The history of Praha castle in a nutshell
Before the very beginning of this Czech attraction, we have to go as far back as the year 870 when the first building of the complex was realized: The Church of the Virgin Mary. A century later two basilicas were added to the compound.
Only in the twelfth century was the palace in Prague constructed, which was rebuilt and reinforced again 200 years later so that it was finally worthy of being a royal palace. The Romanesque style had to make way for a gothic architecture. Throughout the centuries more and more elements were added to the complex, which became bigger and bigger.
Elements from different building styles were also added in the process, which resulted in a fantastic and diverse architectural mix.
Visiting Prague castle: what is there to see?
In a nutshell, a lot. Because of its magnitude you can easily spend a couple of hours here and the experience is also pretty overwhelming. That’s why I will give you an overview of the most important sights of Praha castle.
The old royal palace
As you could read above the original (wooden) palace was lost and replaced by a stone and Romanesque version which can still be admired today.
The absolute eye-catcher of this palace in Prague is Vladislav’s Hall, in which late gothic and renaissance elements are combined. This space used to be the scene of royal activities such as coronations and decadent banquets. Afterwards the elections of the Czech president took place here, nowadays it’s only used to celebrate important national holidays.
Furthermore, the Church of All Saints is also worth stopping by. According to legend the church used to look just as magnificent as the Sainte Chapelle in Paris, which I unfortunately cannot confirm… In 1541 a fire broke out, whereby only the outer walls survived. Of course they rebuilt the church and even expanded it by connecting it directly to Vladislav’s Hall.
Saint Vitus Cathedral
This is the biggest and most important church in Prague. This isn’t only due to the fact that religious services used to take place here, because Czech kings and queens were crowned here as well. Moreover, a couple of patron saints, noblemen and Archbishops were buried in this location.
In the cathedral you will also find the chapel of Saint Wencesclas, the most important patron saint of the Czech Republic. You can marvel at his tomb, which is surrounded by murals from the fourteenth century. You’ll also stumble upon a door to the Coronation Room, where the Bohemian crown jewels are being stored.
The big southern tower of the cathedral
Climb the 287 steps and enjoy an unrivalled view of Prague castle and the Czech capital. This tower is also the home of Zikmund, the biggest bell of the country. Because of its weight of fifteen tons, they need six bell ringers to toll Zikmund: four of them to make the bell swing, two to check the bell-clapper.
The treasury of Saint Vitus Cathedral.
That brings us to the next sight of Praha castle: the biggest treasury in the country. One of the most ancient relics dates from the early Middle Ages and is pretty macabre: the arm of Saint Vitus. This was bought by Prince Wencesclas in 929 from Henry I. To store the holy relic, he built the tomb in which he was buried himself as well later on.
In addition, there are a number of other precious artefacts such as a cross with a piece of the loincloth of Jesus Christ. If you by the way want to see another holy artefact of this holy man, you should head down to the Nôtre-Dame in Paris or the Milan Cathedral.
Bling-bling enthusiasts can gaze at the numerous golden and diamond jewels.
Saint George’s Basilica
This originally was the second church of Praha castle. Because of its rich history it was destroyed on numerous occasions (by a fire among other things), but it was rebuilt and expanded over and over again. Make sure you head inside to behold its impressive monumental Romanesque interior. In addition, the space is also used on a regular basis for exhibitions.
The Golden Lane
If you are visiting Prague castle, you should definitely not miss out on the Golden Lane. During the expansion of the fortress, this area by the northern wall was vacated and used to build some modest houses. This is where the defenders of Praha castle were housed, among them servants, blacksmiths and the bowmen. These tiny houses were inhabited until the Second World War and throughout the centuries they made sure that their picturesque appearance wasn’t altered.
Fun fact: the famous writer Franz Kafka used to live in house number 22 from 1916 until 1917.
The Rosenberg Palace
Originally this renaissance palace belonged to the Rosenberg family, but it was radically converted in the eighteenth century to house the Institute of Noblewomen in 1756. 30 poor (and unmarried) noblewomen were allowed to live here, if they were at least 24 or older. The sole exception were orphans, which could reside here from the age of eighteen.
Nowadays you can also see how these women used to live back in the day. In addition, the chapel is definitely worth the visit as well because of the numerous magnificent frescoes and trompe-l’œil paintings.
The royal gardens
In 1534 these gardens were built according to the renaissance style. It was meant to be an oasis of tranquility in the middle of the bustling city. There even used to be vineyards here. Ferdinand I had rare and exotic plants from far-away countries planted on this spot.
