Old Town Square is the heart of the city of Prague and one of the oldest square in the Czech capital. This square has been the main center of Prague's life since the early 12th century. Old Town Square was first known as Big Market Square, but it was also used as the place where the kings' army gathered and executions -the main source of Medieval entertainment-were carried out. In the 1230s, Wenceslas II built a defense wall around a small settlement of the Old Town to protect people from sieges.
In the 14th century Bohemian king John of Luxemburg helped to establish Old Town Hall, Prague Old Town gained the status of a city. John's son Charles IV started the construction of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, the biggest Gothic shrine on the right side of the Vltava river. The two towers of the Tyn church is what makes the view of the Old Town Square so recognizable! At the beginning of the 15th century, this church became the center of early Protestant thought when John of Rokycany, a future archbishop and a supporter of Jan Hus, was appointed as a vicar there.
The Counter-Reformation whipped out all the Protestants from the map of Prague, and on June 21st, 1621, members of the Czech uprising against Habsburg rule were publicly executed on the Old Town Square. You can still find the 27 crosses on the ground in front of the Old Town Hall that commemorate this sad moment in Czech history. After that, the Bohemian kingdom became a mere province in the Habsburg Empire and people were deprived of their national identity and religion. This period of oppression lasted until 1918 when the sovereign state of the Czechoslovakian Republic was founded. People were then getting rid of everything that reminded them of the Habsburg rule including some historical monuments, like the Marian Column on the Old Town Square. Having been torn down by the Prague people, this column already managed to make a comeback and not without controversy.
Although Czechoslovakian independence was established at the end of WW1, the battle for freedom wasn't over. In May 1945, a few days before the end of WW2, Czechs bravely fought in the Prague Uprising against Nazi rule, when the Old Town Hall and other buildings on the Old Town Square partially burned down. The northern wing of the Prague City Hall was never rebuilt afterward.
See more of our Prague Travel Tips.
Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.