This post covers the Astronomical Clock in Prague including tips about how to visit the landmark, what to see and do in the area, and what makes it so notable.
If you’ve seen one Prague landmark in photos, chances are that this is it.
The astronomical clock is visited by astronomical numbers of tourists, and it’s been a spectacle since 1410.
Even though it’s on a tower, it’s right here at ground level so that passing astronomers can see it in detail.
If you look at the upper face, there’s a lot of information to take in.
The outermost ring of symbols has Gothic numerals reflecting the older form of local time, usually called Italian time, which measured the day starting at sunset.
Inside that is modern time, written in Roman numerals 1-24.
Further in is Babylonian time, a system that divided the daylight into twelve equal units, which could be longer or shorter depending on the season.
The hands of the clock include a sun showing sunrise, sunset, and where the sun is in the zodiac, plus a moon showing its changing phases and its movement through the sky.
There’s also a star hand that indicates sidereal time, which would help astronomers picture what the sky would look like that night.
That’s just the upper face – the lower face is a calendar, showing the months and the zodiac signs.
What appears from a distance to be a gray circle around the whole face is actually the most detailed part.
That ring is divided into 365 sections with the names of Christian Saints written on them to remind the viewer whose feast day it was.
If you’re close enough to see some detail, you can also see a story in the small figures that stand on either side of the two clock faces.
The lower face is flanked with a philosopher, an angel, an astronomer, and a historian. These are meant to be role models, whereas the characters around the upper face are cautionary tales.
From left to right, they represent vanity, greed, death, and entertainment. The design of the figures very much reflects the attitudes of the medieval mainstream of Prague.
Vanity is a man looking in a mirror; greed is a Jewish moneylender; entertainment is a Turk, enjoying music and all the other things that lie at the bottom of that slippery moral slope.
When the clock hits the hour, these figures come to life for a quick pageant.
The skeleton representing death starts to ring a bell, the message being, “It’s time.”
The other three figures all shake their heads, the message being that they’re too attached to the things of this life to be ready for the next one.
Small doors above the upper face also open, and a parade of apostles walks by behind them.
Finally, a trumpeter at the top of the tower blows a quick signal.
The whole thing takes just a few seconds, but it attracts a huge crowd, and it happens every hour from 9 am to 11 pm.
You can imagine it requires a complicated mechanism on the inside of the Astronomical Clock to track so many different movements.
And you can actually see some of those innards by entering the Old Town Hall.
The tower was built in 1364, shortly before the clock itself, and climbing through it can give you a view of the clock’s machinery.
If you’re also looking for a great view of Prague, this is one of the best observation decks in the city, and it’s open to anyone who purchases a ticket to enter the Old Town Hall.
This viewing deck is open even longer than the Old Town Hall itself, with extended hours to 10 pm each night, allowing you to see the city after dark as well.
View East to Prague Castle
Most of what you can see to the left of the clock is part of the Old Town Hall, including the standout Renaissance building at the end, painted like a Greek vase, which was the former residence of Franz Kafka.
There are several halls inside this historic site which you can see if you purchase a ticket, including the Municipal Hall, the Old Council Hall, the Antechamber to the Assembly Hall, the Brožík Assembly Hall, and the George Hall.
Brožík Assembly Hall
If you take a tour of the interior, they will provide a closer look at these halls and information about the history of how they were used over the years.
Exploring the Old Town Hall from the inside can also get you into an underground portion of the building, part of a broader underground that represents the city’s original street level.
Old Town Hall Underground
This is one of the oldest parts of the Old Town Hall, and it really gives you an interesting look at some of the architectural styles used throughout the years.
If you want to enter the Old Town Hall to see the inner workings of the Astronomical Clock, you will have to purchase a ticket.
Admission to the Old Town Hall includes access to the tower’s observation deck, each of the halls inside the structure, as well as the underground area.
They also offer public tours of these areas at no additional cost.
Reduced tickets are available for senior citizens, youth, students, and disabled visitors. Family tickets provide admission for 2 adults and 2 children.
Admission is also available via Prague tourist passes which allow you to save money by paying one flat price for multiple popular attractions and activities.
The Astronomical Clock operates year-round on every full hour.
Although admission to this attraction is already pretty affordable, you could save quite a bit of money on tickets with a Prague tourist pass.
The Prague Card includes admission to dozens of popular attractions for 2, 3, or 4 days at a time with one flat price for all of them.
In addition to covering the cost of entering the Old Town Hall to see behind the scenes of the Astronomical Clock, this pass also includes the following popular sites and activities at no additional cost:
Depending on how you use the pass, you could save up to 50% off these activities and attractions.
If you get the 4-Day Pass, which costs €83 (€20.75 per day), you’ll really only need to use it for 3-4 activities each day to get a good discount.
For more details, please read our post covering Prague tourist passes.
When you purchase admission to the Old Town Hall, you’ll have access to several notable sections of the building and a guided tour which includes a printed guide in 13 languages.
In addition to tours offered during the day, they also provide evening tours every Friday at 8 pm, making it an after-hours visit to the site.
This tour is 2 hours in length and it’s the same price as a general admission ticket (250 CZK).
Each tour will provide additional information about the individual halls located within Old Town Hall, as well as the underground area.
Even if you decide not to enter the building, you can also use our GPS enabled audio tour to learn more about the Astronomical Clock and the Old Town Hall.
There are also several free (pay-what-you-like) walking tours which include a stop at the Astronomical Clock, which is another excellent way to discover this landmark.