Top 10 Historic Facts About Old Town Square

One of the most fascinating spots in Prague is a magnificent square in the historical center of the capital of the Czech Republic.

In this post, you can discover some interesting facts about Old Town Square, a must-see landmark when you visit the city!

1. It’s located in the historical heart of the city

Prague is a city located in the heart of Europe and has been one of the most important cities ever since the Middle Ages. It was the historical capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and later became the official seat of multiple Holy Roman Emperors.

It also has a strategic location as it grew on the banks of the Vltava River, the longest river in the Czech Republic at 430 kilometers (270 miles).

The city grew around the Old Town quarter, a medieval district near the Vltava River. The centerpiece of this area is Old Town Square, the most important public square in the city. The most fascinating bridge in the city, Charles Bridge, is located just nearby as well.

Prague Aerial view
Aerial view of Prague / Thomas Depenbusch / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

2. It features both a Gothic and Baroque church

One of the most remarkable facts about Old Town Square is that it features buildings dating back to several different periods, which means they were built in different architectural styles.

There are two great churches located on the square, a Gothic church called “Church of Our Lady before Týn,” and one designed in the Baroque architectural style as well called the “Church of Saint Nicholas.”

The Baroque church was completed between 1732 and 1737 and its interior was modeled on that of the chapel of the Saint Louis Cathedral of Les Invalides in Paris.

It was built on the site of a much older Gothic church which was first mentioned in the year 1272.

St nicholas church prague
St. Nicholas Church / Magnus Manske / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

3. The towers of the Gothic church dominate the Prague skyline

The dominating church on the square is the Gothic church which has been the parish church of the Old Town of Prague since the 14th century.

Its two towers reach a height of 80 meters (260 feet) and since this part of Prague doesn’t feature tall buildings, it’s one of the most imposing structures in the area.

There were both a Romanesque 10th-century church and an early Gothic church dating back to 1256 located here. The current building was completed in the 1450s with the two towers being the last elements to be finalized.

Church of Our Lady before Týn
Church of Our Lady before Týn / Pixabay

4. A former palace on the square was transformed into a museum

Another magnificent building on the square is located just to the left of the Gothic church and is called the “Kinský Palace.”

This Rococo palace was originally built for the Golz family between 1755 and 1765 but ended up being purchased by the Kinský family in 1767 which is how it got its name.

Since 1949, the year following the Communist Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948, the building has been used by the National Gallery of Prague, one of the most famous art galleries in the city.

Kinsky Palace in Prague
Kinský Palace / Tiia Monto / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

5. A commemorative statue of a religious martyr decorates the center

In the center of the square, pretty much right in front of the Kinský Palace, you can find a statue of a man named Jan Hus (1372-1415). He was a Czech theologian and philosopher who developed a Christian movement referred to as Hussitism.

The teachings of his movements are assumed to be an important predecessor of Protestantism, a 16th-century Christian movement that is still practiced actively today.

The Catholics of the time didn’t take his teachings lightly, though, so they tied Jan Hus to a stake in the town of Konstanz in southern Germany and burned him alive.

This event eventually culminated in the so-called “Hussite Wars” which lasted between 1419 and 1434 and which saw the Radical Hussites defeated while the more moderate followers made a compromise with the Catholic church.

The memorial in his honor on Old Town Square was completed on July 6, 1919, exactly 500 years after the man’s agonizing demise.

Jan Hus Memorial Prague
Jan Hus Memorial / Øyvind Holmstad / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

6. The square was the scene of the execution of 27 people in 1621

The square features another memorial in the vicinity of the Old Town Hall. This monument is dedicated to the 27 martyrs who were executed right there in the year 1621.

The reason was an uprising by the Bohemian estates between 1618 and 1620 against the House of Habsburg. The leaders of this uprising, including Jan Jesenius and Maxmilián Hošťálek, were beheaded for their part in this event.

The monument features 27 crosses on the pavement (installed following WWII) and a plaque with the names of the people who were executed (installed in 1911).

Old Town Hall Prague and martyrs memorial
Old Town Hall the Martyrs Memorial / Pixabay

7. An old column on the square was re-erected in 2020

The square was decorated with a Marian Column, a column depicting the Virgin Mary on top, between 1650 and November 1918. It was originally erected following the end of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) which established the Peace of Westphalia.

This column was demolished on November 3, 1918, following the conclusion of World War I and as a celebration of the end of the Habsburg Rule.

One of the most amazing facts about Old Town Square is that this column has been re-erected in 2020 and stands back in its old spot in front of the Church of Our Lady before Týn.

Marian Column Old Town Square
The column on the square (right) / Pixabay

8. The Old Town Hall features a clock that holds a remarkable record

One of the most popular attractions on the square is the Old Town Hall and more specifically the medieval astronomical clock that is attached to the southern wall of the building.

This clock is called the “Prague Orloj” and was originally installed in the year 1410. This makes it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world, and also the oldest one which is still operating today!

Prague astronomical clock
Prague Astronomical Clock / Pixabay

9. The square features one of the best Christmas Markets in the world

The Old Town Square is used for amazing markets during both the Easter and Christmas periods. The Christmas market is also considered to be one of the best Christmas markets in the world!

This means that these periods are the most popular times of the year to visit Prague as you can literally breathe the fascinating atmosphere together with hundreds of thousands of tourists from all across the world!

Old Town Square Christmas
The square during Christmas / Travis Wise / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

10. The tower of the Old Town Hall is open and offers amazing views

If you’re not able to make it during the Christmas period, you really don’t need to worry as Prague and its Old own Square have a lot more to offer than that!

One of the best ways to explore the city is by climbing up the tower of the Old Town Hall. This tower was completed in the year 1364 and still pretty much looks exactly as it did during the Middle Ages!

On the top floor of this structure, you can get amazing views of the city of Prague, an amazingly unique experience!

View from Old Town Hall Tower
View from Old Town Hall tower / Richard Mortel / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en