Whatever your Prague sightseeing plans may be, you’ll almost certainly visit some churches in Prague during your time there. It’s known as the City of a Hundred Spires, although there aren’t quite that many Prague churches to visit. Yet they are among the most visible things to see in Prague, and among the most fascinating.
Our guide to the best churches in Prague takes you on a city-wide tour. No Prague guide is complete without visiting Prague Castle and St Vitus’ Cathedral, one of four cathedrals in Prague in all. We’ll also take you around the narrow streets of the Stare Mesto, Old Town Prague, where we’ll discover many a Prague church and chapel. We’ll also venture to some Prague suburbs, where we’ll encounter more recent Prague architecture.
Catholic churches in Prague are predominant, but we’ll also visit Orthodox, Ruthenian and Hussite churches among our places to go in Prague. The churches of Prague are a great introduction to Prague history, spanning almost a millennium from the earliest to the most recent. Many of the top Prague attractions are architectural, so our Prague churches guide doubles as suggestions for some of the best things to do in Prague.
- 1 The Best Churches in Prague – Our Top 5
- 2 Our Lady Before Tyn Church Prague
- 3 SS Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Cathedral
- 4 St Nicholas Old Town Square
- 5 St Nicholas Church Prague, Mala Strana
- 6 St Vitus’ Cathedral
- 7 St George’s Basilica
- 8 Rotunda of St Martin, Vyšehrad
- 9 SS Peter & Paul Basilica Vyšehrad
- 10 St Salvator
- 11 Bethlehem Chapel
- 12 St Giles Church
- 13 Loreta Church Prague
- 14 St Martin’s in the Wall Church
- 15 Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, Vinohrady
- 16 Strahov Monastery
- 17 St Michael Ruthenian Church, Kinskeho Zahrada
- 18 St Mary of the Snows Church
The Best Churches in Prague – Our Top 5
St Vitus Cathedral
Our Lady Before Tyn
St Nicholas Church, Lesser Town
St Giles Church, Old Town
SS Peter & Paul, Vysehrad
Our Lady Before Tyn Church Prague
The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn is one of the most prominent landmarks of Prague. Its twin towers and spires are unmistakable, giving the Old Town Square Prague – which the church overlooks – its fairytale feel. It’s one of the most recognisable Prague sights, yet doesn’t get anything like the flood of visitors the Square outside gets.
The interior windows are clear and the Gothic roof vault is quite plain – this is offset by more elaborate Baroque paintings and decorations. The Tyn church looks especially beautiful during the Prague Christmas Markets every December.
SS Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Cathedral
The crypt of this Orthodox Prague Cathedral attracts far more visitors than the main Baroque body of the church. Fans of the movies Anthropoid and The Man with The Iron Heart will recognise this as the location where the assassins of Nazi ‘Protector’ Reinhard Heydrich were cornered and killed.
The heroism of the two assassins, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčik, and their cohorts is commemorated in a small but detailed exhibition, and there are statues of them in the crypt itself.
St Nicholas Old Town Square
The other church overlooking Prague Old Town Square is this Baroque beauty. It replaced an earlier Gothic church on the same site. It was designed by the Bohemian Baroque architect Kilian Ignaz Dietzenhofer, who also designed the Kinsky Palace over the river in Smichov. Its grand exterior doesn’t quite prepare you for the ornate Baroque blow-out within. It’s just a few metres away from the statue of church reformer Jan Hus in Old Town Square, and indeed is affiliated to the Hussite Church. One of a good number of must sees in Prague.
St Nicholas Church Prague, Mala Strana
St Nicholas Church in the Lesser Town is one of the top attractions in Prague for architecture lovers. It’s a gorgeous Baroque church, dominating the Mala Strana Prague skyline. The Mala Strana district seems to focus around it, surrounded by the busy hub of Malostranské Namesti (Lesser Town Square).
This isn’t a place for Hussite austerity and simplicity. Instead, you get Baroque bombast, a feast of elaborate murals and marble statues. It’s pretty impressive inside, but I prefer its simple exterior, with its green dome and matching adjacent belfry.
The bell tower is one of the best viewpoints in Prague, offering views of Mala Strana and across to the Old Town. It’s one of the most interesting Prague towers to visit, as it has several rooms fitted out, including the tower keepers’ living quarters. The tower also served as a spy listening post during the Cold war, with Soviet spies regularly eavesdropping on the numerous embassies in the Mala Strana area.
