Packed with Gothic churches, imposing castles, and the remaining bullet holes and bomb damage of the huge conflicts that have passed through the city, Prague is a place brimming over with history. You'd expect the Czech capital city to have some fascinating museums, and Prague doesn't disappoint. Whether you want to explore art in the National Gallery, visit the home of one of the world's most famous writers, or learn more about Prague during the Second World War and the subsequent period of Communist rule, the best museums in Prague let you take a trip back in time and learn more about the history of the city and of central Europe as a whole.
In fact, Prague has so many museums that an avid fan of history and art may struggle to fit them all in on a short trip. But a little research can help you choose which Prague museums to visit to maximize your time in this beautiful city and immerse yourself in Czech culture. Read on to learn more about the best museums and galleries in the country.
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No prizes for guessing the Prague's National Museum will be first on the list. This colossal institution was founded back in 1818, and is therefore part of the city's history itself.
The National Museum operates with a broad mandate, and its extensive collection of nearly 14 million items covers just about every field of knowledge and scientific inquiry there is. The museum is spread over several buildings, including the Main Building in Wenceslas Square, close to Prague Central Train Station, which still shows scars from bullets fired by Soviet forces in 1968. The New Building, located right next door and connected by a tunnel to the Main Building, is used for hosting temporary exhibitions.
The Natural Museum inside the National Museum has an impressive collection of items related to natural history, biology, geology, and other Earth sciences. Don't miss the iconic fin whale skeleton. The museum also hosts the Historical Museum, which tells the story of Prague and the Czech Republic from its early settlement up until the present day. You could easily spend hours in this museum. And the natural history exhibits are one of the best things to do in Prague with kids.
For centuries, Prague was home to one of Europe's oldest and largest Jewish communities. In the 18th century, Jewish people made up 25% of the city's population. However, the community suffered from several waves of persecution, including the Holocaust which almost destroyed it. However, Prague's Jewish population still clings on, and you can celebrate the history of this remarkable people at the Jewish Museum. This museum holds one of the largest collections of Judaica in the entire world. Founded in 1906, the story of the museum's survival along with the historical documents it preserves through Nazi persecution during World War II is remarkable by itself. And the exhibits and items this museum offers will give you a front-row seat to the turbulent history of this community.
While at the Jewish Museum, don't forget to visit Prague's famous Jewish cemetery. The oldest stone in this atmospheric resting place dates back to 1439, and it's a unique place to take in some tranquility in the city.
Art lovers won't want to miss Prague's incredible National Gallery. The largest collection of art in the Czech Republic is spread across several different buildings. If you want to see the work of Old Masters from across Europe, the Schwarzenburg Palace and Šternberk Palace are the places to go. 19th-century art is housed in the Salm Palace, and contemporary art, the largest collection the museum holds, is located in Veletržní Palace. It's here you'll find one of the museum's most celebrated artworks, the Slav Epic by Alphonse Mucha.
You'll also find priceless art by Monet, van Gogh, Cézanne, Klimt, and other internationally famous artists. Pablo Picasso has an entire room to himself. Even if you're not the biggest art fan, it's almost impossible not to find something you like in this stunning collection of contemporary art.
Franz Kafka Museum
The Czech Republic has been home to many famous writers through the ages. However, very few writers of any nationality have achieved the international fame and recognition of Franz Kafka. This 20th-century writer had a huge impact on fiction around the world, and his work is still studied in schools and universities to this day.
Franz Kafka was a unique talent, and so perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Franz Kafka Museum is one of the most unique museums in Prague. Exhibits include an Existential Space and an Imaginary Topography that tracks possible locations of the settings of the writer's work. Fans of Kafka and of literature in general shouldn't miss this place. But even those less familiar with Kafka's work will be impressed by the unique appeal of this specialist Museum.
The Kafka Museum is located close to the banks of the Vltava River in Lesser Town. However, its proximity to Prague Castle and some of the most heavily touristed parts of the city make this a great neighborhood to explore. You'll find some of the best street food in Prague in this area, so it's well worth a visit.
Prague Museum of Communism
Following the Second World War, Prague, along with much of eastern and central Europe, fell under the Soviet sphere of influence. Prague remained a communist nation until the Velvet Revolution of 1989. At the Prague Museum of Communism, you can peek behind the Iron Curtain to see what life was like in Communist Prague for much of the 20th century. Through the artifacts of this tumultuous period, you can learn about the secret police, the collectivization of business and industry, and what daily life was like for residents of communist Prague. It's a fascinating place to explore, and is an especially great place to bring kids so they can see a different way of life from the one they are used to, and one that still influences the city to this day.
