Buildings on the banks of a river, Vltava River, Prague, Czech Republic (2005-12-10) by Medioimages/PhotodiscGetty Images
According to legend, in the 8th century, the mythical Princess Libuše foresaw Prague’s future glory declaring, “I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.” She then named the city práh, which loosely translates to “threshold,” which may refer to the location of the city which is just at the crossing of the Vltava River. Many historians believe the Czech Republic’s capital—Prague—must have picked up its name from this legend.
Two floors of The House At Black Madonna are devoted to the Czech Cubism permanent exhibition from the collection of Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague by UPMMuseum of Decorative Arts In Prague
Whether or not you believe the story of Libuše, one thing’s for certain: Libuše was right. Prague did go on to become one of Europe’s greatest cultural capitals. To better appreciate the rich heritage of the city, let’s take a peek inside nine of its exceptional museums.
1. National Museum, Czech Republic
The National Museum is the largest museum in the Czech Republic. As the central state museum with collecting, scientific, educational and methodological functions it seeks to enhance the sense of national identity.
The collection of the butterfliesNational Museum, Czech Republic
The National Museum accumulates collections of material documents of natural history, prehistory and history of the Czech Republic and foreign provenance.
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) by Leonardo GonzalezNational Museum, Czech Republic
You would have the exclusive opportunity to walk through the exhibition in which you will learn the whole story about the Fin whale, the unique mascot of the National Museum in Prague.
The Trial (1981) by Wolfgang LettlLettl Collection
2. The Surreal Side of Prague: Franz Kafka Museum
Before Czech-born writer Franz Kafka died of tuberculosis at the age of 41, he asked his friend Max Brod to burn all of his unfinished works. Luckily for modern literature, Brod ignored his friend’s final wish. Many of the first editions of these celebrated novels, including The Trial and The Castle, are now housed in Prague’s Kafka Museum.
Franz Kafka, Notebook with Hebrew-German word list (1922/1922) by Franz KafkaThe National Library of Israel
The Kafka Museum is most interested in examining how the city of Prague influenced the settings in Kafka’s haunting fiction. With the use of 3D installations and special effects, the Kafka Museum helps visitors feel the surreal quality of Kafka’s fiction as they explore his diaries, letters, and drawings.
Many of the surreal art pieces in and around the Kafka Museum add to the dreamlike atmosphere of the area. The most famous of these artworks is Czech sculptor David Černý’s 2004 work Proudy, which features two men urinating in a pool that looks like the Czech Republic. Originally the statues spelled out political quotes but now it speaks with and for visitors; send a text message to the number on the fountain and have these two statues write it out with their pee!
3. From the Renaissance to Renoir And Beyond
With origins dating back to the 18th century, Prague’s National Gallery is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected art museums in Central Europe. What makes this gallery unique is that its collections are spread out in various Baroque palaces, Medieval convents, and castles all around Prague.
In addition to the works of great Czech artists, the National Gallery has an extensive collection of works by international names from the Renaissance to the Contemporary era. The National Gallery is particularly well-known for its wide collection of modern artists such as Picasso, Rousseau, Monet, and Cézanne.
Green Field (1889) by Vincent van GoghNational Gallery Prague
One of the most recognisable works in the National Gallery’s collection is Vincent van Gogh’s Green Field (1889). This is one of many landscape paintings Van Gogh produced while recovering at a mental asylum in Provence and it shows the painter at the height of his creative powers.
"Les Vessenots" in Auvers (1890) by Vincent van GoghMuseo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
4. A Refuge for The Jewish Spirit: Jewish Museum
Consisting of five synagogues, a Ceremonial Hall, and a cemetery, Prague’s Jewish Museum was created in 1906 to protect precious buildings and treasures for the local Jewish community. Strangely, this museum got many of its most valuable pieces after the Nazis took over. The Nazi government intended this museum to house the largest collection of artefacts from an ‘extinguished’ culture.
The items in this museum go back at least seven centuries, and many are linked to the Jewish experience in Bohemia. One of the rare works displayed in the Jewish Museum’s collection is an intricately woven Bimah Cover that dates to the latter half of the 19th century.
Bimah Cover (2nd half of the 19th century)Jewish Museum in Prague
This work is fascinating because it employs colourful patchwork, something that wasn’t common in Bohemian synagogues. Scholars believe the idea to use patchwork must have spread into the Czech Jewish community via France.
