Prague Castle is a national cultural monument, the number one attraction of the Czech Republic. A must-see item on the list of any self-respecting tourist. All these museums of Lego, sex machines and other Apple are secondary and are only suitable for completing a picture of Prague..
You should start your acquaintance with the city right here, because Prague Castle is the oldest fortress in Prague. And also the largest castle in the Czech Republic, the former royal and current presidential residence. Age-old beauty that sits on the crest of a long hill overlooking the city.
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Over the years of its existence, Prague Castle has acquired a complex of buildings and squares. Temples and fortifications, a huge park and staircases. Despite more than a thousand-year history, the entire fortress, all buildings on its territory look like a single whole. As an architectural ensemble. At the same time, organically combining the styles of different eras.
Due to the size of Prague Castle, it is difficult to describe it in two paragraphs. It is huge, and there are dozens of cultural objects on its territory. Which are attractions in themselves and require a detailed inspection and a voluminous description. For now, I will confine myself to basic information on the main places of Prague Castle, which will be enough for a first acquaintance..
New castle staircase
An interesting and completely non-relaxed option to get to Prague Castle. However, it more than covers its shortcomings (more than two hundred steps) with excellent views. To Prague and the tile roofs typical of the old European city. «New» she was named in shaggy 1829. Although logically, this staircase is older than «Old Staircase» - and this one is here too.
I don’t envy the horses that used to roll carts with loads here in the old days - the Steep Road was really steep. I would recommend to climb it only to people with physical training not lower than average. And it's better to go down the Old Castle Stairs. There is beauty and splendor here, especially on clear days or in the evening..
New castle staircase, downward view
New castle staircase, upward view
A pedestrian area on the eve of Prague Castle, which offers a magnificent view of Prague. Well, access to the many attractions of the old fortress. In the past, it was a place of settlement of ordinary people who tried to live closer to the fortress. Today - a tourist-packed square who stares at the changing of the guard or listens to the guides.
Here's a life hack from me - a winter trip will save you at least half of the usual number of visitors. Simply due to seasonality. So don't look at the lack of greenery in the Royal Garden - it's not that important. It is much more pleasant not to stand in kilometer-long queues at the ticket office. And do not hustle with people for the opportunity to take a picture of a sight without a dozen Chinese in the frame..
St. Vitus Cathedral
It is correct to call it the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Vojtěch. Interestingly, on Google maps this cathedral is called «Rotunda of St. Vitus». Although there is nothing left of the rotunda (the original building of the end of the 10th century). For the rotunda was rebuilt into a basilica in the 12th century. And later, in the XIV century, the grandiose construction of the cathedral itself began..
The remains of the basilica's foundations can be seen in a separate room next to the cathedral. Today St. Vitus Cathedral is the main attraction of Prague, the acting diocese of the Catholic Church. As well as the royal burial vault and the storage place for the royal regalia. The place is overflowing with beautiful and delicate art objects, which will take a lot of time to see. Don't be limited by appearance - go inside.
Great South Tower
The only bell tower on the southern facade of the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Vojtěch. Initially, the dome of the South Tower was made in the Gothic style. It was the same as on the towers of the western facade (pictured on the left). However, in the middle of the 16th century, the top of the tower acquired a Romanesque style, with these balls and columns.
Inside the tower there are bells (including the largest in the Czech Republic). Two watch movements (which show hours and minutes separately). In the same place - a huge monogram «R», autograph of King Rudolf II, who made a significant contribution to the improvement of the cathedral. And at the very top of the tower is one of the best observation decks in Prague.
An authentic corner of the fortress, where houses (or rather, houses) are part of the northern fortress wall. It was named Golden because the first inhabitants of this street were goldsmiths / chasers for gold. A hundred years later, the jewelry contingent of the street was replaced by shooters from the garrison of the fortress, who were engaged in craft in their free time..
Many tourists are surprised to note the narrowness of the Golden Lane. And they still do not know that in those days the houses here were not in one, but in two rows. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was already inhabited mainly by the poor. And at the end of the Second World War, the houses were completely evicted. Thematic expositions, souvenir shops and other tourist attractions were organized inside..
The history of Prague Castle is so voluminous that I don’t take the trouble to paint it in detail. The result is a rather boring footcloth with columns of dates and the names of celebrities from past centuries. Therefore, I will only get by with the set of information that personally was enough for me to walk with enthusiasm and interest through its squares and streets..
