Old Town Walking Tour, Prague

Old Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Prague

The Staré Město (Old Town) of Prague is a former medieval settlement that is now a lively cobblestoned hub with landmark attractions.

The area was once separated from the outside world by a semi-circular moat and a wall, hugged by the Vltava river. The moat is now covered up by streets, which form the official boundary of the Old Town. One of them, called Na Příkopě (literally “On the moat“), is among the most important lanes in the city. Another marker of the border between the Old and New Towns is Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square), an intersection of eight roads and ideal spot for people-watching.

Notable places within the Old Town itself are numerous and include, among others, the Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Týn on Old Town Square, a dominant feature of the city since the 14th century. One of the city's most visited monuments in this square, however, is undoubtedly the Old Town Hall with the famous medieval Astronomical Clock.

A number of important monuments are concentrated around the Royal Road leading from the Powder Gate via Celetná Street, through Staroměstské náměstí, Karlova Street to Charles Bridge that links the Old Town to Malá Strana (the Lesser Town of Prague) across the river Vltava.

The area near the Church of St. Havel today houses the only preserved marketplace in the Old Town, Havelské Market, dating back to 1232, a small remnant of the once large medieval open-air market.

To see the Old Town of Prague at its best and explore these and other attractions in more detail, take this self-guided walk!
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Old Town Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town Walking Tour
Guide Location: Czech Republic » Prague (See other walking tours in Prague)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Old Town Square
  • Church of Our Lady before Týn
  • Church of St. Nicholas (Old Town)
  • Old Town Hall
  • Astronomical Clock
  • Celetna Street
  • Republic Square
  • Municipal House
  • Powder Gate / Powder Tower
  • Na Prikope Street
  • Havelska Street and Market
  • Old Town Bridge Tower
  • Charles Bridge
Old Town Square

1) Old Town Square

While in Prague, you are bound to visit the Old Town Square, nestled right in the heart of the city. Its unexpectedly vast expanse gives it a grandiose presence as it unfolds from narrow alleyways. Once a thriving marketplace, this square has now transformed into a pedestrian haven bustling with shops, hotels, eateries, and bars—a perfect spot to mingle with fellow travelers, behold some of the city's most breathtaking sights, and experience its vibrant nightlife, with musicians competing for the attention of passersby.

Here, you will also encounter some of the city's most remarkable medieval structures, starting with the Old Town City Hall, erected in 1364 and renowned for its iconic Astronomical Clock. Towards the northern end of the square stands the 18th-century Saint Nicholas Church, now a venue for classical music concerts, adorned with a radiant white façade that glistens in the sunlight.

Dominating the square's skyline is the 14th-century Týn Church, arguably the most photographed religious site in the city, adorned with Gothic spires (access to the interior is through the Týn School, another remarkable Gothic edifice with numerous arcades). Nearby, you can explore the Stone Bell House, home to a prominent art gallery displaying contemporary and modern artworks; adjacent stands the charming Kinsky Palace, now a part of the National Gallery Art Museum, boasting a Rococo façade.

On the southern side, you'll encounter splendid Baroque and Renaissance buildings, distinguished by their house signs: At the Golden Unicorn, At the Blue Star, At the Red Fox... In Prague's past, buildings were not numbered but identified by their unique names.

At the heart of the square stands the monumental Jan Hus Memorial, erected to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the religious reformer's death. Revered as a martyr by the Czechs, Hus was branded a heretic and met his fate at the stake on July 6, 1415.

Ascend or take an elevator to the top of the clock tower for a panoramic 360-degree view of the city.
Church of Our Lady before Týn

2) Church of Our Lady before Týn (must see)

This mighty 14th-century Gothic marvel, distinguished by its two asymmetric twin towers capped by four small spires, reigns as the most imposing Gothic monument in the Old Town. Its commanding presence is visible from every corner of Prague, serving as a reliable landmark for orientation. Like the neighboring Hus Monument, the Týn Church fills Czech hearts with pride, adding to the overall aura of "Magic Prague"—no wonder Disney used it as an inspiration for his fairytale castle.

