Old Town Square: Explore The Heart of Prague
Old Town Square alias Staromestske Namesti is the real heart of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The square is one of the must-visit places when in Prague, which has its rightful place on every traveler's itinerary. Read our guide on the best things to see and do on the Old Town Square so you won't miss a thing.
Do you know why so many people (not only tourists but locals as well) visit the Old Town Square anytime when in Prague?
Not only because it is the oldest square in the city, but the main reason is that it is so insanely beautiful, and there are so many things to see and do here that everyone wants to admire the stunning architecture and magical pulsing atmosphere even for a while. The Old Town Square ('Staromestske Namesti’ or ‘Staromak’ how we call it informally) is often voted among the most beautiful squares in the world, and although we usually don't like similar lists of the best things of the best because they are too subjective, in this case, we agree that it is hard to compete with the Old Town Square when it comes to glory.
Numerous historical events which in a fundamental way influenced the history of the country took place on the Old Town Square, and even today, people come here to celebrate sports victories and lately, sadly too often gather together to protest against the government.
Either way, when something is happening, you will surely notice that on the Old Town Square.
The Old Town Square is often packed because no visitor to the city wants to miss this must-visit place out, but you still can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere when you set off exploring the city early in the morning.
The Old Town Square is in its busiest during Easter Holiday, then in December when Christmas Markets take place here and, of course, on New Year's Eve, when people come to celebrate and say goodbye to the old year.
Our Tip: It is hard to decide on when to visit Prague as every season is different, and some months are more crowded and more expensive than others. We've created a post When Is the Best Time to Visit Prague, in case you are planning your travels.
All year round, you can find here stalls and people selling traditional Czech ham or sweet dough called trdelnik, but like many things in the center (anywhere in the world), it is terribly overpriced, and trdelnik, if we want to be pedant, is not even traditionally from the Czech Republic. It is better to taste the ham in a restaurant nearby and buy a much better cake in standard sweatshops in you fancy something sweet.
Our Tip: It is worth it to get up early in the morning, and walk around the Old Town Square before other tourists decide to do so. We do it quite often, especially in the winter, when Prague has a different atmosphere. When the city wakes up, and the square is quiet, it is hard to believe that this is the place where Prague's heart beats.
Let's have a look at the best things you can't miss when on the Old Town Square.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO ON THE OLD TOWN SQUARE
The Old Town Square dates back to the 12th century when it became an important market place for the flourishing city, and soon turned into the most important market place in the country, and often was called the Big Square.
Over the centuries many historical buildings grew around the square, and you can see here a mix of many architectural styles, such as Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic, but when standing in the middle of the square and looking around, you will have a feeling that everything is exactly how it should be.
OLD TOWN HALL
Old Town Hall, when built back in the 14th century, was the highest building in Prague, and although it is no longer true, it still stands out.
The Hall is a complex of several ancient buildings which were connected to the Gothic Tower (it is the same tower where you can see the Astronomical Clock) one by one during centuries as the expansion was necessary mostly for administration purposes and for council meetings.
We found out that not that many people know it is possible to visit Old Town Hall from where you can get a bird's eyes view of the Old Town Square. You cannot go to the top, but to a gallery which is over 40 meters above the ground, plus you can see the mechanism of the Astronomical Clock, join a guided tour of the Old Town Hall underground and explore the Gothic Chapel. You can visit the Old Town Hall from 9 AM (11 AM in winter) to 10 PM, and admire the square when it is lit up, only note that guided tours are available only until 4 PM.
You can check out the tickets here.
The Prague Astronomical Clock is known also as Prague Orloj and belongs among top attractions to see in the capital of the Czech Republic.
The medieval astronomical clock was installed at the beginning of the 15th century, in 1410 to be precise, and is pretty unique because Prague's Orloj is the oldest still working astronomical clock in the world. The Astronomical Clock was under reconstruction last year, but everything is in the place now, so when visiting Prague, you will have a great chance to see it in its best.
