Old Town Prague – 13 Amazing Things to See
Welcome to the enchanting world of Old Town Prague! This historic neighbourhood is a treasure trove of stunning architecture, rich culture, and fascinating history. From the iconic Astronomical Clock to the picturesque Charles Bridge, there’s no shortage of captivating sights to explore here.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveller, Old Town Prague has something to offer everyone. With so many incredible landmarks, museums, and restaurants, it can be tough to decide where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you discover the very best of this charming district.
Join me as we take a stroll through the winding streets, admire the intricate details of Gothic and Baroque architecture, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Let’s delve into the wonder that is Prague’s Old Town!
Table of Contents
History of Old Town Prague
Old Town or Staré Město is the medieval settlement next to the Vltava River dating back to 1100 AD as a marketplace with 13 gates and a large moat. It wasn’t until Charles IV in the 14th century that buildings were added, the first being the Old Town Hall. The Charles Bridge was once constructed connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town of Prague.
During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Old Town Prague experienced a boom in architectural and artistic activity. Many of the buildings and landmarks that are now synonymous with Prague were built during this time, including the Old Town Square, the Astronomical Clock, and the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
How to Get to Old Town in Prague
Getting to Old Town is relatively easy on foot. This historical district is situated in the center of Prague, bordered by the Vltava River to the west, and the neighbourhoods of Jewish Quarter (Josefov), New Town, and Castle District (Hradčany) to the north, east, and south respectively.
Old Town vs New Town
Old Town and New Town are two distinct districts in Prague. Old Town is known for its historic architecture and landmarks, such as the Astronomical Clock and the Týn Church, while New Town is characterized by its more modern buildings and commercial centers, such as Wenceslas Square and the National Museum.
The size of these two districts varies too. Old Town is a much smaller district and receives many more tourists. Whereas, New Town is double in size and does not receive as many tourists and you will find more locals as this is a finance area in Prague.
What to See in Old Town Prague
#1 Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is a must-see! This stunning stone bridge, spanning the Vltava River, is adorned with beautiful baroque statues and it’s the best place to take in the breathtaking views of the city and Arno river.
As you walk across, you will see street performers, artists, and vendors selling souvenirs. If you want the bridge all to yourself, get up at dawn to watch the sunrise!
Charles Bridge connects the Castle district to Old Town, and this is a great starting point to explore this historical district.
#2 The Alley of Prague’s History
A little off-the-beaten path is the Alley of Prague’s History. Tucked away down a long narrow street in Old Town are the stories of Prague. The alley features a series of murals and plaques that depict key moments and figures from Prague’s past, from the reign of King Charles IV to the Velvet Revolution.
As you walk through the alley, you’ll feel like you’re travelling through time and getting a glimpse into the heart of this historic city. So this is a great place to get a window into the history of Prague and now you’re ready to see the sites in Old Town.
#3 Old Town Square
The Old Town Square in Prague is the oldest, dating back to the 10th century and is the most significant square in Prague.
In every European city, the heart is always the historic old town centre. And, Prague’s Old Town Square is definitely that. It’s one of Europe’s most impressive covering an area of over 9,000 sq/m, and it’s from which the whole city can be explored from. The buildings are a kaleidoscope of every colour you can imagine. Spend some time admiring each one’s architecture full of intricate details.
Its historical roots of being a marketplace where merchants from all over the world would meet here, as a central crossroad for trade routes, lives on today. This is the common gathering place for everyone- it’s bustling with activity with a constant stream of people morning, noon and night.
#4 Old Town City Hall
One of Prague’s top landmarks is the Old Town Hall from 1338 and it can be found in the Old Town Square.
Prague’s Old Town Hall is a mix of medieval buildings acquired over different points in time, and its tower was once the tallest in Prague. Today, it serves as a main tourist information office.
#5 Astronomical Clock
Attached to the Old Town Hall is the most popular site in Prague- the astronomical clock. The clock was installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest still in operation.
Every hour, on the hour from 8 am to 8 pm, since 1410, 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. Crowds gather well in advance just waiting to see it in motion.
#6 Church of Our Lady Before Týn
One of the most photographed buildings on the Old Town Square is the eye-catching Church of Our Lady before Tyn from 1385.
What makes this church so significant is its distinctive twin Gothic spires. This makes the Týn Church an unmistakable Old Town landmark that can be seen from all over Prague. It also served as the main Old Town church during the middle ages.
#7 Church of St James
The Gothic Church of St James dates back to the 14th however needed to be rebuilt after being destroyed in a fire rumoured to have been started by Louis XIV of France following.
What makes this a notable church to visit is its Baroque interior. It also has an interesting, yet gruesome, tale. As you enter, you can’t help but be mesmerized by the details. But apparently, if you look up, you may spot the hanging of a shrivelled 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. (Note, I didn’t see it!)
Best Classical Concerts in Prague
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.
- 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.
- 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.
#8 Estates Theatre
The Estates Theatre in Prague is a true gem of the city’s cultural scene. This beautiful Baroque theatre has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century, and it has hosted some of the most important performances in Czech history.
From operas to ballets to plays, the theatre has seen it all. You can take a guided tour of the theatre to learn more about its history and architecture, or attend a live performance to experience the magic of the stage firsthand. The theatre is also home to the annual Prague Spring International Music Festival, which draws musicians and music lovers from around the world.