For the best exterior view, secure a ticket to the opposite clock tower and ascend via lift to the summit. Inside, the church boasts lavish gilded woodwork, a testament to its Baroque transformation. Countless altarpieces adorn the space, positioned before pillars, beside the main altar, nestled in corners, and lining the walls. The profusion of these towering, black-gilded altars, along with the brightly stained glass, leaves an indelible impression.

Astronomy enthusiasts will certainly enjoy a visit to the exquisite marble tomb of Tycho Brahe, astronomer to Rudolf II (look for a wood relief carving depicting him with astronomical symbols), much as the chance to wonder at the grand 17th-century organ. If willing to spend extra, consider booking tickets through Via Musica for the chance to attend the occasional concert.

Why You Should Visit:
To capture great photos from the square or clock tower outside and delve into the intricate details of the free-to-enter interior.
At night, the church is bathed in orange light, casting a fairytale-like glow when viewed from the square.

Access is via a narrow passage; locate the last arch on the left among the row of restaurants when standing in the square and gazing at the twin spires. Note that visiting hours are limited, with doors possibly closed between 12 and 3 PM.
Church of St. Nicholas (Old Town)

3) Church of St. Nicholas (Old Town)

Although a place of worship has existed at this site since the 13th century, the current church standing was conceived in the 18th century by Prague's eminent late Baroque architect, Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. While it may not fully capture the lyrical exuberance of the style, as seen in its namesake across town, the Church of Saint Nicholas in Mala Strana, Dientzenhofer adeptly utilized the limited space to craft a well-proportioned structure, offering respite from the bustling crowds of Old Town.

The exterior showcases curved green rooftops and white columned walls, while the interior, though compact, boasts a magnificent chandelier and a colossal black organ dominating the rear. Afternoon and evening concerts for visitors are regularly held, with leaflets often distributed to passersby. Moreover, the church steps serve as a popular vantage point from which to capture photographs of the Old Town Square itself.
Old Town Hall

4) Old Town Hall (must see)

The sole surviving remnants of Prague's 14th-century Old Town Hall consist of the Gothic Tower housing the Astronomical Clock and a fragment of burgundy wall located opposite the Church of Our Lady Before Týn. The rest of the edifice fell victim to destruction during the Prague Uprising against German occupation at the close of World War II. Notable within the brickwork around the tower's base are a series of white crosses, denoting the site where 27 noblemen and followers of Jan Hus met their execution. These individuals spearheaded a Protestant revolt in the early 1600s, culminating in the infamous Prague Castle Second Defenestration.

Entrance to the Old Town Hall provides visitors with a unique opportunity to admire the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town from the summit of the clock tower, accessible via elevator. Additionally, visitors can explore various historical interior chambers and the Chapel of the Virgin Mary. Please be aware, however, that the chambers may close before the clock tower.

Visitors can enjoy a 50 percent discount on entrance to the Astronomical Clock Tower during the first hour after opening. Additionally, two-hour guided tours in English are available on selected evenings, typically Fridays.
Astronomical Clock

5) Astronomical Clock (must see)

Since the 1400s, the Astronomical Clock (or Horologe) on the Old Town Square has been a perennial favorite among visitors. Its hourly mechanical performance, unfolding from 9 am to 9 pm daily, never fails to captivate the crowds of tourists who gather to witness its spectacle. A true marvel, the clock's intricate design and complex mechanism, coupled with its astronomical and calendar dials, attest to the remarkable scientific prowess of its creators.

The clock's face symbolizes the Earth and the Sky, with one section denoting daytime and the other nighttime. An outer ring displays old Bohemian time, while the astronomical dial tracks the Sun and planets' orbits around the Earth (which is, of course, positioned at the center of the universe!). A third dial maps the Sun and Moon's journey through the zodiac signs. Along the periphery, an additional pointer indicates the date, day of the week, and saint's day, a matter of significance in medieval times.

