The highest center window of the New Town Hall seems the perfect spot to toss an archduke out the window. Seven archdukes, to be exact. Shielding my eyes from the gaudy Hooters that has sidled up to the town hall in Charles Square, it is easy to picture angry townspeople storming the Nove Mesto square and busting through the red-latticed doors in the 1410s. Defenestration (killing someone by throwing them out of a window) was a common method of overthrow of rulers by angry Hussites back when the town hall was the center for court rulings and government.
The 70-meter tower seems a contradiction, having been both a proud aesthetic accomplishment of Charles IV and the scene of such violent historic uprisings. Today, it houses contemporary art exhibits inside from 10.00 to 18.00 for 20 Kc.
Ducking into the tunnel on the east side of the building, I find immediate calm from the roaring trams and power-walking pedestrians.
Here is the entrance to both the art exhibits and the 221-step climb to the top of the tower. Although the tower is closed to the public during winter, it boasts the best view of Prague. Since it is too cold to keep wandering the park surrounding the town hall, I peer through one of the courtyard windows to see if I can get inside at all.
“Go through here,” said Amanda Palomino, an ex-pat sitting in the courtyard. “I promise, this is what you want.”
Turns out that the next room has multilingual blind guides that force you to try out ordinary scenarios completely blind. Intrigued, I try it out and leave with a renewed respect for people with disabilities. See for yourself weekdays from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Across from the exhibit and in the shadow of the town hall’s tower, Cafe Neustadt sits pretty in the courtyard. It offers a trendy-teal atmosphere for contemplating the progressive art exhibits over a slice of their signature coffee brownie. But, if you desire a view of the tower that doesn’t cramp your neck, Mamacoffee stands across the street with second floor seating and bright windows.
Back in the sunlight, I remain impressed with the multi-faceted nature of the New Town Hall in Prague. It seems to have something for everyone: the history buff, the artsy activist, the coffee lover and the picture-taking tourist. It is worth a hop off at the Narodni Trida metro stop to see significant Prague history clash amidst bustling city life.