• Brittney West

An Evening in Prague

This was written as a final story for a travel writing course taken in Madrid, Spain.


An Evening in Prague:

The Klementinum and a classical music concert


Classical music is meant solely for the elevator. Or so I believed. I was visiting Prague and wanted to do something that I had never done before. Numerous websites recommended that I attend one of the many classical music concerts that small chapels and cathedrals host. Voluntarily listening to classical music is not something I tend to do but, The Klementinum (a popular tourist attraction) was hosting a Christmas Gala Concert in its Mirror Chapel. I was immediately interested in hearing songs that I was familiar with in a setting and style that I had never appreciated. So, I bought a ticket and decided to make an evening of it.


My evening began with a tour of the Klementinum. It is a five minute walk from the St. Charles Bridge into the Old Town and is the second biggest complex of buildings in Prague after Prague Castle.

It began as a Dominican monastery in the 11th century, became a Jesuit college in the 15th century, and was converted into an observatory in the 1700s. Until recently, it served as the home for the National, University, and Technical libraries for the Czech Republic.


Visitors are allowed to meander the courtyards for free. The pale yellow walls decorated with green ivy protect old fountains provide a peaceful retreat from the bustling Old Town. Tours of the buildings are offered everyday, including weekends and national holidays, beginning at 10 a.m. and running every thirty minutes. A tour typically lasts 50 minutes. Closing times depend on the month: from March to October the last tour is at 6:30 p.m; January and February the last tour is at 4:30 p.m.; November and December the last tour is at 5:30 p.m. There are extended hours some weekends.


I had visited the Klementinum box office earlier in the day to book a spot on the last tour at 5:30 p.m. The doors to the Christmas concert opened at 6:30 p.m., so the last tour fit perfectly into my day. It was important to reserve a spot because each group only accommodates a maximum of 22 people. A ticket for a tour of the Klementinum is 300 CZK or $13.46 a 0.044 CZK to $1. The tour lasts for 50 minutes, is always guided, and visits the Baroque Library Hall, Meridian Hall, Astronomical Tower, and Mirror Chapel (if there is not an event happening).


The Baroque Library Hall opened in 1722 and houses over 20,000 volumes of theological literature amongst its dark wooden accents below the ceiling fresco by artist Jan Hiebl and framing antique globes in the center. The library is home to The Vyšehrad Codex (also known as the Coronation Gospels), an illuminated manuscript from 1085. The library and the codex can be seen from a vestibule and photography is strictly prohibited.


The Astronomical Tower is 223 feet high and offers stunning views of Prague. The lookout point comes after climbing 172 stairs squeezed in tight spiral and some made of very old, rickety wood. There is an elevator that takes less mobil visitors to the third floor, but still requires climbing some stairs. The view is accompanied by astronomical instruments that help explain what the tower was used for.

The Prague Castle was visible from the top of the tower, just on the horizon. Clouds preparing for snow that night made view a bit hazy. But, Tereza, my tour guide who has worked at the Klementinum for three years said, “On a sunny day the view is beautiful. I take so many pictures of people. I have to work to convince people to leave so I can continue the tour.”


The Meridian Hall is located on the second floor of the astronomical tower and was previously used to determine noon by using a sundial to calculate the shadow of the tower in the Old Town Square. At noon, astronomers would wave a flag (1842-1891) or signal someone to fire a cannon from the castle (1891-1920). Antique instruments are on display.


It was finally time for the concert. I had a few minutes to waste before the doors opened, so I helped myself to a trdelnik (dough wrapped around a stick, fried, coated in whatever desired topping, and can be filled with custard ice cream) from one of the many stores just outside the Klementinum complex. I pulled up the email containing the ticket I had purchased online two nights before at pragueclassicalconcerts.com. Other spectators had paper tickets that were bought that day at a booth at the Karlov entrance. Tickets were 800 CZK for seats in rows 1-10 and 600 CZK for rows 11-18.

