PRAGUE — New Town

The New Town (Nove Město)) was founded in 1348 by Charles 1V. The area was carefully planned and laid out around the three huge central market places of Hay Market (Senovážné Square), the Cattle Market (Charles Square) and the Horse Market (Wenceslas Square). This area is double the size of the Old Town and in former times a lot of the tradesmen and craftsmen lived here. The New Town you see today was completely redeveloped in the late 19th century.

The sights found here are:
Wenceslas Square
Church of Our Lady of the Snows
Franciscan Garden
Hotel Europa
National Museum
State Opera
Mucha Museum
Church of St Ignatius
Jesuit College
Charles Square
Church of St Cyril and St Methodius
Faust House
Church of St John on the Rock
Slavonic Monastery Emauzy
Botanical Gardens
Church of St Catherine
Chalice Restaurant
Dvořák Museum
Church of St Stephen
New Town Hall
U Fleků
Church of St Ursula
National Theatre

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square
Wenceslas Square (Václavské Naáměstí) today is lined with hotels, restaurants, clubs and shops and is noisy and full of life and people. It is one of two main squares in the city centre with the other one being the Old Town Square which is quite close by. It is a popular area for people to stay and there are many hotels to choose from as well as being Prague’s main shopping area. The square isn’t really a square being 750m long by 60m wide but it was laid out over 600 years ago during the reign of Charles IV and was originally used as the Prague horse market. Over the years it has been a place for protests and marches including the protest against the Soviet invasion which led to the student Jan Palach burning himself to death here in 1969 and the 1989 protest rally against police brutality that led to the overthrow of Communism. At the top of the square is a bronze statue of St Wenceslas on his horse. He was the good King Wenceslas of Christmas Carol fame who was murdered over a thousand years ago by his brother and is now a Czech national hero. In front of this statue are two plaques in memory of those killed during the Communist era including one dedicated to Jan Palach.

Church of Our Lady of the Snows

Church of Our Lady of the Snows
The Church of Our Lady of the Snows (Kostel Panny Marie Sněžné) was founded in 1347 by Charles 1V. This church was intended to be the second largest church in Prague aftter St Vitus’s Cathedral and although it was never finished it is still a very large church with its 34 metres high vault and 29 metres high altar. The church contains some important tombs including that of Jan Želivský who preached in the church and was one of the spiritual leaders of the Czech reformation movement. He was buried in the church after his execution. The church’s unusual name is due to a legend that the Virgin Mary appeared to the pope in Rome in a dream and told him to build a church dedicated to her on the spot where snow fell in August. Some of the highlights found inside the church include the delicate net vaulting on the ceiling and the huge three-level altar with statues of saints.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://pms.ofm.cz/cizina/english.htm

Franciscan Gardens

Franciscan Garden
The Franciscan Garden (Františkánská Zahrada) is a lovely garden found near Wenceslas Square and right next door to the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. The garden was originally the physic garden of a Franciscan monastery but was restored and opened to the public in 1950. The garden is small but it is a nice place to relax and sit on one of its many benches and admire its trees and rose bushes. There is also a small children’s playground with a sand box and swings which is good if you are travelling with children.

Hotel Europa

Hotel Europa
The Hotel Europa (Hotel Evropa) that you see today was built in the Art Nouveau style between 1903 and 1905 and is found on Wenceslas Square. Even though it may not be in the same shape that it was in former times it still has a beautiful facade with golden nymphs at the top and the original bars, mirrors and light fittings still adorn the interior. Even if you don’t want to stay here it is worth a visit just to see what hotels used to look like in this era.
For information about the hotel visit the website at: http://www.evropahotel.cz/

