Municipal House Prague lies directly adjacent to the Powder Tower, on the western edge of Prague’s Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky). When we arrived in Prague, I knew very little about this building which played such an important part in Czech history. Then we stayed in the Old Town Hilton just a block off of Republic Square, and it made perfect sense to visit the Municipal House.
So on our third day in Prague, our day started with the Vital Art Nouveau 1900 exhibit on the House’s second floor, and continued with a guided tour of the House. We had to pay extra for photo permits (which was the case at a lot of sights in Prague, by the way), but it was worth it. The guided tour began in Smetana Hall, the House’s concert hall that is also the sight of a seminal moment in Czech history. On October 28, 1918, Czechoslovak independence was declared in Smetana Hall.
Did I mention that this hall is stunningly beautiful? This was just the start of a wealth of stunning. The tour took us through the halls ringing Smetana Hall, starting with the women’s salons to the south. The confectionery is where women could take refreshment – it has a full bar and a seating area.
The Oriental Room next to the Confectionery is filled with awesome textile touches. I’m pretty sure Therese wanted to snatch one of the pillows (ok, I was the one who was tempted).
Did I mention that the whole building is decorated in Art Nouveau style? Being from New York City, where we have lots of great Art Deco architecture, I am not that familiar with Art Nouveau, but by the time we were done touring the Municipal House, Art Nouveau was my favorite architectural style. And it didn’t hurt that a whole room, the Mayor Hall, was designed by Alphonse Mucha, an artist who became a favorite during this trip (more on that later).
Adjacent to the Mayor Hall are two other halls, Palacky Hall and Gregr Hall, large airy men’s salons with large murals covering the walls.
The Municipal House was, for its time, a very advanced, modern building, with elevators.
We enjoyed the tour of the Municipal House so much. And our tickets entitled us to buy-one-get-one drinks in the American Bar, which is in the basement. We thought, why not?
And you know what? Just like the rest of the building, this bar is just perfect. Why would we ever want to leave? We didn’t. We each had our two drinks. And relaxed. But I had my itinerary to follow, that dynamic tyrannical itinerary. Oh well. So we did eventually move on to lunch.
And I know Therese was a bit doubtful of my idea to go somewhere else for lunch. I mean, we could’ve eaten lunch at the restaurant next to the American Bar. But I had picked out a restaurant for lunch that would take us near to where we going after lunch. I had a progression planned. And we only had to walk into the Mlejnice Restaurant, where we had lunch, and immediately all three of us said, oh yeah, this is the place.
The Mlejnice interior is full of character, it just feels like something from another era. We sat down and looked around and said, oh yeah. We liked it. I ordered duck breast with blueberry sauce, which was not as sickly sweet as you might imagine it would be. It was actually really good. Eileen ordered a pork tenderloin skewer that looked fabulous (Therese’s lunch was laden with cheese chunks so I won’t show you that).
The next stop was the Mucha Museum. Yes, a whole museum devoted to the art of Alphonse Mucha. Before we went to Prague, all I knew of Mucha was his posters of pretty ladies. And sure, there is a lot more of that. After all, Mucha (for example) had a deal with the actress Sarah Bernhardt to create posters for her performances. But there is much more to Mucha, and the museum displays the many sides of Mucha’s output.
For example, I had no idea that Mucha was Czech. His culture was very important to him, and a large portion of his work is of Czech and Slavic themes. In fact, his great life’s work, the Slav Epic, is all about the history and culture of the Slavic peoples, and we would visit that later in the week.
To finish up our third day in Prague, we had dinner at Kolkovna Celnice. I have to be honest: the main appeal for this restaurant was that it was so close to our hotel, less than a block away. After having a full day of sightseeing and an afternoon rest, we like to not have to go far for our dinner. Kolkovna Celnice was perfect in that regard. In many other regards, it was passable, or if you prefer, mediocre. I had my first taste of goose there, a goose leg confit, and my first taste of Czech beer as well. The downstairs non-smoking room where we ate was evocative of a German Ratskeller.
By the time we finished our dinner, the restaurant was already emptying out. Our third day had been a huge success, and there was lots more fun to come. But not much would rise to the impossibly high standard set by the Municipal House – in fact, Eileen said that it was her favorite sight of the entire trip.