St Vitus’ Cathedral
St Vitus Cathedral dominates the Prague skyline. It’s the centrepiece of the Prague Castle complex, and the outstanding church in the whole of the Czech Republic. It is the nearest thing the country has to a ‘national church’, housing the tombs of several Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. It is to Prague what Westminster Abbey is to London.
Much of St Vitus’ Cathedral (also dedicated to St Wenceslas and St Adalbert) dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The second lead architect was Petr Parler, who was also responsible for the Charles Bridge down the hill, and his sons took over the project after his death. It’s a late Gothic masterpiece, one of the most beautiful churches in Europe.
Don’t miss the exquisite Wenceslas Chapel, which houses the shrine of St Wenceslas (of ‘Good King’ fame). The Cathedral also has relics purportedly belonging to St Vitus, a martyr from Sicily, and St Adalbert. The latter’s relics were pilfered from Gniezno in Poland, though the Poles insist they got the wrong bones, stealing those of another saint, Gaudentius, instead.
St George’s Basilica
The second church in Prague Castle dates back to the foundation of Prague Castle in the 10th century, and has gone through various vicissitudes like its near-neighbour, St Vitus’ Cathedral. The original church was rebuilt in 1142, and some of the body of the church and the two eastern towers date from this Romanesque period.
Later additions include the Gothic-style chapel housing the relics of St Ludmila, the grandmother of St Wenceslas. The red Baroque façade dates from the 17th century. The church is now used as a gallery of the National Gallery in Prague, and occasionally as a concert venue. You can visit St George’s Basilica on the same Prague Castle tour ticket as St Vitus Cathedral.
Rotunda of St Martin, Vyšehrad
The Romanesque Rotunda of St Martin is the oldest church Prague has left. It dates from the second half of the 11th century, so is around 950 years old. It has subsequently been used as a gunpowder store and shelter for the local poor. It has suffered the depredations of time, and been restored and rebuilt. It is still used for church services. Unfortunately this remarkable building is rarely open to the public – you need to contact the Vyšehrad clergy to arrange a guided tour. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t miss it, as it’s in the middle of one of the most beautiful parks in Prague.
SS Peter & Paul Basilica Vyšehrad
The twin spires of the Gothic Revival church of Saints Peter and Paul in Vyšehrad are the most prominent feature on the southern Prague skyline. They’ve become very familiar to us as we see them from our tram which passes below the fortress.
There have been four churches on the site prior to the current late 19th and early 20th century Basilica. We were pleasantly surprised to find that much of the interior decoration is Art Nouveau, with a series of rich paintings covering the walls and stone roof vaulting. Vyšehrad is fairly underrated – it should be regarded as one of the best attractions in. Prague. It’s also worth the short climb up the hill for the views down the river to Prague Castle, and the cemetery next to the church, which contains the tombs of many Czech luminaries.
St Salvator Church is one of the top things to see Prague has, but most probably don’t realise it. One of the best things in Prague is the unforgettable view of the Old Town from Charles Bridge, with the church spires and dome forming one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. Well, St Salvator church – part of the large Klementinum complex across the street from Charles Bridge – is a major part of this view, with its spires, lantern tower and many statues. If you are planning on photographing Prague, you’ll be seeing plenty of this fine church through your viewfinder.
The Jesuits originally built St Salvator’s as a Gothic church in the late 16th century, not that you would know it. Within half a century it was remodelled in Baroque style. It’s subtly beautiful inside, especially the painted lantern tower. The church is frequently used as a venue for classical music concerts in Prague.
The Bethlehem Chapel in Prague’s Old Town had an important role in Czech history, as it was where reformer Jan Hus served for 10 years (1402-1412) as rector. He preached against what he saw as excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, and was excommunicated and later executed for propagating his views.
Interestingly, the current building was constructed by the Czechoslovak Communist regime, who weren’t known for promoting religious causes. It was built to resemble what it would have been like at the time of Hus, shortly after its original reconstruction. It’s like a cavernous Gothic barn, largely unadorned save for a few wall paintings.
