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A Walking Tour of Prague: Old Town Square

Prague is a delightful city to explore on foot with its extraordinary architecture, charming cobblestone lanes and enchanting churches, squares and buildings. Prague’s history is long and deep which makes this spectacular city even more fascinating. Founded near the end of the 9th century at the crossroads of Europe, “Praha” or the “doorstep” became the seat of the Kings of Bohemia with a thriving marketplace alongside the River Vltava in what today is known as Old Town Square. Merchants and craftsman from all over the world would meet here to trade and by 1234 Prague’s Staré Město “Old Town” was founded.

Old Town revolves around Old Town Square which is laced in history and architectural genius and remains the historic heart and the soul of the city. Many believe it is the grandest, most magnificent square in all of Eastern Europe with its intricate pathways of cobblestone streets reminiscent of medieval times and its brightly-hued pastel buildings each with a history of its own right.

Every way you turn, there is an architectural treasure as one building seems to outshine the next. The styles of architecture range from Romanesque (characterized by semi-circular arches that was prevalent in medieval Europe) to Gothic (with its characteristic  pointed arches, ribbed vaults and the flying buttress that occurred after the Romanesque period in the 12th century) and Baroque (began in the late 16th century and includes dramatic use of light, oval shapes, grandeur and large ceiling frescoes).

What makes Old Town and much of Prague itself so utterly spectacular is that much of its treasured architecture from medieval times remains untouched by war or natural causes. There were floods that inundated the city in Medieval times that caused immense destruction but architects simply built over and restored the buildings in a new style of architecture. Many buildings of Gothic style were restored with Baroque facades.

As you enter Old Town, the first thing you see and pass through it the Powder Gate. Built in the 11th century, the Powder Gate was one of 13 entrances into Prague’s Old Town and still stands tall today. It was reconstructed in 1475 during the reign of King Vladislav II in 1475.

Powder Gate, Prague

The Powder Gate

Old City Gate Prague

Old Town, Prague

Walking through the gates, feels like stepping back in time. Despite the masses of people and tourists, if you look up and peer at the stunning, elaborate buildings you are bound to be awestruck by their pure magnificence. Several walking tours and guide books will give you detailed history on each building because of course every single one has a story. Also pay close attention to the detail of the doors, windows and the unique signs decorating each building. You could literally spend hours just walking around Old Town Square.

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square

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Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

It is best to get up and going early in order to beat the crowds of tourists. These photos above were taken in early May before noon. By lunch time, the square is typically filled with people enjoying the sights and dining at one of many outdoor restaurants and cafes. Old Town Square, Prague

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A must-see in Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock. It is the oldest and most elaborate functioning astronomical clock in the world and a main attraction in the square especially on the hour when you can watch “The Walk of the Apostles”, a moving procession of the 12 Apostles. The first clock was built on the town hall building at the beginning of the 15th century and was completely operational by 1572.

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

The stars of the show are the 12 Apostles.

Astronomical clock, Prague

Another experience that cannot be missed is to climb the Bell Tower at the Town hall for an amazing bird’s-eye 360 degree view of Prague. It is definitely worth the effort! On a clear day, you can see for miles on end and get some spectacular photos. The views on a cloudy day are still impressive.

There are two magnificent churches that dominate Old Town Square. St. Nicholas’ Church is at one end and the Church of Our Lady before Týn at the other side of the square. Both are equally impressive and quite different in architectural style and design. The Church of Our Lady before Týn is what you would envision of medieval Prague with its spectacular Gothic style. The church was built from the mid-14th to the early 16th centuries and the Baroque interior replaced its Gothic roots at the end of the 17th century.

Old Town Square, Prague

View of the soaring Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

This gorgeous building is designed with a Rococo stucco facade and features statues by Ignaz Platzer built from 1760-1765 (Source: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)

Nearly every building in the square is absolutely exquisite. The colors and decoration are extraordinary and it is hard to stop taking pictures of them. You could literally go building by building and admire each one while looking for its unique decorative sign.

http://borderfreetravels.com/chiang-mai-night-market/

Old Town Square, Prague

 Old Town Square, Prague

This is known as the house “At the Minute” and was Franz Kafka’s childhood home. The Renaissance-era house has black and white designs covering the facade and is lovely. (Source: DK Eyewitness Travel Prague Guide)

Old Town Square, Prague

On the other side of the Town Hall and Astronomical click lies the lovely Baroque Saint Nicolas’ Church. Completed in 1735 replacing an original church dating back to 1273, the interior of St. Nicholas’ Church is a masterpiece with stunning ceiling frescoes, pearl white stucco walls and a 2,500-pipe organ that fills the room with sound.  If you have time, buy a ticket to attend an evening concert at the church and it will not disappoint.

