Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square) is located in the historical centre of Plzen. Many streets lead from the edge of the centre to the square and it is impossible to miss it, if only because of the St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral standing there.
The Republic Square is about 139 x 193 metres and its dimensions make it one of the largest city squares in Europe. This square is of great importance for Plzen. Events, markets and festivals take place here – this is where people meet, where life pulsates. We were on the square several times and visited the market stalls and enjoyed the hustle and bustle during a festival there.
What can you discover on and around Republic Square?
Around the square are some beautiful buildings, but also some modern buildings that don’t really fit into the cityscape. The square is not only home to Plzen’s imposing cathedral, there are also city landmarks to be discovered at the four corners of the square.
Three golden fountains
The three golden fountains of the city have already become a landmark, although they were very controversial among the people of Plzen.
On three corners of Republic Square there are large golden fountains. They were built according to a design by Ondřej Císler. All three have a basin made of Chinese black granite, into which the water from the golden fountains falls.
The shapes of the fountains are very modern and I think it is not obvious at first glance what should be represented. But if you look at the history of the city and the origin of the coat of arms, you can guess the angel, the greyhound and the camel.
The plague column stands on a corner of the square, diagonally opposite the tourist information of the city (Imperial House). It dates from the 17th century and was built to protect the city from the plague.
The plague column has a baroque replica of the Plzen Madonna at the top.
Standing by the plague column, you have a good view of the Emperor’s House, which today houses the Plzen Tourist Information. Emperor Rudolf II lived in this house for 9 months during the plague. He tried to hide from the disease here. For these 9 months Plzen thus briefly became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
Right next to the Imperial House, the beautiful building of the Town Hall immediately catches the eye. The Renaissance building dates from 1554-1559 and was built by an Italian master builder. I find the facade design really beautiful.
We also went to the town hall, because we had read that you can visit a wooden model of the city. Unfortunately, we were sent out of the building again with the advice that tourists had no business there, but only employees were allowed to go in.
Museum of the Plzen Region – Ethnographic Museum Plzen
If you continue clockwise on the square from the Town Hall, you will reach the Ethnographic Museum of Plzen. Originally, the Gothic house was the property of the Chotěšov Monastery. The entrance to the museum is located in the back of the building.
I visited the museum and can highly recommend it.
The building, which today houses the city’s Puppet Museum, stands out for its high Renaissance façade with rich sculptural as well as sgraffito decorations.
The visit to this museum should not be missed even as an adult. Spejbl and Hurvínek are certainly not only for me a memory of my childhood.
Lékárna U Bílého Jednorožce
This building houses the oldest pharmacy in the city. The pharmacy has existed since 1637. A really well-preserved building that immediately catches the eye visually.
Cathedral of St. Bartholomew
The large church on the square is the landmark of the city. The construction of the church began with the founding of the city in about 1295. The choice of location is rather unusual for that time. In planned cities at that time, churches were usually built away from the marketplace to protect them from the noise there. It is not quite clear why they decided differently in Plzen. In any case, it took the Plzen people quite a while to finish the construction in the 16th century. In 1993, Pope John Paul II established a bishop’s seat in Plzen and the church became a cathedral.
The result is a Gothic hall church with three naves, whose Sternberg Chapel is particularly valuable architecturally. The building is 58 meters long, 30 meters wide and has a tower.
Unfortunately, a tour of the interior was not possible during our stay in Plzen, as renovation work was taking place. Nevertheless, a tour around the cathedral should not be missed. There is a small outdoor altar with a group of figures on the eastern outer wall. It symbolizes Christ on the Mount of Olives. In front of it is a metal grille with a row of small angel heads. According to legend, there is an angel who fulfills the most secret wishes.
Climbing the tower was possible despite the work on the church. A small inconspicuous door on the outside of the church leads into the tower. With its height of 102.6 meters, the church tower is the highest church tower in the Czech Republic and at a height of about 60 meters there is a walkway that provides a 360-degree view of Plzen.
After climbing the first steps of a spiral staircase, we stood in the tower’s ticket office. A sign told us that we had to climb 299 steps to the ambulatory, so we made our way up. It was up wooden stairs, some of which were quite steep, higher and higher up the tower, past the church bells, until we came to a small room with seating. From there you enter the narrow ambulatory that leads once around the tower.
From up here, you have a good overview of the city and, in good visibility conditions, you can even see as far as the Bohemian Forest. I think Plzen looks very uniform from above. There are few buildings that protrude like a spire from the roofs of the houses. What we became really aware of from up there, Plzen is really an industrial city. You can see the big brewery and even the Skoda factory can be spotted.
If you look down very steeply, you have a good overview of the Republic Square with its partly beautiful houses.
daily 10-18 h
adults: 50 CZK
Discounts are offered.
Disclosure: The visit to the church tower was part of a research trip to Pilsen.