Founded in 1348, New Town (Nové Město) is hardly new. Charles IV’s urban development scheme imposed straight avenues on the settlements springing up outside the old city walls and added a fourth town to the constellation of Old Town, Malá Strana and Hradčany. Unlike the Old Town, New Town was a planned grid of streets and markets. The horse market became Wenceslas Square in the 19th century; the 14th-century cattle market, and Europe’s largest square, took on Charles’s name, becoming Karlovo náměstí. The hay market, Senovážné náměstí, kept its title until the Communists changed it for a time to honour the Russian novelist Maxim Gorky. Since the Velvet Revolution was played out on Národní and Wenceslas Square, these and the surrounding streets have been filled with exciting enterprises.
This former horse market, in contrast to its (see Wenceslas Square) medieval counterpart in the Old Town, expresses the history of 20th-century Prague, from its many beautiful Art Nouveau façades to the memories of the numerous marches, political protests and celebrations that have shaped the city over the past 100 years.
Formerly a moat protecting the city’s eastern flank, Na Příkopě is Prague’s fashion boulevard, counting Gant, Benetton, Korres (the only branch in the Czech Republic) and Guess among its range of big-name stores. Shoppers jam the pedestrian zone and pavement cafés, streaming between the gleaming Myslbek shopping centre and Slovanský dům, with its 10-screen multiplex cinema. The Hussite firebrand Jan Želivský preached on the site now occupied by another shopping mall, the Černá Růže Palace.
The odd couple of the Art Nouveau Municipal House and the Neo-Gothic Powder Tower are the centrepiece of Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square), facing the Czech National Bank’s stern façade and the renovated Hybernia Theatre. Behind the theatre is the former home of the Lenin Museum, which was closed in 1991 after the Communists had lost power. In the northeast corner of the square stands Palladium, a unique shopping mall with the exterior of the former Franciscan Monastery and newly built interior. On the opposite side stands Kotva, a former socialist department store.
The Franciscans moved here in 1604, claiming a former Carmelite monastery. The grounds and nearby Church of Our Lady of the Snow had fallen into decay after the Hussite civil war, but the monks beautifully restored them. The gardens were closed to the public until 1950, when the Communists thought they were worth sharing. Although there’s little love lost for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the gardens (see Franciscan Garden) remain popular with young couples and pigeon-feeding pensioners.
The end of Communism in Czechoslovakia began midway between the National Theatre and what is now the Tesco supermarket. On 17 November 1989, police put a brutal end to a pro-democracy march as it made its way down to Wenceslas Square. A plaque at Národní třída 20 marks the spot where the marchers and the truncheons met.
Národní třída 2 • www.narodni-divadlo.cz
Patriotic Czechs funded the theatre’s construction twice: once in 1868 and again after fire destroyed the building in 1883. To see the stunning allegorical ceiling frescoes and Vojtěch Hynais’s celebrated stage curtain, take in one of the operas staged here; good picks are Smetana’s Libuše, which debuted here, or Dvořák’s The Devil and Kate. You can see multimedia performances at the Laterna Magika next door.
Rašínovo nábřeží 80 • www.tancici-dum.cz
Built in 1992–6, this edifice by Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry is known as the Dancing House, or “Ginger and Fred”, due to its iconic towers, which resemble two dancers. Most of the building is now a hotel owned by former Czech international football player, Vladimír Šmicer. The two tower rooms, with their castle and Vltava views, are among the best in the capital.
Karlovo náměstí 23 • Tower open Apr–Nov 10am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm • www.nrpraha.cz
In 1419, an anti-clerical mob led by Jan Želivský hurled the Catholic mayor and his councillors from a New Town Hall window in the first of Prague’s defenestrations. The Gothic tower was added a few years later; its viewing platform is open to the public. Crowds gather at the tower’s base most Saturdays to congratulate newlyweds married in the building’s Gothic hall.
Charles IV had his city planners build New Town’s central square to the same dimensions as Jerusalem’s. Originally a cattle market, it is now a park popular with dog-walkers. Among the trees are monuments to such luminaries as Eliška Krásnohorská, who wrote libretti for Smetana’s operas. To the west, on Resslova, is the18th-century Cathedral of Sts Cyril and Methodius. The Czech resistance fighters who assassinated Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich (1904–42) took refuge here before their deaths (see Church of our Lady Victorious).
