The Czech National Museum (Národní muzeum) offers a journey through time, art, science and natural wonders – the star exhibit is the building itself, with its spectacularly restored, Neo-Renaissance architecture.
The place is so spectacular that you will forget that there are still exhibits to see. We decided to start at the top and work our way down.
We reached the dome.
Here’s how it looks when you look up from the lower levels.
There were steps up to an enclosed roof terrace with an amazing view of Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) and Prague.
We descended to the second floor.
We weren’t following any specific route. There is a mobile app, that you can download, that guides you on pre-planned routes, or you can create your own route. The app also has descriptions of the exhibits. We didn’t use it, preferring to be surprised by the discoveries within each of the halls.
The exhibits on this floor were all about evolution. The first hall we found seemed to be all about ocean creatures. The exhibition was beautifully curated and we began to realise how much there was to see. A slight panic set in – did we have enough time to fully appreciate and explore each exhibit?
Apparently, there are seven halls named: Stepping Out in All Directions; A Tiny Majority; Water, Our Element; From Water to Land; Conquest of the Air; Conquering the Earth and The Planet of Animals. I didn’t notice any signs that identified each hall – probably too focused on the exhibits.
The following pictures are just a small taste of the exhibits in the evolution halls. You really need to visit and could easily spend two hours just in evolution.
Ah, now I notice the ‘Conquest of the Air’ sign!
Some animals are realistic models, but the whale skeleton is real.
We descended to the first floor.
On this floor, we found the Hall of Minerals – a dazzling collection of what we as non-geologists would call different coloured rocks. Again, the presentation was beautiful. There is a nice timelapse video on the Národní muzeum Facebook page that shows the installation – only 4% of the museum’s total collection.
We also found ‘Windows into Prehistory’ – four halls ranging from fossils to life-size models of prehistoric animals.
Several rooms depicted history of the Czech lands, from the 8th century until the First World War. We raced through these exhibits as we wanted to see the exhibitions in the new building before the 6pm closing time.
Time constraints also meant we had to skip a temporary exhibition ‘Czech Press Photo’ – that runs until end of July 2023.
We headed down to where two elevators take you down to a tunnel that links the old and new buildings. If you left a coat in the cloakroom, it’s worth taking that now, otherwise you’ll need to come all the way back.
The tunnel was so much more than just a tunnel. A multimedia presentation called ‘Moments of History’ appears on the tunnel walls – it’s a great use of the space and could easily be missed by visitors who decide to skip the new building or cross via the street outside.
Arriving into the new building is a little confusing – it wasn’t clear to us where we should go and what to see. We asked and were directed to take an elevator to the ‘History of the 20th Century’ exhibition, which tells the story of Czech modern history from the First World War to the Czech Republic’s accession to the European Union.
Everything here is crammed in and a mezzanine floor lowers the ceiling height – this in contrast to the main building, where there is plenty of space between exhibits standing in grand halls.
Nonetheless, we really enjoyed the eclectic collection of familiar items, photographs and re-creations of Czech apartments.
There is a ‘time elevator’ – a circular room where history unfolded on the walls as if one were travelling in an elevator. This was an excellent presentation and shouldn’t be missed.
Now close to 6pm, we took the ‘real’ elevator to the ground floor and walked around to try and catch the history of fashion design for Czech First Ladies. We were too late, but from the entrance we were still able to see an outfit recently worn by Eva Pavlová, the wife of current President Petr Pavel and designed by Štěpánka Pivcová.
A visit to the National Museum has to be in the top ten of things to do when visiting Prague, even during good weather. But, please, allow yourself plenty of time to see everything and don’t forget to visit the new building via the tunnel.
National Museum / Národní muzeum
Václavské náměstí 1700/68
110 00 Praha 1 – Nové Město