Art Nouveau Architecture in Prague

The theme for this month’s ArtSmart Blogging Roundtable is architecture, and I’ve chosen to look at art nouveau architecture in Prague, one of my favorite cities.

prague architecture

Prague is known for its historic architecture, having been the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during the 14th century and one of Europe’s important cities for centuries. However, the range of architecture from the 20th century reflects Prague’s position as a center of art and style, especially the early years from about 1895-1915.

The Art Nouveau style is characterized by long, flowing, curved shapes; these lines have been likened to the shapes a whip makes.

art nouveau mucha

One of the reasons Prague became such a center of art nouveau is that Czech artist Alphonse Mucha was one of the movement’s most prominent figures. His lithographed advertisement for the play Gismonda, with actress Sarah Bernhardt, showcased this new style in Paris in 1895. Now visitors can see Mucha’s work at the Mucha Museum in Prague.

Mucha print

Because Mucha was so influential, you can see his work in some of Prague’s finest buildings, including the stained glass window of St. Vitus Cathedral…

art nouveau architecture details in prague

Photo credit: Tjflex2 on Flickr.com

…and a painted ceiling in the art nouveau masterpiece, the Municipal House, or Obecní dům.

art nouv1

The Municipal House might be the most impressive example of art nouveau architecture in Prague. The exterior is dripping in beautiful details.

art nouv

The good news is that the interior is a public space, containing a gorgeous cafe/restaurant and theater. You can go inside, walk around a bit, get a bite to eat, and even attend a concert (often classical music).

art nouveau architecture in Prague

Besides these masterpieces, there are countless other examples of art nouveau architecture in Prague. Walk the streets near Old Town and Wenceslas Square and keep an eye open for Hotel Central and Hotel Grand Evropa.

800px-Hotel_Central,_Main_entrance,_Prague_-_9136

art nouveau architecture prague

Photo credit: dalbera on Flickr.com

If you arrive in Prague by train, you pass through one of the city’s grandest art nouveau spaces, the main train station (Hlavní nádraží).

art nouv hlavni nadrazi

Art Nouveau architecture can be found in neighborhoods all around the city. Keep an eye open and look up to catch architectural details, especially on Wenceslas Square, the streets between Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, and Pařížská avenue off of Old Town Square.

Art Nouveau in Prague

Photo credit: dalbera on Flickr.com

However, art nouveau details can even be found on villas away from the city center (and in small towns across the Czech Republic).

Photo credit: dalbera on Flickr.com

Photo credit: dalbera on Flickr.com

If you ‘d like to learn more about art nouveau in Prague, try this book, Prague & Art Nouveau, which has tons of photos and specifics of where you can see art nouveau details in Prague. For more about Prague, check out my post “Off the Beaten Path in Prague.”

And you? Have you seen art nouveau architecture in Prague or another city? What did you like about it?

For more ArtSmart posts about architecture, check out the other ArtSmart posts for August:

The Best Hidden Museum in Paris Is All Architecture from Erin at A Sense of Place

Brussels’ Fabulous Atomium from Lesley at Culture Tripper

The Temple of Artemis, Wonder of the Ancient World from Christina at Daydream Tourist

The Evolution of the Hotel (Top 5) from Murissa at Wanderfull Traveler

Norway’s Stave Churches from Jeff at Eurotravelogue

36 Comments

  • David Klimanek says:

    Currently, there’s an exhibition in the Municipal House (till mid-September 2013): a private collection of Mucha’s posters is on display, the owner is Ivan Lendl, the former tennis player. http://www.lendl-mucha.com/

  • Alphonse Mucha is one of my favourite artists – I have one of his works in my living room – his “Summer” print. I especially love the “Poetry” print as well.
    That stained glass window is quite spectacular! I have been hearing a lot about Prague lately for more reasons that the amazing architecture – makes me think I should take a closer look.

    • Jenna says:

      Prague is amazing, especially if you love architecture–it has architecture from so many periods. It’s really an outdoor museum. And that stained glass window image above is just a detail of the whole window.

  • What beautiful photos! The train station is gorgeous. Tank you for focusing on Prague, I passed an opportunity to visit the city when I lived in Europe, and kicking myself. I hope to get there someday. i also know little of art nouveau so this was great info to catalog away.

    • Jenna says:

      You should definitely look into Prague at some point because it is a special city. A fun place for kids, too, I think.

  • ehalvey says:

    I somehow missed that Prague is a major Art Nouveau spot. That stained glass is lovely, as is the Europa facade.

  • Emily Wenzel says:

    Prague is fantastic! My favorite thing about living in Prague was wandering the streets, looking at architecture. Because there haven’t been any major wars in Prague in the past couple hundred years, there is this great layering of styles. Gothic next to Art Nouveau next to Cubist next to Romanesque.

    Also: Mucha Museum. Go now. Buy a couple prints to bring home. I have three and want more. 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      I am sad to say that I didn’t get to the Mucha Museum even though I visited Prague many times. I have heard only good things about it, and I can imagine that it would be hard to resist buying several prints. 🙂

  • Such a beautiful city. Really looking forward to visiting one day soon!

