|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 Czechia.|
The museum's primary focus is the nature and history of the country, although it also stages temporary exhibitions on subjects of international significance, from ancient Egypt to Space.
Historical Building of the National Museum
The main building is a monumental neo-Renaissance structure set in a commanding position at the head of Wenceslas Square.
Inside is a grand entrance hall with sweeping staircases, intricate stonework, and beautiful ceiling frescos.
The exhibition rooms lead off the entrance hall and house a stunning natural history collection, featuring fossils, rocks, minerals, meteorites, and animal bones, including the skeleton of a huge fin whale. There are also stuffed and life-size models of animals and birds, some of which are prehistoric and extinct, like the woolly mammoth.
Other rooms house historical exhibitions covering the history of Prague and the Czech lands, from the 8th century through to the present day.
They tell a dramatic story, spanning the foundation of Prague, the Empire, the World Wars, and the 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.
New Building of the National Museum
Adjacent to the Historical Building, the New 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 mostly for 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, enabling visitors to see the whole museum complex without exiting and crossing the road above.
A rolling film, entitled 'Moments of History', is projected onto the sides of the corridor for people to watch as they walk through it. The images depict the evolution of Wenceslas Square from Prehistoric times to the modern day, covering all the main periods of history, including the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Nazi and Communist eras.
A ticket for the National Museum allows you to visit both buildings and use the corridor that connects them. Enter the museum via either building (the New Building usually has shorter queues).
The National Museum has a barrier-free entrance (New Building), cafés and shops, free cloakrooms, and a Kids' Corner.
To explore the sights in Prague, take a Prague tour.