Prague Museums from Antonin Dvorak to Communism and Sharks

When visiting Prague, a museum visit is not the first thing on your what-to-do-and-see list. However, an hour or so in a museum is definitely worth it. Prague has a lot to offer in the field of art and culture. With 20.000 objects, the National Museum, Narodni Muzeum, is the largest museum in the Czech Republic.

Be sure to include a visit to Prague Castle and Golden Lane, the castle grounds are free to wander about but if you want to see the crown jewels you will have to get a ticket. The Long Tour will keep you busy all day, an afternoon or morning is enough for the Short Tour. The Museum of Communism is an eye-opener and tells about the country's past during Communist days. The Dvorak Museum is compulsory for all music fans.

The Mirror Maze on top of Petrin Hill and Sea World in the Holesovice district are the perfect spot to be with children, but adults will also be charmed especially when the sharks are being fed.

Most museums are closed on Mondays and are open on the other days of the week from 10.00 to 18.00. The National Museum is also open on Monday and free on the first Monday of the month.





National Museum
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

The National Museum, Narodni Muzeum, is the oldest and largest museum in the Czech Republic. It consists of two buildings almost next to each other. The main building in monumental neo Renaissance style is closed for renovation until mid-2015. The New Building of the National Museum housed the Czechoslovakia parliament until 1989 and in post Communist days it was home to Radio Free Europe. Only a very small part of the 20 million objects is exhibited in the New Building. The New Building presents temporary exhibitions and is also used as storehouse for the permanent collection of the National Museum.

Recommended for Museums because: Browsing in the museum's gift store and a coffee in the Kavarna Muzeum Café are the perfect way to end your cultural visit.

Marianne's expert tip: Guided tours are every hour. Book a guaranteed spot for the 11 am or 3 pm tour by emailing at least three days in advance.

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Prague 02 Vinohrady
Antonin Dvorak Museum
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Villa Amerika has been been home to the Dvorak Museum since 1932. Built as a eighteenth-century summer house, this striking Baroque building is well worth a visit, not only for its exhibition but also for its interior design and in particular the original frescos. The exposition shows Dvorak's life through a range of personal belongings, including his viola and piano, and public and private photographs. Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904) was an outstanding composer of chamber music and oratorios. He was the first Czech composer to gain international reputation. For three years he was the director Of the National Conservatory of Music in New York.

Recommended for Museums because: The small museum shops stocks sheet music and CDs of Dvorak works as well as other musical souvenirs.

Marianne's expert tip: A visit to the museum is not only musically rewarding, it is also an opportunity to see the interior of a baroque summer house, including ravishing frescos.

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Prague 07 Holesovice
Sea World
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Every Tuesday at 3 pm it is shark feeding time! See how they swallow small fish and how they love it. They swim along graciously in a giant tank that holds 100,000 liters of water together with other fish. This underwater world makes a good family outing. The tanks are decorated with corals and plants that wave in the current. The sand shark is the most feared shark in the world and grows to a length of 3.5 meters but looks not so very fierce when you see him behind glass. There are steps for small children so that they can see fish in the tanks. There are also some aquariums on a lower level, excellent for young children.

Recommended for Museums because: The perfect spot to be on a rainy afternoon. The kids will love it.

Marianne's expert tip: Be sure to see the turtle tank at feeding time.

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St Vitus Cathedral
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Soaring spires of St Vitus Cathedral dominate the Prague skyline. Not only is the cathedral a place of pilgrimage, it is also a museum, treasure chamber and a blockbuster attraction. This is the church where the archbishop of Prague crowned Bohemian kings and where they have their last resting place. Highlights of the cathedral include the silver tomb of John Nepomuk with an army of angels supporting a canopy, the coronation chamber where the crown jewels are kept, Wenceslas Chapel with wall paintings depicting the saint's life and stained glass windows designed by Art Nouveau painter and decorative artist Alfons Mucha.

Recommended for Museums because: The first part of Cathedral is free to enter. If you want to see more detail you will have to buy a ticket.

Marianne's expert tip: Climb the 297 steps to the St Vitus Tower for the largest church bell in Eastern Europe and a sweeping view.

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Mirror Maze
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Entertainment for young and old. Take the cable car to the top of Petrin Hill first. The Mirror Maze is housed in a miniature castle on Petrin Hill. This building was part of the Great Exhibition of 1891, when also the miniature Eiffel Tower that stands on top of Petrin Hill was built. The mirror maze looks intricate but you will not lose the way. However young children will. They bump their noses against the mirrors thinking they are following a path. Besides the labyrinth you will also find a room with distorting mirrors, fun for fathers, mothers, grandparents and children alike.

Recommended for Museums because: The diorama representing a invasion of the Swedes on the Charles Bridge is the main reason for adults to see the Mirror Maze.

