|The National Museum (Národní Muzeum) in Prague occupies two magnificent buildings at the top of Wenceslas Square. It is the oldest and largest museum in the country.|
The museum's primary focus is the nature and history of the Czech Republic. But it also holds temporary exhibitions on a range of subjects of international significance, from ancient Egypt to Space.
The main building is the Historical Building of the National Museum, a monumental neo-Renaissance structure set in a commanding position at the head of Wenceslas Square.
This building boasts a grand entrance hall with sweeping staircases, intricate stonework and beautiful ceiling frescos.
The exhibition rooms, which lead off the entrance hall, house a stunning natural history collection, featuring fossils, rocks, minerals, meteorites, a huge skeleton of a fin whale, and stuffed and life-size models of animals and birds; some are prehistoric and extinct, such as a woolly mammoth.
Other rooms house historical exhibitions, which cover the history of Prague and the Czech lands from the 8th century through to the present day.
It is a dramatic story, spanning the foundation of Prague, Empire, the World Wars, and Nazi and Communist occupations.
The Historical Building also hosts temporary exhibitions - we list the main ones in Prague events.
One final attraction of the Historical Building is the Dome. Visitors can pay 50czk to ride the lift up to it, from where there are terrific views over Wenceslas Square and across the city as far as Prague Castle.
The Historical Building of the National Museum was constructed between 1818 and 1891 on the site of the former Horse Gate (Wenceslas Square once served as Prague's main horse market).
It was designed by Josef Schultz as an architectural symbol of the Czech National Revival.
The New Building of the National Museum, which is adjacent to the Historical Building, is an equally imposing and iconic structure, but of an entirely different architectural style.
The ground floor is a huge oblong block covered in glass. On top, sits an even larger block of concrete and glass, elevated high above street level.
The New Building is used for both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The New Building of the National Museum was constructed in 1937. This was before the Nazi and Communist occupations of the country, but perhaps it was a portent of the turmoil that was to come - the building exudes a chilling power, more than any other in Prague.
Prior to becoming an annex of the National Museum, the New Building was home to Radio Free Europe (1995-2009). Before that, it served as the Parliament of Czechoslovakia (1946-1992) during the Communist era, and the Prague Stock Exchange (1938-1939).
An Underground Corridor connects the two buildings of the National Museum. A rolling film projected onto the sides of the corridor depicts the evolution of Wenceslas Square from Prehistoric times to the modern day, showing the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Nazi and Communist eras.
The National Museum entrance ticket allows you to visit both buildings, and to use the corridor that connects them.
Visitors can enter the museum via either building (if there are queues, the New Building usually has the shorter queue).
Both buildings of the National Museum have a café, a shop and a free cloakroom, which visitors may be wise to use.
To explore the sights in Prague, take a Prague tour.