Yet, the clock's main allure lies in its hourly performance of wooden statuettes, including Christ and the Twelve Apostles, emerging from miniature trapdoors and traversing from left to right. Atop the clock, perched on pinnacles, stand four symbolic figures representing the medieval threats of Death, Greed, Vanity, and a turbaned Turk. Below, stoic statues embody Philosophy, Religion, Astronomy, and History, observing the scene. As the show concludes, a cockerel emerges, flapping its wings to signal the end, followed by the clock's chiming of the hour as the spectators disperse.

Legend has it that the clock's creator, Hanus, suffered the loss of his eyes to prevent him from replicating his masterpiece. In retaliation, he purportedly sabotaged the mechanism, which remained broken for a century before its restoration. Another myth warns that if the clock halts for an extended period, it forebodes the fall of Prague.

Ascend the clock tower or take the elevator for a panoramic view of the cityscape.
Celetna Street

6) Celetna Street

Exploring Prague would be incomplete without strolling along the lively pedestrian lane of Celetná. This ancient lane, once a vital part of the medieval Royal Road used for coronation processions from the Old Town to Prague Castle, was actually named after the braided bread rolls once sold here to spectators awaiting the passage of nobles. Today it teems with souvenir shops, cafés, and restaurants, interspersed with stunning murals, ornate facades, and notable architectural landmarks, including the striking Black Madonna House. House signs along this street are a photographer's delight, with each bearing its own unique story and history.

Many of the buildings retain their original Gothic or Romanesque vaulted cellars, with notable exceptions such as "at the Black Madonna", Prague's first Cubist building. Other notable landmarks include Manhart Palace (or "at the Goats"), home to the Theatre Institute and the Theatre in Celetná, and "at the Three Kings" (#3), renowned for its excellent café and wine tasting room, once briefly inhabited by Kafka himself. Meanwhile, "at the Golden Deer" was once a "rattle" post office, where postmen signaled the delivery of mail with rattling chains.

As dusk falls, Celetná transforms into a most enchanting thoroughfare, radiating romance under the soft glow of streetlights.

Don't forget to cast your gaze upwards to appreciate the baroque detailing adorning the buildings above street-level storefronts.
Republic Square

7) Republic Square

An ideal people-watching spot at the juncture of Old and New Towns, Republic Square marks the intersection of eight roads. Here you will find a blend of old-world charm and contemporary amenities, including shops, banks, hotels, and restaurants. Dominated by the enormous Gothic Church of Saint Bartholomew, the square is one of the largest in Bohemia.

Two other architectural marvels, separated by centuries, anchor the area. Despite the passage of time, the Gothic Powder Tower still commands attention with its imposing spires, accessible via a climb of 186 stairs. Adjacent stands the enchanting Art Nouveau-style Municipal Hall, adorned in vibrant hues reminiscent of a delicate confection.

After admiring (and perhaps visiting) these iconic landmarks, visitors can explore the Kotva department store, a pinnacle of Czech architecture from the 1970s. Offering a plethora of goods including jewelry, cosmetics, and apparel, this establishment also features a terrace restaurant boasting glorious panoramic views of the surroundings.

Also in the square is the expansive Palladium Mall, spanning 115,000 square meters and housing over 200 stores and 30 cafés/restaurants across four floors. During the survey preceding construction, archaeologists unearthed foundations dating back to the 12th century, now seamlessly integrated into the Palladium's modern architecture.
Municipal House

8) Municipal House (must see)

The city's Art Nouveau masterpiece continues to serve its original purpose since its completion in 1911, acting as a hub for concerts, art exhibitions, and social gatherings. Mirroring the Czech middle class's endeavor to emulate Parisian elegance at the turn of the 20th century, its main facade is a striking ceramic half-dome mosaic titled "Homage to Prague", flanked by allegorical sculptural groups representing "The Degradation of the People" and "The Resurrection of the People".

