The Old Town is a quarter situated on the left bank of the Vltava River. It is the main historical centre of Prague, which is considered the heart of the whole metropolis. Most of Prague’s most important and most visited sights are located in the Old Town. At the same time, there are a great number of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops. The Royal Route, a historical tourist route that covers the most important sights in the centre of Prague, goes through the Old Town. It includes places such as Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square, Prague Castle and the Lesser Town.
The area of the Old Town is the very place where Prague was founded. It was settled already in the 8th century. In the 12th century, houses and church buildings were built on both banks of the Vltava River. A century later, the Old Town became a town municipality and was granted a permission by Czech King John of Luxembourg to build a town hall on the Old Town Square. During the same period, the Old Town and Gallus Town were united. The Old Town experienced its most flourishing period under the reign of Charles IV in the 14thcentury. During that time, many Gothic buildings and houses were built and Charles University was established in Prague.
Together with the New Town, the Old Town was able to defend itself against Swedish troops during the Thirty Years’ War. However, in the 18th century, it was occupied by Bavarian-French troops and the Prussians. The Old Town was united into the Royal Capital of Prague in the second half of the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Czech national renaissance movement started to form in the area of the Old Town. It was also at this time when the old Gothic houses were reconstructed in neo-Gothic, neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque styles.
During World War II, the area was significantly damaged and during the totalitarian regime it began to decay. The sights were not reconstructed or restored until 1989.
Places to see in the Old Town
Old Town Square
The Old Town Hall with its famous Astronomical Clock, as well as many other notable buildings on the Old Town Square, are among the greatest tourist attractions in the historical centre of Prague. The Old Town Square is the heart of the Old Town and is connected with important events in Czech history.
The Rudolfinum is situated on Jan Palach Square on the left bank of the Vltava River. The neo-Renaissance building is the seat of the Czech Philharmonic and the Galerie Rudolfinum. The Prague Spring International Music Festival is held in the Rudolfinum every year. The building also houses a café.
Powder Tower and Municipal House
The 65-metre high Powder Tower, adorned with beautiful sculptural decoration, was built in Gothic style in the 15th century. Today, the tower combines several architectural styles. Visitors can take the stairs up to the viewing gallery, which is located at a height of 44 metres.
The Klementinum was originally built as a Jesuit college. There is a Baroque library of the Charles University inside the Klementinum.
Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River and offers a beautiful view of Hradčany and Prague Castle. Being built by Charles IV in the 14th century, it is the second oldest bridge in the Czech Republic. Charles Bridge is lined with a number of interesting statues and is a favourite location for street artists.
Jewish sights are also part of the Old Town – for example, the Jewish Museum, the Old New Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue. The Jewish town was demolished and replaced by wider boulevards at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Despite that, many Jewish sights have been preserved and are frequently visited today.
Culture and entertainment in the Old Town
The Estates Theatre, dating back to the 18th century, is located in the Old Town. Some scenes of the famous film Amadeus, directed by Czech director Miloš Forman, were shot at the Estates Theatre. Today, the Estates Theatre is part of the National Theatre.
There are other theatres in the area, for example, the Viola Theatre, V Rytířské Theatre, V Celetné Theatre or the Broadway Theatre.
Where to eat
Wine O’Clock Shop Praque offers a great selection of good wines in combination with tasty food. BEEF BAR Prague specializes in steaks, just like George Prime Steak.
Lehká káva restaurant is a good choice mainly for vegetarians. They serve modern, varied dishes and quesadillas.
Zlatá Praha restaurant offers a selection of specialties as well as a nice view of the Lesser Town and Hradčany.
Hany Bany, which is popular with students, is a place to go for a good beer and a quick lunch at a good price.
Café Paris is a café with pleasant and quiet atmosphere in the style of the 20’s and 30’s. Situated near the Old Town Square, U Zlatého jelena café has its own bakery and offers baked desserts and toasts.