Family Portrait (1976) by Theodor PistekMuseum Kampa
5. Prague’s Center for Contemporary Art: The Museum Kampa
Founded in 2003, the Museum Kampa has become the central destination for Central Europe’s contemporary artists. World-renowned artists like Kveta Pacovská, Stanislav Kolíbal, and Magdalena Jetelová have all displayed their innovative works here. Indeed, before a flood hit Kampa Island in 2012, Jetelová’s giant wooden sculpture of a chair served as the symbol for this museum.
Figures (1970s) by Magdalena AbakanowiczMuseum Kampa
One fascinating work at the Museum Kampa is the collection of burlap and laminate statues called Figures, which was made by acclaimed Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. Created in the 1970s, these frightening figures give viewers an eerie sense of the anonymity in contemporary life.
6. Traditional Czech Crafts at the Museum of Decorative Arts
Prague’s Museum of Decorative Arts is on a mission to educate visitors on how to use different materials to make items that are both functional and beautiful. To achieve this ambitious goal, the museum has five major sections focusing on textiles, clocks, graphic designs, metals, and glassware. All largely produced in the Bohemia region.
One masterpiece at the Museum of Decorative Arts is a panel by the Florentine Castrucci workshop, which was made shortly after Rudolph II ordered them to move to Prague. Entitled Panel with a view of Hradčany and the Lesser Town (1601), this landscape artwork is notable because it was made out of precious colored stones that had to be cut by skilled artisans.
Panel with a view of Hradčany and the Lesser Town (1601) by Giovanni CastrucciMuseum of Decorative Arts In Prague
Panel with a view of Hradčany and the Lesser Town by Giovanni Castrucci (1601) (From the collection of Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague)
Dvorak Antonin 1841-1904LIFE Photo Collection
7. Prague’s Master Musician: The Antonín Dvořák Museum
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) was one of the few Czech composers to achieve worldwide fame during his lifetime. In total, Dvořák wrote a staggering nine symphonies, 10 operas, 16 Slavonic Dances, as well as numerous small group pieces, symphonic poems, and choral works. Almost all of his music draws inspiration from Czech folk melodies and rhythms.
To honor the Czech Republic’s finest composer, the city of Prague decided to convert an 18th century Baroque house into the Antonín Dvořák Museum in 1932. Inside, guests can see dozens of letters and household objects Dvořák once used during his lifetime. Perhaps the two most famous objects in this museum’s collection include Dvořák’s piano and viola.
Besides preserving artifacts from Dvořák’s life and times, the Antonín Dvořák Museum frequently hosts live classical music events. The museum also holds special celebrations on the day of Dvořák’s death (May 1st) and the day before his birth (September 8th).
Zodiac (1869) by Alphonse MuchaCentro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro
8. Alphonse Mucha Museum
Since Mucha was so prolific during his advertising years, his Art Nouveau posters can now be found in museums all across the US and Europe. Prague, however, has a large collection of Mucha’s early works in its 500-meter-squared Mucha Museum. While most of the works housed in the Mucha Museum are posters of colorful women with flowers, there are also a few rare sketches from Mucha’s childhood.
Václav Havel a Václav Malý by Pavel HrochKnihovna Vaclava Havla (Vaclav Havel Library)
9. Hero of The Velvet Revolution: Václav Havel Library
In 1989, the playwright and political activist Václav Havel led a peaceful “Velvet Revolution” against the Communist leaders in Czechoslovakia. Shortly after he was put in charge of the country and oversaw the 1992 separation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Founded in 2004, this library is dedicated to collecting and digitizing all of Havel’s written and spoken works. Visitors can learn about Václav Havel’s life and times in an exhibit dubbed “Havel In A Nutshell” on the first floor. The library also hosts many special events throughout the year to encourage discussion of Havel’s works and ideas.
High angle view of buildings in a city, Prague, Czech Republic (2005-12-07) by Medioimages/PhotodiscGetty Images
It’s impossible to imagine Prague without its fascinating history and beautiful fine arts. Every one of the 6.4 million tourists that visit this capital annually are equally impressed by the masterpieces Prague preserves as they are by the contemporary art it encourages. All that remains is to embark on your own journey to the “City of a Hundred Spires.”