Around the size of seven football fields, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Located in Lesser Town, Prague Castle has been the seat of power for the Czech kings for hundreds of years. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Everyday at midday, the Changing of Guard Ceremony is conducted at the main gates.
Popular attractions at Prague Castle include St. Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, the Old Royal Palace, the Powder Tower, and the Basilica of St. George. From the castle ramparts, visitors are treated to awe-inspiring panoramic views of Prague.
Visitors to the Prague Castle have to pass through security checks. Lines are long and wait times can run between 15 minutes to an hour. Hence, avoid bringing oversized or bulky bags or backpacks.
Information regarding tickets can be found at www.hrad.cz. Though instead of paying the hefty admission fees for limited perks, I would recommend doing Prague Castle for free. As you will notice, there are lots of things in Prague Castle you can explore without paying a dime!
• Saint Vitus Cathedral
The Prague Castle grounds are dominated by St. Vitus Cathedral, known for its beautiful stained-glass windows. It is the final resting place of patron saints and the Czech royals including Saint Wenceslas and Emperor Rudolf II. The cathedral is named after Saint Vitus, who was martyred during the persecution of Christians by Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian.
Fun fact: St. Vitus Cathedral is home to the exquisite Bohemian Crown Jewels. The church treasury is one of the largest collections in Europe, and includes invaluable treasures like the St. Wenceslas Crown, royal scepter as well as the arm of Saint Vitus. Therefore, the city of Prague takes all measures to keep the crown jewels safe. There are seven locks each on the chamber door and iron safe. The keys are in the hands of seven people, including the Archbishop of Prague, the President and the Prime Minister.
• Golden Lane
This cute row of colorful little houses consists largely of souvenir, book shops as well as a museum of medieval armory. But during the 17th century, goldsmiths and Emperor Rudolph II’s castle guards lived here.
There is a common myth that alchemists resided here, trying to change metal into gold. But no historical proof has been found regarding alchemists ever being here or anywhere in Prague Castle.
Another myth surrounds house no. 22. Many believe the world famous Prague writer Franz Kafka lived here. But in reality, his sister stayed here for two years.
• Basilica of Saint George
The oldest surviving church in Prague Castle, the Basilica of Saint George was built under Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920. With the inclusion of the Benedictine nuns, the Baroque themed basilica was significantly expanded.
Inside, visitors can see the tomb of Saint George, as well as the shrines of Vratislaus and Boleslaus II of Bohemia. In addition, the Basilica of Saint George is home to a 19th century Bohemian art collection from the National Gallery of Prague.
Church of St. Nicholas
Located in Lesser Town, the Church of St. Nicholas stand out against Prague’s skyline. One of the most unique Baroque churches north of the Alps, it took nearly a century to construct.
But the Baroque facade of the Church of Saint Nicholas isn’t its only striking feature. The church’s interior decor consists of gorgeous frescoes, including one etched inside the 70 meter high dome.
In contrast to the prominent Baroque architectural style, the church’s 79 meter tall belfry was built in Rococo style in the latter half of the 18th century.
Fun fact: The main organ has around 4,000 pipes, each up to six meters in length. In 1787, Mozart visited Prague and performed at the Church of Saint Nicholas.
Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock
Despite suffering a number of foreign invasions, Prague’s Old Town has remained unaffected since the 10th century. It’s most distinctive landmark is the Old Town Hall, one of Prague’s most visited monuments.
Established in 1338, the Old Town Hall is famous less so for its historical value, and more for the astronomical clock. In fact, the oldest part of the town hall is its unique Gothic tower and astronomical clock. Known as the Orloj, one can catch the twelve apostles every hour between 9am and 11pm.
Fun fact: According to local folklore, Prague will be doomed if the astronomical clock stops working. The only hope to escape such a fate is the birth of a boy on New Year’s night.
Also known as “House of the Stone Virgin Mary”, this 19th century Neo-Renaissance building in Prague’s Old Town is famous for its Art Nouveau mural of the patron saint of Bohemia, Saint Wenceslas riding a horse. In 1945, the house was burned down. It was restored three years later.
Jan Hus monument
Jan Hus was a great reformer, thinker and philosopher in Prague. He was critical of the moral decay of the Catholic church, and also advocated for the language of spiritual instruction to be in the local language (at the time Latin was the predominant spiritual medium). He earned the ire of the Catholic Church and was condemned by the Council of Constance.
On 6th July 1415, Jan Hus was burnt at the stake. His death triggered a rebellion known as the Hussite Wars, a Protestant movement against the Roman Catholic Church.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
Built between the mid 14th and 16th centuries, the twin towers of this majestic Gothic building can be seen from all over Prague. They are nearly 80 meters high and topped by four small spires.
Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (or Tyn Church as it is commonly known) has an extensive collection of Renaissance, Gothic and Early Baroque artworks and religious iconography. It also houses the oldest organ in Prague, which dates from 1673.
30 baroque statues of saints line this beautiful bridge that connects Old Town with Lesser Town. Spanning 16 arches and 520 meters long, the bridge was envisioned by King Charles IV in 1357 and offers stunning views of the Vltava River. A great place to spend your evening in Prague before retiring for the day.