St Giles Church
If you love Baroque architecture and art, seeing the interior of St Giles Church – Kostel Sv Jilji – should be one of your top Prague things to do. The Gothic exterior doesn’t begin to hint at what’s inside, but walk in and you’re transported to another world.
The church was given to the Dominican Order in 1625, and they maintain it to this day. They stripped out the interior, changing it beyond recognition. The walls and ceiling are a series of amazing frescoes by Wenzel Lorenz Reiner on a light blue background, bearing a passing similarity ion overall pleasing effect to the Annakirche in Vienna.
Loreta Church Prague
The Loreta Church is located in the Hradčany (Castle District) of Prague. It’s a pilgrimage destination, and the main attraction for devotees is the Holy House, reputedly a replica of the house inhabited by the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary and Jesus). The church is a full-on Baroque bonanza of wall-to-wall frescoes and gilded ornamentation. It’s like the reformation never happened.
There’s also a collection of monstrances (extremely ornate vessels, often sun-shaped, holding objects of veneration) – one of these has an incredible 6,222 diamonds. Entry is paid. It’s one of the more out-of-the-way points of interest in Prague, at the top end of Castle Hill, but could easily be combined with the Strahov Monastery, Church and Library five minutes’ walk around the corner.
St Martin’s in the Wall Church
St Martin’s in the Wall is a rare survival in Prague, a medieval church that has stayed largely intact, with only a few small Baroque modifications. It’s a beautifully simple Gothic church built on earlier, Romanesque foundations. It’s famous for a gargoyle of a small boy – the story goes that a boy’s mother saw him clambering on the roof, and shouted,”You’ll turn to stone for this sin!” And so he supposedly did. Enlightened parenting was still some way off, it would seem.
Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, Vinohrady
Many people’s what to see in Prague plans don’t extend beyond the Old Town and Lesser Town. This is a pity, as they miss out on the likes of Vinohrady, the suburb just beyond Hlavni Nadrazi, Prague’s main railway station.
This striking modernist 20th century church was built by Jože Plečnik, Slovenia’s best-known architect. It’s a striking building inside and out – the first time I saw it I wasn’t quite sure what it was. It has a distinctive wide tower with the largest clock in the Czech Republic. Inside, look out for the statues of Christ and the six patron saints of Bohemia. There is also a tunnel-shaped chapel in the crypt.
It’s a hike up the hill from Mala Strana, but go out of your way to this Monastery, as it’s one of the top Prague attractions. The stunning Baroque library is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The standard tickets give you access to a hallway from which you can see the two magnificent library rooms – but the doorway is as far as you can go. It may be worth looking at a Strahov Monastery guided tour so that you can see everything from much closer.
The Strahov Monastery church is a little more restrained than some of the other Prague Baroque churches we’ve described, and it’s all the better for it. Most of what we see now dates from a restoration between 1742 and 1758. The fine series of murals and ceiling paintings depict scenes form the life of St Norbert, who is buried in the monastery. It belongs to the Premonstratensian Order. The whole complex should be a must see in Prague. The beer brewed there is pretty fine too.
St Michael Ruthenian Church, Kinskeho Zahrada
After all this grandeur, now for a Prague hidden gem. The Kinsky Palace and gardens in Smichov are one of the must-see places in Prague, and if you’re spending anything over four days in Prague I suggest you seek it out. It’s a hilly park to the south of Petrin Hill, and it contains this wonderful surprise hidden away in the woods.
The gorgeous Church of the Archangel Michael at Petrin is an 18th century wooden church from the Ruthenia region in modern Ukraine. It’s tiny, with a series of three wooden spires. Some of our local friends hadn’t even heard of it.
St Mary of the Snows Church
Our Lady of the Snows Church (Kostel Panny Marie Snežné) was meant to be the second largest church in Prague after St Vitus’ Cathedral. It was never finished, but is vast, with the highest vault (over 34 metres, or 112 feet) in the city. It’s somehow impressive for its bulk, and is reminiscent of the enormous unfinished cathedral in Beauvais, France, and the huge brick Mariacki church in Gdansk, Poland.
Inside, it’s even more impressive, with the vault soaring skyward and a pillared altarpiece reaching nearly as high. The best view of it is from Frantiskanska Zahrada (Franciscan Gardens), one of the best gardens in Prague, a serene spot just behind Wenceslas Square.