Sex Machines Museum
Definitely not one for the kids, the Sex Machines Museum of Prague is one of the city's many unusual museums. Spread over three floors, the museum claims to be the only museum in the world dedicated to sex toys. Opened in 2001, the museum holds vintage pornography, clockwork vibrators, and all the kinky paraphernalia you can handle. The museum is also located right in Prague Old Town between Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, so it's a great place to kill an hour or two while you're exploring this heavily-touristed area. Photographs aren't allowed inside, but that's okay. Some of the exhibits here are bound to burn their way onto your memory anyway.
Alphonse Mucha was one of the greatest visual artists of the 20th century in Czechoslovakia. Although he established his reputation in Paris, his later life and career took him back to his home country, where his work is celebrated in the capital at the Mucha Museum. Along with the Slav Epic in the National Gallery, the Mucha Museum allows you to get better acquainted with the work of this pioneer of Art Nouveau. Check out the drawings, photographs, and famous posters designed by Mucha, and you'll come away with a new appreciation of this underrated artist.
This Monastery, located not far from Prague Castle, was founded back in 1140. It's best known for its library, home to ancient and priceless manuscripts that are centuries old in many cases. If the library looked strangely familiar to you, that's probably because it is regularly featured on lists of the world's most beautiful libraries. The ornate decoration and historical significance make the Monastery a must-visit and one of the best museums in Prague.
As well as the library, the monastery has its own art gallery full of impressive works from the Gothic, Baroque, and Rococo periods. Plus, it's home to a cabinet of curiosities the dates back to 1798 including, among other treasures, a taxidermied dodo bird.
The Czech Republic is famed around the world for its beer. Beer is a way of life here, and several varieties of beer, including Pilsner, have their origins in this part of the world. If you've found yourself overwhelmed by the extensive beer menu at one of Prague's many pubs and bars, you can learn more about this popular drink at the Prague Beer Museum. This fun attraction will take you through the history of brewing in the city and in the country, explaining the different varieties and brewing methods that make Czech beer so well-regarded even to this day.
A 90-minute tour will teach you all you need to know about beer. At the end of the tour, you'll get the opportunity to taste some delicious Czech beers. You can even bottle your own beer in the cellar for a unique souvenir of your visit to Prague.
House of Terror
Prague's history is one of conflict. And in the 20th century, Prague was ruled by two different totalitarian regimes in succession, the Nazis and the Communists. The House of Terror dives into the darker side of Prague's history, explaining the methods and techniques both these authoritarian rulers used to keep the people of Prague under control.
The House of Terror is located in a building once used by the Gestapo to imprison and torture anyone who tried to stand up to them. While this attraction is not for the faint of heart, it does offer a fascinating glimpse into the darker side of human nature. It also serves as a monument to those who lost their lives to tyranny in the 20th century.
The Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius
World War II buffs shouldn't miss this small but incredibly moving memorial. Prague was occupied by Nazi forces before the outbreak of the war, and the people of the city suffered tremendously under German occupation. In 1942, Czech paratroopers entered the city and assassinated Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi official responsible for Prague at the time. Following the assassination, the soldiers took refuge in the basement of this church where they mounted a doomed last stand against German forces. The basement is still riddled with bullet holes from the heroic battle and is a testament to the bravery of the men who fought to free their country from tyranny. Exploring the small church won't take long, but will give you a palpable sense of history that's hard to find anywhere else.
What are the best free museums in Prague?
In recent years, Prague has really embraced its status as a top tourist destination, and free attractions are getting harder to find. However, it won't cost you a thing to visit the Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and the Army Museum is also free.
Which are the best museums in downtown Prague?
Prague centers around Old Town Square, and you'll find many of the city's best museums in this area. The Mucha Museum, the Museum of Communism, and the Sex Machine Museum are all located here. Plus, it's only a short walk from Old Town Square to the National Museum.
Are there any cheap museums in Prague?
Several of Prague's best museums are very reasonably priced. The Sex Machines Museum costs around US$10 to visit, and a basic ticket to the impressive National Museum is even cheaper at around US$9. Plus, you can get free entry to the National Museum on certain days of the year, including International Museums Day.