Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square Market

The Easter market on the Wenceslas Square

The Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí in Czech) is a central square of the New Town. Though not the largest square in Prague (which is the Charles Square), it is probably the busiest. It is one of the two best known squares for tourists in the city centre (the Old Town Square is the other, 5 minutes walk away), and as such is a very popular place to stay.

The 750m long and 60m wide boulevard that makes up Wenceslas Square was laid out over 600 years ago during the reign of Emperor Charles IV.

Over the years the square has been a regular parade ground for all kinds of organisations and political parties. From anti-communist uprisings to celebrations of national sporting achievements, Wenceslas Square is where the Czech’s come to let off steam. It can comfortably hold up to 400,000 people!

At the top of Wenceslas Square, the statue of St. Wenceslas(Svatý Václav), national patron saint of Bohemia, on his horse cuts a striking figure. This is the “good King Wenceslas”, who was murdered over a thousand years ago by his brother Boleslav, and now a Czech national hero. The statue is accompanied by other Czech patron saints carved into the ornate statue base: Saint Ludmila, Saint Agnes of Bohemia, Saint Prokop, and Saint Adalbert of Prague. The statue base, designed by architect Alois Dryák, includes the inscription: “Svatý Václave, vévodo české země, kníže náš, nedej zahynouti nám ni budoucím” (“Saint Wenceslas, duke of the Czech land, prince of ours, do not let perish us nor our descendants”). A memorable parody of this statue, created by David Černý, hangs in a Lucerna Palace gallery near the square.

In front of St. Wenceslas there are two plaques in memory of those killed during the Communist era. One is dedicated to Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest at the Soviet invasion.

Behind St. Wenceslas there is the monumental National Museum, and just off to the left is the Prague State Opera.

There is nightlife and entertainment all around Wenceslas Square, and an array of international shops. Prague’s main shopping area begins here. Wenceslas Square offers easy walking access to all Prague’s sights & attractions. From here you can reach anywhere in the city centre.

Wenceslas Square is lined by hotels, offices, retail stores, currency exchange booths and fast-food joints. To the dismay of locals and city officials, the street is also a popular location for prostitutes to ply their trade late at night. Many strip clubs exist on and around Wenceslas Square, making Prague a popular location for stag parties.

History

When the New Town of Prague was founded in 1348 by Bohemian King and Emperor Charles IV, several squares or markets were planned. The largest of them was the Cattle Market (today Charles Square) and the second largest was the Horse Market (“Koňský trh” in Czech), today Wenceslas Square). At the upper (southeastern) end of the market was the Horse Gate in the walls of the New Town.

Although the original name of the square was the Horse Market, during the Czech national revival movement in the 19th century, a more noble name for the square was requested. At this time the statue of Saint Wenceslas was built, and the square was renamed. The National Museum was also built at that time.

The Nazis used the street for mass demonstrations. During the Prague Uprising in 1945, a few buildings near the National Museum were destroyed. They were later replaced by department stores. On January 16, 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968.  On March 28, 1969, the Czechoslovakian national ice hockey team defeated the USSR team for the second time in that year’s Ice Hockey World Championships. As the country was still under Soviet occupation, the victory induced great celebrations. Perhaps 150,000 people gathered on Wenceslas Square, and skirmishes with police developed. A group of agents provocateurs provoked an attack on the Prague office of the Soviet airline Aeroflot, located on the street. The vandalism served as a pretext for reprisals and the period of so-called normalization.

In 1989, during the Velvet Revolution, large demonstrations (with hundreds of thousands of people or more) were held here.

Learn about the other squares in Prague

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