After presenting my ticket at the chapel entrance with fingers still sticky from sugar, I walked through the dark stone entrance past a dark wood door. The chapel was covered in dusty pink marble. White and black stone arranged to create seven petalled flowers adorned the floors. One blue and gold organ was located in the front and back of the chapel framed by Roman style decorations in white marble. The front organ was framed by white angels with gold wings, a three dimensional representation of the angels depicted against a brilliant blue sky in the fresco on the ceiling. Mirrors decorated the walls and are laid within the gold decorations on the rounded ceiling.


A string quartet and harpsichord occupied the five wooden seats and began the concert with “Christmas Pastorale” by A. Corelli. The initial crescendo of the notes filled the space and immediately snagged the audience’s attention. A soprano serenaded us with “Silent Night”, “O Come Ye O Faithful”, and “Christ was Born on Christmas Day”. She sang in Czech with the occasional chorus in English, so I was left to appreciate the notes of the music and test how well I actually knew the lyrics.


Next, a violin soloist stepped out in front of the quartet and harpsichord. He let Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, selections from the Nutcracker, and “Ave Verum Corpus” by Mozart. His facial expressions never really changed while he was playing, but occasionally he would close his eyes or break a string on his bow. You could not miss his passion for the music as he played.


When thinking about European cities for classical music, Prague is not usually the first choice. However, the city’s musical tradition is important to its residents. They are extremely proud of the National Theater and its performance after the inside it burned in 1881 and the Czech people raised an impressive 1 million guldens in 47 days for its reconstruction.


Prague is most notable in the history of classical music for being the place where Mozart decided to premiere his operas Don Giovanni and La clemenza de Tito, and his Symphony No. 28. The Prague Conservatory continues to be a competitive music school in the Czech Republic, training students for the Czech Philharmonic and National Theater.


The concert ended after an encore of performance of “Jingle Bells” for us tourists. Chris, a visitor from Australia, exclaimed, “this is one of the coolest, most posh things I’ve ever done.” He went on to explain that enjoying classical music was unusual for him, but experiencing it live was enjoyable. I couldn’t help but agree with him.


The Klementinum hosts classical music concerts once or twice daily. These performances are meant for tourists and are hosted at many other venues as well. The Municipal House and St. Giles Church also offer the experience frequently, while the schedules at smaller venues are more sporadic. Concerts can be christmas themed or display the best of Mozart. Tickets can be purchased the day of outside most venues or can be reserved before online. Prices vary depending on location, but usually range from 300 CZK and 1800 CZK.


I hummed “Jingle Bells” for the rest of the night. The concert was one of the highlights of my trip to Prague and remains one of the most unique things I’ve done in Europe. I will definitely attend another my next visit.





Fact Box

The Klementinum

https://www.klementinum.com/en/ Klementinum, Mariánské nám. 5, 110 00 Staré Město

+420 222 220 879 klementinum@dreyer.cz General hours: March to October 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m; January and February 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.; November and December 10 a.am.- 5:30 p.m. Extended hours some days. Consult website. Tours begin every half hour and run 30 minutes. Adult Ticket:: 300 CZK ($13.46 a 0.044 CZK to $1). Skip the line ticket: 380 CZK. Student/Senior 65 +: 200 CZK. Family: 900 CZK. Children up to 6 year are free.

Classical music concerts are found all over Prague. Tickets can be reserved online at www.pragueclassicalconcerts.com, www.pragueticketoffice.com, and www.pragueexperience.com. Tickets range from 300 CZK to 1800 CZK depending on location, musicians, and seating position. Most digital pictures are valid and an email from the chosen website will contain details about start time and if the ticket is valid.

Concerts are hosted by The Municipal House in Smetana Hall either twice at 17:30 and 19:30 or once at 8 p.m. Days vary. Please consult http://www.obecnidum.cz/en/concerts/. Email: info@obecnidum.cz Phone: +420 222 002 101 Address: Obecní dům, a.s. náměstí Republiky 1090/ 5 111 21, Praha 1 – Staré Město

St. Giles Church hosts concerts at 4:30 p.m. The church does not have a website but concert times (usually 4:30 p.m.) and themes can be found at www.pragueclassicalconcerts.com, www.pragueticketoffice.com, and www.pragueexperience.com. Phone: +420 224 218 440 Address: Husova 228/17, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia.

There are many different locations to try Trdelnik. The dessert costs between 77-90 CZK or $3.40-$5.00.

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