Much more than just a pretty façade, the Prague National Theatre (Narodni divadlo) is one of the capital’s most important and culturally significant buildings, celebrated as a symbol of Czech cultural and political independence. Completed in 1883 while the country was under Austrian rule, the National Theatre was originally refused funding by the government of Vienna but after a nationwide appeal and a flood of financial contributions from Czech citizens, building commenced in 1865. It’s unique funding means that, more than any of the city’s historic buildings; the Prague National Theatre really does belong to the people.
Taking 16 years to finish, the theatre is the masterwork of Czech architect Josef Zítek, who crafted a dramatic neo-Renaissance façade reflective of the artistic liberation of the Czech National Revival. In 1983, a modernist glass annex – the ‘New Scene’ – was also added to the theatre, the work of architect Zdeněk Vávra, designed to mark the building’s 100th anniversary.
Standing proud by the riverside in the Old Town, with its golden rooftop shimmering in the sunlight, the National Theatre remains one of Prague’s most instantly recognizable sights and those lucky enough to catch one of its many drama, opera and ballet performances will be captivated by its equally impressive interiors.