The Historic Old Town Hotel


What made Smetana Hotel (formerly Pachtuv Palace) the favorite lodging for Mozart and other luminaries?

Pachtuv Palace: A history of the 17th century Baroque palace and the noble Pachta family who called it home


Postcard from 1906 with Pachtuv Palace on the right

Before becoming a hotel, Smetana Hotel started its life as the Baroque Pachta Palace. It was home to the Earl Kubert Karel Pachta from Rajiv. The palace was commissioned to be built in the 18th century by the architect Wirch. Wirch designed the palace in accordance to the Baroque style which remains unchanged to this day.

The Pachta family is of noble origin. They are recognized for receiving their coat of arms from the Emperor Franz Ferdinand in 1628. When you visit, you can see the original coat of arms at the head of the original entrance on Anenske Namesti.

Jan Josef Pachta was famous for his patronage of the music culture in Prague. Josef went as far as to personally curate an orchestra to entertain guests. Josef’s patronage led him to regularly host concerts and dances. This led him to befriend Mozart and his wife Konstanze, who both  became regular guests at the palace. Mozart enjoyed Josef’s orchestra and often felt he had found his own orchestra in Prague because of it. He is quoted as saying,

My Czechs understand my music.’ -Mozart

When Mozart’s opera Le Nozze Di Figaro opened on December 1786 at Prague’s Nostitz Theater (now the Estates Theater), it was received as a hit, confirming Mozart’s love of the Czech people. This response came right on the heels of a rather uninspired reception to the opera months earlier in Vienna.

In January 1787, Mozart went on to present Symphony No. 38 in D Major, now known as The Prague Symphony. Mozart continued to premiere now famous pieces in Prague such as, Don Giovanna, La Clemenza di Tito, and most famously, The Magic Flute.

Mozart was once famously imprisoned (symbolically) by the Count at the Palace. What had happened was Mozart promised the Count, on multiple occasions, to compose a couple of dance pieces for him. The Count, tired of waiting, sent Mozart to room 212 with parchment and ink, and he wasn’t allowed out till hours later after composing his 6 German Dances K. 509. Once done, Mozart famously asked the Count if his sentence had come to an end.

The front part of Smetana Hotel is known as Jirasek house. It was constructed in the early 19th century and named after famous Czech neurosurgeon Arnold Jirasek. Arnold lived in the original part of the palace with his wife for a period.

Smetana Hotel has played host to many famous personalities throughout the years. Two of the most famous being Beethoven and Wagner.

In 2002, the Palace began construction to restore this unique landmark property back to its former glory. It was rebranded as Smetana Hotel in 2015, a luxury boutique hotel for the traveler abroad and is owned and operated by the Ott family..

The medieval buildings that survived (of which there are quite a few to explore) did so because of the topographic features of the area and the character of the community near the Vltava river.  What happened was the 16th century brought a change to the structure of the local population. This led to a renaissance and chivalrous buildings. This led the society at the time to produce the buildings you can see and enjoy today.

Where Smetana Hotel stands originally featured five medieval houses. The first of many rounds of reconstruction that ultimately led to them being combined into the palace started in the 17th century. Over the years, all the houses were brought together by Hubert Karel Pachta of Rajiv to build one of his many mansions for his family.  As mentioned earlier, the palace is famous for the Baroque elements that dot its facade that seamlessly transition into the Rococo style.

In fact, in one of our suites you can find original frescoes from the 17th century that survived the multiple restoration and construction projects that took place here.  

Due to issues with historic records, we can’t be precisely sure who handled the largest section of the rebuilding. What we do know is that  Jan Josef Wirch and German Josef Jager both left their mark on the palace. 

In the 1870’s, the majority of the construction focused on the facade and the palace courtyard. Along with that, a monumental staircase was built into the south wing, and it featured a state of German Baroque architect Jan Maximilian Heger.

Frantisek Platzer, a famous Czech sculptor with German roots, was asked to develop the Czech statuary during the 18th century. In fact, if you head to Prague Castle Courtyard, you can see his most famous work, the fighting titans, every day.

The interesting thing is that the palace was built into a nook between other buildings. That meant for a long time the exterior facade received little attention. Another interesting note is that the original palace garden reached all the way to the coast of the Vltava. This garden was interrupted in 1836 when a classicist apartment was built effectively cutting the garden’s access to the coast off.

Philipp Heger tried to amend this at first. He suggested building two classicist wings. Sadly, the project was amended and built from scratch, forever separating the garden and the coast. The bottom floor of the palace featured a meeting place of famous Czech patriots known as the Slav cafe.

 

Pachtuv Palace archive between 1914 and 1917