#9 Jan Hus Monument
The Jan Hus Monument honours one of the Czech Republic’s most important historical figures.
Jan Hus was a prominent Czech religious reformer who was burned at the stake in the early 15th century for his beliefs. The monument was erected in his honour in the early 20th century and stands in the center of Old Town Square. The monument features a statue of Hus standing atop a large pedestal, surrounded by reliefs that depict scenes from his life and work. The monument is a popular meeting spot for tourists, most guides or street performers can be seen gathering around here.
#10 Municipal House
One of Prague’s best examples of art nouveau architecture is the Municipal House.
The street-level restaurant and café are the perfect way to get a glimpse, but if you want to see more, it’s best to take a guided tour.
#11 Harvel Market
The Havelské Market is a bustling marketplace located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town. Dating back to the 13th century, this market has been a popular destination for locals and tourists alike for hundreds of years.
The market is also a great place to sample local street food and traditional Czech snacks like trdelník (a sweet pastry rolled in sugar and cinnamon) or chlebíčky (open-faced sandwiches with various toppings). You can also find a wide variety of goods here, from fresh fruits and vegetables to handicrafts, souvenirs, and traditional Czech products like sausages and cheeses.
#12 St Cross Rotunda
The St. Cross Rotunda is a small but significant religious building located in the heart of Prague. Dating back to the 11th century, this rotunda is one of the oldest surviving structures in the city and a prime example of early Romanesque architecture.
You can admire the building’s unique shape, which features a circular nave and a square chancel, as well as its intricate stone carvings and frescoes. The rotunda also has a fascinating history, having been used as a church, a warehouse, and a museum over the centuries.
#13 Powder Tower
The last sightseeing attraction in Old Town is the Gothic Powder Tower which stands at the entrance of Prague’s Old Town. Built in the 15th century as part of the city’s fortifications, the tower served as a gunpowder storehouse, hence its name.
Today, the Powder Tower is a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the city’s rich history and architectural heritage. Climb the 186 steps to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view of the city, or explore the exhibitions and displays that showcase the tower’s history and significance.
Best Guided Tours of Old Town in Prague
- Old Town Hall + Astronomical Clock Tour. Visit the Gothic chapel, climb the Tower for views of Old Town Square and get a peek at the inner mechanism of the astronomical clock. Check prices and book your dates.
- 3-Hour Walking Tour of Old Town & Prague Castle. Discover Prague’s Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the Church of St. Nicholas, among other sights on a guided walking tour with a passionate guide. Check prices and book your dates.
- Old Town, Medieval Underground & Dungeon Tour. On a guided tour, see what’s underneath the city of Prague. Learn its history as you visit hidden rooms, cellars, and corridors in the Old Town’s underground network. Check prices and book your dates.
- Ghosts and Legends of the Old Town Evening Tour. Take a guided ghost tour through the historic old town of Prague and get seriously spooked. Explore the dark side of the Czech capital and visit places seldom seen by visitors on their own. Check prices and book your dates.
Best Restaurants in Prague Old Town
- 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
Where to Stay in Old Town Prague
Here are recommended places to stay in Old Town that receive the highest ratings by travellers.
- Allure Hotel Prague – a 4-star hotel steps with views of Old Town Square
- Buddha-Bar Hotel Prague – a 5-star hotel with a spa and restaurant located near Old Town Square and the Jewish Quarter
- Residence Dlouha – a 1-bedroom apartment steps from the Old Town Square
- Or, do your own search by clicking here
Old Town Square Christmas Market
The Christmas Market in Old Town Square is a magical and festive event that brings the holiday spirit to life in the heart of Prague.
Every year, the market transforms the square into a winter wonderland filled with brightly-lit Christmas trees, traditional Czech decorations, and the sweet aroma of mulled wine and roasted nuts. Explore the numerous stalls selling a variety of gifts, ornaments, and handicrafts, or sample some of the delicious holiday treats like gingerbread cookies or roasted ham. The market is also home to a giant Christmas tree that serves as the centrepiece of the square, and live performances by carolers and local musicians add to the festive atmosphere.
What is Prague Old Town called?
Prague’s Old Town is called Staré Město, a historic district dating back to the 9th century that features many famous landmarks found in Old Town Square.
Is it better to stay in Old Town or New Town?
Both offer different experiences – Old Town is charming and historic, while New Town is more modern and lively.
Why is the Old Town Square so famous?
Prague’s Old Town Square is famous for its stunning architecture, historic landmarks like the Astronomical Clock, and vibrant cultural events such as the Christmas Market.
Is Prague castle in Old Town?
Prague Castle is not located in Old Town, but rather in the Castle District, a historic area on a hill overlooking the city’s center.
What is the oldest section of Prague?
The oldest section of Prague is the Castle District, dating back to the 9th century, which features Prague Castle and many other historic landmarks.
Other Historical Quarters in Prague
Prague is made up of 5 distinct historical quarters. Each one features unique things to see and do. Beyond the Old Town, or Stare Mesto Prague, be sure to visit the other 4 with the help of these guides.
- Castle district (or Hradčany)
- Jewish Quarter (or Josefov)
- Little Quarter (or Malá Strana)
- New Town (or Nové Město)
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As a Holidaymaker
You can’t visit Prague without a visit to Old Town. This historical area of Prague is an absolute must. It won’t take you long to explore it, but be sure to add it to your itinerary.