Františka)

The Knights of the Cross is the only order of Bohemian origin, established by Agnes of the Premyslids in 1233. The originally Gothic structure comes from the 13th century. The church was remodeled in the 17th century (by C. Lurago), but the last late Art Nouveau alterations were carried out in 1911. The sculptures were created by Q. F. Quittainer and M. V. Jakl, the paintings by V. V. Reiner.


The Clementinum is a vast complex of buildings constructed gradually from 1653 to the latter half of the 18th century. The originally Dominican convent of St. Clement Church became the main place of residence for the Jesuits in 1556. The Churchof St. Salvator was adjoined in 1593-1601 and Vlašská kaple (Italian Chapel) was established in 1590.

The buildings of the very college were built in 1653-1726 (architects C. Lurago, G. B. Orsi, F. M. Kaňka). The western part with the monumental pilaster façade facing the Křížovnická and Platnéřská streets was most likely built on the design of C. Lurago. The interior is enhanced with painted and stucco decoration of the same period. Another High Baroque front (F. M. Kaňka) with plastic decoration from M. Braun's workshop.

The dominant feature of the premises is the tower of the former Clementinum observatory from 1723. The tower houses a unique observatory, which has been recording Prague weather conditions for over 200 years.

Today it is the seat of the National Library.

Clam-Gallas(Clam-Gallasův palác)

It was built to the design of the Viennese architect J.B.Fischer of Erlach in 1713-19. Sculpted decoration of the façade by M. B.Braun.

The Golden Well House (U Zlaté studně)

Renaissance house with figural reliefs on the façade from 1701 (J. O. Maxer).

St. GilesChurch (Kostel sv.Jiljí)

Originally a 14th-century three-nave Gothic church that had replaced an older structure, first mentioned in 1238. Baroque remodeling of the interior, valuable furnishings, paintings by V. V. Reiner, stucco by B. Spinetti from the 1730s.

Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí)

Old Prague’s best-known market square came to exist in the 12th century. The changes the square underwent during its history are partly reflected in its names: Initially, it was called Market (Tržiště), or Old Market (Staré tržiště; in contrast to the New Market at St. Havel); from the 14th century its name was Rynk (another word for marketplace) or Old Town Rynk (to distinguish it from the New Town marketplace). In the 14th century, the space in front of the town hall was called Junk Market (Tandléřský trh) and that in front of the Churchof St. Nicholas Kuří trh (Poultry Market). In the 18th century Staroměstský plac (archaic variation of Old Town Square), Velké Staroměstské náměstí (Big Old Town Square), Velké náměstí (Big Market Square). After 1895, it became known as Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square). The site where 27 Czech noblemen were executed in 1621 and the Prague Meridian are marked on the square's cobbles. The latter traces the shadow of the demolished column of Our Lady that had served, among others, to show the time.

OldTown Hall (Staroměstská radnice)

Established on the grounds of a privilege granted by John of Luxemburg in 1338. The core of the Town Hall is the Gothic house of Volfin of Kamen; the celebrated Astronomical Clock - Orloj - was made by Mikuláš of Kadaň in 1410. The tour includes Brožík's paintings, the chapel, old ceremony hall and the tower gallery. The Town Hall was badly damaged during the May Uprising of 1945, when its Neo-Gothic wing burnt out, and was never restored.  

Church of Our Lady before Tyn(Chrám matky Boží před Týnem)

A distinct dominant feature of the square, a three-nave Gothic structure built from mid-14th century to the beginning of the 16th century. Altarpieces by K. Škréta, tombstone of the astronomer Tycho de Brahe, baptismal font from 1414. Northern portal with tympanum by P. Parler from 1390.

Church of St. Nicholas

Church built under the supervision of K. I. Dietzenhofer in 1721-37.

Kinský Palace (Palác Kinských)

The KinskýPalaceis the most splendid Rococo structure in Prague.Originally, the Goltz-KinskýPalace was built based on the design of K. I. Dietzenhofer and A. Lurago in 1755-65. The National Gallery's collection of graphic art has been placed there since 1949.

The Stone Bell House (Dům u Kamenného zvonu)

A 14th-century Gothic town palace, concert and exhibition hall.

Granovský Palace (PalácGranovských)

Renaissance building from 1560. Interesting loggia decorated with chiaroscuro paintings.

Týn (Ungelt)

One of the historically most significant locations of Prague. Came to exist as a fortified merchant’s yard for the collection of customs probably as early as in the 11th century.