  • What a gorgeous tour, Jenna! I love Mucha. Prague does look a major destination for art nouveau.

  • Cary says:

    Thank you. Great photos! When I was in Prague in December, the art work in the train station was almost impossible to view due to construction work. They say it’s being restored; it looked like it was being destroyed. I hope to see it in better condition when I return in April.

    • Jenna says:

      I tried to find out more about the restoration with little success, but I did see that the restoration team is supposed to be a good one from Italy. Either way, I’m sure it will look great when they’re finished!

  • Cary says:

    Thanks, Jenna! I appreciate the information. Speaking of which, if you have any suggestions of a walking route to take when showing adult students Prague’s art nouveau legacy, I’d welcome them. As you can see from my website, I’m leading a tour in April, and while I’ve been to Prague several times, my knowledge of the city and its culture isn’t as deep as it is for Vienna and Budapest. Much obliged!

    • Jenna says:

      The book that I mentioned at the end of the post is full of walks. However, an easy one would be to start at Wenceslas Square, make your way to Obecni Dum, then continue down Celetna to Old Town Square, where you will see the Jan Hus statue (also in the art nouveau style), cut across the square to Parizka avenue and go down that street, which has many art nouveau houses.

  • Lola says:

    I loved being back in Prague in July. I had never been there in the summertime before. There is a reason they call it ‘The Golden City” it was shining in the sunshine!!!

    • Jenna says:

      Well, it’s a good thing that you had sunshine because the weather can be nasty there, even in the summer (at least by my standards). And I agree, it’s great to go there at all times of the year because each is different. My first visit there was around Feb. 1 and I loved the city in the dead of winter!

  • What stunning detail and gorgeous photography my friend! I had no idea that Prague was so rich in art nouveau architecture! What a fascinating style with such beauty! I loved this post!!

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks, Jeff! My photos from the Czech Republic are the old-fashioned kind…I took many, many photos there (of just about every corner of Prague’s center!), so when I went back last time with a digital camera, I didn’t see a reason to take them again. I wish I had now because I would have digital photos. These are creative commons photos, either from wikimedia or Flickr (as indicated in the captions).

  • Some of those buildings, like the Municipal House, are absolutely gorgeous, and I didn’t see (or notice) them when I was there. And I passed through the train station the first time I visited, in 1993, but I was too young and didn’t appreciate it at the time. Now I have more things to see when I make it back to Prague! I will definitely pay more attention to architectural details the next time I’m there

    • Jenna says:

      YOu know, I was in that train station more times than I can count and I don’t think I really paid much attention either. I vaguely remember it, but I was probably so distracted by the task at hand when I was there (getting tickets, dealing with the language, etc.). The Municipal House is right in the center and makes a great stopping point between Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.

  • Charu says:

    Truly beautiful…Prague is on our must see list!

  • Anna Kirsen says:

    Oh my goodness! How gorgeous is Prague! I have loved Mucha for a while now and to see the art nouveau architecture in Prague has just put it at the top of my ‘bucket list’ Thanks for sharing
    Anna@BohaGlass

  • Jean says:

    Félicitations pour votre reportage photographique et pour les commentaires appropriés qui l’accompagne. L’Art Nouveau dont Alfons Mucha fut une des principales figures de proue demeure une des plus belles créations artistiques et poétiques. Donc, merci à vous pour ce voyage immobile que vous nous faites faire.
    Et un “bonjour” de France…
    Bien à vous,
    Jean

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you! Fortunately, I studied French in school many years ago, so I can read your comment even if I couldn’t write in French back. 🙂

  • LeonL says:

    Hello Jenna

    It’s been 14 months since I last posted on your blog (Off the Beaten Path) and 11 months since the end of my fab tour in Prague. It (and other towns and cities in Czech Rep) exceeded my already high expectations – even the touristy places jam-packed with visitors were great.

    A recent discovery (via google street maps) is that Prague has far more buildings with Art Nouveau facades than I ever imagined it had.

    The suburb of Holešovice is a treasure trove (dozens) of such buildings and this extends west of it, in the area between Letná and Stromovka Parks, all the way to the district of Bubeneč. Pick almost any street in that area between Letná and Stromovka Parks up to the street Korunovační, and there are bound to be Art Nouveau buildings. Even the busy main road Veletržní has a few.
    (Area: https://www.google.com.my/maps/@50.1005834,14.4161879,15.5z)

    Mind you, most of these cannot match the Municipal House in terms of beauty and condition, but several come quite close to matching Hotel Evropa, aesthetics wise.

    I will be allocating 1.5 days on my next trip to Prague just to see these ‘in the flesh’.
    Question is when is the next trip …. 🙁

    Best

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you for all this info! I love Prague and can’t wait to go back and see some of this architecture. Question for me is when is the next trip, too!

  • LeonL says:

    Why not return to Prague next year… 🙂
    It will be the 700th anniversary of the birth of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, and there will be special exhibition(s).

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