The National Theater (Národní Divadlo)

The National Theater is one of Prague’s most distinctive buildings. It is located in Prague’s New Town and borders the waterfront of the Vltava River. This makes it hard to overlook the building when walking past. Even at night it is illuminated in golden light. The National Theater is considered the prestigious stage of the Czech Republic with three ensembles of opera, ballet, and drama.

The National Theatre by night
The National Theatre CC0 Pixabay

History of the National Theater

Already in 1845 the theater cooperative of the Czech Patriots invited the Viennese government to found a national theater. However, their request was never answered and so in 1850 the society for the establishment of the Czech National Theater was founded. As early as 1865, an architectural competition was staged, which was won by architect Josef Zitek.

Opening and reopening

In 1881 the theater was inaugurated on the 11th of June and opened due to the visit of Crown Prince Rudolf. Then it was closed again to complete the construction work. However, this caused a fire as charcoal on the roof of the theater caught fire and the dome, the stage and the auditorium were completely destroyed by the fire. It was not until 1883 that the theater was reopened. This happened, as in the original opening with a performance of Smetana’s Libuše.After this event, the National Theater was open for almost 100 years without major repairs.

It was not until 1977 that the National Theater was renovated, and after completion of the work, the theater could now be inaugurated for the third time with a performance of Smetanas Libuše.

The National Theater Today

Due to the massive use of gold for the decoration of the theater, the National Theater is also called the “Golden Chapel”. Almost three kilos of gold were used for interior decoration.

Visitors can book guided tours on weekends, allowing them to look behind the scenes. You can reach the theater either on foot via Národní or Charles Bridge. By tram you can easily get off at the stop “Národní Divadlo”.

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