Old Town Square, Prague

St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

Entrance to St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church

The door handle to St. Nicholas Church

The stunning interior of the St. Nicholas’ Church. Listening to a live organ and soloist sing inside the church is something not to be missed. Gaze up at the beautiful ceiling while the melodic music bounces off the walls and arches of the church, and you will be in awe.

The south side of Old Town Square displays an array of gorgeous Romanesque and Gothic buildings that are filled with mystery. Some host restaurants at the bottom that date back hundreds of years. There are even hidden wine cellars in the basements.

The Storch House is perhaps the most elaborate in the row which has a 19th century painting of St. Wenceslas an horseback. St. Wenceslas was a duke of Bohemia from 921 until his assassination in 935 and continues to play an important role in Prague’s history.

Old Town Square, Prague

Storch House

The buildings around the Storch House are equally lovely and ornate.

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

This ornamental Baroque plaque is a sign of the House at the Black Sun. (Source: DK Eyewitness Travel Prague).

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Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

As I walked around the square and continued my exploration to other parts of Old Town, I was mesmerized by how much beauty surrounded me. I loved every single building and could never consider a favorite. It amazed me that such a place continues to exist in today’s modern world.

Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

 Old Town Square, Prague

Old Town Square, Prague

 Old Town Square, Prague

Our next stop on our day-long walking tour of Prague was to neighboring Malá Strana or “Lesser Town”. Stay tuned….

Here are some excellent guidebooks and resources I used to help research this post:

Rough Guides to Prague, 2015 edition, written by Marc Di Duca

DK Eyewitness Travel 2016 Prague, Vladimir Soukup

Discover Prague Guide – provided by most hotels in Prague

There are also tons of wonderful tourist websites on Prague. Enter a destination or name of a building or site on google, and you will be amazed at the wealth of fantastic information available. 

This article is also available for download on the iTunes app GPSmyCity. You can download by clicking this link. GPSmyCity provides a GPS-assisted downloadable version of this blog post. 

 

32 comments

  1. hmunro

    You’ve really captured the beauty of the Old Town and hit on the highlights. Great post!

    • Thank you so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. I struggled a bit on how to put it all together. It was so overwhelmingly beautiful with so much history, that the post took me some time. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Sylvia! It was hard to decide which photos to use, how many and which ones to leave out. I took way too many because I loved the buildings so much. So lovely. 🙂

  2. It’s such a good-looking city, Nicole, and very reminiscent of Krakow and Warsaw. I love that Kafka house. I’d be happy to include this on next Monday’s walk. 🙂 Your photos are gorgeous.

  3. Prague is so popular for an obvious reason. It’s such a beautiful old city peppered with magnificent buildings and churches with different architectural styles. This and Budapest are among my dream destinations in Central Europe, but somehow I’m always drawn to explore places in Asia over and over again. 🙂 I really should make a plan to visit Europe again. Thanks for this post, Nicole.

    • Yes I just love the architecture there so much Bama. However, I understand your fascination with touring Asia as Asia has so much to offer too! I would be doing more Asia if I could but it will have to wait as I think I’ll need a lot more time there then only a week like I normally take which is pretty easy for Europe. I love reading all your Asia posts. Someday when I can get there and really spend some time, I will go back through your posts and prepare a dream trip! 🙂

  4. Beautiful photos! I have never been to Prague but these photos and your descriptions are very enticing. I love the clocks and the colorful roofs and the magnificent architecture. Thanks!

    Peta

  5. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Raby Castle and Deer Park | restlessjo

  6. Oh my gosh how gorgeous!! Love the architecture. Have wanted to go to Prague for a long time, but somehow have not made it there (yet). Love the photos of the Old Town Square and of the Church. Amazing!

    The astronomical clock is my absolute favorite. Great photos.

    Talk to me about the food??

    • Thanks Peta! The food was pretty good. There are hundreds of restaurants. We ate some local food at a really old place which was cool. Looked like not much had changed for hundreds of years inside .

  7. A lovely post Nicole with great photos that all bring back happy memories of our visit to Prague. Best wishes for your upcoming July 4th celebrations 🙂

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