Czech name: Obecní dům
At the sound of “municipal,” you are probably thinking about a basic structure, typically set up to support waste management or city government needs, right? It sounds incredibly dull and unattractive, since most municipal buildings are. However, this particular Municipal House in Prague (Praha), Czechia is anything but dull, drab or boring.
In fact, it is a stunning piece of architecture both inside and out. It isn’t just a pretty building either. It is full of artistic and beautiful features that are as much a feast for the soul as it is for the eyes. To avoid visiting the Municipal House when you are touring this Czech city is a major misstep, since you will be missing one of the most incredible tourist features the city has to offer.
Location & How to Get There
The Municipal House is in the very heart of Prague, located where the Old Town and New Town borders meet. It is situated right on the Republic Square, called Náměstí Republiky in the Czech tongue. You can reach it a number of ways.
For starters, there are two Metros, or subway trains, that will take you from various stations to a station very close to the building. The maps for the Metros are pretty straightforward and will help you decide exactly when to disembark. If you aren’t sure, familiarize yourself with the streets that lead into the square. However, you may not need to as the overhead announcements on the trains alert you to important stops along the way. Metro A will require you to take an extra four-minute walk after you depart the train and its station. Metro B stops at the station Náměstí Republiky, which is very close to where you want to be.
Then there are the public trams. Several trams run very close to the Municipal House site, and stop frequently. Trams should not be confused with buses, since Prague’s trams run on rails and cables similar to trolleys, except lower to the ground. Tram route 5, 8, and 24 will get you the closest, although you can also take Tram route 3, 9, 14, 24, or Tram route 3, 5, 14, 24 as well.
Opening Hours & Entry
This varies, depending on whether or not there are special events or concerts taking place. General admission is about 200 CZK for an adult, and tours begin at 12:30 pm most days. Tours run on the hour, but the building may be closed for events, exhibits, holidays, etc.. If you want the discount fee for anyone under eighteen or over sixty, it is 170 CZK, and special pricing exists for families of one to two adults with up to three children under eighteen for the bargain price of 350 CZK.
You may purchase tickets online but they have very specific instructions for printing your tickets. If you can’t print the tickets accordingly, it might be better to call ahead and purchase tickets over the phone. Family package tickets are only sold at the box office upon arrival and when available.
What to Do & What to See
As far as Prague sightseeing goes, Municipal House offers a bevy of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and things to do. The tour itself takes you from Smetana Hall, where the city holes many of its concerts and the views of what will remind you of a Paris Opera House are everywhere, to the confectionery to buy traditional Czech sweets, through three lounges and four halls. The restaurant Municipal House in Prague has should not be missed either, since it serves many authentic delights and new taste experiences for guests, plus some “English” food for those less adventurous types.
You will want to spend a lot of your time in Smetana Hall, viewing the frescoes and admiring the amazing gothic arches and marble pedestals all around. A ceiling reminiscent of the Renaissance paintings in the Sistine Chapel fill many of the spaces arching over the rows of seats below. For the purpose of natural lighting during the day, multiple small square windows are fitted into expanses in the ceiling reaching from one side of the hall to the other. A grand pipe organ of immense size fills the chancel at the very front of the hall and on concert nights it might even take center stage. Many a wedding is performed here as well, with the pipe organ playing traditional Czech wedding marches.
If that weren’t enough to pull “oohs” and “aahs” and “ohhhs” from your lips, there is a lunette mosaic in the ceiling that speaks of some of the most iconic religious figures in Czech spirituality and history. It’s a lot to take in and pictures don’t do it justice. You really have to see it to be in full awe of how this place was built and then later fully restored to appreciate it fully.
Additionally there are plenty of musical shows taking place all year long. Many art exhibits are scheduled throughout the year. You may be able to catch one of these special events, but only if you pay extra for the admission ticket for the event.
The building itself is not that old, but it does sit on a very historic and old site. The palace of the King of Bohemia once overshadowed that very spot until the King’s death and the rise of the Czech Republic in place of the monarchy. Just as so many old buildings in Europe are torn down and new buildings rise from the rubble, so too does the Municipal House.
At the turn of the last century, the House became the spot where the Czech Declaration of Independence was signed. The building has served as a place for government meetings, meetings of important people, weddings, wedding receptions, and of course, music performances. It is considered the cultural epicenter of the city for many reasons.
If you are planning to visit Prague or do some Prague sightseeing, even the exterior of this building is worth a stop on the street to see all of the beautiful statues lined up along its exterior.