Czech name: Staroměstské náměstí
Imagine taking a tour at the place that was once a stage for dramatic events, both tragic and glorious throughout Czech history. Picture yourself in a 9 thousand square meter venue surrounded by magnificent houses and gothic palaces that date back to the Roman era. That is the story of the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), one of the most famous squares in Europe. This former market in the merchant district is still Prague’s heartbeat, attracting at least 2 million visitors each year. Let’s explore why below:
Location & How to Get There
Are you visiting the Old Town Square for the first time? Find this gem hidden between the Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) and the Charles Bridge (Karlův most), a navigation center in the Old Town. If you are coming from the Prague Airport, Můstek metro station, or the Praha Hlavní nádraží (Main Train Station), get to this 12th-century square by taking the following public transport lines:
• Bus line 131, 133, 180, 194, 207
• Train route 25907, 9525, 9617, 9931, R24, S65, S88
• Subway A, B
These lines offer universal 30-minutes, 90-minutes, 1-day, 3-days, and 1-month day passes conveniently for your duration of the visit. The day passes are on sale at all metro stations, tourist information centers, newsagents, trams, and bus stops.
Opening Hours & Entry
The Old Town Square is open to the public every day 24 hours. There is no restriction or entrance fee.
What to Do & What to See
- Climbing the Old Town Hall Tower
The Old Town Hall Tower is the oldest part of the Old Town Square. It is here where the Prague Astronomical Clock stands. Despite the loss of the tower’s Eastern Neo-Gothic wing during the 1945 uprising, the hall has a gallery and an underground chapel that is popular with weddings. The iconic monument is open every day from 9 am to 10 pm.
- The Prague Astronomical Clock
The Old Town Square is best known for its Astronomical Clock, showing the central European time, Czech time, and Babylonian time. It is a medieval masterpiece installed at the turn of the 15th century, 200 years before the discovery of the earth’s rotation around the sun. In turn, it has a golden orb representing the sun going around color-themed phases of the day.
Come and see the cycles of the moon as depicted in silver and black orb. Or celebrate Saint’s day as is shown on the 365-day segment calendar. At the bottom of the clock are four statutes depicting the positive happenings in the history of Prague. Likewise, there is Vanity’s statute with a mirror, Turk with a musical instrument, Greed with money, and Death with an hourglass, showing four significant tragedies in the city’s history.
At the stroke of every hour, wooden doors above the clock open to show the 12 apostles rotating as they peep down. The doors shut, followed by flaps and a crow from a rooster. It symbolizes the three denials of Christ and a reminder that we should always tell the truth. The city charges 250Kc per adult (about $12) to view the astronomical clock. This entrance fee also caters to walking or taking an elevator up the tower for a panoramic view of the entire city.
- The Church of Our Lady before Týn
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is an impressive mid-14th century Gothic church featuring two 80-meters long spires visible all across the city, especially by night. The non-asymmetrical spires represent the masculine and feminine sides of the world. When you visit this Romanesque, a rich collection of art awaits you inside. They include the Rise to Heavens of the Virgin Mary altar picture, the stone baldachin of Matěj Rejsek, and the intricate Renaissance Czech painting on wood. The entrance is free.
- Exhibitions at the Kinsky Palace
The Kinsky Palace is a former Rococo architectural-style palace, owned by the National Gallery. Unlike other buildings, it protrudes slightly into the square, showing its elegant decorations. It is at this Palace’s balcony where the former President Klement Gottwald announced the start of communism in 1948. In 990, at this same spot, Václav Havel made an announcement that ended communism. Plan to view the temporary exhibitions happening at the palace each day. The entrance fee is 150 CZK.
- Sightseeing Tour in Prague
Finally, your Prague sightseeing tour brings you to the Jan Hus Memorial, a focal point at the Prague square. Come face to face with the Jan Hus statue, a former Czech reformer who was burnt at stake in 1415 for his heretical ideas. The statute now stands as a symbol of national independence. Next, visit the St. Nicholas Church, a baroque-styled building at the gaze of the Prague Castle. Other stops include significant historical buildings along Pařížská Street, pavements, memorial stones, and the Prague meridian.
The Old Town Square served as a 12th-century marketplace for merchants touring Europe. Formerly referred to as the Big Square, it grew in significance over the years to become the most important historical site in the Czech Republic. It is here where the 1422 uprising that saw the assassination of Jan Želivský, a key person in the Hussite Reformation, took place. Two centuries later, the square was a focal point during the estates’ tragic uprising against the Hapsburg reign. This 16th-century civil unrest saw the mass execution of 27 noblemen, now referred to as the Old Town Square Execution.