Charles Bridge is one of the most famous constructions in Prague thanks to its beauty and strategic location — it connects two of the best-loved neighbourhoods in the Czech capital: Staré Město and Malá Strana. Each district appears to converse with the other from its respective bank of the Vltava River. They both have main squares (Malostranské Náměstí and Staroměstské náměstí) that function as the heart of the neighbourhood and both have temples dedicated to Saint Nicholas.
However, this time we’re shining the spotlight on the Old Town. The first historical references to this neighbourhood date from the 9th century; later it became an independent city with its own walls and town hall.
The haphazard and enchanting layout of Staré Město is the clearest evidence of its medieval origins. In fact, while you wander aimlessly around its tangled network of streets and admire the churches and elegant historical buildings dotted around the neighbourhood, it’s easy to imagine yourself transported to another era.
And although the district is perfect for walking around without a map or a planned destination in mind, one place you mustn’t miss is Old Town Square. The colourful façades in this magical setting proudly show off their individual features, as if they were trying to catch the attention of passers-by, and the unique character of each building stands out next to its neighbours. The centre of the square is dominated by the Jan Hus Memorial, a monument to the Protestant leader who was burned at the stake for heresy. He was honoured by the city of Prague 500 years after his death when it erected this sculpture in tribute to him in this significant location.
Before you see the monument you’ll probably spot the famous Prague Astronomical Clock. This medieval jewel entertains visitors every time it strikes the hour when its sculptures come to life and take part in a unique show; figures representing the 12 apostles appear one by one in its two little upper windows.
Another key feature of Old Town Square is the church of Our Lady before Tyn. Although it isn’t actually located right in the square, it attracts many admiring looks due to its pointed shape and unusually tall towers. And on the theme of towers, make sure you don’t miss the Old Town Tower, a stunning Gothic building that presides over the entrance to Charles Bridge, and the Powder Tower on the far side of the neighbourhood. The elegant Municipal House, considered a masterpiece of Prague’s Art Nouveau movement, is located next to the Powder Tower. Its refined façade and interior halls prove that Staré Město has far more to offer travellers than just the vestiges of its medieval past.
Finally, book lovers should definitely find time to visit the Clementinum. Once an old Jesuit college, this building houses a Baroque library with over 20,000 books — it’s worth stepping inside simply to admire its period furniture and the frescos that decorate the walls.
The Astronomical Clock: Prague’s best-loved way to tell the time
Prague’s Astronomical Clock, built with the most advanced technology in the fifteenth century, is one of the most visited sights in the Old Town of the Czech capital.
Prague at Christmas: the land of Christmas markets
During the Christmas months, Prague’s streets turn snow white, street markets spring up in its squares and the city’s towers become spontaneous viewpoints.
Clementinum, Prague’s architectural treasure
Located at the entrance to Prague’s Old Town, this group of buildings converted into the National Library represents a unique journey into the past.