This travel guide is part of a five-part series focusing on each of the five areas at a time. It will highlight some of the area’s best of, so you won't miss a thing. This is the second one, focusing on Staré Město, otherwise known as Old Town.
Austria, Czech Republic, Germany

A Guide to Prague’s Historical Quarters: Staré Město

Prague was been known to have many nicknames – ‘city of a hundred spires’, ‘the magic city’, ‘the mother of cities’, ‘the city with 100 bell towers’, ‘the golden city’, the Old Town, the New Town, the Jewish Quarter; and the ‘heart of Europe’. Travel to Prague, and you will instantly understand why. It is a captivating city full of beautiful buildings and historical sites just waiting to be explored. This bohemian city built on the hills alongside the Vltava River, features a stunning skyline of gothic spires. It is so photogenic with its cobblestone streets, red rooftops, extensive gardens and brightly coloured buildings.

Prague used to be known as the ‘Five Towns’, although it is divided into 10 separate districts, most visitors tend to concentrate on the five historic towns:

  1. Hradčany (Castle district)
  2. Staré Město (Old Town)
  3. Mala Strana (Lesser Quarter)
  4. Nove Mesto (New Town)
  5. Jewish Quarter

This travel guide is part of a five-part series focusing on each of the five areas at a time. It will highlight some of the area’s best of, so you won’t miss a thing.  This is the second one, focusing on Staré Město, otherwise known as Old Town.

The heart of any European city is always the historic old town, and Staré Město is definitely that. Likely due to the fact that it has one of Europe’s most specular town squares (called Staroměstské náměstí / Old Town Square), covering an area of over 9,000 square meters, from which the whole city can be explored from. It dates back to the 9th century where merchants from all over the world would meet here as the central crossroads point for trade routes. Today, it is bustling with activity and the constant crowds – morning, noon and night – are all part of the experience.

The heart of any European city is always the historic old town, and Staré Město is definitely that. Likely due to the fact that it has one of Europe’s most speculator town squares (called Staroměstské náměstí / Old Town Square), covering an area of over 9,000 square meters, from which the whole city can be explored from. It dates back to the 9th century where merchants from all over the world would meet here, as a central crossroad for trade routes. Today, it is bustling with activity and the constant crowds – morning, noon and night – are all part of the experience.

The heart of any European city is always the historic old town, and Staré Město is definitely that. Likely due to the fact that it has one of Europe’s most specular town squares (called Staroměstské náměstí / Old Town Square), covering an area of over 9,000 square meters, from which the whole city can be explored from. It dates back to the 9th century where merchants from all over the world would meet here as the central crossroads point for trade routes. Today, it is bustling with activity and the constant crowds – morning, noon and night – are all part of the experience.

Key Attractions from Old Town Square

Astronomical clock Every hour, on the hour from 8am to 8pm, since 1490, the Old Town hall’s Astronomical Clock comes alive. The details are impressive with the phases of the Zodiac and sunrise and sunset times. The 12 saints, visible through a window above the clock face, march by while four figures representing Greed, Vanity, Death and Turk nod their heads.

Astronomical clock

Every hour, on the hour from 8am to 8pm, since 1490, the Old Town hall’s Astronomical Clock comes alive. The details are impressive with the phases of the Zodiac and sunrise and sunset times. The 12 saints, visible through a window above the clock face, march by while four figures representing Greed, Vanity, Death and Turk nod their heads.

Church of Our Lady Before Týn

Its distinctive twin Gothic spires make the Týn Church an unmistakable Old Town landmark and can be seen from all over Prague. It was founded in 1385 as the main Old Town church.

Convent of St James

This gothic church dates back to the 14th century and received a massive baroque interior facelift in the 18th century. It also has an interesting, yet gruesome, tale surrounding this church. As you enter, you can’t help but be mesmerized by details. But apparently if you look up, you may spot the hanging of a shriveled human arm. Legend has it that when a thief tried to steal the jewels from the statue of the Virgin around the year 1400, the Virgin grabbed his wrist in such an iron grip that his arm had to be lopped off.