National Museum
This National Museum (Národní Muzeum) is found at the top of Wenceslas Square, behind the statue of St Wenceslas. It is the largest and oldest museum in the Czech Republic and houses several floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions. It even is the venue for classical music concerts on some evenings. The facade of the building is in the Neo-Renaissance style and was designed by Josef Schultz as an architectural symbol of the Czech National Revival. It was built between 1818 and 1891. One of the most impressive sights in the building is the magnificent entrance hall with its sweeping staircases and intricate stonework. The collections are mainly to do with mineralogy, archaeology, anthropology and natural history. If you are travelling with children they may be interested in the large collection of stuffed animals such as bears and tigers and the models of extinct animals, such as an enormous mammoth, and a gigantic emu-like bird that once roamed New Zealand.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.nm.cz/?xSET=lang&xLANG=2

State Opera
The State Opera (Státní Opera) is found near the top of Wenceslas Square and opened in 1888 as the German Theatre and was a rival to the Czechs’ National Theatre. In 1945 it became Prague’s main opera house and was called the Smetana Theatre, after the famous Czech composer. In 1992, after the fall of Communism it became the Prague State Opera and you can hear a variety of performances from opera to ballet from Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Rossini, Donizetti, Prokofiev and other famous composers.
For information about the State Opera visit the website at:
http://www.opera.cz/en/?PHPSESSID=62e7bce8a1cc7a57a1c4a69733ce47f7

Mucha Museum
The Mucha Museum (Muchovo Muzeum) which is found in the Kaunicky Palace was built in the 18th century and is dedicated to Alphonse Mucha who was a famous Czech Art-Nouveau artist. The museum holds over 100 exhibits which include decorative panels, photographs, paintings, drawings and personal memorabilia.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.mucha.cz/index.phtml?S=home&Lang=EN

Church of St Ignatius

Church of St Ignatius
The Church of St Ignatius (Kostel sv Ignáce) is a typical Baroque Jesuit church built between 1665 and 1687. The church is full of impressive stucco and statues of Jesuit and Czech saints which were used to try and impress the population with the power and glory of the Jesuit faith.

Jesuit College
The Jesuit College (Jezuitská Kolej) occupies half of the eastern side of Charles Square. The college was built between 1656 and 1702. After the Jesuits were suppressed in 1773 the college became a military hospital and is now a teaching hospital and part of Charles University.

Charles Square

Charles Square
Charles Square (Karlovo Náměstí) is the largest square in Prague and was originally built as the Cattle Market in 1348 and as well as cattle, other things were sold here such as firewood, coal and pickled herrings. Originally there was a wooden tower standing in the middle of the square where the coronation jewels were displayed once a year. In 1393 the tower was replaced with a chapel and a small cemetery but it was destroyed in 1784. Since the 19th century it has been a park. Although there are busy roads all around it it is still a pleasant place to walk in during the day.

Church of St Cyril and St Methodius

Church of St Cyril and St Methodius
The Church of St Cyril and St Methodius (Kostel sv Cyrila a Metoděje) is a Baroque church that was built between 1730 and 1736 and was called the Church of St Charles Borromeo and was used for retired priests. This was abolished in 1783 and the church became a barracks. In the 19th century it was used as part of the Czech Technical University in Prague. The church was restored in 1935 and the Czechoslovakian Orthodox Church renamed it the Church of St Cyril and St Methodius. This church became very well-known during WWII. Seven Czech paratroopers died here on 18 June 1942, after taking part in the assassination of the Nazi Governor of Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Members of the Czech Orthodox community helped them hide in the crypt, but they were betrayed and attacked in the church by the Gestapo, and committed suicide rather than fall into enemy hands. On the wall of the crypt near a window, where you can still see the holes from the bullets, is the memorial plaque with the names and portraits of the heroes.
For information about the crypt and the memorial visit the website at:
http://www.pamatnik-heydrichiady.cz/default.asp?sid=1&lang=EN

