These 11 museums get under the skin of Prague

You can barely step through the cobbled streets of Prague without stumbling upon a museum. It is estimated that the city has more than 100 museums and exhibition halls, addressing all genres of art and all periods of history. If you have a particular obsession, chances are good that Prague has a little niche museum that covers that as well.

Completely free museums are rare in Prague, but entrance fees are relatively cheap by European standards, so you can cram into multiple museum tours without breaking the bank. Buying the Prague City Pass or the Prague CoolPass gives you free and discounted access to some key institutions, but the consensus is that paying at individual attractions offers better value overall.

For lovers of history, nature, art and more, here is a guide to the best museums in Prague.

National Museum: ideal for national and natural history

A resplendent building 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 the Nazi and Soviet 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 objects retrace this eventful past. The museum also hosts interesting temporary exhibitions, often focusing on Czech music and culture. What this large-scale national institution is most famous for, however, is its extensive collection of natural history. The sight of a fin whale skeleton hanging from the Neo-Renaissance ceiling alone is worth the price of admission. Before you leave, climb the dome for stunning views across the square and up to Prague Castle.

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Jewish Museum in Prague: the best for Jewish history

Visitors to the Jewish Museum in Prague could easily waste a day thinking. Spread over seven sites is one of the largest collections of Jewish artifacts in the world. Most visitors start at the Pinkas Synagogue, a beautiful Gothic building from which you can enter the Old Jewish Cemetery, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.

The main hall of the synagogue now serves as a memorial to the 77,297 Czech Holocaust victims. On the first floor is an equally powerful exhibit exploring the experiences of Jewish children incarcerated at Terezín Concentration Camp during WWII.

Reminders of a disappeared community in the old Jewish cemetery in Prague © Petr Bonek / Shutterstock

Veletržní Palác: the best for modern art

Between 1918 and 1938, the newly independent Czechoslovakia became a bustling hub for culture and the arts. At Veletržní Palác, in trendy Holešovice, a long-term exhibition recreates some of the major art exhibitions of those heady and upbeat days. Do like a museum visitor from the 1920s and admire works by Picasso, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and notable Czech artists such as Toyen and Otakar Švec.

National Museum of Agriculture: ideal for families

The National Museum of Agriculture offers four floors of hands-on activities that prove that learning agriculture can be fun. Young visitors can run on ride-on tractors and have fun in play kitchens and shops. The lawn roof offers parents a pleasant view of the nearby Letna Gardens and the medieval Malá Strana (little quarter). In the museum garden you will find stray chickens, a hand-spinning carousel and homemade pizza at Jakoby Záletná.

Prague City Museum: the best for the history of the city

The main building of the Prague City Museum is worth a visit, but it is currently closed for renovation until autumn 2022. If you want to learn more about the Czech capital, visit the House At The Golden Ring , another of the museum’s branches. , located next to Týn Church.

Located inside two terraced 14th century houses, the museum has a crazy charm. The permanent exhibition mixes models, interactive multimedia and historical artifacts to show how Prague grew from a small medieval town to a major seat of European power during the reign of Charles IV.

A model of a military police interrogation room at the Museum of Communism in Prague
A recreated interrogation room brings the past to life with force at the Museum of Communism © Ariadna22822 / Shutterstock

Museum of Communism: ideal for 20th century history

Inside the Communism Museum, propaganda posters, mid-century gadgets, photography and art create a powerful sense of everyday life in Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain. The museum also offers immersive scale models, where you can peruse a sparsely stocked Communist-era shop and tiptoe through an interrogation room. The highlight, however, is viewing footage from the Velvet Revolution of 1989 – after learning about the brutal ways the Soviet regime stifled opposition, you’ll see the bravery of the protesters with fresh eyes.

DOX Center for Contemporary Art: the best for cutting-edge art

The Holešovice district was once the city’s manufacturing hub, and its dormant factories and warehouses have avoided abandonment by reopening as cool cafes, art spaces, and shops. At the heart of the district is the DOX Center for Contemporary Art: an elegant gallery space where the ever-changing exhibitions of local and international artists surprise and provoke. Make sure to climb inside the giant wooden zeppelin that appears to hover above the roof of the gallery.

Karel Zeman Museum: Best Small Museum

The Karel Zeman Museum transports you to the imaginary world of its namesake pioneer, filmmaker Karel Zeman. In the mid-20th century, long before CGI, Bohemian-born Zeman created movie magic by mixing live action, handmade models, and animation.

He would undoubtedly approve of the way this fun museum encourages visitors to replicate its techniques using cell phones instead of movie cameras. The network of small rooms includes monitors showing fascinating clips from Zeman’s films, including his wacky adaptations of Jules Verne novels.

The Rudolfinum concert hall on Jan Palach square, Prague
The Rudolfinum Concert Hall gallery hosts interesting free exhibitions © Hermsdorf / Getty Images

Rudolfinum Gallery: the best for free exhibitions

Part of the magnificent cultural complex that houses the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rudolfinum Gallery is a frequent setting for exceptional contemporary art exhibitions. Entrance to the majority of the visiting exhibitions is free, as is the excellent children’s play area. To show your appreciation, invest in coffee and cakes in the grand pillar-lined cafe.

Decorative Arts Museum: ideal for design enthusiasts

Shedding light on Czech creativity, the Museum of Decorative Arts has an extensive collection of Bohemian glass that attracts visitors like magpies. Exhibits include iridescent art objects, large-scale installations, furniture, costumes, handcrafted textiles, and toys. The exhibitions aren’t the only things that dazzle; the interiors of this beautiful neo-Renaissance building are a delight. It’s a museum where you don’t want to skip the shop.

NaFilM – National Film Museum: best new museum

Nestled in the peaceful Franciscan Gardens of Nové Město, NaFilM – National Film Museum was designed by three Czech film students. The museum opened in 2019, exploring the history and workings of cinema, often using examples from the canon of Czech cinema. What’s most surprising is the huge range of hands-on activities – you’ll start with spinning zootropes and eventually get lost in the VR worlds.

Berta D. Wells