The glorious city of Prague is one of the most majestic architectural gems of Europe, spellbinding and a true delight for tourists, students, and almost anyone interested to know more about the history of Europe up close. The city’s name is derived from the old Slavic word Prague, which means “ford,” indicating that the city was founded at the Vltava River’s crossing in central Bohemia. It is the political and cultural centre of Europe and the Czech Republic’s capital with a population of 1.3 million, making it the 13th largest city in the European Union.

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Prague_©Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

Home to many well-known attractions for tourists, one can enjoy visiting their world-famous cafes or the historic gardens and parks that are indeed some of Prague’s greatest treasures. Not only this, the city has been known as the beer capital of Europe since the 10th century and has one of the most exciting shopping avenues home to many world’s luxury brands and antique shops. Every street in Prague has a story to tell; magnificent castles, buildings, shops take you to a world straight from the history books.

Fascinating History Of Prague

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During the last 1000 years, the development of Prague can be recorded in many historical periods and architectural expressions of their styles. The city has a rich history of outstanding monuments from various periods. The role of Prague in the development of Christianity in the Middle Ages in Central Europe and its formative influence on urban development has been emphasized. 

Due to its political importance in the late Middle Ages, it attracted architects and artists from all over Europe for its rich architecture. Here listed below are some styles of architecture dominantly found in Prague, with some places to visit that will fascinate you!

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History of Prague_© Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

Romanesque

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The earliest architectural style associated with the rise of medieval Europe was Romanesque. Many stone homes, palaces, and rotundas are still found in Prague, leaving traces of Romanesque architecture.

St. Martin Rotunda

St. Martin Rotunda is the most prominent well-preserved rotunda in Prague. It was constructed in the second half of the 11th century and has been demolished numerous times. The rotunda has gone through several restorations in the past. In the past, it was used as a gunpowder warehouse and later was destroyed by fire in 1523. Today, it is open during services, only making it the oldest surviving building in Prague.

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St. Martin Rotunda_© prague-guide.co.uk

Gothic

 The gothic style of architecture originated in France in the 12th century and lasted till the 16th century in Europe, with Prague having one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. This style initially arrived in Czech territories in the first half of the 13th century and was famous for a long time.

Stone Bell House

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Situated in Old Town Square, Stone Bell House is an excellent instance of the superb Gothic structure in the metropolis of Prague. Built in the 13th century, it’s far one of the oldest restored structures in Prague. The venue holds many big and small exhibitions of various types of art styles and sculptures. It receives the name from the house sign, a stone bell protruding out into the square from the building’s corner.

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Stone Bell House_©avantgarde-prague

Renaissance

The Renaissance style of architecture, which started in the early fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, was more about artistic ideas and decorative techniques to improve the aesthetically pleasing aspect of a building than the structural soundness of the structure itself. The earliest traces of Renaissance architecture in Prague developed around the end of the 15th century.

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Schwarzenberg Palace

One of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Prague is the Schwarzenberg Palace, located in Hradcanske Square. The interior is decorated with various famous and iconic paintings like The Judgment of Paris, The Kidnap of Helen, to name a few. The National Gallery of Prague took over the palace in 2002, and now it has been used as an art gallery.

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Schwarzenberg Palace_©welcometoprague.eu

Baroque

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Though Prague is best associated with the Art Nouveau style of architecture, Baroque greatly impacted their architectural history. In general, monumental entrances, entry halls, massive staircases, opulent staterooms, and enormous art were used to represent power and wealth in Baroque Prague. They reflected wealth, power, and religious ideas and symbols that influenced Baroque architecture in Prague.  

St Nicholas Church at Malá Strana 

St Nicholas Church is the most famous Baroque church in Prague and one of the most valuable Baroque buildings north of the Alps. The dome has an impressive diameter of 20 m, and the interior height to the top of the lantern is over 49 m, making it the highest interior in Prague. Today, the church provides a free entry in the mornings and classical music events and is reserved each Sunday morning for services held by the Hussite Church.

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St Nicholas Church_© prague.eu

Art Nouveau

“Art Nouveau” is a term taken from the name of a famous Parisian art gallery, Maison de l’Art Nouveau, whose owner, Siegfried Bing, displayed and sold then-novel artworks created in style. It was created by a talented and energetic generation of artists and designers, Alfons Mucha being the most well-known Czech visual artist of this period.

Industrial Palace

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The famous Art Nouveau gem, the Industrial Palace, is located in Holesovice, Prague 7, and was opened on March 15, 1891. Beach Münzberger, a Czech architect, designed the Industrial Palace. One of the city’s most notable Art Nouveau buildings, this glass palace was one of the first mounted steel constructions. The exhibition space, designed and erected for the Jubilee Exhibition in Prague in 1891, has hosted various events since then.

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Industrial Palace_© prague.net

Cubism

The cubism art movement in Prague was short-lived, which started in 1911 and ended in 1924 but left some excellent examples of Cubism. Several artists adopted Cubism’s ideals during this period and adapted the style to entirely new forms of expression: design, art, and architecture. Though this movement originated from Paris, most structures related to this movement can be found in Czech today.

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The House at the Black Madonna

The House of the Black Madonna is a cubist building in Prague’s “Old Town” constructed between 1911 and 1912. It now serves as the Czech Museum of Cubism, including the Grand Café Orient restaurant on the first level. This is the sculpture’s name that sits on the house’s corner, which was removed from the previous home that occupied this location.

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The House at the Black Madonna_©prague-guide.co.uk

POST-1989

Architecture in Prague post-1989 started a daring style of design, some controversial whereas some great examples of modern architecture very different from past design movements. 

The Dancing House

Named Fred and Ginger initially, The Dancing House was constructed in 1996 to become a centre of cultural activity in the future. The overall concept of the building is a contrast between a dynamic figure and a static figure. However, this building had to face some controversy on its opening as some believed it spoiled the aesthetics of Prague.

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The Dancing House_©Thewonderalice on Unsplash

The future of Prague

The architecture of Prague has constantly been changing with time and is still evolving. Designing modern spaces in city surroundings is controversial as some still believe this will degrade the overall culture. However, today, there may be a majority favouring converting Prague’s city surroundings for the better. The Smart Prague 2030 is a project that has been in talks, promising a positive impact on the city’s future!

References

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Prague. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague.[Accessed 24 Jul. 2021].

Prague Stay. (n.d.). Prague Architecture. [online] Available at: https://prague-stay.com/lifestyle/category/36-prague-architecture [Accessed 24 Jul. 2021].

www.conbiz.eu. (n.d.). Architectural styles in Prague: a guide for investors in historical properties in Prague – Conbiz – Business Consulting Services in Israel & Czech Republic. [online] Available at: http://www.conbiz.eu/information/articles/architecture [Accessed 24 Jul. 2021].

‌Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Prague – Evolution of the modern city. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Prague/Evolution-of-the-modern-city.

SmartPrague. (n.d.). Smart Prague – Innovations for better life in Prague. [online] Available at: https://www.smartprague.eu/en.

www.frommers.com. (n.d.). Architecture in Prague | Frommer’s. [online] Available at: https://www.frommers.com/destinations/prague/architecture [Accessed 24 Jul. 2021].

Prague | History, Geography, Culture, & Facts. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Prague.

Author

Currently, an undergraduate architecture student Khushi is a keen reader and an amateur video creator, making her way through life with creativity and her passion for learning new things. She believes that there is an artist in everyone, it is just a matter of exploring oneself.

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