Faust House

Faust House
Faust House (Faustův Dům) is a Baroque house found on Charles Square. This house is named for Dr Faust known for his pact with the devil and black magic and also the fact that this house is associated with alchemy and chemical experiments. The house has been occupied by many unusual characters. In the 14th century this house was owned by Prince Václav of Opava who was a natural historian and alchemist. The astrologer Jakub Krucinek also lived here with his two sons. The younger son killed the older one for alleged treasure hidden in the house. Other inhabitants of the house were the famous alchemist Edward Kelley and Ferdinand Antonin Mladota of Solopysky whose chemical experiments scared people in the neighbourhood because of the explosions they heard coming from the house. Mladota’s son was good at mechanics and some of his inventions included a door that could open by itself, a flying staircase and door handles giving electric shocks. The most eccentric inhabitant of the Faust house would have to be Karl Jaenig who lived there in the 19th century. He put funeral texts on the wall and slept in a wooden coffin and put in his will that he wished to be put into his coffin with his face to the bottom. Unfortunately the Faust house is closed to the public so you will have to view the house from the outside and wonder about its former occupants.

Church of St John on the Rock

Church of St John on the Rock
The Church of St John on the Rock (Kostel sv Jana Na Skalce) is one of Prague’s smaller Baroque churches. It was designed by Kilian Ignáz Dientzenhofer and built in 1738. It is unusual because it has twin square towers which are set at a sharp angle to the narrow facade. The interior is also based on an unusual octagonal floorplan. A highlight of the interior is the statue on the high altar. It is a wooden version of the statue of St John Nepomuk that is found on the Charles Bridge.

Slavonic Monastery Emauzy

Slavonic Monastery Emauzy
The Slavonic Monastery Emauzy (Klášter Na Slovanech-Emauzy) was founded by Charles IV in 1347 for the Croatian Benedictines who held their services in the Old Slavonic language. Over time it has changed owners including a Hussite order in 1446 and then in 1635 it was taken over by the Spanish Benedictines. In the 18th century it was given a Baroque makeover until 1880 when the new owners, German Benedictines rebuilt it in Neo-Gothic style. Inside the monastery are some original 14th century wall paintings but many of these were damaged in WW2.

Botanical Gardens
These Botanical Gardens (Botanická Zahrada) are part of Charles University. They were originally founded in 1775 in the Smíchov district but were moved to its present site in 1897. Here you will find some large greenhouses and exhibitions of exotic birds and tropical fish. The gardens are worth visiting if you are in the area but probably not worth making a special trip for.

Traveller's Tip

If you are visiting the gardens then make sure you see the giant water lily with leaves large enough to seat a small child. If you are there in summer you will hopefully see the flowers that the water lily produces but unfortunately they only last for a day.

Church of St Catherine
The Church of St Catherine (Kostel sv Kateřiny) is noted for its slim and tall steeple which looks like a minaret. The original church was built between 1355 and 1367 for Charles IV and was dedicated to a favourite saint of his — St Katherine. There used to be a monastery of the women’s Augustinian Order next to the church and then in 1568 the men’s Augustinian Order came here. A new monastery in the Baroque style was built between 1718 and 1730 and then reconstructed in the same style between 1737-1741 using plans by Kilian Ignáz Dientzenhofer. The original steeple was preserved. During the reforms of Joseph II the monasteries were closed. Since 1822 they have been used as a hospital.

Chalice Restaurant
The Chalice Restaurant (Restaurace U Kalicha) is a beer hall famous because of the novel The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek. It was the favourite drinking place of the book’s main character, Švejk and because of this the place is very popular with both locals and visitors. The staff also dress in WW1 costumes which was the period that the novel was set in.

Dvořák Museum

Dvořák Museum
The Dvořák Museum (Muzeum Antonína Dvořáka) is housed in an elegant early 18th century Baroque summer palace. This beautiful palace was designed by Kilian Ignáz Dientzenhofer who was the architect responsible for some of Prague’s most beautiful churches. The building has undergone many changes but in recent years it has been carefully restored and now contains a permanent exhibition of photographs and memorabilia of the life and work of Antonín Dvořák who was a 19th century Czech composer. Highlights of the building to look out for are the ceiling in the recital hall on the first floor which is decorated with a fresco of Apollo, Pegasus and the Arts, by Jan Ferdinand Schor. In the garden are sculptures of the Four Seasons from the workshop of Matthias Braun.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.nm.cz/expozice-detail.php?f_id=71

