Prague has architectural majesty spanning a thousand years. Visiting the old city – its magnificent Romanesque rotundas, grand Gothic churches, beautiful Renaissance frescoes solid Baroque palaces or old houses with the elements of the best Prague architecture – will be like wandering through the city’s pages of rich history.
Old Town Square
Gothic houses in Prague cluster around the Old Town Square or Staromestska namesti. Some constructed on Roman foundations, many of the homes in this district were rebuilt during the last years of the Renaissance period and the Baroque period, making a patchwork of architectural styles.
Some homes in the Square feature arbors representative of the 13th century Gothic architecture, while others feature Renaissance-era arch gables. The Old Town Square itself is a strangely shaped plaza highlighted by the Town Hall tower as well as its intricate and glittering astronomical clock.
The Charles Bridge
Arching over the Vltava River in the city’s Lesser Quarter, the Charles Bridge combines Gothic architectural style and Baroque sculpture. Czech King and Roman Emperor Karel IV (Charles IV) began the construction in 1357, which was finished by the Prague architect Petr Parler. The architect transformed Karel IV’s foundation stone into a Gothic monument.
The bridge’s two-story tower is intricately carved and decorated with sculptures depicting the Emperor and his son Wenceslas, as well as Saint Vitus. Baroque sculptures were added during the 1700s.
The “Altneuschul” or the Old-New Synagogue is considered as the oldest synagogue in all of Europe. You will find the synagogue in Josefov, the city’s Jewish quarter. It was called the New Synagogue in 1275 and became the Old-New in the 16th century, following the building of more synagogues.
Builders during the Medieval period were Christians, who used the same Gothic elements traditionally found in Christian cathedrals and churches. Like Gothic churches, the Old-New Synagogue in Prague features vaulted ceilings and octagonal pillars.
Homes along the Vltava
You will find some of the best Prague structures in Vltava. During the 1500’s, practical industrial buildings mushroomed on Kampa Island, now known as Little Venice. You will find more intricate residential homes along the Vltava River, which have the traditional Czech hooded dormers.
The Archbishop’s Palace
The Archbishop’s Palace, originally built as a Renaissance home, is located in the Hradcany royal complex. It was reconstructed several times, first in 1562-1564 by Archbishop Anton Brus. A chapel full of frescoes was added in 1599-1600. The Palace was renovated following the Rococo style in 1669-1694. The decorative entrance of this popular Prague architecture, with a Latin writing, is still intact.
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral, hovering on top of Castle Hill, is perhaps the most famous landmark of the city. The cathedral’s high spires are a very important Prague symbol. It took almost 600 years to build; construction began in the middle of the 14th century and was only completed in the late 19th century.
The cathedral is a combination of architectural ideas from different eras, blended into a harmonious whole. The St. Vitus Cathedral is definitely a masterpiece in the Gothic architecture tradition, but its western segment was constructed long after the Gothic era.