Municipal House, Prague
Municipal House (Obecni Dum)
Municipal House is an Art Nouveau gem located in the Old Town. The facade is pretty impressive and we were equally awed by most of the interior as well, which was completed around 1911.
These days it is home to the Prague Symphony Orchestra, who perform in the biggest concert hall in town, Smetana Hall. You will also find exhibition halls, shops, an 'American' bar and three restaurants.
We had breakfast one day in the more relaxed Kavarna Obecni Dum, located on the ground floor - you can see in from the street. The food was nothing special, but the café is spectacular - lots of marble, big mirrors and those chandeliers!! At least stick your head in and have a look.
The Municipal House, a national cultural landmark, is among the most significant Art Nouveau buildings in Prague. It is located in the very centre of Prague, directly neighbouring the Powder Gate.
Since the very beginning, the Municipal House has been a multifunctional building. The halls and lounges are used to arrange conventions, conferences, concerts, balls and fashion shows. They are accessible to the general public only in the form of commented tours.
In the years 1994 - 1997 the Municipal House underwent a technically and financially demanding restoration. When it was re-opened, it once-again became a significant social and cultural centre.
The most spectacular and lavish Art Nouveau building in Bohemia. Intricately decorated inside and out. Construction of Obecni dum began in 1905 under the watchful eye of the extravegent and free spending Habsburgs.
The large stunning ceramic mosaic adorning the outside of the central dome is shown in photo #1. The two side wings which are symetrical about the central dome are offset at 20 degree angles from the plane of the main pavillion entranceway, giving the building its V shape. The roofs are elliptical and brilliantly detailed. The interior is a showcase of the best quality bohemian crystal chandeliers. The stained glass windows are superb. Excellent craftsmanship is evident throughout. Photo #2 shows a greater portion of the building. The building in the background is a posh hotel that I do not know the name of. Sorry, but old hund is ignorant about the subject of high class hotels. Obecni dum is probably the greatest Art Nouveau masterpiece in Czechia.
Stop for a meal or drink in the elegant restaurant and bar. If the prices do not agree with you, as was the case with old hund, you can buy some excellent cold Czech pivo ( beer ) and deli treats at the Mustek Metro station supermarket, take a one minute subway ride to Namesti Republiky, and enjoy this masterpiece from the outside. The african immigrants dressed in Mozart garb will sell you tickets to the many live performances held in Smetana Hall, which is a combination concert hall and ballroom.
Don't miss it. Located in Namesty Republiky, and just a short and scenic stroll from old town or Wenceslas Square. Don't worry ; you can take the Metro to Namesty Republiky station if you don't want to walk. It is directly across the street. However, I recommend that you walk from old town. There are many interesting places and fascinating people to see and meet along the way.
No the left wing of Obecni dum is not where the liberal politicians assemble and argue with one another. This just means it is the wing left left of the main pavillion.
Obecni dum represents Bohemian art nouveau architecture at its finest. Modified Baroque style roof facades were much a part of this architectural style. The architecture is very fascinating all of the way from the marble floors to the guilded fringe of the central dome. Excellent colorful mosaics and sculptures compliment the harmonious geometric shapes. The interior architecture and furnishings are even more impressive than the exterior. Note the roof detail and the roof windows that resemble curved solar panels. The building contains elegant restaurants, bars, conference rooms, and Smetana Hall, named for the great composer. Live entertainment is performed daily at Smetana Hall. Absorb the stunning beauty of the hall during the performances. I cannot comment on the entertainment because I did not partake of it. Photo #2 is a closeup view of the central dome and center portion of the building. It shows details of the mosaics and other artworks, as well as the beautiful crystal street lanterns that adorn the front of this magnificent home of the arts.
This beautiful 100 year old Art Nouveau treasure is dressed in its finest while awaiting your visit.
Whereas the ground floor restaurant of the Municipal House is all about crystal chandeliers and glittery elegance, the Pilsener restaurant in the basement is a veritable monument to folksy Art Nouveau kitsch (three of my favourite descriptors in sequence there!). I gather that it fell into disrepair a few years ago and was used as a nightclub for a time, but, like the rest of the building, has been restored to its former technicolour splendour.
The walls are adorned with amazing Art Nouveau ceramic mosaics by J. Obrovský depicting highly idealised scenes of rural life: it's all about celebrating strapping young men and winsome, buxom wenches that you just know had exemplary work ethics and genetically superior breeding potential!
The Pilsener restaurant serves traditional Czech fare - I haven't eaten here myself, but the food gets mixed reviews: some good, some bad, so it's difficult to know what to expect. In general the prices for food and drink are a bit higher than in other restaurants serving similar fare. However, the setting is incomparable, and to my mind, it's absolutely worth paying a premium to relax in this splendid setting - na zdraví (cheers)!
Anyone who's read my euphoric writeup on the Mucha Museum will not be surprised to see that the Municipal House gets my vote for the most beautiful building in Prague!
Despite its snoreworthy name, the Municipal House is an exquisite confection of Art Nouveau design. The building was designed to provide public facilities for banquets and exhibitions, and is still used for pretty well the same purpose. The website below should provide up-to-date information on forthcoming concerts and exhibitions. Oh yes, and it features artwork by Mucha (surprise!)
