No visit to Prague is completed with a walk around Wenceslas Square. Even if you just have a one day in Prague and you walk past it on the way to the Old Town Square, you’ll be impressed by how large this square actually is.
Wenceslas Square is more of a long rectangle than a square and it used to be the centre of upmarket shopping, hotels and restaurants.
I say, ‘used’ to be because in round about way it still is, although a lot of people nowadays prefer to shop in the large shopping centres like Palladium (The Republic Square – Namesti Republiky) or Novy Smichov (Angel – Prague 5 district).
Whilst there are a very upmarket hotels on the square I’d still prefer to say in a smaller boutique hotel tucked away in a small side street as it can get quite noisy at night from all the casinos and nightclubs on the square.
There are some wonderful-looking houses, old shopping passages and hidden tourist gems that are definitely worth exploring.
Things to see close by
- The historic Estates Theatre >>
- The famous Bridges over Vltava River >>
- Franc Kafka Rotating Head Statue >>
Wenceslas Square Name & Background History
The square is called Vaclavske Namesti – Wenceslas Square (from about 1848) and is named after St. Wenceslas who was a knight of Bohemia brutally killed by his brother and later pronounced a saint. St. Wenceslas is the patron of Czech Republic/Bohemia and the large statue in front of the National Museum is him riding on a horse.
(By the way, if you say in Czech: I’ll meet you under the tail’ it means that you want to meet the person next to the statue of St Wenceslas on the square.
A Prague person will know exactly what it means and you don’t need to explain directions or anything like that. It’s still a popular meeting place now, which is why you will still see a lot of people waiting around).
The original name was Konsky Trh – a Horse Market, because it was the place in Prague where you could trade horses. It was originally created in middle of 14 century during the reign of Charles IV, who wanted to establish a New Town in Prague (now part of Prague 1-2 area) and needed a new square to host the main markets in Prague at the time.
The square was originally a boulevard with trams running down to connect the top of the Museum to Mustek at the bottom in the 19 and beginning of 20th century.
Over the years the square was always used for large gatherings and demonstrations, such as the 1968 (Russian Invasion) and 1989 (Velvet Revolution).
It is the place where Jan Palach has burned himself alive in 1969 in protest to the political situation in Czech Republic.
Jan Palach later passed away in a specialist burns hospital nearby, which later become a new university branch and I studied there – our classrooms were shift made from the old operating rooms and you could still see the original tilling behind and above the wall panels. Something like this definitely brings the history to life for me…
You’ll find both high end fashion shops (Dum Mody on the top of the square) and affordable fashion shops (Primark has just opened it’s first shop in Czech Republic) on the square.
I personally like the Luxor Book Shop (towards the top of the square on left) because it’s the biggest book shop in Prague and has pretty much any book or map you want. It has a very good section of English only books and also has a paper, art and crafts suppliers in the basement. There is also a cafe place on the middle floor which is a really nice hideout from the busy square.
There is also the largest shoe department store in Prague – Bata (lower part of the square), which is originally Czech brand.
Apart from shops and department stores in the square, there are always markets themed depending on the season. These market’s are either in the top part of the square or the bottom part of the square, so that you can’t miss them.
The National Museum
On top of the square, you can see the largest museum in Prague – the National Museum. I’ve always loved this museum because it used to contain a large collection of stones, fossils and rare geology finds.
I remember once I’ve somehow managed to wiggle my way to a fossil department and asked them to help me to identify a fossil that I found on my walks in the Berounka valley.
I guess that the museum staff must have been quite shocked to see somebody so young (I was about 13-14 years old) and a girl (!) that was interested in geology! They did help me to identify the fossil and it’s now part of my own private collection!
The museum has recently gone through a complete renovation and the collections are now very differently organised than when I visited growing up. I miss the old layout, but I know nowadays people want to digest information in small quantities otherwise it might be too overwhelming to see thousands of variations of the same fossil!
The building is worth seeing from the outside and the inside is as magnificent as you can imagine. The museum is usually open for free during the autumn national holidays – (Independence day or St. Wenceslas Day) and it’s definitely worth seeing.
The last exhibition I’ve seen there was about Czech Republic development during the last 50 years and all the exhibits were described both in Czech and in English.
To celebrate its 200 years, the museum has curated 200 best exhibits from its collections, which include some very rare historic pieces.
Lucerna Palace & Shopping Palace
This is where you can find the upside-down statue of St. Wenceslas on the horse by the Czech artist David Cerny (the same artist who also did the crawling babies on Zizkov tower and Kampa Island).
There is also one of the oldest cinemas in Prague, which showcases Czech but also international films in English (with Czech Subtitles).
You can also experience the 19-century cafe culture by going for a coffee at the Lucerna bar or take the ‘pater noster’ lift to the top of the Lucerna roofs, where you can see the Prague and part of the Wenceslas Square buildings from a bird’s eye.
The Lucerna Passage leads to the Rokoko Palace Passage, where you can admire even more 20-century decor.
Svetozor Shopping Passage
Another favourite place of mine, where you can see art film (in English and also Czech films with English subtitles), try one of the best ice-creams in Prague and have a lunch for a fraction of the price that you’d pay in the square in an old-fashioned fast food place hidden in the basement.
Hidden gems you can see just off the Wenceslas Square
Franciscan Garden – a little hidden garden behind the Svetozor Passage, which is great for eating your ice-cream and watching the world go by.
Post Office – (at Jindriska Ulice) – this building is the most impressive post office you’ll probably ever see! Walk in and you’ll be transported to the beginning of 20 century with beautifully painted walls, high ceilings and impressive decor throughout.
Mysak – traditional ‘cukrarna’ with a long history based in a rondo cubism style building. Pop in for a coffee and be impressed with the beautifully made desserts. If you dress up for the occasion, you won’t feel out of place…
Night Life at Wenceslas Square
What looks like a lovely long square with old houses from 19th century turns at night into one big party. You can find a lot of nightclubs in the basements of different houses, which during day are not that obvious (quite often the signs come up or light up only when it get’s dark in the evening).
The restaurants stay open late and there are also a couple of casinos. This is of course great if you are looking for something to do at night – to party and let your hair down, but if you are just passing or walking through, do be careful as you might encounter lots of different people that might be loud, drunk or try to sell you various illegal substances.
How to get to Wenceslas Square
The square is within walking distance (like 10-15 min) from Old Town Square.
There are also trams that run in the middle of the square on Jindriska Street – take number 9, 3 etc and get of at Vaclavske Namesti. The stop is just opposite the Svetozor Passage (with the entrance to Lucerna Passage on the other side).
You can also walk from the Main Train Station – it’s about 10 minutes walk or the Florenc Main Bus stop (20 minutes) or Masarykovo Nadrazi (20 minutes) and you can start exploring the square from the Museum (top) side.
There are no bus stops as such and some parts of the square (mainly the bottom part) are now pedestrianised with no access to cars.
STAY IN TOUCH
Hope this blog post inspires you and as ever I’d love to what you think! Let me know in the comments below or catch up with me over on Instagram.
This blog post was originally written on 2 May 2022 and last updated on 09 February 2023