When walking around the Old Town Square, you will notice a large number of people flocked in front of the Orloj.
And we believe you will want to be one of them. From 9 AM to 11 PM, every hour on an hour, the parade of twelve apostles inside the clock starts moving, and although the whole thing lasts less than a minute, you cannot miss it out when in Prague.
Our tip: As every touristy city in Europe, or the whole world, Prague has a problem with pickpockets, especially in crowded places like this one. When looking up the clock and enjoying the show, do not forget to watch your belonging. We've written a full post about Safety for Travelers in Prague to make your experience in the city as smooth as possible.
ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH
As we mentioned before, the Old Town Square is an excellent example of how various architectural styles can work together.
In the northwestern corner of the Old Town Square stands Baroque St. Nicolas Church from the 18th century. It stands on this spot instead of a burnt down Gothic church. The remnants of the former church can still be found in the basement.
The white church is impressive from the outside but is even more outstanding from the inside, where you can see beautiful stucco decor, sculptures and marble altar in the front, so do not hesitate to have a look. In front of St. Nicolas Church always wait horse carts in case you would like to discover the Old Town's streets differently.
St. Nicolas Church is open to the public, and you don't need to pay any admission, but it is also a famous place for classical music concerts taking place here almost every day later in the afternoon or in the evening, and in case you would like to enjoy a bit of culture, you need to purchase a ticket.
CHURCH OF OUR LADY BEFORE TYN
The Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn stands in a row of multicolored houses, and at first sight, looks almost like it does not belong here with 80 meters high spires towering behind.
The characteristic photos of the Old Town Square with the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn in the background is one of the most famous ones, so we believe you've already seen this structure without even knowing its name. The construction of the church took quite a long time (a couple of centuries actually), so the interior is made in Baroque style. It is possible to go inside the church, but you cannot take photos.
The entrance to the church is not from the Old Town Square, but you need to follow the narrow street on the left side of the church to reach the doors. There is a voluntary entrance fee 25 CZK. Opening hours vary, and the church is not open all day long, so always check it online before your visit.
JAN HUS MEMORIAL
When facing St. Nicolas Church, you will see Jan Hus Memorial on your right dominating the center of the Old Town Square.
The memorial was unveiled in 1915, 500 years after Jan Hus, the Czech religious reformer and teacher who used progressive methods in education in the 15th century, was burned to death in Constance for his beliefs which he denied to call off. To remember this event, we celebrate a national holiday in the Czech Republic on July 6th. You can sit near the monument for a bit and take a break.
From time to time there are historical panels near Jan Hus Monument, where you can read about interesting facts from the Czech history, but it is not a rule.
Storch House is also known as At the Stone Virgin Mary, and is yet another impressive building standing on the Old Town Square notable especially for its facade where you can see many paintings, for example, one of a significant person of Czech history Jan Amos Komensky or of St. Wenceslas, the patron of Czech people. You can find the main square in Prague (and the Czech Republic) named after St. Wenceslas, the Wenceslas Square with a large equestrian statue only a couple of hundred meters from the Old Town Square.
The house is not that old in comparison with other buildings on the Old Town Square it was built in the late 19th century in the Neo-Gothic style for a rich citizen of Prague who owned a publishing company.
THE KINSKÝ PALACE
Kinsky Palace is a former palace built in Rococo architectural style in the 18th century on the site of three houses with early medieval foundations.
The palace was constructed for a rich family of Golz (some people still call the place Golz Palace or Golz-Kinsky Palace) but later was bought by another rich and noble Czech family of Kinsky. Nowadays, the building of the palace belongs to the National Gallery, and hosts exhibitions which are not permanent though, so always check what is going on at the time of your visit.
Kinsky Palace's balcony was also the place where Klement Gottwald, the president of Czechoslovakia, announced in 1948 the beginning of communism. The hated regime lasted until 1989, and in 1990 Vaclav Havel announced from the very same balcony that the time of communism is over and promised this system would never come back.
We can only hope so!