Convent of St Agnes

It is Prague’s oldest surviving Gothic building, and now serves as an art gallery for medieval and early Renaissance art dating from 1200–1550.

Municipal House One of Prague’s best examples of art nouveau building. There is so much detail in its design and decor. The street level restaurant and café are the perfect backdrop, but if you want to see more, that is only by a guided tour.

Municipal House

One of Prague’s best examples of art nouveau building. There is so much detail in its design and decor. The street level restaurant and café are the perfect backdrop, but if you want to see more, that is only by a guided tour.

Old Town Hall Prague’s Old Town Hall, founded in 1338, is a mixture of medieval buildings acquired over different points in time. For example, at one point, Franz Kafka lived here (1889–96) as a child just before the building was bought by the town council. Today, it serves as main tourist information office and of course offers a tour of the interior buildings.

Old Town Hall

Prague’s Old Town Hall, founded in 1338, is a mixture of medieval buildings acquired over different points in time. For example, at one point, Franz Kafka lived here (1889–96) as a child just before the building was bought by the town council. Today, it serves as main tourist information office and of course offers a tour of the interior buildings.

Beyond the Key Attractions

Now, for my favourites from this area…

Brewery – Pivnice U Kata (U Radnice 6) – you can feel the history as you are sampling some of Prague’s best brews

Restaurant – U Medviku (Na Perstyne 7) – although highly recommended (we didn’t actually eat here) if you want to enjoy a traditional Czech dinner this is the place to go

Cocktail bar with terrace – Bugsy’s (Parázská 10) – this is amongst the nicest shopping street and popular with the local business crowd

Best vantage point – the astronomical tower of course

Best concert – Prague is famous for offering evening classical concerts, and you will be overwhelmed with the choices. We did two, and it makes for a great way to see the interiors of these wonderfully historic churches.

  1. Saint Martin in the Wall Church – is a gothic church dating back to 1187. The exterior is unassuming, and the interior is simple, yet beautiful – but trust me it is the best place for a classical concert, as the acoustics are amazing.
  2. Church of St James – due to the high number of tourists that visit this church in the day, we thought we would take in a concert and sit and appreciate all the details. But no, I completely forgot to look for the hanging of a shriveled human arm.
The heart of any European city is always the historic old town, and Staré Město is definitely that. Likely due to the fact that it has one of Europe’s most specular town squares (called Staroměstské náměstí / Old Town Square), covering an area of over 9,000 square meters, from which the whole city can be explored from. It dates back to the 9th century where merchants from all over the world would meet here as the central crossroads point for trade routes. Today, it is bustling with activity and the constant crowds – morning, noon and night – are all part of the experience.

Because Staré Město is the center point for all of the 4 historical areas, we actually walked through the Old Town Square more times than I can remember during our week stay in Prague. I wish I had taken more time to really appreciate each building, one by one, for its unique beauty, instead it quickly became the place to hurriedly pass through to go from one destination to the other. Don’t be like me, and allow the vast number of tourists that congregate in this square ruin the experience for you. Because there is no denying it, it is pretty spectacular.

Be sure to check out the other 4 historical areas in future blog posts.

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A Guide to Prague’s Historical Quarters: Staré Město.
This travel guide is part of a five-part series focusing on each of the five areas at a time. It will highlight some of the area’s best of, so you won't miss a thing. This is the second one, focusing on Staré Město, otherwise known as Old Town.

20 Comments

  • Cindy

    Prague has been on my list for a long time, and this post is making me want to make those arrangements. I just love the old towns in European cities. I really like your idea of taking in a classical concert in one of those churches, especially the way you describe the Saint Martin in the Wall Church. I did that once in a tiny church in Dubrovnik and it was just magical.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Cindy for your kind comment. If you like history, then Prague is certainly the place to go (recommend in off season). Yes, I highly recommend taking in the classical concert as a way to see the inside of the churches, we have done this on almost every European trip. It has become our tradition.

