Whatever the time of year, a trip to Prague is the ideal opportunity to take in the city’s spellbinding architecture – both historic and new. While exploring the capital of the Czech Republic, keep your eyes peeled for these incredible buildings and structures.
Officially known as the Nationale-Nederlanden building, the Frank Gehry-designed Dancing House (or ‘Fred and Ginger’, after the legendary dancers) was completed in 1996 and immediately became one of the most photographed buildings in the city. Designed in the Deconstructivist or Neo-Baroque style, the building consists of two towers that resemble two dancers. The ‘male’ tower is a cement tower that connects to an undulating section and is topped by a metal structure nicknamed Medusa, while the ‘female’ tower is made of glass and curved pillars. Although the building is used as offices and is generally not accessible to the public, the Ginger & Fred restaurant on the top floor boasts a magnificent view of the Vltava River below.
Located very close to Prague Castle, this Renaissance palace now houses part of the collection of the National Gallery. Built in the 16th century, it is best known for its black and white sgraffito facade and the artisanal sundial on one of the chimneys. Inside, the palace features delicate, impeccably preserved painted ceilings.
The Žižkov Television Tower stands 216 metres (709 feet) tall and consists of a tubular centre with ‘pods’ and decks where equipment and antennas are held. Designed in the Structural Expressionist style, the tower was criticised at first as it was thought to resemble old Soviet structures. To counteract this, the tower was decorated with giant crawling babies by Czech artist David Černý. Although the sculptures were meant to be part of a temporary exhibit, they have become a permanent fixture of the tower, which is illuminated at night. As well as being the tallest building in Prague, the tower also boasts the highest viewing platform in the Czech Republic.
Prague Castle is actually a complex comprising several buildings, including churches and palaces. The first buildings within the complex were built in 870. The oldest structure still standing, however, is St Vitus Cathedral, which was completed in 1344. The castle grounds are also home to the New Royal Palace, where the country’s president resides, as well as the Romanesque Basilica of St George, the Old Royal Palace, a number of halls and galleries, towers, gardens and Golden Lane – an ancient street of 11 historic houses.
The Municipal House is best known for being the location of the Smetana Hall, one of the most famous classical concert halls in the city. However, there’s a lot more to this building than music. While the beautiful Art Nouveau style of the place itself makes it worth a visit, it’s the mosaic and the stucco detailing that make passers-by stop and stare. Inside, admire the underside of the impressive glass domes and a collection of artworks by beloved Czech painter Alfons Mucha. Tours of the building are on offer in a variety of languages.
Charles Bridge – Historic Prague’s Most Famous Sight
The first stones used to build Charles Bridge were set down in the year 1357, under the watchful eye of King Charles IV. Until the 19th century, the bridge was the only connection between the two sides of the Vltava River, aside from boats. Guarded by three Gothic bridge towers and decorated with 30 Baroque statues, the pedestrian bridge is one of the most photographed sights in Prague.
One of the most impressive examples of late Baroque architecture in Europe, the Troja Palace was built as a grand rural mansion for Count Václav Vojtech of Šternberk in 1679. Everything about the chateau screams grandeur, from the red tones of its roof and facade to its marble staircase, vaulted stables and painted ceilings. Inside, the building has a number of stunning rooms, including the famous ‘Chinese chambers’ adorned with elaborate paintings and ornate furniture.
One of the original city gates, the Powder Tower dates to the 15th century. From the 17th century onwards it became known as the ‘Powder Tower’ due to its use as a gunpowder store. Inside you’ll now find a photographic exhibition of historical towers in Prague, along with a viewing platform – outstanding views await after 186 steps.
One of the most beautiful Gothic churches in Prague, the Church of Our Lady Before Týn presides over Old Town Square. Construction began in the 14th century, although it would take over 200 years before the church began to resemble its current incarnation. The latest exterior renovation work took place in the 1970s, while minor interior renovation is still ongoing. The church is home to the oldest pipe organ in Prague.
Often considered the most beautiful formal gardens in Prague, the Franciscan Gardens are tucked away in the heart of New Town, near Wenceslas Square. The gardens are an oasis of tranquillity in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Prague. Enjoy a moment of peace among the roses, take a walk alongside the elegant yew hedges, or peek inside the nearby Church of Our Lady of the Snows.