The restaurant on the ground floor is seriously up market and way beyond my pocket so I can't pass comment on it, other than to say that the setting is gorgeously elegant: definitely the place to go for a VERY special occasion or if you have an exceedingly lavish expense account! This restaurant used to be part of the Gordon Ramsay group, but I believe that he no longer has any involvement since his fall from favour over the past couple of years.
However, the highlight for me is the beerhall-style Pilsener restaurant in the basement. Whereas the ground floor restaurant is all about crystal chandeliers and glittery elegance, the auspiciously named Pilsener restaurant basement is a veritable monument to folksy Art Nouveau kitsch and is so wonderful that it merits its own travel tip (see below)!
It is possible to take tours around the Municipal House - many of the rooms can only be visited on a tour. If you're too late (or too poor) for a tour, you can still hang around in the publically accessible spaces such as the restaurants, foyer and staircase areas and soak up the ambience - hell, even the decor in the toilets is gorgeous!
The Town House is one of the most beautiful buildings of Prague, with fantastic interior built in Art Nouveau style and a wonderful facade.
This building was built between 1906 and 1912 to compete with the German architecture. More than 30 Czech artists worked to this project.
The interior of the Town House is very nice. To visit them you must follow a guided tour and you can see about a dozen of rooms made by Alfons Mucha. Very nice is the Smetana Room the biggest concert hall of all Prague.
In this building has been proclaimed the Republic on 28th October 1918.
This picture does not do justice to this amazing looking building - Obecni dum in its czech name. For me this was the most amazing art nouveau building I saw in Prague - deservedly the granddest 2oth century building in the city. The complex houses concert halls, cafes and restaurants the exterior alone is mesmerising alone.
The semi-circular mosaic above the main entrance depicts "Homage to Prague" by Karel Spillar.
The Obecni Dum (Municipal House) was built 1905 - 12 in Art Nouveau style. It is probably the most important (and most impressive) building of this style in Prague. The main theme of the decoration is an homage to the Czech Nation - and all important Czech artists in Prague contributed to this work. One of the rooms is a work of Alfons Mucha, the famous Art Nouveau artist.
Inside you find a number of magnificent halls, so for example the Smetana hall (with organ), where concerts are given almost every day. I heard from friends that the quality of the afternoon concerts in the smaller halls are sometimes lousy, so you better go the evening concerts.
But you can easily enjoy the ambience of the building by strolling through, having a coffee in the café or visiting the gallery with Art Deco works on the second floor.
The Municipal House contains a wealth of really beautiful ornamental details. Some of these are already quite kitschy, especially those of the exterior. Others, like the lamps or the pictured metal fittings are just beautiful and interesting.
The Municipal Hall is located at Nam Republicky near the Powder Tower, a staging area for many guided tours, and therefore worth examining while waiting. The Art Nouveau styling was most popular around the beginning of the 20th Century, more a concept than an architectural style. It emphasized free-flowing and often asymmetric lines based on plants and apparently the female silhouette, loose and natural rather than rigid. This building is on the site of a former Royal Palace and was constructed between 1905-11. The arched windows, outer gold trimmings, and central gold mosaic are quite striking. Inside is the largest concert hall in Prague as well as paintings by many Czech artists, the best known Alfons Mucha. At the front is the famous French Restaurant, upscale and expensive, with detailed prix fixe menus up to $90 US pp.
One of the best aspects of Prague is the mix of monuments and buildings from different times. One of the most interesting buildings, in the pedestrianised area of the Old Town, is the Municipal House. It was built at the beginning of the XX century and some of its beautiful decorations are by the famous Mucha, one of the masters of Art Nouveau.
Inside there are a concert hall (Smetana Hall) and the restaurant Francouska Restaurace (see my restaurant tip).
This (yet another) impressive building , next to the Powder Gate, must be the most well known Jugendstil example of Prague. The top front represents an ode to Karel Spillar.
Besides restaurants, bars and several smaller (meeting)rooms it contains a cultural centre, with the Smetana hall inside where concerts and dance parties are held.
The independence of Czechoslovakia was expressed here in 1918.
I had just been to the Powder Tower which is joined to The Municipal House by an archway. I couldn't miss this building which turned out to be Municipal House, where all sorts of public events take place. Balls & banquets, trade fairs & fashion shows, Opera & classical music performances, gala events, the list goes on and on! Mozart, Beethoven, Gershwin, Strauss, Vivaldi and many more have all performed here!
Probably the most important event to take place here, was on 28th October 1918, when Czechoslovakia was proclaimed an independent state.
This Art Nouveau cultural center and concert hall, was built at the beginning of the 20th century on what was once the site of the Royal Court, a palace and residence of King Wenceslas IV. These buildings were demolished in 1903 and in 1905, it was decided to build the Municipal house. Three million crowns was allowed for the project, a lot of money in those days, and even then they went over budget, just as we do today!
It was a first in many ways not seen before. Ventilating, central heating, public drinking water fonts, ice making machines and even an intercom network were some of the never before seen additions.
I love Art Nouveau, so I was in my element admiring this beautiful building. Over the entrance, there is a mosaic called Homage to Prague, and on each side, allegorical sculpture groups representing The Degradation of the People and The Resurrection of the People. Take a look at the intricate stonework, gold trimmings, frescos and stained glass windows and particularly, the impressive lamp post's!
It really is a beautiful building, one the city of Prague is proud of!
Make sure if you visit the Powder Tower to walk next door and visit the Municipal House.