Man trying to turn his ambition into gold is nothing new. In Medieval times, there was a primitive science that offered exactly this. Alchemy, the quest to change metals into gold, cure disease, and prolong life had a huge place in the history of Europe. Although the claims were deemed unsuccessful, the legends of alchemy still live on today in Prague.
No one will ever know why alchemists were so drawn to the city of Prague, but many visitors claim they still feel the magic when they walk through the streets. Why is this? Legend has it Prague was once the capital of alchemy. Over 200 alchemists lived in the city and evidence of the dark arts still exist in its buildings and towers. Whether you believe in it or not, visiting Prague without exploring the ancient alchemy history would be a disservice to yourself.
At The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague, you can dive into the best alchemic history that Prague has to offer. It’s less than a block away from our office on Nerudova, and the owner offered to give us the special scoop on the newly renovated building. As fans of a) potions with the ability to keep us young forever and b) mysterious cocktails, we obviously had to check it out. And it was great! But also eerie, mainly because they had realistic figures of alchemists, a devil getting sucked into the ceiling, and replicas of spine chilling experiments. There’s trouble “brewing” in every inch of this place.
On the first floor, you’ll come across most of the history of alchemy. You’ll learn the legends of King Charles IV and Emperor Rudolf II. It’s pretty factual, but there are plenty of things that will grab your attention. Almost every inch of this place is covered in alchemist symbols, scribbles, and artifacts. You’ll also enter a replica of Faust’s House, one of the most magical places in Prague. It was once the home of pagan goddess Moran, and for centuries many spooky legends have haunted it. The owner told us that four artists and cinematography professionals spent four months decorating it from morning to night. That’s some serious dedication.
The museum isn’t just for history fans either; there are plenty of interactive displays to keep anyone entertained. You can boil a secret potion made of phosphorus (the secret ingredient for the elixirs), light the furnaces that changes common stones into rich metals, or watch the process of Homunculus- the process of creating artificial humans.
After that, you’ll take a tour of the Kelley Tower, which is rumored to be the laboratory of one of the most famous alchemists, Edward Kelley. Climbing the actual steps up the laboratory feels pretty magical, maybe because it’s one of the oldest wooden staircases in Prague. Next, you’ll enter Kelley’s alchemic lab through a big wooden door. Every inch of this place has been decked out just how you’d expect a 16th Century dark science lab to look. Although they went under recent renovations, the structure of the building is still 100% authentic. While you walk the creaky wooden floors, you’ll find never-ending bookshelves of secret potions, learn about some of the success and failures of the famous experiments, and hear legends about famous alchemist’s contributions in Prague- such as William Shakespeare. Who knew!
The guide mentioned to us that the stairs didn’t stop at the lab, so a few of us curiously ascended to the top. Here you can find a pretty incredible view of the Prague’s orange roofs. They even rent out this space for romantic dinners (no secret love potion included).
At the end of the tour, you’re welcomed downstairs into the Kellyxir Lab Pub, where you can taste ancient alchemic recipes. Our favorite drink was Kytil’s Elixir, mysterious-looking lemonade that gave us so much energy it could put coffee out of business! The best part was that the whole thing is decked out with actual alchemical symbols and chemical pipes that come from the Kelley tower. Come at night for an extra mystical experience.
In short, if you want to feel like Edward Kelley minus the whole -getting imprisoned for being a conman and stealing your coworker’s wife- thing, head over to The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague, located in Malá Strana.
Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Prague
Jánský vršek 8, Malá Strana, Praha 1
Open Daily from 10am – 8pm
Story by Adrian McLaughlin