Church of St Stephen

Church of St Stephen
The Church of St Stephen (Kostel sv Štěpána) was founded by Charles IV in 1351 as the parish church of the upper New Town. The Gothic multi-spired building was built between 1351 and 1401. The chapel named Koronelská was built on the south side in 1686 and the chapel named Branberg was built on the north side of the building. The Branberg Chapel contains the tomb of the Baroque sculptor Matthias Braun. In 1866 a Neo-Gothic hall was built on the north side. The highlight of the church is the beautiful Gothic panel of the Madonna — Our Lady of St Stephen’s from 1472.

New Town Hall

New Town Hall
The New Town Hall (Novoměstská Radnice) dates back to the 14th century but you will not see much that is left from that time. Several parts were added at the beginning of the 15th century such as the high tower with a big bell and a chapel inside. The wing facing Charles Square used to contain conference rooms and the wing facing Vodickova street contained offices and a prison. The New Town Hall was a seat of the municipal administration until 1784 when Emperor Joseph II decided to have the four Prague towns of Old Town, the Little Quarter, Hradcany and the New Town as one town council. After that the New Town Hall became a criminal courthouse and a prison with a torture chamber. Many people including revolutionaries were kept here. The appearance of the building changed in the 16th century. The south wing was rebuilt in the Renaissance style and it was decorated with high gables. The New Town Hall became very famous on the 30th July 1419 when a crowd of demonstrators led by Jan Želivský demanded that several of Jan Hus’ followers should be released from the prison. When the councillors refused to release the prisoners the crowd burst into the building and threw the councillors out of the windows. The councillors who survived the fall were beaten to death. This event called the First Prague Defenestration started the Hussite movement asking for reforms in the Catholic Church. The New Town Hall is now used for many cultural and social events, as well as wedding ceremonies.
For information about the New Town Hall visit the website at: http://www.nrpraha.cz/en/

Traveller's Tip

When you are outside the New Town Hall look for the piece of chain that is fixed to the building. It is from the times when Prague streets were closed by chains.

U Fleků
U Fleků is a large pub, restaurant and micro-brewery located in an ancient building dating from 1499. It is reminiscent of a German beer hall. There is a restaurant serving a typical Czech selection of food and of course there is the beer brewed on the premises which is a special, strong dark beer sold only here. There is also the typical beer hall entertainment of piano accordion music.There is a brewery museum located in the former malt house and if you would like to take a tour of the brewery they are available but the commentary is in German only.
For information about U Fleků visit the website at: http://en.ufleku.cz/

Church of St Ursula

Church of St Ursula
The Church of St Ursula (Kostel sv Voršily) is a lovely Baroque church that was built as part of an Ursuline convent that was founded in 1672. You can still see the original sculptures on the facade and in front of the church is a group of statues including one of St John Nepomuk by Ignaz Platzer the Elder. Inside the church is light and airy and has beautiful ceiling frescoes and paintings on the altars including a painting of St Ursula on the main one. There is a Catholic school next door that was once a convent and on the ground floor is the Klášterní Vinárna which is the Convent Restaurant.

National Theatre

National Theatre
The National Theatre (Národní Divadlo) is a stunning Neo-Renaissance building which was built between 1868 and 1881. It sits on the banks of the Vltava River in all its golden glory. It is one of the most important cultural institutions in Prague and has played an important role in the development of the Czech language, Czech music and the dramatic arts. The interior is as gorgeous as the exterior and some of the highlights are the magnificent red and gold painted stage curtain, the ceiling in the auditorium which is painted with allegorical figures representing the arts and the startling sky-blue roof that is painted with stars. In 1881 there was a major fire in the National Theatre which completely gutted it but six weeks later rebuilding began with money collected and in 1883 it was reopened to the public. The theatre offers productions of opera,ballet, Czech drama and Christmas concerts.
For information about the National Theatre visit the website at: http://www.nationaltheatre.cz/