Marianne's expert tip: This is the perfect place to be with kids on a rainy day. Take the funicular to the top of Petrin Hill before entering the mirror maze

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Prague Castle
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Prazský Hrad, Prague Castle, is one of the largest castle complexes in the world. Not only is it home to the Czech President it also includes one of Prague's most popular tourist attractions. The castle complex also comprises St. Vitus Cathedral, the Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and the Powder Tower. Visitors can easily spend a full day exploring the castle and the grounds; from admiring Alphons Mucha's stained glass windows in the St Vitus Cathedral to watching the changing of the guards. Stroll along the Golden Lane, a row of picturesque cottages built for the castle's guards and gunners now transformed into souvenir shops and the lane is always bustling with people.

Recommended for Museums because: The Crown Jewels and Alphons Mucha's stained glass windows are the highlights of your visit.

Marianne's expert tip: Plan your visit early in the morning to beat the crowd and allow at least three hours for your visit.

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Tucked away on Krísovnické námestí, Charles Bridge Museum tells the history of Prague's most famous monument. The permanent exhibition tells how floods swept away Judith Bridge, the first bridge to span the Vltava River. Walk down the steps to see the original 12th century stonework of the Judith Bridge. Learn about masonry and carpentry techniques used when building Charles Bridge. Find out if it is true that Charles IV ordered egg yolks to be added to the mortar for a better bond between the bricks. The star exhibit is a scale model of the bridge, including all three hundred and fifty builders in their working clothes. It took eighteen months to complete this model.

Recommended for Museums because: Dramatic black-and-white photographs show how the 1890 floods swept away three arches and how the bridge almost collapsed.

Marianne's expert tip: First, take a detailed look at the scale model of Charles Bridge in the museum. Then walk across the real bridge and discover that the miniature bridge is an exact copy of the real one.

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The Museum of Communism was founded by Glenn Spicker, an American businessman who scoured junk shops and flea markets to gather Communist-era artifacts. The museum offers visitors a glimpse of the past demonstrating how suppression, fear and double-speak were parts of everyday life from the Communist coup in February 1948 until its collapse in November 1989. The museum is divided into three rooms: the Communist dream, the reality and the nightmare. Snippets of daily life are eerily realistic; a classroom and a blackboard with letters in Russian, an almost empty grocery shop, and an interrogation room. One very interesting exhibit is an old photo of the Stalin monument that used to be on the plinth in Letna Park. The original monument depicted Jozef Stalin leading the way and followed by the proletariat. This was the largest group statue in Europe; 15.5 m tall and 22 m wide. When Nikita Khrushchev accused Stalin of homicide, Moscow decided that the monument had to disappear. In 1962, it was blown up with 800 kilo of explosives.

Recommended for Museums because: The museum gives an insight of what was happening in Communist ruled Eastern Europe until 1989.

Marianne's expert tip: Be sure to watch the video footage of the protests against Communist rule and the Velvet revolution of 1989.

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Mucha Museum features the works of Alfonse Mucha, one of the most celebrated Art Nouveau artists of the early 20th century. He became famous for his posters advertising theatre productions. His best known work is for the stage play Gismonda in which Sarah Bernardt, the celebrated French actress played the leading role. Mucha also designed decorative panels, magazine covers, menus, postcards, calendars, stamps and banknotes. His designs for jewelry, tableware and cutlery were so popular that he published 'A Handbook for Craftsmen'. The museum covers all periods in Mucha's career. Many of his posters, banknotes and stamps are on display. One section is devoted to informal photos of Mucha and his models.

Recommended for Museums because: Visit Veltrzni Palace in Prague where Mucha's Slave Epic is on display: twenty painting depicting the history of the Czechs and Slavic people.

Marianne's expert tip: Be sure to watch the thirty-minute video in English which gives a good insight in Mucha's life and works.

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Golden Lane
Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone

Colorfully painted cottages line Zlata Ulicka, Czech for Golden lane. This picturesque alley runs along the northern wall of Prague Castle. These tiny dwellings were originally built for the castle guards. Later they provided housing for craftsmen, including goldsmiths. At the far end is Dalibor Tower. When you climb up, you get to s small display of torture instruments. If this does not interest you, go up anyway to see the Parable with the Skull, a modern bronze sculpture showing a prostrate man with a huge skull on his back. Admission to Golden lane is with Prague Castle Tour ticket.

Recommended for Museums because: Golden lane is an open-air museum and popular among tourists who browse the souvenir shops that line the alley.

Marianne's expert tip: No 22, the blue house, is where Franz Kafka stayed when he visited his sister who lived here. Here he found inspiration for his book: Das Schloss, The Castle.

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Meet Marianne Crone

Marianne Crone divides her time between her home in the Netherlands and an apartment in Prague, the city where her son, daughter-in-law and grandson live.

Now retired, Marianne is still an...  More About Marianne