The Municipal House – a cultural center and concert hall – was built at the beginning of the twentieth century in Art Nouveau style. The interior has been well-preserved and evokes the grandeur of the era.
Originally this was the site of the Royal Court, a palace was built around 1383 as the residence of King Wenceslas IV. It continued to be the main residence of the city’s rulers until 1483, when a popular uprising made Vladislav Jagiello decide it was too dangerous to live at the center of the city and moved to the Prague Castle. The building became a seminary and later a military academy. It was eventually demolished in 1903.
Construction of the Municipal House
The site of the demolished palace was quickly filled in with the construction of the municipal house, a large cultural center with a concert hall. Architects Antonín Balšánek – responsible for the exterior – and Osvald Polívka – responsible for the interior – designed the building in Art Nouveau, at the time the new fashionable style. The building was completed in 1911 after six years of construction and officially opened its doors the following year.
Thanks to the spectacular Art Nouveau architecture, the municipal house has become one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
Many Czech artists of the time helped decorating the building. The exterior is flamboyant and embellished with large sculptures and reliefs. The themes are often romantic and nationalist: the main entrance for instance consists of a domed portal decorated with a semicircular mosaic, «Homage to Prague».
At the center of the building, covered by a large glass dome, is the city’s most important concert hall: the Smetanova síň (Smetana Hall), known for its lavish interior. Besides the Smetana Hall, there are many smaller halls as well as restaurants and cafés which allow tourists to enter this magnificent building without an appointment.
Guided tours in English and Czech allow visitors to get a glimpse of the Smetana Hall and several other rooms that are normally off-limits. Check out the official site for more info.