THE STONE BELL HOUSE
Right next to Kinsky Palace you can see the Stone Bell House (you can find the stone bell on the right corner of the house).
The house was built in the 14th century and since then was rebuilt multiple times, but thanks to great restoration works, the building still keeps its charm.
THE HOUSE AT THE MINUTE
Have you ever heard of a famous writer Franz Kafka?
We really like his books, although they are a bit strange.
Well, when he was a kid, he lived with his parents at The House in the Minute for several years. Except for this event, the late Gothic building is notable for the sgraffito technique you can see on the house facade.
WHERE TO STAY ON OLD TOWN SQUARE IN PRAGUE
Prague has a large number of hotels to choose from, but we feel those who want to stay right in the heart of the city, on the Old Town Square. Who wouldn't like to walk out the door and see the architectural beauty first thing in the morning?
We've handpicked three best hotels close or right on the Old Town Square for every budget.
Budget | Hostel Franz Kafka - Only 100 meters from the Old Town Square is this hostel offering both private rooms and dormitories for a very affordable price when you realize the hard-to-beat location.
Mid-range | Oldtown Square Cape - Apartment-type accommodation offers a view of the Old Town Square, free wi-fi, spacious bedroom, and all the comfort you would expect.
Luxury | The Emblem Hotel - Elegant hotel close to the Old Town Square offers guests the combination with historic settings and modern rooms, great rooftop terrace with panoramic views of Prague, knowledgeable staff and spa zone.
WHERE TO EAT ON THE OLD TOWN SQUARE
We believe that when you want to get the full experience from Prague, you need to try the traditional Czech food.
When doing the research for this post, we also could see that many people interested in visiting Prague search for a very specific term, restaurants on the Old Town Square.
But here comes a problem.
We are not sure we can recommend any restaurant right on the square as we have a quite negative opinion when it comes to food served near tourist attractions (they often have a feeling they don’t need to work that hard because of the great location tourists will find them anyway).
All restaurants on the Old Town Square will probably be fine and serve decent meals, but for the price you pay, we would be looking for something better than just fine. Generally, if you are visiting Prague once in a lifetime, want to enjoy lunch with a view, and don't mind to splurge a bit, you will get an ok food, but you can find many delicious restaurants not far from the Old Town Square.
For the best views from above, we can suggest making a reservation in the Restaurant U Prince.
HOW TO GET TO THE OLD TOWN SQUARE
Old Town Square is located in the historical part of Prague and is easily accessible.
The best way how to reach the square is to use public transport, metro to be specific. You can use metro line B or A and get off on Mustek station, line A and get off at Staromestska Station, or use line B and get off at Namesti Republiky Square.
From all those places, Old Town Square is a short walk.
THINGS TO SEE NEAR THE OLD TOWN SQUARE
Old Town Square is a perfect place where to start exploring Prague.
You can read our 3-day Prague Itinerary to get an idea of how to plan your days in the city.
When on the Old Town Square, you can walk to Wenceslas Square, Prasna Brana (Powder Gate), Obecni dum (Municipal Hall) on Republic Square, Parizska Street, Jewish Quarter, Vltava River or even Charles Bridge, so as you can see, you can base your itinerary around the Old Town Square, and even if you don't have much time for sightseeing, you will see a lot within a limited period.
You can also read our post 5 Best Things to Do in Prague.
5 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO PACK FOR PRAGUE
For a couple of days long city break, pack comfortable clothes for walking, but here are five essentials you should have in your backpack for sure.
Travel Adapter | When traveling from outside Europe, do not forget that we have different sockets here, so bring along travel adapter with multi-plugs to keep your electronics working.
Umbrella | It can rain in Prague any time of the year, having a sturdy windproof umbrella can save your day.
Camera | Prague is one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe, so make sure you have a quality camera ready.
Guidebook | Although we love reading travel blogs and follow the advice of people who had visited the place before us, we also like to walk around the city with the good oldfashioned paperback.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
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