Friday, 1 January 2016

The Obecni Dum - Prague's Munipical House

 Prague's Obecni Dum (Municipal House) is often overlooked by visitors planning their stay. I have to confess that the same was true of me and my family, even though we visited Prague regularly. I suspect that the reason for this is that the building is not advertised as well as it might be. Anyway this time last year my husband and I rectified the omission.

And it was a serious omission. This building is amazing. Architecturally it is a jewel of the Art Nouveau, historically it is an amazing statement of the rise of Czech nationalism (the Declaration of Independence was signed here) and its decoration is by some of the best Czech artists of the early twentieth century.

You have to take a guided tour of the interiors to really get a real feel for the building. It is well worth the money, you get to see the amazing Mayor's Hall decorated by Alfons Mucha, the Riegr Room with frescoes by Max Svabinsky, the Palacky Hall with paintings by Preisler, and many other rooms and works by other artists of the day. Our guide was excellent who told us the story the building in such a way that it became a story of the Czech nation too.

After the tour we went upstairs to visit an exhibition of European and Czech Art Nouveau 1900, which finished our visit off perfectly. The exhibition, which is drawn from the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts (the museum is currently being refurbished), features furniture, ceramics, costumes, posters and graphics and is on until the end of July 2016.

Prior to taking our tour we enjoyed a coffee and cake in the building's amazing Art Nouveau Francouzska Restaurant. The cake was lovely and not too expensive and the decorations surrounding us were divine. My husband disappeared for a while to photograph the decor, leaving me to smile at the waiter. Phil was in seventh heaven - the whole building is covered with architectural details of the highest quality from the staircase to the cloakrooms. We got a voucher for a reduced price drink in the American Bar in the buildings basement, with our tickets. But we were still so replete with cakes that we only wandered in to look at the decoration. As with every part of the building the bar is amazing - black ceramic tiles influenced by the American style of the 1910s contrasting with coloured drawings of folk scenes (originally these were by Czech artist Mikolas Ales).

If you really can't afford the 290 Korun for the tour, the restaurants and bars are open to the public without a ticket. Another way of seeing some of the building is to attend one of the many concerts which take place in the stunning Smetana hall.

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