Just when I thought I had seen some of the most beautiful squares in Europe I saw Prague's Old Town Square and had to re-adjust my 'Top 10 Favourite Squares' list!
The heart of the city, this is a large and lively square surrounded by fabulous buildings and lined with cafes. The perfect place for people watching...though keep and eye out for pick pockets.
The buildings surrounding the square include the Old Town Hall, with it's Astronomical Clock; the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn; St Nicholas Church; and Kinsky Palace which contains an excellent collection of graphic art from the middle ages till today.
We spent quite a bit of time here, at various times of day, enjoying the way the look of the buildings changed with the light.
In front of the Town Hall, 27 white crosses are set in the pavement without a memorial or marker to identify their nature. Hordes of tour groups trample over them without realizing their significance. The end of the first phase of the Thirty Year War was marked by 27 executions on this spot on 21 June 1621. Following the catastrophic defeat of the Protestant forces at the Battle of White Mountain, 24 noblemen and 3 commoners were executed during a 5 hour spectacle - the loss of these brave and erudite men was followed by a mass exodus from Bohemia of thousands of citizens. The noblemen were beheaded, the commoners hung, and most were quartered after death. To serve as a warning against further revolt, 12 severed heads were hung from the tower at the Charles Bridge for 10 years. During this time the Catholic Austrian Habsburgs took control of Bohemia.
There has been some research into how long after beheading the severed head retains cognitive thought. Lavoisier, who discovered oxygen, stated that after the beheading he would blink his eyes as long as possible - observers stated that there were several discrete blinks. The severed head of Marie Antoinette was clearly heard to moan. Based on eye movement in response to calling of the name, estimates have ranged form 4 to 30 seconds, long enough for the executed to appreciate that their head is bouncing down into the waiting basket or on to the street below. It should be noted that the guillotine was invented because the victim was rarely beheaded by only a single swing of the ax. Two and occasionally even three blows were required to complete the procedure.
Stone Bell House (Dum U Kamenneho zvonu) is located in the heart of the city – at the Old-Town Square (Staromestske namesti), in front of Church of Our Lady before Tyn (Kostel Matky Bozi Pred Tynem). It owes its name to the facade decoration – the bell appearing from the corner of the building. Stone Bell House dates back to second half the 13th century, but it was rebuilt in the 14th century as a gothic palace, and many architectural elements from that period, including two chapels with sculptures and painted decoration, were preserved.
Nowadays Stone Bell House is one of the most attractive spaces used for exhibitions of modern and contemporary art.
Open: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The Old Town Square (Staromestske) is one of two main squares in the city centre (the other is Wenceslas Square, 5 minutes walk away). With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sights in Europe.
The Old Town Square's most notable sights are the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock and the stunning St. Nicholas Church
The Old Town Square, or Starometske namesti, is a place you'll find yourself returning to again and again, as you wander around the old town of Prague. It was the market place of the medieval town.
The Old Town Hall on one side of the square faces the Church of Our Lady before Tyn on the other.
In summer, the square is packed with jostling throngs of tourists.
Something that is not well publicised is, that at the end of the Second World War, before they surrendered, German tanks trundled into the square and, in a malicious act of vandalism, blasted all of the buildings, destroying most of the original frontage. The buildings have all since been restored.
Just a few minutes from my hotel there it was the famous Old Town Hall. Well, with some good advices of my VT friends, i went up to take some good shots from there. I wasn't disappointed at all, the views worth the 50 kz (about 2 euros) i paid for it.
Being Prague's heart since the 10th century and its main market place until the beginning of the 20th century, the spacious 1.7 hectare Old Town Square has been the scene of great events, both glorious and tragic. There are beautiful pastel-colored buildings of Romanesque or Gothic origin with fascinating house signs. Some of the most prominent examples include the Kinski Palace, the House of the Stone Bell and the Storch House. Today, the Old Town Square offers visitors a tourist information office, number of restaurants, cafes, shops and galleries. Jan Hus Monument Completed in 1915 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Jan Hus, the Czech Hussite reformer, the massive monument dominates the square. It shows two groups of people, a young mother symbolizing national rebirth and the figure of Hus emphasizing the moral authority of the man who gave up life rather than his beliefs.
If you like whiling away the afternoon just watching the world go by, then Old Town Square is a great place to do it (but bear in mind that the cafes and restaurants are a little more expensive here). The buildings around the Square are beautiful, so take plenty of camera film!
We were lucky enough to wander into St Nicholas' Church (just off the square) during a choir practice.
