When the New Town of Prague was built 600 years ago, it was meant to serve as Prague’s main commercial district. And that is how it can still be characterized today. Numerous businesses, hotels and banks are located there, as well as department stores, boutiques and a few small shopping malls. The New Town is also rich with culture, offering many theatres, movie theatres, museums, and an opera house.
The Wenceslas Square is the bustling center of Nové město and the district stretches northeast and southwest of it towards the river. Some other squares are Karlovo náměstí, Senovážné náměstí, and Náměstí republiky. The two boulevards that you will not want to miss are Národní and Na příkopě, both separating the New Town from the Old Town.
All three lines of the metro run through the New Town: line A between Můstek and Muzeum, line B between Karlovo náměstí and Florenc, and line C between I. P. Pavlova and Florenc.
History of the New Town
The New Town was founded by king Charles IV in 1348 as a large new area between Vyšehrad and the Old Town. The new district was to increase the size and population of Charles’ beloved city in a time when Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. A lot of trade and business moved there from the already existing Old Town and Malá Strana.
King Charles planned the street layout of Nové město himself and personally kept an eye on the progress of the construction work, supposedly making sure that his street plan was being followed to the letter. The layout was quite modern for that time, employing large squares and wide boulevards. The three main squares all served as markets: the Horse Market (Koňský trh) – now Wenceslas Square, the Cattle Market (Dobytčí trh) – now Charles Square, and the Hay Market (Senovážné náměstí) – still carrying the same name. All three markets were interconnected by today’s Vodičkova and Jindřišská streets.
Although the New Town was originally built in the Gothic style, much of its current architecture comes from the end of the 19th century when the majority of the original buildings were torn down in a sweeping cleanup of the slums into which the district had turned. New buildings were put up by the architects of the time and the result is a varied mixture of architectural styles similar to those that can be found in the neighboring district of Vinohrady.
The heart of the New Town is Wenceslas Square, which is a good place to start your tour and is easily reachable on foot from the Old Town and by public transportation from anywhere else. To get to the top of the long square (to the National Museum and statue of St. Wenceslas), take line A or C of the metro or tram 11 and get off at Muzeum. To get to the approximate middle of the square (near the Lucerna Passage and Hotel Evropa), take line A of the metro, get off at Můstek and follow the exit that says Václavské náměstí/Vodičkova (not Můstek), or take tram 3, 9, 14, or 24 and get off at Václavské náměstí. To get to the bottom of Wenceslas Square (for Na příkopě and Národní streets), take line A of the metro, get off at Můstek and exit at Můstek.