One of the main merits of traveling is you get to experience what life and culture are like in a foreign place. Galleries and museums embody a country’s culture, which is why they’re always listed in travel itineraries. If you’re planning to visit Prague, you can’t go wrong with putting the National Gallery Prague (Národní galerie Praha) on your list of must-sees. Owned by the state, it’s a gallery that houses the biggest collection of Czech art. Aside from local art pieces, it also holds a collection of international artworks.
A Brief History
The National Gallery Prague was started in 1796 by a group of Bohemian patriotic aristocracy representatives and intellectuals to elevate the “decayed taste of the locals.” Initially, the main location of the gallery was at the Sternberg Palace at Hradčany. Upon entering the 20th century, new locations were opened to house 19th to 20th-century art, mostly at the Veletržní Palác, or the Trade Fair Palace, located in Holešovice.
The National Gallery Prague is the second oldest gallery in Europe. It was finally formally established in 1949, with its mission to lift the nation’s spirit through art.
Exhibition Sites and How to Get There
Visiting the National Gallery Prague will require you to transfer between 11 buildings since its collection is too large to be housed in just one. The buildings themselves are historic structures located inside and outside of Prague. When visiting, you’ll find that each site contains a specific set of artworks categorized by time.
Medieval Art and Old Masters
If you’re interested in old artworks, you’ll want to visit the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia located in Old Town. To get there from Prague Main Station (Hlavni nadrazi), you can take bus no. 207 and stop at Dlouha trida. Then, walk for around five minutes until you reach the gallery.
The Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia has over 200 paintings as well as sculptures that came from three different centuries. Here, you’ll find works by medieval artist Master Theodoric, works by Albrecht Altdorfer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and many more.
At the Schwarzenberg Palace in Hradčany, you’ll find the most important “old art” masterpieces by Hans von Aachen, Matthias Bernard Braun, El Greco, Karel Škréta, and others. Art here dates back to the 16th to 18th century.
The Sternberg Palace, on the other hand, houses a Renaissance and Baroque Italian painting collection (14th and 15th centuries). If you’re interested in paintings by Brueghel, Anthony van Dyck, and others from the 15th to 18th century, you’ll find them here as well.
You can reach both the Schwarzenberg Palace and Sternberg Palace by taking tram 22 from the Hlavni station and stopping at Prazsky hrad.
Main Exhibition Collections
Art in this category dates back to the establishment of the Society of Patriotic Friends of Art in the 18th century. The artworks that belong to this timeframe are housed at the Trade Fair Palace. You can get there from the Hlavni station by taking metro line C and stopping at Vltavska.
With over 450 works by 150 artists, the collection exhibition is categorized into three: “man,” “world,” and “ideas.” You’ll find a wide variety of both paintings and sculptures here with contrasting styles by artists like Pablo Picasso and Alfons Mucha.
At the Trade Fair Palace, you’ll also find the exhibition made in celebration of the country’s 100th anniversary. Besides the artworks by Czech artists, you can find the works purchased by the state from the French collection. This collection includes works by Gauguin, Rousseau, and Van Gogh.
National Gallery Prague’s time-limited exhibitions are held at several locations, mainly the Trade Fair Palace, the Wallenstein Riding School (Malá Strana), and the Kinský Palace (Old Town Square). These exhibitions showcase local and international modern and contemporary artworks.
Admission and Hours
For all six permanent exhibitions of the National Gallery Prague, admission is free to children and students under 26 years. For other visitors not included in this category, the combined admission fee to all the permanent exhibitions is only CZK 500. This day pass is valid for 10 days after purchase.
The gallery is open every day except Mondays from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. On Wednesdays, it closes at 8 pm.It’s also possible to enjoy the artworks in the National Gallery Prague for free online. Simply go on a 360-degree virtual tour via the gallery’s very own website.