  • Delphine

    I went to Prague in the early 90s, as a school trip… It was very early days after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the country had just opened to the West. Everything was grey and dusty, the buildings were under scaffolding and people told stories of living in the Eastern Bloc, when you could turned over to the police for the smallest thing… There was something sad and a bit dreary and yet, there was a charm and warmth that was ready to come out. I suspect I will find a very different Prague when I go back.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      That must have been an eye opening experience to visit at that time. I did the same, only to East Berlin, and that memory has lasted with me all these years as well. Thank you for commenting Delphine and I hope you get to visit Prague one day and feel that warmth and charm.

  • Jerry and Fiona

    Fairy tail-like comes to mind… I’m seeing some real stunning sections to the city.

    I especially like the history of Staroměstské náměstí as it sounded like an old flea market back in the day!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I am glad you enjoyed the part about the Old Town Square – and yes, it probably was one big flea market many centuries ago.

  • Danik

    This takes me back. I remember checking out Stare Mesto on my only visit to the city back in 2007 in the middle of winter, god it was gloomy but still loved walking around the place. Great blog post to jog my memory. 🙂

  • Carol Colborn

    Prague is on our bucket list, no doubt. The Old Town seems to be beautiful and colorful. I need to see the other four as you have outlined to complete our planning. I thought it was just Charles Bridge!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Hello Carol, thank you for commenting. This is the second post, the first one is about the Hradčany area (or known as the Castle). The link was on this post if you would like to check it out, or here https://dreamplanexperience.com/a-guide-to-pragues-historical-quarters-hradcany/.
      I have 3 out of the 5 remaining, they will be over the next coming months. And, most definitely Prague is more than just Charles Bridge and a castle. Hope you get to go one day soon. I know how long bucket lists can be!

  • Bernadette Jackson

    I haven’t been to Prague for decades, and I absolutely need to go back. The clock is my favourite memory, and I love that you have described all the detail of its complexities. Great advice too on catching a concert, and I bet the acoustics were indeed amazing bouncing back of all those high spires and ceilings.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      I hope you are able to return to Prague, it would be interesting for you to see how much it has changed (or not). I would image what has changed the most is the number of tourists that go here. Thank you for your comment.

  • Patricia Pagenel

    We visited Prague on a short 2-day trip but really enjoyed the city. The plaza and the Old Town hall’s Astronomical Clock are pretty impressive, definitely the old Europe feel. I don’t remember the Convent of St Agnes though – I find Gothic architecture fascinating! Maybe time to go back for another visit.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Wow, that would be a short trip to see Prague in 2-days. Maybe time for a return trip? There are so many churches in Europe that often look like nothing special from the outside, but are truly spectacular from the inside, or are tucked away on little alleyways and get missed (like this one). Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    It’s incredible to me that these attractions only represent one of ten districts in the city! You are right that Prague’s many names are quite fitting given all the stylistic variety in the city’s most beautiful buildings. The Old Town Square looks so bright and colorful, and the Church of Our Lady Before Týn is absolutely incredible with its twin spires. I’ve read about the Astronomical Clock before but I think that is something I need to see in person. It sounds so beautiful and intricate!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Kevin for reading and commenting on my post. The astronomical clock is definitely something worth seeing. There is an interesting story behind the characters and actions, but I didn’t include it in my post. If you are interested, I am happy to share more.

  • melody pittman

    Prague is #1 on my travel bucket list so this article really resonates with me. So much beauty in this historical city. Thanks for giving me some ideas on what to see when I finally get there. The historic old town will probably be my favorite part. Really gorgeous photos, too. 😉

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thank you Melody for your comment and kind words. The historic part of Prague is actually divided into 5 areas, and I have broken them down one by one. This just happens to focus on the Old Town, but be sure to check out the other four. Enjoy your travels.

  • Carmen Edelson

    You better believe I’m bookmarking this article! I only spent a short time in Prague a couple years back and I’ve been wanting to return. Now I know exactly where to explore 🙂

    • The.Holidaymaker

      Thanks so much Carmen for your kind comment. Be sure to check the series, I am breaking it down into 5 parts, this is the second one.

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