Prague is one of the world’s most visited cities, and it is a must for everyone to visit the city at least once in a lifetime. Especially if you are someone who likes history and gets attracted by gothic styles, a single visit would probably not enough for you to experience this lovely Bohemian city.
One of the most prominent places to get acquainted with Prague’s Bohemian spirit is certainly the old town square where gothic, baroque and colourful buildings stand in harmony for centuries. When you look around from the tower of the old town, you view the authentically elegant scene as if it came out of a sketchbook.
I visited Prague last summer on a July weekend for the first time. It was warm, and the sun was showing itself from time to time. The city was full of tourists, and sometimes it was crowded to walk with all the people around the old town centre. No matter how crowded it is, Prague has a lively atmosphere.
Prague Old Town Square
The town square of Prague is lovely, and you can easily spend your hours just by walking around while enjoying a traditional Czech beer in one of the sidewalk cafes. The Old Town Square is the boisterous heart of the city, and it has always been a marketplace for centuries that the history dates back to 1091.
In middle of the plaza, there is a statue which is a memorial for Jan Hus who was a Protestant reformer lived in the 14th century. Jan Hus lived 100 years before Martin Luther, declared heretic and burnt at stake by the church because of spreading his new ideas to people in the town.
Prague town square is surrounded by many buildings, mainly by churches and colourful houses. The most attractive buildings in the town square are Týn Church, Hall Tower, and the Medieval Astronomical Clock.
Church of Our Lady Before Týn
Týn Church is one of the most prominent buildings around the square, because of its typical gothic towers. The architect is Matěj Rejsek the construction took between 1385 to 1511. Inside of the church is in baroque style, and the main altar is decorated with the paintings by Karel Skreta.
Tyn church has an exquisite view with its two beautiful towers which reminds the castles of fairytales. No wonder Disney was inspired by these towers when planning the Sleeping Beauty Castle which of the Disneyland park of Hong Kong.
What is interesting about the towers is that they are around 80 meters but not symmetrical. It is easy to notice that one is taller than the other. It was constructed this way to represent gender difference that the tallest one is masculine and the shortest one is feminine.
Formerly the church was under the influence Hussites for a long time. Today Tyn is a Roman Catholic church and open for service. There are also traditional music concerts regularly scheduled since Tyn has an organ from 1673 which is the oldest one in Prague.
Old Town Hall (Dům U Minuty)
Old Town Hall is the building with astronomical clock. It is unquestionably the most popular building of Prague’s town square. Many tourist groups stand in front of it every day tries to understand how the medieval astronomical clock works.
The town hall was constructed between 1338 and 1361 and since that time it witnessed some historical events like elections, imprisonments and rebellion acts. City hall has a beautiful clock and a tower where visitors can climb to enjoy the fabulous Prague view from 70 meters above the ground.
In the 18th century, Town Hall became the official administration office after the four Prague town united into one. In the WWII, the building was partially collapsed, while the clock and the chapel were severely damaged. Surprisingly, tower elevator was not damaged. It was placed in 1927 and remained and served until 2000. Then, the elevator was and replaced with a modern one, and the old one is moved and now being exhibited at National Technical Museum.
Today, the Town Hall stays with all its glory of the colourful collection of gothic and renaissance style buildings. The building is mainly used as a tourist information centre, council room, chapel on the first floor and the tower is open for visitors. Entrance fee is 100 Kc for adults (3, 5 €). Click here for the price list. The opening hours is 11:00 am to 6:00 pm for Monday and 9:00 to 18:00 for Tuesday to Sunday.
The Astronomical Clock (Pražský Orloj)
On the side of the Town Hall, there sits a beautiful medieval astronomical clock from the 15th century. The clock was made by Mikuláš of Kadaň in 1410 which is unique regarding providing location information of stars for that century. Prague’s astronomical clock is a good example of multidisciplinary work that he collaborated with the astronomical Jan Sindel from Charles University.
The astronomical clock passed several restoration processes since it was made, the first one was in the 16th century. However, the clock stopped working in the 18th century for a long time until the second reparation in 1865, where the calendar dial was also re-painted by Josef Manez.
During the second world war, the clock was severely damaged as rest of the town hall from the bombardments in 1945 that the apostles and the main dials were burnt and unrecognisable. The clock passed through a renewal process, and the burnt parts were repainted and damaged statues were replaced with replicas. The time was also adapted from Italian (old Czech) time to central European time.
In general, the clock has two main dials on and two windows on top. I was fascinated by the clock when I saw it for a first time, especially from the wooden apostates which appear on every hour from the windows on top. Beneath the windows, there is the circle of the astronomical dial, and the circle of calendar dial below.
The astronomical clock is based on the medieval time perception that the world is the centre of the universe, that is the reason why it is placed in the middle. Around the world there are two shades of blue; one with blue and the other with blue. The blue region represents the sky above and browns the sky below. There is a rotating ring showing the zodiac stars around the earth. There are also two chords rotate around the clock, one illustrates the position of the sun and the other shows the moon.
In the clock tile, blue parts represent sky above, and the brown parts represent air below. Clock time is indicated in the outer circle with three different numerals as Schwabacher (Old Czech), Roman and Arabic (Babylonian) numbers. The calendar dial is recently added to the clock, and in the middle, there is a depiction of Prague old town. The outer circle is for representing the day where the circles are divided into 365 parts. The inner circle is covered by 12 oval depictions representing each month of the day.
There are eight statues around the clock. On the top, there are the skeleton, Turkish man, with mirror, a man with honeybag; on the below astronomer, chronicler, philosopher and angel. During the day, the clock is crowded most of the time, and there are fewer people around evening time so it is highly recommended to visit the clock around nighttime.
If you want to read more about Prague, here is a nice blog website which will help you to learn all about Prague which provides useful recommendations to go beyond touristic areas and experience the real Prague!