The Estates Theatre was built during the late 18th century in response to Enlightenment thought regarding general access to the theatre, and theatres themselves demonstrating the cultural standards of a nation. The Estates Theatre was designed by Anton Haffenecker and built in a little less than two years for the aristocrat František Antonín Count Nostitz Rieneck.
Prague's first standing public theatre, the Sporck Theatre, operated from 1724 to 1735. The owner of this theatre, Count Franz Anton von Sporck, permitted the free use of it to subsidize the commercial venture of the Venetian impresario Antonio Denzio. The next commercial theatre, the "Kotzentheater" or Divadlo v Kotcích, operated sporadically from 1739–1783 under a series of Italian impresarios. The final closure of the "Kotzentheater" coincided with the opening of Count Nostitz’s "Nostitzsches Nationaltheater." The theatre opened in 1783 with a performance of the tragedy Emilia Galotti by the German playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. The building itself was constructed in a Neoclassical style and remains one of the few European theatres to be preserved in its almost original state to the present day. Its motto, Patriae et Musis "To the Native Land and the Muses"), which is inscribed above the portal, should also be noted as reflecting the original intentions of its creator.
The Estates Theatre has undergone several changes in its history. It first acquired the name Royal Theatre of the Estates in 1798 when it was purchased by the Bohemian Estates. With the opening of the Provisional Theatre in 1862, the Czech ensemble left and the Theatre of the Estates was dedicated to a solely German ensemble and was renamed to Deutsches Landestheater (Provincial German Theatre). During the period between 1920 and 1948 the theatre regained the name Theatre of the Estates and became affiliated with the National Theatre. In 1948 the theatre was renamed the Tyl Theatre (after dramatist J.K. Tyl) and would be known as such until 1990 when, at the end of an eight-year reconstruction project, it became known again as the Estates Theatre.