Old Town Square

Old Town Square (8)

The Old Town Square of Prague is considered one of the most beautiful on Europe. It was initially a space where merchants and traders sold their products. Over time it has become one of the main tourist spots in the city and a meeting point and leisure spot for the young people of Prague.

This square has witnessed some of the most important events in the history of the city. For example, it was here where King Charles IV was crowned in 1346, who later ordered the bridge that carries his name to be built. In 1621, the Hussite leaders were executed here after the Catholic victory in the Battle of White Mountain. The heads of the executed hung from Charles Bridge for ten years without being buried.

In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, this square was the setting for a bloody battle between the Nazis and the partisans. The Nazis blew up part of the Town Hall, thinking that members of the Resistance were hiding there. The destroyed part was never rebuilt.

In 1948, the leader Klement Gottwald led the masses from the Golz-Kinský Palace and proclaimed the victory of soviet-style communism. From 1968 it became an important meeting point for the young people of Prague.

The Town Hall of the Old Town has several buildings and 60-meter high tower. One of its biggest tourist attractions is the astronomical clock, where every hour several figures appear one behind the other and which represent the Apostles and Death.

A great variety of artistic tendencies coexist and are mixed in the square but all the buildings share a richness in style and an excellent state of preservation. Not in vain has the square been the historical place of residency of the richest and most distinguished families of the city.

With this in mind, we can see in the same space Gothic portals, Baroque façades, Renaissance architecture and Modernist details. Most of the houses are of Romanesque and Gothic origin and some of them stand over vaulted Roman basements. Baroque is the dominant style of the whole complex although you will be able to find many Renaissance and Gothic detail, such as the porticos.

On the north side of the Old Town Square you can visit the Church of Saint Nicholas, by the Baroque architect Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. Throughout its history it has had diverse uses: from a parish church to a Benedictine church, garrison chapel and concert hall.

Close to this is the building of the Ministry for Local Development, work of the architect Osval Polívka in 1898. It is art nouveau style and at the top of its façade it has statues representing a local fireman. The buildings beside it are in a neo-Baroque style.

On the east side of the square is the Golz-Kinský Palace, of Gothic origin and rococo style. The writer Franz Kafka studied here between 1893 and 1901.

Also on the east side is the Stone Bell House, thus named because of a small sculpture on one of its corners. It is an old 14th-century medieval palace.

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, with its two 80-metre plus towers and its solid gold Virgin, provides one of the most typical aspects of Prague.

On the south side there are lots of houses that surprise visitors, both for their architectural details and their curious names. Thus you will find the Cock House, which houses the tourist information office, the Stork House, with a museum dedicated to Kafka, or the Poor Devil’s House, with the original Romanesque vaulting.

The Stork House is a Renaissance building also known as the House of the Stone Virgin. On its façade is a painting of Saint Wenceslas on a horse, work of the Modernist Mikulás Ales from the late-19th century.

The House of the Stone Ram is also known as the House of the Unicorn, because on its façade is a 16th-century relief work that shows a maiden with a one-horned ram. Its portico dates from 1520. For some time Franz Kafka frequented the literary discussions of Berta Fanta, which were held in this house. The House of the Stone table, from the 14th century, is beside it.

You can also see the House of the Golden Unicorn, on the corner of Zelezná Street. It was built over a Romanesque basement and later rebuilt in the Gothic period. The façade shows Baroque style details.

The House of the Red Fox is a Romanesque building with a Baroque façade. It has a golden sculpture of the Virgin with the Child.

Ochs House, also known as Ox House and Blue Star House, has a statue of Saint Anthony of Padua from the 18th century.

The Minute House has Gothic foundations and a 17th-century Renaissance façade. Outside there is sgraffito work that shows biblical and mythological scenes.

In the centre of the square is a monument dedicated to the figure of Jan Hus, the cleric who died at the stake, convicted for his reformist ideas. Jan Hus is a veritable symbol of national identity. The inauguration of this monument, in 1915, commemorated the fifth centenary of the death of Jan Hus. It led to violent street disturbances against the Hapsburg dynasty and the Catholic Church. The bronze sculptural group is the work of Ladislav Saloun and with its expressive strength reminds us of the sculptures of the Frenchman Auguste Rodin.

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