36 Hours in Prague: Music

By: Charlotte Norsworthy

Throughout Prague’s rich and turbulent history, one element has kept Czechs united: music.  

The culture of music in Prague is one that flows through every visitor, passerby and long-term lodger. During your trip, you will find locals throughout the city walking to the beat of steel drums, electric guitars and saxophones, to name a few, as it seems Czechs are born with immense musical skill.  

“Every Czech is a musician.” This is a centuries-old phrase Katerina Hanusova, a student at Charles University studying music history, said resonates within the culture. While the saying may appear to romanticize the city that was deemed the conservatory of Europe, it isn’t far from the truth.  

“I think most Czech people at least once in their life even if it was at five years old…learn some musical instrument or learned how to sing,” Hanusova said.  

While some locals may have only briefly picked up an instrument, others gear their entire lives around composing and performing music. Even the freshest visitors to Prague will hear 8,000-pipe organs pouring through ancient cathedral walls and jazz quartets shoo-bopping over the Charles Bridge, acting as the soundtrack to your trip as you venture from one destination to the next.

DAY ONE 

10 AM : Take a stroll set to a Czech playlist 

Old Town Square, Praha 1, Staré Město 

As you walk through the historic districts of Prague, which consist of the Old Town Square area, the Charles Bridge and the Castle District, you will find a wide range of street musicians. One of the most appreciated aspects of your stroll will be the diversity you encounter.  

“I love street performers in Prague,” Old Town market clerk Veronika Tesarova said. “Without music, it would be much boring.” 

Many of the performers also have some pretty interesting stories, so stick around after their set and engage in some conversation. Vladimir Pinta is a Czech-born musician who plays several instruments and has been doing so for more than 40 years. His favorite spot to perform is in Old Town Square, and he loves interacting with those who sit and listen for a spell. You’ll be glad you did.

Members of a jazz quartet play a ditty in Old Town Square.

3 PM : See a show in a tucked-away palace

Clam-Gallas Palace, Husova 158/20, Praha 1

Prague’s musical history dates back to the early 17th and 18th centuries during the time of famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “My Praguers understand me,” Mozart was noted for saying. He and his wife Josefina were close friends with the Gallas family, the namesake for the Clam-Gallas Palace near Old Town Square. The palace was originally built for the Viceroy of Naples, Count John Wenceslaus of Gallas, who was a separate royal from St. Wenceslas of Wenceslas Square.

The Clam-Gallas palace, along with a dozen of Prague’s many palaces, hold regular classical concerts throughout the week and weekend, showcasing styles from Baroque to jazz. Prices depend on the length of the show and its venue, but regardless of what you choose, you’ll be in for a treat.

Visitors take pictures of the ornate entrance to the Clam-Gallas Palace.

9 AM : Keep your foot tapping into one of Prague’s many jazz clubs

Jazz Republic, Jilská 352/1a, Praha 1

In the more contemporary age of music, Prague is known for its jazz, and what better venue to experience this culture than by attending one of the city’s many jazz clubs at the end of the first day. Jazz Republic is a great option, for it is centrally located and has no entry fee.

The club is located underground, like many bars and lounges in the city. Its dimly lit and dungeon-like parlor features a small stage on one end, tables and chairs from the other—a great way to end your first day.

Neon lights illuminate the entrance to the Jazz Republic.

DAY TWO

10 AM : Look up at St. James Basilica

Malá Štupartská 6, Praha 1

St. James Basilica is the second-largest cathedral in Prague, St. Vitus’ Cathedral taking the number one spot. St. James is just one example of music’s primacy in Prague. This basilica features a 1705 organ displaying more than 8,000 pipes.

If you time your visit to the basilica just right, the organ’s powerful reach will lead you directly to the basilica’s doors. Go in; take a seat, and breathe it all in.

The interior of the basilica is decorated in classic Baroque style, as seen by the colorful ceiling paintings and pastel marble.

12 PM : Pay a visit to the music school

Academy of Performing Arts, Malostranské náměstí 12, Praha 1

The Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) is fixed in Prague’s Castle District in the Liechtenstein Palace. Walk up the grand staircases throughout the campus and visit the cafe the conservatory’s students frequent. During the end of each semester, AMU hosts a concert series of showcases for rock-bottom prices—a great opportunity to witness budding musicians reach their potential. If you pay a visit during May, you will be around for Prague Spring, one of Europe’s biggest classical music festivals.

“Lots of good musicians actually have debuted here,” Hanusova said. “It’s one of the most important music festivals in the Czech Republic.”

Katerina Hasunova worked at this year’s Prague Spring music competition.

4 PM : Grab a sip and a song

Mozart Cafe, Staroměstské náměstí 481/22, Praha 1

Finish off your final afternoon harmonizing food and fixings with a coffee or tea at the Mozart Cafe situated on the second floor of the Grand Hotel Praha. The cafe is decorated in Baroque style and features a pianist playing classical tunes all day long. Mozart Cafe is also known for its ornate handmade cakes, which are on display.

Interior of Mozart Cafe.

LODGING:

Hotel Aria, Trziste 9, Praha 1

This five-star boutique hotel features 52 rooms and suites dedicated to different styles of music. The hotel also has a music library, a screening room and a full-time music director to answer any and all questions you might have during your journey. The musical concept of the hotel seeks to recognize and highlight four main genres for which Prague is known: contemporary, classical, opera and jazz. By staying here, the hotel’s architects hope visitors further appreciate the city’s rich musical influence.

AHOJ

Thus, you have reached the end of your musical journey through Prague, one that is filled with a wide range of styles, instruments and venues. Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Prague, its vast rhythmic history will leave you in a state of awe and with an uncontrollable urge to do as the Czechs do and pick up an instrument.

If you have time, try to squeeze in these sights and sounds:

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