Prague Castle was founded as a city on a hill overlooking the Vltava in a strategically important location. Rather, like a settlement: these were wooden houses surrounded by an earthen rampart and a palisade, like in historical films.
The first approximate dates that historians have regarding Prague Castle are the middle of the 9th century. The very first stone buildings date back to 920-973: the Basilica of St. George, the Church of the Virgin Mary and the dwelling house in which the bishop settled. In addition, the first monastery in the Czech Republic appeared here, and the rotunda of St. Vitus is a small building with cylindrical walls..
By the X-XI centuries, the walls had become stone, and the rotunda was rebuilt and in its place a three-aisled Basilica of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Vojtech was erected. By the end of the 12th century, Prague Castle becomes a full-fledged fortress, with stone towers and a princely palace.
In the XIII century, the Czechs were mainly engaged in the improvement of the fortress. Renovation of interiors, decoration of building facades, additional buildings. It is believed that it was then that the former princely palace gradually became royal.
The 14th century did not start well for Prague Castle. The fire of 1303 and the reign of John of Luxembourg, who preferred military campaigns to the royal residence. For almost forty years of his reign, he lived in Prague Castle for about one year.
But in the second half of the XIV century, it began. Instead of the basilica, the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Vojtech was laid (this is its official name to this day), the burnt ruins of the royal palace were reanimated, and a number of buildings were added.
In the 15th century, the Hussite Wars and the Game of Thrones took place for the Czech throne. Rebuilding began in 1471 at Prague Castle. With the course of which it more and more takes on the appearance of a Gothic fortress. More towers, thicker walls, new buildings and palace wings.
XVI century. The empire of the Austrian Habsburgs swallowed up the Czech Republic. The country has ceased to exist as an independent state since 1526. For some time the Prague Castle continued to bear the weight of the royal residence. But over time, it lost its significance, although it has not yet been consigned to oblivion..
In the same century, the Renaissance came here. And with it - the Royal Garden, which was created for about 20 years and spent an incredible amount of money on it. The first private buildings of the richest and most influential people appeared.
Century XVII. The Thirty Years' War began, during which Prague Castle was thoroughly plundered. In addition, he finally lost the status of a royal residence. And in connection with the development of such kind of troops as artillery, the Prague Castle became a useless fortification.
Despite this lowering of status, large-scale works were carried out in the 18th century. The various-sized buildings of the Prague Castle were brought to a single classicism style and received a roof of a single sample. Since then, all this began to look like a single architectural ensemble, called the New Royal Palace..
By the middle of the 19th century, in the wake of the heyday of national identity, the Czech Republic remembers the 500-year long-term construction - the Cathedral of St. Vitus. Drawings of the XIV century are raised. They bring them in line with the requirements of modern building standards and begin the final stage of the construction of the cathedral.
The 20th century was marked for the Czech Republic by the First World War, the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the newly acquired independence. The New Royal Palace has been designated as the presidential residence. From 1919 to 1934, a grandiose restoration was carried out here. The Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslas and Vojtěch is finished in 1929.
Only towards the end of the 20th century, in the 89th year, Prague Castle was opened for free visits by tourists. Well, except for the New Royal Palace, where the Czech government still sits..
Information to visit
Opening hours: April to October - daily from 9 am to 5 pm. November to March - from 9 am to 4 pm.
You can just walk around the territory of Prague Castle from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m..
Walk around the territory - free.
Entrance fees to selected attractions and tourist routes:
South tower of the cathedral (aka observation deck) - 150 CZK
Exposition «Treasures of St. Vitus Cathedral» - 250 CZK
«Circle B» - 250 CZK. The route includes: Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, Zlata Street and the tower «Daliborka».
«Circle A» - 350 CZK. The route includes: exposition «History of the Prague Castle», Old Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George's Basilica, Zlata Street, Rozmberg Palace, Tower «Migulk», tower «Daliborka».
On the days of free admission, it is better not to come - they will trample. The number of tourists and the length of the queues increase significantly, so if time is dear to you, not money - come on ordinary days.
You can get to Prague Castle by tram number 22, stop - Prazsky hrad. It is located higher up the hill, so you can walk 200-300 meters down to the entrance without much effort. Another option, but for people with good physical fitness - take the metro to Malostranska station and climb the old castle stairs.
On the map
Prague Castle on the map
Vitus Cathedral South Tower:
Lookout on Hradcanska Square:
New castle staircase:
Old castle staircase: