A Guide to Old Town Prague

Image of Prague Old Town from the Old Town Bridge Tower
Image of Prague Old Town

Old Town Prague is possibly the most beautiful part of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, indeed the world.

This is where you will find the greatest concentration of towers and historic buildings in the City of 100 Spires, and if it’s your first chance to visit Prague, there’s a strong chance you’ll be spending a not inconsiderable amount of your time here.

As well as the obvious Prague attractions like Old Town Square and the stunning Tyn Church, there are also many atmospheric back streets to explore.

Everywhere you look there is amazing architecture, spanning 800 years from Gothic to Art. Nouveau.

The further off the beaten path you explore, the more surprises reveal themselves, from a gorgeous Gothic convent turned into an art gallery to some of the best Prague pubs.  

Old Town Prague is a small area, but you’ll need a comfortable pair of walking shoes for this as we’ll be covering a good few miles.    

 Exactly Where Is Old Town Prague?

Image of Prague Old Town from the Old Town Bridge Tower
The Old Town from the Old Town Bridge Tower

Prague Old Town -Staré Město in. Czech – is situated on the east side – or right bank – of the Vltava River in Prague.  

The Old Town ‘starts’ at Národni, its western and northern boundary formed by the river (and, of course, Charles Bridge).

You can easily walk its southern and eastern boundary in 15-20 minutes, provided you don’t stop at any of the (many) Prague attractions en route.

Starting at the Café Slavia on the corner of Národní, continue the length of this street, then proceeding along 28 Řijna, which runs into the busy shopping street,Na Přikopě.

Pass the Powder Tower and Municipal House before reaching Náměstí Republiky and continuing up Dlouhá třida to the river.

Best Things to do in Old Town Prague

Image of the Old Town Square Christmas Market in Prague
The view from the Old Town Hall Tower of the Christmas Market and Tyn Church

1. Prague Old Town Square

We begin at the Old Town Square, one of the most beautiful squares in Europe. It’s a stunning public place, which hosts the best of the Prague Christmas Markets and the annual Easter Market.

Almost every building on the Square is a work of art, with Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Art Nouveau all well-represented.

The visual highlight is the Church of Our Lady Before Týn, with its Gothic façade and spires.

Though not all of the sights on the Square are old – the Marian Column was only erected in the summer of 2020, replacing one destroyed over a century earlier.

Our Old Town Square Prague guide tells you more about this, and the other buildings and Prague architecture around the Square. 

2. Prague Old Town Hall

Image of Prague Old Town Hall at dusk
Prague Old Town Hall at twilight

Prague Old Town Hall is an agglomeration of five different buildings acquired over the centuries – whenever they ran out of space, they bought the house next door! 

As well as being home to one of the most famous clocks in Europe (see directly below) it’s also the city’s main tourist information centre.

The Prague Old Town Hall Tower offers spectacular views of Prague – over the Square in one direction, and towards Prague Castle in the other.

If you have time, try to see the rest of the Old Town Hall, which includes several historic halls and a Gothic chapel from which you can see the 12 Apostles figures that parade when the Astronomical Clock strikes the hour. 

3. Prague Astronomical Clock

Watching the Astronomical Clock Prague strike the hour is one of the tourist rites of passage in the Czech capital. 

The Clock is an incredibly intricate mechanism, telling the time and date with Latin and Arabic numerals.

Crowds gather beneath the Clock – at the base of the Old Town Hall Tower – just before every hour between 8 am and 9 pm to hear the chimes and see two windows open. Twelve figures – representing the Apostles – then pass by.

And that’s it. It’s not the best Prague experience you’ll have but everyone does it at least once. Tip – my son and I think the grinning bell-ringing skeleton top right of the clock) is the real star of the show. 

4. Church of Our Lady Before Týn

Image of the spires of the Tyn Church in Prague Old Town
An unusual view of the spires of Tyn Church

This glorious Gothic edifice is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. I’ve always been seduced by the sight of its two multi-pinnacled spires, the perfect fairytale church of my early childhood imagination.

Take time to explore inside as well – the fabric of the building is Gothic, with most of the adornments Baroque.

Look out for the tomb of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, at the base of a pillar on the right-hand side of the chancel.

5. Shopping on Pařížská

Image of Parizska Street Prague
Parizska – Paris Street – is full of high-end stores and boutiques

Pařížská is one of the most famous Prague streets, running north from Old Town Square through the Jewish district of Josefov to the river. It’s the place to go for haute couture in Prague, with all the big brand names in discreet stores here.

The best time to appreciate this street is if you’re visiting Prague in winter, when the trees are bare and you can see much more of the Art Nouveau mansions above.

The trees are also beautifully lit in the evening, making a wonderful spectacle.

6. Old Jewish Cemetery

The Jewish Museum Prague is spread around several locations in the Josefov district of the Old Town, including a number of synagogues, the Jewish Town Hall and the atmospheric Old Jewish Cemetery, adjoining the Pinkas Synagogue on Široka.

