The National Technical Museum in Prague – An honest review
The National Technical Museum in Prague has been the real surprise of my last trip to the Czech capital.
In this review, you will discover why, how and what to visit in this unique museum.
We all know Prague, the Golden City, with its marvellous buildings and architecture, almost untouched during the second world war and so well preserved that you feel like walking in an open-air museum.
The Old Town, in the Prague 1 district, was founded over 1,100 years ago and you can still find traces of the original buildings in the underground level of the historical city.
You may not know, in fact, that due to the continuous river floods, over 500 years ago it was decided to re-build the city, the streets, squares and lanes around 3 meters above the original ground level, basically where it used to be the first level.
You can today explore the underground part of few buildings to discover what used to be at the city street level.
There is so much history in Prague to discover, including the widest castle in the world.
And this takes me to the first question.
Why should you visit the National Technical Museum in Prague?
To put it simply, because you want to learn more about the development of technology in the world, with a grand focus on the Czech Republic innovation and discoveries.
I am myself a lover of modern technology and the history of past machinery and automation.
I have visited a few museums similar in scope, like the Deutsches Museum in Munich, but the National Technical Museum in Prague has definitely something more.
The exhibitions show the history of the country through the change of the local technology in the last 150 years.
The museum is not just a collection of old and antique pieces but a labour of love that explains how technology has been evolving in the country in the last 2 centuries.
And this difference probably comes from the history itself of the museum, one of the five oldest museums of this type in the world.
Vojtěch Náprstek, a Czech journalist and philanthropist, funded the then called Museum of Industry in 1862, starting with a collection of innovative Czech technology pieces of that era.
The collection was then expanded in the years and re-organised in 1908 by professors from the Czech Technical University.
New pieces were added through the years and today the collection counts tens of thousands of exhibits mostly related to the history of technology in the Czech Republic.
This museum will give you an insight into the Czech technology evolution, and sometimes involution, of the last 2 centuries. Definitely a must see for any techie, even if you are in Prague for just 2 days.
What can you visit at the National Technical Museum in Prague?
The museum, fully refurbished between 2006 and 2011, is organised over 7 levels (14,000 square meters) where approximately only 15% of the collection is viewable at the museum.
The main stage is taken by the grand hall in the ground level with the unique Transport Exhibition.
This is where you will discover the history of the Czech transportation industry, besides admiring some unique pieces as two of the rarest cars in the world, the Bugatti 13 (1910) and the Audi 10 (1911).
What I loved the most was going through the Czech factory models and discovering forgotten brands as Tatra, the third oldest company in the world producing cars, now making mostly trucks, and winning 6 times the Paris-Dakar race (you can see the winning Tatra 815 as part of the exhibition).
Of course, ŠKODA was there too, with a few models that cover over 100 years of production.
I discovered that this company, founded in 1895, started off as a motorbike maker, changing his business model during the start of the last century and now making uniquely cars, with much success I may add.
You can also find the history of Praga Automobile, Jawa, Zbrojovka Brno and other less famous manufacturer through old and more recent models of cars and motorbikes.
The transport exhibition includes also trains, airplanes, bicycles and shipping.
The grand hall is surely the most impressive of all the exhibitions, and you can easily spend one to two hours just there.
My attention then moved to the Photography Section, also on ground level.
Photography and videography are my passion and I was once again impressed by the exhibition that focuses on explaining a few visual concepts with hands-on example.
You get to see and change the depth-of-field and discover why we see a blurred background.
You can control the studio lighting and see the difference between the positions of the light sources.
You can observe how colours change a photo and how can you manage them to your advantage, and I could keep going.
Of course, you can nowadays see a video on YouTube explaining these photography concepts, but the hands-on experience is so much more valuable and memorable.
In the ground level, you can also find a small corner dedicated to one of the invention that changed my life and quite possibly the life of many people in the world: the soft hydrogel contact lenses.
It was indeed a Czech chemist, Otto Wichterle, together with Drahoslav Lím, that introduced the modern soft hydrogel lenses in 1959.
I started wearing glasses in my early stage of the life and the contact lenses made my life so much easier when practising sports, and not only.
Sometimes are the small and tiny things that can dramatically transform our way of living.
Coming from Australia, where mining is the first industry in the country, I had to walk down 3 levels underground to see the Mining Exhibition.
I was again surprised by the level of details in the exhibits, including a re-creation of an ore and coal mine.
One thing I should mention here is that every single piece in the museum is described in Czech and English too, something I have rarely seen in countries where English is not the main language.
Talking of unique pieces, head to Level 2 for the Astronomy Exhibition.
That is where you will find an 80kg meteorite that is 5000 years old, found in Campo del Cielo (Argentina). And yes, you can touch it.
This is one of the biggest museums that I have ever experienced, with so many interesting pieces.
The Grand Hall with the Transportation exhibition is, of course, a must. The other levels cover the following subjects:
- Level 3: Architecture, Civil Engineering & Design, and Television Studio
- Level 2: Astronomy & Playful Technology
- Level 1: Technology at home and Printing
- Level 0: Besides the already mentioned exhibitions, you can also find Measurement of Time and Chemistry around us
- Level -2: Metallurgy and Merkur playroom
- Level -3: Mining
All of the above are permanent exhibitions.
At Level -1, you will find the temporary exhibitions as well as the restaurant/cafe.
I had my launch there, and I enjoyed my food. I had some gnocchi which were well cooked with a tasty sauce too, something I did not expect in a museum.
Price wise, the main dishes cost around 5 Euro with a coffee, soft drink or a pint of beer at 2 Euro.
National Technical Museum in Prague – How to
The museum address is: Kostelní 1320/42 in Prague 7, just across the Vltava River from Prague 1
You can get to the museum with an easy 20 minutes walk from the Old Town of Prague.
Here is an easy map that you can follow. Just keep in mind that the museum is located on top of the hilly park
Note that Google Map does not provide the direct walking route for some reasons and it gives a much longer way up to the museum.
- Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday (including bank holidays) 9am to 6pm, Monday closed
- Phone number: +420 220 399 111
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.ntm.cz/
- Price & Availability: Follow this link to book your ticket
More reading about Prague
I did enjoy so much my time at the museum. I had a great overview of the Czech technology innovation over the last 150 years, much more than I expected.
This is a museum that should not be missed if you are into technology and/or the history of Czech Republic.
My biggest tip here is to buy the ticket and pre-plan your trip with the levels that you want to visit.
The risk, otherwise, is to get lost in the enormous amount of information presented over the 7 floors.
There is one must visit though, the Grand Hall with the Transport Exhibition.
Enjoy and let me know in the comment area below if you have any question or how was your visit.