The riverside square is named for the 19th-century historian František Palacký, whose work was integral to the National Revival. Stanislav Sucharda’s sweeping monument to him stands at the plaza’s northern end, while the modern steeples of the Emaus Monastery (see Emaus Devil) rise from the eastern edge. The church grounds are also known as the Slavonic Monastery, named after the liturgy the resident Balkan Benedictines used. Sadly, American bombs demolished the monastery’s original Baroque steeples in 1945 on St Valentine’s Day, as part of the Allies’ World War II campaign.
The area at the bottom of Wenceslas Square takes its name from the “Little Bridge” that spanned the moat here in medieval times. Below the surface, at the top of the escalators descending to the train platform, you’ll find the remains of that bridge, uncovered by workers building the metro.
Head to Wenceslas Square to begin the day’s sightseeing. Start with the National Museum at the top of the square. The nation’s leading natural history museum, which re-opened its gates recently is worth a visit. Walk to St Wenceslas’s statue and the monument to Communism’s victims. Get in a bit of retail therapy as you stroll north to Můstek, then visit the Museum of Communism, located, ironically, above McDonald’s and a casino. Then walk 10 minutes west down stately Národní třída towards the river for lunch at Dynamo.
A short walk to the river and north along its banks leads you to the National Theatre for a glimpse at its magnificent façade. Then follow the Vltava south. Modern-art buffs should stop at Galerie Mánes on the way. Further south, pause at Jiráskovo náměstí to admire the iconic Post-Modern Dancing House. Then turn left and follow Resslova uphill to the Cathedral of Sts Cyril and Methodius and leafy Karlovo náměstí.
Take in a performance at the National Theatre in the evening; U Fleků is the obvious choice for dinner, before or after. If you still have the energy, head to Radost FX to dance the night away or to Rocky O’Reilly’s for its cosy atmosphere and live music.
Masarykovo nábřeží 250 • Open 10am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm
Occupying the southern tip of Žofín Island, this contemporary art gallery hosts both Czech and foreign artists.
Resslova 6 • Open 1–6pm Mon–Thu, 1–5pm Fri • www.galerieviaart.com
Founded in 1991 as one of Prague’s first private galleries, Galerie Via Art exhibits contemporary painting, sculpture and mixed-media art and arranges artist exchanges.
Nové mlýny 2 • Open 9am–noon, 1–5pm Tue–Sun • Adm • www.postovnimuzeum.cz
Philatelists’ mouths water over this one. Its exhibitions illustrate the colourful history of postage stamps in the Czech Republic and Europe. Sells commemorative sheets and graphic works too.
Panská 7 • Open 10am–6pm daily • Adm • www.mucha.cz
Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha is a national hero. Here you’ll find his journals, sketchbooks and paintings, both private and commercial.
Na Poříčí 52 • Open 9am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm • en.muzeumprahy.cz
Visitors can explore 19th-century Prague with Antonín Langweil’s scaled replica of the city.
V Celnici 4 • Open 9am–8pm daily • Adm • muzeumkomunismu.cz/en/
A triptych of the dream, reality and nightmare that was Communist Czechoslovakia. The museum is filled with mementos of the nation’s past.
Národní třída 30 • Open 11am–7pm daily • www.spalovka.cz
This contemporary gallery exhibits works mainly by local artists and aims to make art more accessible.
Václavské náměstí 68 • Open 10am–6pm Tue–Sun • Adm • www.nm.cz
Its collections are mainly devoted to archaeology, mineralogy, anthropology, numismatics and natural history (see National Museum).
Ke Karlovu 1 • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Sun • Adm • www.muzeumpolicie.cz
Engaging exhibits, such as an interactive crime scene, document the history of the police.
Ke Karlovu 20 • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Sun • Adm • www.nm.cz
This Baroque palace houses the composer’s (see Antonín Dvořák) piano and viola, as well as other memorabilia.
Late at night, club kids take over the disco, lounge and café (see Radost FX). By day, a broader demographic comes in for the good vegetarian food. Sunday brunch is especially popular. Open until 4am.
Enjoy excellent cocktails, varied cuisine and free music entertainment at this trendy international music bar and lounge. Happy hours are between 6pm and 8pm.
One of Prague's top music clubs, Jazz Republic features live jazz, funk, blues, dance, Latin, fusion or world music seven nights a week. The programme varies every month.
