Prague is rich with architectural landmarks that are testament to its changing fortunes. Dubbed the City of a Hundred Spires, it was the seat of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the favoured residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably Charles IV – for whom its Charles Bridge is named. Under his tutelage the city flourished as an imperial capital.
In fact, Charles laid out the design of the city’s mid-13th-century ‘New Town’ or Nové Město himself. But it’s not just Gothic architecture that’s to be had in Prague: the Czech capital is a paradise for history and design fans.
Mostly spared from the wide-scale bombings of WWII, the city’s medieval centre has remained pretty much intact and eye-catching examples of Baroque and Renaissance architecture lie around every corner.
More contemporary additions come from the country’s Communist era, as well as Modernist and contemporary additions to the cityscape…
Here are Prague’s 10 must-see architectural landmarks.
This dramatic, 65-meter-tall gothic tower was built as one of 13 gates to the city. Modelled after the Old Town Bridge Tower and studded with sculptures, its name comes from its use as a gunpowder store in the 17th century.
St Nicholas Church
The imposing St Nicholas ChurchSt took almost a century to complete by three generations of the same family (Dientzenhofer). Marked by a 20-metre green dome, its intense Baroque interior features a ceiling fresco by Johann Kracker and a 4,000-pipe organ once played by Mozart.
Located on Prague’s fairytale-like Old Town Square, the Kinský Palace, notable for its attractive pink and white Rococo façade, was built between 1755 and 1765. It was originally owned by the aristocratic Kinsky family and once contained a secondary school that was attended by one Franz Kafka…
This immense Neo-renaissance piece of Prague architecture, which looks grandly out over Wenceslas Square, was designed by Josef Schultz and built between 1818 and 1891. Especially impressive is its main entrance, which features ceiling frescos, sweeping staircases and intricate stonework.
This quintessential Art Nouveau building – replete with its stained glass windows, elaborate mosaics and gilded decorations – was completed in 1911 on the former site of the Royal Court Palace. Its sumptuous interior features the glass-domed Smetana concert hall, plus a popular grand cafe and restaurant.
St George’s Basilica
This splendid basilica lies within Prague’s sprawling Royal Castle complex, alongside other architectural delights like the soaring St Vitus cathedral. The Baroque, 17th-century red facade leads into a Romanesque stone interior with an impressive cross-vaulted ceiling and semi-circular arches.
Designed by Adolf Loos for engineer František Müller and his wife Milada Müllerová, this avant-garde villa is one of the most significant examples of Loos’ ‘Raumplan’ concept. Restored between 1997 and 2000, the white, cubic structure is now a National Cultural Monument and open to the public.
House of the Black Madonna
Built as a department store in the early 1900s, this cubist Prague architectural landmark was designed by famed Czech architect Josef Gočár. Reconstructed in the 90s, it now houses the Museum of Decorative Arts and a cafe that boasts the only Cubist interior in the world.
St Wenceslas Church
Designed by Josef Gočár (see the House at the Black Madonna), this white, reinforced-concrete church was built between 1929 and 1930 in classic Constructivist style. Located in Prague’s pretty Vršovic district, it features a stepped roof and a wonderfully slender, 80-metre bell tower.
Zizkov TV Tower
At 216 metres high, Zizkov’s soaring communist TV tower is the tallest Prague architectural landmark. Used as a meteorological observatory and tourist attraction (there’s a restaurant and cafeteria inside), it’s most famous these days for the giant babies that climbed its outside thanks to Czech artist David Černý.
Prague’s most famous concession to contemporary (post-1989) architecture is the Dancing House, which was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry and opened in 1992. Its curvaceous outlines host a top floor restaurant with impressive vistas of the Vltava River.