Much of the interior showcases the works of renowned Czech artists such as Mucha and Švabinský. The former's magical frescoes, illustrating Czech history, adorn the Lord Mayor's Hall upstairs, though access is typically limited to guided tours. The exquisite Smetana Hall, which hosts performances by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and renowned international musicians, is on the second floor.

While the ground-floor restaurants may be crowded with tourists, they still exude charm with their gleaming chandeliers and intricate woodwork. Additionally, the cellar houses a cozy beer hall featuring decent fare and ceramic murals adorning the walls.

Overall, a visit is highly recommended, even if only for a brief glimpse. Guided tours are typically offered at two-hour intervals in the afternoons; visitors are advised to check the website for details.

At the on-site Modernista shop, innovation takes center stage, drawing aficionados of cubist and modernist furnishings and décor. Whether you're seeking originals, reproductions, or creations by emerging Czech designers, the selection is bound to captivate, making it a challenge to depart empty-handed. From sleek steel liquor cabinets to chic cubist vases, each item exudes distinctiveness.
Powder Gate / Powder Tower

9) Powder Gate / Powder Tower

Originally serving as a storage facility for gunpowder, this formidable tower, adorned with intricate carvings, presents a dramatic panorama of the Old Town and Prague Castle from its summit. Construction of the tower commenced in 1475 under the reign of King Vladislav II, replacing one of the city's original 13 gates. At the time, the Bohemian kings maintained their royal residence nearby, at the present site of the Municipal House, with the tower envisioned as the grandest gate of all.

The tower was envisioned to be the grandest gate in Prague; due to Vladislav's Polish heritage and strained relations with the Czech citizens of Prague, construction was halted after nine years when he relocated the royal court to Prague Castle, fearing for his safety. Abandoned as a gunpowder storage until the late 17th century, it wasn't until the late 19th century that its iconic golden spires were added. Access to the ticket office is provided on the first floor after ascending the narrow stairwell.

Why You Should Visit:
As one of medieval Prague's significant examples of Gothic architecture, this tower is visually captivating from every angle and offers breathtaking views spanning across the Old Town, New Town, and Prague Castle.
Na Prikope Street

10) Na Prikope Street

Previously serving as a moat safeguarding the eastern perimeter of the city, Na Příkopě traces the medieval walls of the Old Town, effectively dividing it from the New. Since long, it has stood as Prague's fashion hub, boasting a plethora of renowned retailers such as Benetton, Gant, Desigual, and Guess. The pedestrian zone and sidewalk cafés buzz with shoppers navigating between the upscale Myslbek shopping center and Slovanský dům, home to a 10-screen multiplex cinema.

As one of the few relatively spacious thoroughfares in Prague, Na Příkopě swiftly evolved into a major traffic artery. In 1875, the city's inaugural horse-drawn tramline commenced operations here, later electrified. In a pioneering move, Můstek became Prague's first traffic-controlled intersection in 1919, transitioning to electrically regulated traffic signals in 1927, marking the city's second such installation.

By the 1960s, traffic congestion worsened, prompting the opening of the Můstek metro station in 1978, with Line B extending along the street, nearly spanning its entire length. In 1985, the nearly century-old tramline was discontinued, finally transforming the thoroughfare into a pedestrian zone—now a bustling commercial district and leisure promenade teeming with an array of new establishments.

A leisurely stroll provides an opportunity for window shopping, showcasing a blend of Czech brands interspersed with international chain stores, epitomizing Prague's identity as both a modern cosmopolitan metropolis and a historic European capital. Amidst the fashion boutiques and luxury shops, visitors will encounter the imposing National Bank headquarters, alongside many charming cafés.
Havelska Street and Market

11) Havelska Street and Market

As the sole remaining marketplace in the Old Town, Havelská has a rich history dating back to 1232, serving as a vestige of the once expansive medieval market that once sprawled across the area now occupied by Ovocný Trh ("Fruit Market"). Originally bustling with furriers, drapers, and various craftsmen's shops, the market stretched all the way to Rytířská Street, parallel to the current Havelská Street.

