The Old Town or Staré Město is recognized as one of the oldest and most beautiful locations in Prague. However, beneath this exterior lies a rich history still evident today. Going off the beaten path and exploring the Old Town will reward you with beautiful sights and experiences that you’ll treasure for life.
A Brief History of the Old Town
The Old Town was considered as one of the largest and most important towns in Prague. It first went by the name “Bigger Town”, but was renamed when the need to create distinguishing names for individual quarters came during the 13th and 14th centuries.
Today, the Old Town is home to structures embodying different architectural styles that reflect various time periods, from Baroque and Rococo to Gothic. It’s also home to outdoor food stalls, cafés, museums, and shops.
What to See in the Old Town
The Old Town has its fair share of labyrinthine streets you can leverage to get to know the town better.
Old Town Square
Founded in the 12th century, the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) dates back to the 10th century, when it was first used as a marketplace for merchants plying the European trade routes during the Middle Ages. The site eventually became the center of many political and cultural events that molded the city’s history.
It’s surrounded by historical buildings such as the Astronomical Clock, Old Town Hall, and the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Tyn. Built around the 15th century, the striking Astronomical Clock is famous for its hourly shows. Known as the “Parade of the Apostles”, 12 mechanical dolls representing the apostles come out to signal the beginning of every hour.
Old Town Hall
One of the city’s most important monuments, the Old Town Hall is a complex of medieval buildings. It’s open to the public and offers unparalleled views of the Town Square. Moreover, you can take a tour of the Town Hall so you can better explore its hidden rooms and dungeons.
The Powder Tower
Spanning a height of 65 meters, the Powder Tower (Prašná brána) takes its name from when it was used as storage for gunpowder, and it’s since been used as a starting point for the king’s coronation ride to Prague Castle.
The Jewish Quarter (Josefov) was considered as the largest Jewish ghetto in Europe. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and stands as a testament to the interactions between the Jewish and Christian communities who lived under political constraint. It provides important insights and is a reminder of the tragic history that befell the Czech Jewish community.
Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is one of Prague’s most frequented landmarks. It was named after King Charles IV, who ordered its construction to replace Judith’s Bridge, which collapsed in 1342 due to a flood. If you climb one of the two bridge towers, you’ll be rewarded with a scenic view of the city.
Church of our Lady before Týn
Chrám Matky Boží před Týnem is a Gothic church built around the 14th to 16th centuries and was used as the city’s main church during the Hussite era. As a result of several reworkings, it now combines Gothic, Renaissance, and early Baroque elements.
Havel Market is an open-air market that dates back to the 13th century. You can find a wide selection of fresh produce, along with trinkets and even paintings and leather goods.
The Klementium is home to the Czech Republic’s National Library. Dating back to the 11th century, it was used mainly as a Jesuit dormitory. To visit and see the Klementium’s impressive collection of books, antique globes, and frescoes, you’ll need to join a guided tour.
Jan Hus Monument
The Jan Hus Monument is a tribute to Jan Hus, a Czech priest and professor who was executed in 1415. Prior to his execution, Hus’s teachings impacted the history of the nation and allowed him to contribute to the development of the Czech literary language. The monument was made from stone and bronze by Ladislav Šaloun and was unofficially unveiled in 1915.
How to Get There
There are several options to get to the Old Town from the airport. You can choose a private airport pickup for convenience, or use an airport shuttle transfer and an Uber.
The most affordable option is through public transport. Go to the bus station in front of Terminal 1 and take the bus 119 to Nadrazi Veleslavin. From there, take the green subway line (Line A) and alight at the Prague Metro, which is a station in the Old Town.
The Best Places to Eat
With plenty of food stalls and restaurants, you’ll get to sample a wide range of dishes in Old Town.
For a cozy café, you can visit Tricafe which is close to the Theater on Balustrade (Divadlo Na zábradlí). Craving a vegetarian meal? Drop by Lehká Hlava (Clear Head) on Boršov 180/2, Praha 1 – Old Town. It’s close to the Charles Bridge, so you can get to the next destination on your list after enjoying a sumptuous meal.
Donuterie and Puro Gelato offer sweet treats to help you recharge after exploring. They’re located at Náprstkova 9 which is around 0.3 km from the Old Town Bridge Tower and Na hrobci 410/1, close to the Vyšehrad National Cultural Monument, respectively.
For American cuisine tea, head to the Sad Man’s Tongue Bar & Bistro, located at Konviktská 7, close to the Old Town Bridge Tower.
Night Life in the Old Town
The Old Town is home to a thriving nightlife scene, with an abundance of themed bars and clubs.
Jazz enthusiasts will delight in the unique music scene that the Jazz Republic (Jilská 1a) and AghaRTA Jazz Club (Železna 491/16) have to offer. Enjoy live music from Czech musicians and an all-around friendly atmosphere. If you want to do a pub crawl while in Prague, check out the Drunken Monkey Prague Pub Crawl & Bar (U milosrdných 848/4). You can also join organized bar crawls such as the Clock Tower Bar Crawl and the Prague Pub Crawl.
For cocktails, head on over to the Hemingway Bar at Karolíny Světlé 279/26.
The Old Town is a testament to a city’s history and how it adapted through the times. When you’re in the Old Town, you’ll get to feel history come alive while enjoying modern-day comforts.