So many houses in Prague Old Town and Malostranska area still keeping the ancient house signs, which you might see carved into the gables, on hanging signs or inscribed on the facade. The system originated in medieval times and still survives today, especially by pubs, restaurants and hotels. Some signs were deliberately chosen to draw custom to the business of the house, like U zeleneho hroznu (The Green Bunch of Grapes), a wine shop in the MalaStrana; others, like U železných dveř (The Iron Door), simply referred to some distinguishing feature of the house, often long since disappeared. The pervasive use of zlatý (gold) derives from the city’s popular epithet, Zlata Praha (Golden Prague), which could either refer to the halcyon days of Charles IV, when the new Gothic copper roofing shone like gold, or to the period of alchemy under Rudolf II.
Habsburgs introduced a numerical system, with each house in the city entered onto a register according to a strict chronology. in the 1770s.
Later, however, the conventional system of progressive street numbering was introduced, so don’t be surprised if seventeenth-century pubs like U medvidků (The Little Bears) have two numbers in addition to a house sign, in this case 7 and 345. The former, Habsburg number, is written on a
red background; the latter, modern number, on blue.
Photos: Prague Photographer Kemal