You can barely take a step along Prague‘s cobblestone streets without tripping over a museum. It's estimated that the city has more than 100 museums and exhibition halls, touching on every genre of art and every period of history. If you have a particular obsession, there's a good chance that Prague has a small, niche museum that covers that too.
Completely free museums are rare in Prague, but entry fees are relatively inexpensive by European standards, so you can cram in quite a few museum trips without breaking the bank. Buying the Prague City Pass or Prague CoolPass gets you free and discounted entry to some key institutions but the consensus is that paying at individual attractions offers better value overall.
For fans of history, nature, art and more, here's a guide to Prague's best museums.
National Museum: best for national and natural history
A resplendent edifice at the top of Wenceslas Square, the National Museum has been the backdrop to some pivotal moments in Czech history. The building was a silent witness to Nazi and Soviet-led invasions; in the 1980s, the mass pro-democracy demonstrations of the Velvet Revolution took place in front of its steps.
Inside, multimedia installations and historical artifacts chart this turbulent past. The museum also hosts some interesting temporary exhibitions, often centered around Czech music and culture. What this large-scale national institution is most famous for, however, is its extensive natural history collection. The sight of a fin whale skeleton dangling from the neo-Renaissance ceiling is worth the entrance fee all by itself. Before you leave, ascend the cupola for unbeatable views down the square and over to Prague Castle.
Prague Jewish Museum: best for Jewish history
Visitors to the Prague Jewish Museum could easily lose a day in thoughtful reflection. Spread over seven sites is one of the largest collections of Jewish artifacts in the world. Most visitors begin at Pinkas Synagogue – a handsome Gothic building from which you can enter the Old Jewish Cemetery, Europe's oldest surviving Jewish graveyard.
The synagogue's main hall now stands as a memorial to the 77,297 Czech victims of the Holocaust. On the first floor is an equally powerful exhibition exploring the experiences of Jewish children incarcerated at Terezín concentration camp during WWII.
Veletržní Palác: best for modern art
Between 1918 and 1938, the newly independent Czechoslovakia became a lively hub for culture and the arts. At Veletržní Palác, in hip Holešovice, a long-term exhibition recreates some of the major art shows of those heady, optimistic days. Make like a 1920s museum-goer and take in works by Picasso, Gauguin, Van Gogh and notable Czech artists such as Toyen and Otakar Švec.
As the primary exhibition space of the National Gallery Prague (which also covers the Schwarzenberg Palace, Kinský Palace and the Convent of St Agnes), the Veletržní Palác has a world-class roster of long-term and temporary exhibitions. Behind the imposing functionalist exterior, its light-flooded café is one of the city's best.
National Museum of Agriculture: best for families
The National Museum of Agriculture has four floors of hands-on activities that prove learning about farming can be fun. Young visitors can race around on ride-on tractors and mess about in play kitchens and shops. The lawned rooftop affords parent-pleasing views over nearby Letna Gardens and medieval Malá Strana (Little Quarter). In the museum garden, you'll find roving chickens, a spin-by-hand carousel, and homemade pizzas at Jakoby Záletná.
Prague City Museum: best for city history
The main building of Prague City Museum is well worth visiting, but it's currently closed for renovations until Autumn 2022. If you're keen to learn more about the Czech capital, hotfoot it to the House At The Golden Ring, another of the museum's branches, set beside Týn Church.
Set inside two conjoined 14th-century houses, the museum has a higgledy-piggledy charm. The permanent exhibition mixes models, interactive multimedia and historical artifacts to show how Prague was transformed from a minor medieval town to a major seat of European power during the reign of Charles IV.
Museum of Communism: best for 20th-century history
Inside the Museum of Communism, propaganda posters, mid-century gadgetry, photography and art create a powerful sense of everyday life in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain. The museum also features immersive mock-ups, where you can browse a sparsely stocked Communist-era shop and tip-toe through an interrogation room. The highlight, though, is viewing footage of the 1989 Velvet Revolution – after learning about the brutal ways the Soviet regime stifled opposition, you’ll view the protesters’ bravery with fresh eyes.
DOX Centre for Contemporary Art: best for cutting-edge art
The district of Holešovice was once the city's manufacturing hub, and its dormant factories and warehouses have avoided dereliction by reopening as cool cafes, art spaces and boutiques. At the neighborhood's heart stands DOX Centre for Contemporary Art: a sleek gallery space where ever-changing shows by local and international artists surprise and provoke. Be sure to clamber inside the giant wooden zeppelin that appears to hover above the gallery's roof.
Karel Zeman Museum: best small museum
The Karel Zeman Museum transports you into the imaginary world of its pioneering namesake, film-maker, Karel Zeman. In the mid-20th century, long before CGI, Bohemia-born Zeman created film magic by blending live-action, handmade models and animation.
He would no doubt approve of the way this playful museum encourages visitors to replicate his techniques using mobile phones in place of movie cameras. The web of small rooms includes monitors screening mesmerizing clips of Zeman's films, including his kooky adaptations of Jules Verne novels.
Galerie Rudolfinum: best for free exhibitions
Part of the beautiful cultural complex that houses the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Galerie Rudolfinum is a frequent setting for standout contemporary art shows. The majority of the visiting exhibitions are free to enter, as is the excellent children's playspace. To show your appreciation, invest in coffee and cake in the grand, pillar-lined café.
Museum of Decorative Arts: best for design devotees
Shining a light on Czech creativity, the Museum of Decorative Arts has an extensive collection of Bohemian glass that draws visitors like magpies. Displays include iridescent objet d'art, large-scale installations, furniture, costumes, handcrafted textiles and toys. The exhibits aren't the only things that dazzle; the interiors of this handsome neo-Renaissance building are a delight. This is one museum where you don't want to skip the shop.
NaFilM - National Film Museum: best new museum
Tucked away by the tranquil Franciscan Gardens in Nové Město, NaFilM - National Film Museum was the brainchild of three Czech film students. The museum opened its doors in 2019, exploring the history and workings of film-making, often using examples from the Czech film canon. What is most surprising is the sheer range of hands-on activities – you’ll start off spinning zoetropes and end up getting lost in VR worlds.
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