On the south side of the old town square is the beautiful Storh House.Look at the really interesting frescoes on this Neo- Renaissance house also known as At the Stone Madonna. - pleas enlarge pic for a better view. The late 19th century frescoes of St Wenceslas on horseback are by the artist Mikulas.
In the heart of the Old Town is the Old Town Square that has seen both joy and terror in its history. The square has always been right at the heart of the city’s turbulent history and some of its most important events have been played out here:
1415 Jan Hus was burned at the stake
1422: Hussite leader Jan Želisvsk is executed
1437: Hussite Captain Jan Roháè and 56 of his followers are executed
1458: The Bohemian Diet meets to elect the Hussite leader Jiøí z Podìbrad as King
1621: Protestants are again martyred as 27 leaders of the Czech Estates’ rebellion
against the Habsburg Empire are executed
1918: Protests against the Habsburg Empire result in the destruction of the 270 year old memorial to the 30 Years War
1945: Nazi shells partially destroyed the Gothic chapel and a wing on the north side with shells.
1948: Klement Gottwald proclaimsstart of the Communist Republic
1968: Soviet tanks roll in again signaling the end of the “Prague Spring
The Jan Hus statue is the centerpiece among a variety of surrounding historical buildings. Jan Hus was burned at the stake on this spot for heresy in 1415; the statue was erected on July 6th 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s death. Despite the initial outcry at the modern style of the sculpture the statue stands as a symbol of Czech identity.
Towering over the square is the Old Town Hall Tower with its distinctive Astronomical Clock. The clock chimes every hour on the hour and all the tourists gather to look up to the tower. On the tower are the apostles, which move around to the chimes of the bells. All around the old town square, there are cafes and restaurants where you can sit outside and watch the world go. The prices of the drinks and food are more expensive than in other areas of Prague, but still not bad. On one end of the Square is Our Lady before Tyn Church with its Gothic steeples, dating from 1365. Next to it is Kinsky Palace. Also in the Square is the white Church of St. Nicholas, once Russian Orthodox, and now Protestant
27 crosses and the date of 21 June 1621can be seen in the pavement by the east side of the town hall. This marks the famous executions of 24 noble protestant leaders and 3 commoners at the height of the Thirty Years War. Their names are recorded on a bronze plaque too on the gothic chapel wall of the town hall.
On the west side of the square - at right angles to the Town hall is one of my favourite buildings, the multi frescoed Dum U Minuty.
This building has been the town pharmacy and the home of Czech writer kafka. I could spend ages looking at the detailed Renaissance illustrations here.
Old town square is the very center of Prague. You will find yourself coming and going through that lavish square numerous times.
The architecture of the buildings surrounding the square is remarkable.
Three buildings overshadow the rest - the clock tower, the Tyn church and St. Nicolas church.
Concerts are held at St. Nicolas church regularly (as in many other locations - I highly recommend - Prague is Music!), but you will be surprised to find out that the performers are hiden on the balcony BEHIND the audience. So sit down quietly and reflect as devine sounds descend upon you from heaven.
When done, go for coffee - but DON"T sit at a cafe in the square itself - these cafes are horridly expensive and the coffee is tasteless. Instead (and this is a valueable tip, believe me) go to Ebel Cafe, located behind the Tyn church (Tyn 2, staromesto). We returned there several times and enjoyed good coffee, fine cakes and international atmosphere with a Czech flavor!
Staromestske namesti (Old Town Square) is the most important square of the oldest part of the royal town of Prague and the cnetre of its eventful history, which included royal weddings, the election of the King George of Podebrady (1458), but also executions, with the most tragic one being the execution of 27 leaders of a failed anti-Habsburg rebellion of the Estates in 1621. The event is commemorated by the 27 crosses in the pavement next to the Old Town Hall. Coronation processions used to pass through the square which was also the venue of major rallies in the country's more recent history.
The Jan Hus Memorial was erected here as a symbol of those happy and sad events in 1915 designed by the architect Ladislav Saloun.
One of the easiest landmarks to use would be the spires of this great Gothic church. Started in 1365 this church was used extensively by the Hussites in Prague until the 1620's. The entrance is throught the four storey building that sits right in front of it, consequently-it was once used as a Habsburg school. Inside you can see some great Baroque altar pieces and a nice courtyard. There are some small windows that were possibly used by the adjoining houses. Concerts are also held here at times so check the information board. It is only open for services which begin at 4:30pm M-F, 1pm on Saturday, and 11:30 and 9pm on Sunday