It’s one of the most amazing places to visit in Prague, with thousands of centuries-old tombstones crammed together, with a great many more buried beneath.

Try to visit the Cemetery early or late in the day, when there are comparatively few visitors – you need relative quiet to contemplate and appreciate this solemn and fascinating site.

7. Follow in the footsteps of Franz Kafka

Prague was the home city of Franz Kafka, who has gone on to become one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.

If you’re keen on seeing some of the places from his life, the Old ±Town Square in Prague is the place to begin – he lived there twice and went to school there for some time. 

He was born just off the Square in a house (long since demolished) on what is now Náměstí Franze Kafky.

Close by, you’ll also find an unusual statue of him (unusual in that many aren’t sure which part of it actually represents him), close to the Spanish Synagogue.

8. Rudolfinum

Image of the Rudolfinum Concert Hall in Prague
The Rudolfinum is one of the best classical music conert halls in Prague

The Rudolfinum is one of the prime places to see classical music concerts in Prague. It’s the home of the Czech Philharmonic, who regularly perform there.

The building is in Renaissance Revival style, and was completed in 1885 on a superb site overlooking the river Vltava.

The Rudolfinum has two concert halls, and the Café Rudolfinum, in the striking Column Hall, is one of the most stylish cafes in Prague.

9. Charles Bridge

Image of people walking on the Charles Bridge in Prague
People walking on the stunning Charles Bridge

Taking a walk on the Charles Bridge is one of the absolutely imperative things to do in Prague. It’s the oldest of the bridges in Prague, and was commissioned to replace an earlier bridge in the mid-14th century by King Charles IV of Bohemia.

Lined with thirty Baroque statues of saints and religious figures, it’s one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe, especially the buildings at either end which make Prague such a stunning cityscape.

The best times to visit are early or late in the day, when fewer people are around and you can appreciate it more.

10. Clementinum

The Clementinum is a complex of medieval and later buildings – including two churches – across the street from the Charles Bridge. 

The Baroque Library inside is one of the most impressive things to see in Prague, but the visitor experience doesn’t quite measure up.

You get a couple of minutes to look at it from the doorway, no photography allowed – and then you’re off upstairs to the Meridian Room.

The highlight of the somewhat cursory tour is the visit to the Astronomical Tower. It’s one of the best towers in Prague to climb for views of the city, with exceptional views towards Old Town Square and across the river to Prague Castle.  

11. Boat Trips on River Vltava

A boat cruise on the Vltava river is a great way to do some of your Prague sightseeing. Many Prague boat trips depart from the Old Town – along the quay either side of Čech Bridge (Čechuv most).

There are several Prague boat cruise options, including a one-hour trip exploring the Devil’s Channel, the picturesque Čertovka canal that runs alongside Kampa Island – this also passes beneath the Charles Bridge.

Longer cruises make use of the network of locks further up the river, taking in Prague landmarks such as the Dancing House and the citadel of Vyšehrad. Some Prague boats also take you in the opposite direction, north past Holešovice to Prague Zoo.

12. Cubist Museum

The Cubist Museum Prague is a short walk along Celetna, between Old Town Square and the Powder Tower.

Housed in the House of the Black Madonna, this great small Prague museum shows some great examples of Cubist painting, furniture and architecture.

Prague was the only major city in the world where Cubism beyond visual art (the likes of Picasso and Braque) caught on, and there are several great examples around the base of the fortress at Vysehrad Prague.

13. Estates Theatre

The Estates Theatre (Stavovské divádlo) is one of the most prominent landmarks of Prague and one of the major arts venues in Prague.

It comes under the umbrella of the National Theatre and hosts opera, drama and ballet performances.

It was opened in 1783, and remarkably is in very similar condition to its original state. It hosted the premiere of Mozart’s Don Giovanni opera in 1788, and the hooded ghost statue at one end of the building –  Anna Chromy’s Il Commendatore – commemorates this.

14. Havelska Market

Havelska Tržnice, the Old Town market along the street from picturesque St Gallen church, has been selling produce to the people of Prague since 1232.

Food has always been sold there, but you can now also pick up some of your Prague souvenirs here too.

15. Powder Tower

The Powder Tower – Prasna brana – guards the eastern edge of the Old Town. Built in. the late 15th century, it’s very similar to the Old Town Bridge Tower overlooking Charles Bridge.

We strongly recommend climbing the 180+ steps to the gallery, which is one of the best viewpoints in Prague, offering an outstanding view of the Tyn Church and St Vitus Cathedral in one direction, and a bird’s-eye view over the dome and roof of the marvellous Obecni Dum next door.

