Prague’s Old Town Hall is one of the oldest and most beautiful town halls in Europe. Located in the heart of Prague’s old town, it is a must-see for tourists visiting the city. The building dates back to the 13th century, and features an impressive astronomical clock on its facade. This clock is one of the oldest and most famous tourist attractions in Prague, and is well worth a visit. Whether you’re interested in history or just want to see one of Prague’s most iconic landmarks, a visit to the Old Town Hall and astronomical clock is a must-do when in the city. With its stunning architecture and rich history, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Prague’s Old Town Hall: Like a fairy tale
Prague’s Old Town Hall was built during the 13th century at the crossroads of trade routes leading north, south, east, and west from the city’s central marketplace. The ground floor of the hall was occupied by market stalls selling meat, fish, vegetables, and other goods while the upper floors served as the seat of municipal authority for Prague Castle’s Old Town wardens.
The building underwent several reconstructions over the centuries – most notably in 1485, when a large Gothic window was added to the north façade – but its overall design has remained largely unchanged. The most significant alteration to the Old Town Hall came in 1552, when an astronomical clock was installed on the south wall of the tower.
The square is surrounded by historic buildings, restaurants, cafes, and shops. It is also home to many of Prague’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, and Wenceslas Square.
The unique astronomical clock
The clock is the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working. It is also considered to be one of the most complicated ever built with its timekeeping abilities and dials indicating various astronomical phenomena. The clock was build by master Hanus, who also made the clock on Old Town Square. According to a tale, he was picked by the Prague councilors to develop a machine with numerous more purposes beyond timekeeping. The council members became alarmed after he showed them his immaculate machine. They were concerned that the clockmaker may create a comparable contraption for another town and wanted to keep the machine’s uniqueness. Hanu followed through on his pledge. According to the tradition, it took more than a century for the astronomical clock to start working once more.
According to another legend, the Czech Republic will experience horrible times once the astronomical clock stops working. According to the belief, a boy born on New Year’s Eve symbolized the only chance. He has to sprint from the Tn Church across the plaza to the town hall before the hourglass strikes twelve. He will neutralize the skeleton’s malevolent influence and stop all the bad if he succeeds. Finally, he was absolved by the citizens of Prague.
The original purpose of the clock was to tell time and act as a calendar, but it also had a religious and astrological purpose. The clock has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky; a calendar dial with medallions representing the months; and figures of the Apostles, who appear in windows above the clock every hour when it strikes.
How to get to the OId Town Hall
To get to Old Town Square from anywhere in Prague, simply take the metro to Staromestska station. The square is a short walk from there. Once you’re in the square, you can’t miss the Old Town Hall – it’s the large, imposing building in the center of the square.
If you’re interested in taking a tour of the Old Town Hall, there are several companies that offer them – we recommend Prague City Tours, as they are highly rated and their tours are led by English-speaking guides.
Tips for Visiting:
- Try to visit mid-day to see the astronomical clock in action
- Arrive early to avoid the crowds
- Climb to the top of the tower for amazing views of Prague’s Old Town
- Purchase your tickets in advance to skip the line (you can do this online or at any tourist information center in Prague)
- If you’re interested in taking a tour, book one in advance as they often sell out quickly!
- Take your time exploring the old town hall itself, as well as the astronomical clock
- Be sure to climb up to the top of the tower for stunning views of Prague’s old town
- If you can, try to schedule your visit for around midday, when the astronomical clock goes off! This happens every hour on the hour, and is a truly unique experience.