Stretching about 250 meters, Havelská Street emerged in the 13th century alongside Saint Gall's (Havel's) Quarter, a significant sector of the Old Town. While most of the arcaded houses that once lined the quarter's northern flank have undergone reconstruction, some, particularly those located between Melantrichova Street and Uhelný trh, still retain their original architectural character.

Today, Havelské Market occupies a prime position on the pedestrian route connecting Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, just a brief stroll from either destination. Operating daily, it is rightfully acclaimed as one of Prague's most picturesque spots. The market offers a diverse array of fresh produce, while weekends see the addition of various tourist-oriented goods. Visitors will also find a selection of flowers, arts and crafts, leather items, wooden toys, ceramics, and other authentic mementos. While the surrounding shops may offer typical souvenirs, the market stalls offer a treasure trove of unique gifts, ranging from fresh honey to delectable sweets.
Old Town Bridge Tower

12) Old Town Bridge Tower

The grandeur of Gothic architecture finds ample expression in the Old Town Tower Bridge, situated at one end of the Charles Bridge. Constructed in the 14th century, it was envisioned as a triumphant arch for the procession of Bohemian Kings during their coronation journey from the Old Town to Prague Castle. It was also a crucial part of the city's medieval defenses against northern invaders.

Above the arch, you can see the coat of arms of the Bohemian Kingdom and the emblem of King Wenceslas IV, depicted as a kingfisher. Above these symbols stand three statues: Charles IV on the right, Wenceslas IV on the left, and Saint Vitus in the center. Higher up, near the tower's apex, are statues of saints Vojtech and Sigismund, patrons of the Czech land.

The east and west facades, once embellished, fell victim to destruction by invading Swedish forces in 1648 during the culmination of the Thirty Years' War. Commemorating this event is a stone plaque portraying Prague citizens repelling the invaders, installed shortly after.

Initially serving as a debtor's prison, the tower's first floor now houses a brief documentary detailing the bridge and tower's history. For a fee, visitors can ascend 139 steps to the top floor for a breathtaking panoramic view of the city.

Two mysterious inscriptions can be seen on the archway roof. These palindromes, "Signate Signate mere me tangis et angis" and "Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor," hold obscure origins, with some speculating they may have served as protective spells against evil forces.

Why You Should Visit:
An iconic emblem of the city's landscape, offering unrivaled views of the Prague Castle over the Vltava River.

Consider descending the first two or three flights of stairs backward from the top for added ease.
Charles Bridge

13) Charles Bridge (must see)

The Charles Bridge, a renowned symbol of Prague, commenced its construction on July 9, 1357, at precisely 5:31 AM. This timing was no mere coincidence but based on the belief of Charles IV, the Roman Emperor, in the powers of numerology and astrology. His choice of the specific date and time, forming a palindrome, was thought to endow the bridge with added strength. Whether this belief held true, or whether the rumored mixtures of eggs, wine, or milk into the foundations contributed to durability, remains one of the structure's intriguing mysteries.

Spanning the Vltava River and stretching 516 meters long, nearly 10 meters wide, and supported by 16 arches protected by ice guards, the Charles Bridge served as the vital link between the Old Town, Prague Castle, and surrounding areas until 1841. Witnessing a surge in traffic during the early 20th century, it eventually transitioned to pedestrian-only access in 1978.

Adding a unique artistic dimension to the bridge are thirty Baroque statues, installed between the late 17th century and 1928, seamlessly blending with the underlying Gothic architecture. While strolling toward Lesser Town ("Malá Strana"), take a moment to appreciate these statues up close. Notable among them is the bronze crucifix, the oldest dating back to the mid-17th century, and the striking depiction of Saint Francis Xavier converting four pagan princes—an Indian, Moor, Chinese, and Tartar—a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture. Another significant figure is the eighth on the right, Saint John of Nepomuk, associated with a legendary tale of martyrdom on the bridge. Tradition holds that touching his statue brings good fortune or, in some renditions, ensures a return visit to Prague.

For a more leisurely experience, visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds.

Walking Tours in Prague, Czech Republic

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