16. Obecni Dum – Prague Municipal House

Obecni Dum – its English name, Municipal House, makes it sound like a 1970s council office block – is the pinnacle of Art Nouveau Prague architecture, an extraordinary building housing the superb Smetana Concert Hall, several smaller venues, one of the most ornate cafes in Prague and the Municipal House Restaurant, perhaps the grandest of Prague restaurants.

The artwork and decoration is magnificent throughout. It’s located right next door to the Powder Tower.

17. Pivnice Štupartská

This is one of the best Old Town Prague restaurants, tucked away on a side street just behind the Tyn Church.

The place has been serving traditional Czech food and beer (Gambrinus) since 1869, and they have pretty well refined the art. Gambrinus is one of the best Czech beers, and they serve several varieties.

I ordered a pork knuckle, a couple of weeks after having the same meal at one of the better Old Town Square restaurants, and got twice the food for slightly less than the same price.

18. St James Church

Image of St James Church Prague Old Town
St James Church

There are stories behind all of the churches in Prague, but few can compare with those of St James The Greater Church (Kostel Sv Jakuba Vetsiho).

Here you’ll find a gruesome sight indeed, a mummified arm of a thief hanging from the ceiling. The story is that the former owner of the arm tried to steal some precious stones from a statue in the church but was apprehended by the statue, which held him overnight in its firm stone grip. 

It continued to hold him firm, despite the entreaties of monks, and the sorry episode ended with local butchers chopping his arm off.

This beautiful Baroque church harbours another unusual secret. Count Jan Václav Vratislav of Mitrovice died in Vienna, and an elaborate monument to him was soon completed, and he was interred within it.

The only problem with this was that he may not have been quite dead after all. Noises were heard within the monument after the burial, and when it was later opened, the Count had freed himself from his coffin, only to find himself trapped inside his stone sepulchre.

19. Bethlehem Chapel

This cavernous church in Old Town Prague is a little off the beaten path, but iot’s of great significance to many Czechs.

It’s where the cleric Jan Hus, who challenged Catholic teaching and practices over a century before the Reformation, preached until he was excommunicated by the Vatican.

He was later executed for his beliefs, and many Czechs have admired him for standing up to outside authority, something they have done many times in their history.

Hus is also commemorated by the prominent ensemble of statues in Prague Old Town Square. 

20. T-Anker Rooftop Bar

This is one of the best rooftop bars in Prague, on the roof of the Communist-era Kotva department store onNáměstí Republiky.

Head up in the lift to the left of the store, and 5 floors up, you have an awesome view over the Prague Old Town skyline, with the handsome St James’ Church directly before you and the Tyn Church and Old Town Hall Tower behind. I’ve only sampled some of the excellent beer at T-Anker, but they also serve food.

21. Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia

One of the best things to do in Prague Old Town is to seek out the lovely Convent of St Agnes, which hosts the medieval art collection of the National Gallery Prague.

The Gallery has some tremendous art venues across its estate (from the Rococo Kinsky Palace on Old Town Square to the 20th century functionalist Trade Fair Palace across the river in Holešovice.

The Convent dates from the 12th century but by the late 19th century had fallen into disrepair. It was restored in the 1980s and makes a wonderful setting to appreciate the art.

The Convent Gardens are also open throughout the year, and one of these features a sculpture exhibition.

22. Streets around St Catullus Church

Image of quiet back streets in Prague Old Town
Quiet back streets between St Agnes Convent and St Catullus Church

One of the quietest areas of Prague is, surprisingly, in the Old Town, barely five minutes’ walk from Old Town Square.

Head for Haštalské Náměstí in the north of the district, which is centred around St Catullus, one of the most imposing churches in Prague Old Town.

The back streets to the north, leading to St Agnes Convent, were once considered a slum.

They are now among the loveliest streets in Prague – especially Anezska – which also happens to have the Smallest House in Prague.

This area is wonderfully evocative, with cobbled streets, pastel-coloured houses and relatively few visitors.

23. Sigmund Freud Statue, Husova

You can find artist David Cerny’s work all over Prague, from the crawling babies on Žižkov TV Tower to the rotating head of Franz Kafka in the New Town.

His ‘Man Hanging Out’ on Husova in the §old Town depicts Czech-born psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud hanging by one hand from a ledge, agonizing over the possibility of his death.

It is very convincing – so much so that some passers-by have called the emergency services for help. It’s less than 100 metres down the street from beautiful St Giles Church (Kostel Sv Jilji). 

24. Café Slavia

One of the best-known traditional Prague cafes is located right on the corner of the district, across the street from Národní divadlo (National Theatre) and New Town Prague.

It first opened in the 1880s and many performers from across the street gravitated there. Its original Art Nouveau decor was replaced by the Art Deco touches you see today in the 1930s, and for many years it was popular with Czech intellectuals, including future President Václav Havel.

They serve breakfast, coffee, dinner and desserts, and it’s somewhere we love to drop by every so often.

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.