The Old Town Square and the surrounding quarter form the heart of the city of Prague. The lively square is lined with magnificent buildings in different architectural styles, from Gothic to Baroque. With its ancient buildings and magnificent churches, this is one of the most beautiful historical sites in Europe. The most notable sights on the square are the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church.
Founded in the 12th century, the most significant square of Prague has been witness to many historical events and the surrounding quarter form the heart of the city of Prague.
SOUTH SIDE OF THE SQUARE
The south side of the square is composed of a series of beautiful buildings with colourful Renaissance and Baroque facades. Some of the most notable buildings include the Štorch House, a Renaissance building with a painting of St. Wenceslas and ‘At the Stone Table’, a nice example of Baroque architecture.
Other buildings bear names such as ‘At the Golden Unicorn’, ‘At the Stone Ram’, ‘At the Red Fox’ and ‘At the Blue Star’. The names of the buildings were often derived from signs or plaques. The house ‘At the Stone Ram’ for instance is named after a stone relief on the facade that depicts a young virgin with a ram. These names had a practical purpose: in the past houses were not numbered so they were identified by their name.
To the left of the House at the Stone Clock is the Goltz-Kinský Palace, a beautiful building with a delicate Rococo facade. Originally built by the Goltz family, the building was later purchased by Kinský, a diplomat of the emperor. In February 1948 Klement Gottwald, the communist leader, held a speech from the balcony of this palace which would eventually lead to the proclamation of a communist state.
The most famous building on the Old Town Square is the fourteenth-century Old Town Hall. Its Gothic tower, built in 1364, is one of the most recognizable buildings in Prague.
The tower is famous for its magnificent astronomical clock, built in 1410. It is the oldest such clock in Europe. Throngs of tourists gather in front of the clock every hour to witness the procession of miniature figures.
ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH
To the north the square is bordered by the eighteenth-century St. Nicholas Church. It is one of the most beautiful of all Baroque churches in Prague, and its interior is especially impressive.
Among the other buildings on this side of the square stands a profusely decorated building in Jugendstil style. It was erected at the end of the nineteenth century for an insurance company, but was later used as a government building.
The Týn Church is probably the most recognizable church in Prague thanks to its many spires. Construction of the Gothic church started in the fourteenth century, but the spires were only finished in 1511. In front of the church is the historic Týn School, an arcaded Gothic building that gives access to the church.
Nearby is another interesting Gothic building: the House at the Stone Clock. The building had a Baroque facade, but it was removed in 1980 to give the building back its original fourteenth-century appearance. Note the beautiful Gothic windows.
JAN HUS MONUMENT
In the north-east corner of the square is the large Jan Hus Monument. It was erected in 1915 to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s death at the stake. Jan Hus, born in 1369, was besides a reformer also a fervent Czech nationalist. In 1415, he was declared a heretic at the council of Constance.
The monument depicts the persecution of the Czech nationalists and their re-emergence two hundred years later with the imposing figure of Jan Hus at the center.