The granddaddy of Prague’s clubs, the cavernous Lucerna hosts live jazz as well as rock and dance parties.
V Jámě 8
If you want to step out for drinks and meet interesting people, then this gay club is the perfect place. Expect oil shows, striptease performances, dance shows, drinking games and much more.
Národní třída 20
Many celebrated musicians have played here, as has former US President Bill Clinton. Visit to hear all types of jazz from swing bands to modern styles.
Václavské nám. 21
During the day, Duplex is an ideal location for lunch or dinner with good views of the city. At night it turns into one of Prague’s most exclusive clubs.
Set in the luxurious Alcron hotel, this Art Deco-style elegant bar offers a wide range of unique signature cocktails, drinks and snacks, along with lively jazz performances.
V Cípu 1
Close to 100 billiard, pool and snooker tables, plus four lanes of bowling and two table-tennis sets. If you’re planning on going on Friday or Saturday, it is best to make a reservation – this place can get crowded. The bar serves drinks only.
This atmospheric club in an original stone cellar features stylish lighting and a gracefully curvaceous long bar. A separate lounge is a popular place for various private events.
Pštrossova 6 • 224 934203
The quality of the food varies with the Globe’s mercurial staff. The best time to visit is weekend brunch.
This place serves excellent Moravian wines, plus a wide array of spirits and cocktails. At night the bar transforms into a nightclub.
Students at the Institut Français and other Francophones gather here for coffee, quiche and a quiet read of the French newspapers. The garden is a peaceful spot on sunny days.
Vodičkova 20 • 222 232448
Enter this great place to expand your knowledge of beer and try classic Czech dishes in a working brewery.
Na bojišti 12–14
This pub’s decor and cartooned walls are based on the Czech novel The Good Soldier Švejk. Author Jaroslav Hašek set some of the pivotal scenes here.
Lípová 15 • 296 216666 • www.pivovarskydum.com
A lovely restaurant and brewery (see Pivovarský dům), with traditional Czech interiors, which offers a unique range of beers.
Offering all a Celtophile could ask for, this pub has live music in the evenings, football on the TV, a roaring fire and plenty of stout. The food’s decent as well.
Národní třída 20
Franz Kafka, Max Brod and their writer friends used to hold court here. It’s a bright, cheerful place, good for conversation and grabbing a bite to eat. At the back is Prague’s classiest pool hall.
Exactly what you might expect from the city that created the “Beer-Barrel Polka”. U Fleků is the city’s oldest brewing pub, dating to 1499, and probably the most popular, and the prices reflect it. It is known for its dark lager.
Conveniently set at the heart of the city, Rock Café hosts live concerts and has a multimedia space that features a theatre and a gallery.
Pštrossova 29 • 224 932020 •
This Post-Modern diner serves dishes such as rump steak in marinade with thyme and oregano. A wide selection of vegetarian options is on offer.
Politických vězňů 13 •
Enjoy traditional Czech dishes such as game goulash with Carlsbad dumplings. In the summer, you can eat alfresco.
Legerova 40 • 226 203880 •
Choose from a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes accompanied by an excellent range of wines and innovative cocktails.
Kateřinská 7 • Closed Sun • 224 918425 •
Named for a famous Czech opera diva, the restaurant is a labour of love for the American owner and chef Steven Trumpfheller. The eatery’s seasonal menu focuses on high-quality seafood, Black Angus steaks and unusual game dishes. The elegant setting suits a special night out.
Jungmannovo náměstí 16 • 221 111152 •
A great-value Czech beer hall since 1843, this is a very popular lunchtime destination. Food is simple but hearty, and the atmosphere lively.
Jindřišská 5 • 222 212622 •
This is fast Thai food at its best, great for a quick snack or light meal. Huge windows create a great opportunity for people watching.
Myslíkova 14 • 224 919056 •
Thai and Continental specials. The ingredients used are fresh, the presentation colourful and service is fast and friendly.
V jámě 7 • 222 967081 •
Delicious Tex-Mex and American specialities and a fun atmosphere. Jáma organizes regular parties and sports events.
V Jámě 6 • 221 634103 •
The house restaurant of the Icon Hotel & Lounge offers inventive, high-quality tapas dishes, along with very good local and foreign wines in an upbeat, contemporary setting.