HrzánskýPalace (Hrzánský palác)

Building of high artistic value.Rebuilt in the Baroque style in 1702 (G. B. Alliprandi), original Romanesque foundations. Sculptures by F. M. Brokof.

St. James Church (Kostel sv. Jakuba)

Originally a Gothic church established along with a Minorite monastery in 1232. The present Baroque shape comes from 1690-1702. Valuable interior furnishings and decoration (F. M. Brokof, P. Brandl, V. V. Reiner). The second-longest church in Prague, following St. Vitus Cathedral.

Powder Gate (Prašná brána)

Erected in place of an older tower that had been part of Prague’s fortification. The construction was commenced in 1475, and used as a gunpowder store in the late 17th century. The tower was restored in Neo-Gothic style in 1875-76 (J. Mocker).

Municipal House (Obecní dům)

The 1905-11 Art Nouveau building by A. Balšánek and O. Polívka replaced the original King's Court (demolished in 1903). A. Mucha made a major contribution to its decoration. The very central space of the building is the monumental Smetana Hall, where the annual Prague Spring Music Festival is held.

Carolinum (Karolinum)

Carolinum is a heterogeneous set of buildings spanning from Gothic period to the 19th century. The core is the Gothic Rotlev House. It has been the seat of CharlesUniversity (founded in 1348) since the 14th century. A part of the ground floor and the oriel with the Chapel of St. Kosmas and Damian have survived from the original GothicPalace.

Housingspan CharlesUniversity(the oldest university college in Central Europe since 1383. In1718, areconstruction was carried out based on the design of F. M. Kaňka. Renovation designed by J. Fragner in 1946-68.

Today the seat of the rector and central institutions of CharlesUniversity. Furthermore, the building holds the assembly hall and a gallery.

Carolinum has been a national cultural monument since 1962.

Estates Theater (Stavovské divadlo)

The Neo-Classical building was commissioned by F. A. Nostitz according to a project by A. Haffenecker (Count Nostitz's Theater) in 1781-83. The world premiere of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni was held here in 1787. In1799, the theater was acquired by the Bohemian Estates (hence the name Estates Theater). In 1834, there was the premiere of J. K. Tyl’s play Fidlovačka (the first ever rendering of the song "Where is My Home," later to become the Czech national anthem). Performances weremainly in German until 1920. The drama section of the National Theater performs here.

BethlehemChapel (Betlémská kaple)

The original chapel, built 1391-94, was commissioned by two burghers, Jan of Mühlheim and Jan Kříž, to provide space for sermons in the Czech language. Master Jan Hus preached there 1402-12.It was demolished in1786. In1948-54 the chapel was built anew by J. Fragner according to drawings of the original chapel. Its restoration was conceived as a tribute to the Hussite movement. Today, it serves as the assembly hall of CVUT (CzechTechnicalUniversity), and an exhibition and concert hall. A stylish restaurant is situated in the cellars. Preserved fragments of masonry and architectural elements as well as remains of inscriptions have been integrated into the new structure. A national cultural monument since 1962.


Built as a concert hall and gallery in the Neo-Renaissance style in 1876-84 on the design of J. Zítek and J. Schulz. The most important Neo-Renaissance building in Prague/place, besides the National Theater. Seat of Parliament in the 1920s and 1930s.

Dvořák Hall holds regular concerts of classical music, the rear wing with a monumental foyer is used as a gallery. The Rudolfinum has been the home of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra since 1946.  

Rotunda of the Holy Cross (Rotunda sv. Kříže)

One of Prague's oldest structures preserved, built in the 12th century.The iron lattice enclosing the rotunda is by J. Mánes.

St Agnes Convent (Anežský klášter)

Early Gothic complex of buildings built under kings Václav I and Přemysl Otakar II for the monastery of Poor Clares (Václav's sister Agnes-Anežka was its founder and abbess in 1234-80). Set of two churches (St. Francis and St. Salvator), two chapels (St. Barbara and St. Magdalene), monastery of Poor Clares, abbess’s house and outbuildings. Gradual restoration after 1945. Since 1980, houses one of the permanent exhibitions of the National Gallery.

House of the Black Madonna (Dům u Černé Matky Boží)

The house is an example of the very specific Czech Cubist architecture. Designed by architect Josef Gočár, it was built in 1911-12. Today, the interior is used by the Museumof Czech Cubism.The permanent exhibition, presented on the second and third floors, is focused on the period of 1910-19, that is, the prime era of Cubism in the Czech lands.  

Added: 29.12.2009

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