In the nineteenth century they decided to switch over to the English style of park, although there are still some elements from the renaissance and even baroque.
Permanent exhibition: the picture gallery
In the sixteenth century the Praha Castle developed into a metropolis of the Holy Roman Empire, thanks to emperor Rudolf II, whose grandfather Ferdinand I and father Maximilian II inspired him with art and all things beautiful.
He did not only inherit an astonishing art collection from his forefathers, but he also hired professional agents to find him the most exquisite paintings in all of Europe. His collection became bigger and bigger and of course it had to be accommodated somewhere and that’s why he had special spaces constructed. These can still be admired today and therefore can’t be missed by any art lover.
The southern gardens
Underneath Praha castle they eventually started constructing gardens. These are almost 500 meters long and consist of three parts. They were renovated in 2012 to make them look like their final design by the architect Plecnik again.
Firstly, there’s the Paradise garden, which used to be the private garden of Archduke Ferdinand and later also of Rudolf II. In this place the monumental stairs will catch your eye, just like a huge granite basin will. You’ll also find one of the oldest trees of Praha castle on this spot: a yew tree of almost 400 years.
Then there’s the so-called Garden on the Ramparts. Originally these were small gardens which were converted in the nineteenth century into a small nature park. From the central terrace you have a gorgeous view of Prague.
Finally, there’s also the Hartig garden, which unfortunately isn’t open to the public.
Permanent exhibition: The history of Praha castle
If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating and rich history of Prazsky hrad as the keep is so beautifully called in Czech, you have to go to the old royal palace.
Here you will find this exhibition which has been divided into two parts.
The first route will inform you in a chronological order of important historical events and people. The evolution of Praha castle will also be addressed extensively, going back as far as the prehistory.
The second route connects interesting historical topics with the Prague castle by means of elaborate stories. There’s also a program that’s specifically aimed at kids.
Mihulka: The Powder Tower (closed until August 2019 for renovation)
This tower was only built at the end of the fifteenth century, as a part of the new bulwark. Throughout the centuries it was called the New Tower, the Round Bastion, the Laboratory, the Swedish Laboratory and the Powder Tower. In the nineteenth century it was given its current name Mihulka. This was the biggest tower containing cannons, even though these were never actually used. Later it was utilized as a workshop of an alchemist and as a storage facility for gun powder. These days it serves to house a permanent exhibition of the guardians of the castle.
Tickets Praha castle
By now you’ve understood that there are truly many things to see in the Prague castle, which also shows in the admission tickets: there are no fewer than eight different kinds.
Below you will find a brief overview of the various possibilities you have to visit the Prague castle. Important to know is that you are allowed to roam the complex for free, only when you want to go into some places, you have to pay.
Skip-the-line tickets are therefore not a bad idea, because as you know ‘free’ attracts a great number of visitors. $18 / £13,5 / €16 will get you these skip-the-line tickets and on top of that also allows you to see most of the sights inside as well.
You get a discount on your tickets for Prague castle when you’re aged between six and sixteen, are a high school or university student (until the age of 26) and are older than 65. There are also family tickets for two adults and up to five children (until the age of sixteen). That’s why you’ll be shown the admission price for the Prague castle in the following sequence: normal – discount – family.
- Circuit A (€13,5 – €6,75 – €27)
Saint Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, Exhibition “The history of Prague Castle”, Saint George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, Rosenberg Palace
- Circuit B (€9,65 – €4,8 – €19,3)
Saint Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, Saint George’s Basilica, Golden Lane
- Circuit C (€13,5 – €6,75 – €27)
Exhibition “The treasure of the Saint Vitus Cathedral”, Picture gallery
- Exhibition “The history of Prague Castle” (€5,40 – €2,7 – €10,8)
- Exhibition: “The treasure of Saint Vitus Cathedral” (€9,65 – €4,8 – €19,3)
- The Picture gallery (€3,90 – €1,95 – €7,8)
- The big southern tower (5,80 euros for everyone)
- The powder tower “Mihulka” (€2,7 – €1,55 – €5,40)
It is thus advised to decide in advance what type of admission ticket you want to buy, so in a way you decide the admission price to Prague castle yourself.
Of course there are tickets for the Praha castle with a guided tour available.
If you prefer getting a crash course before your visit to Prague castle, you can also buy tickets with a short introduction.
A tour of the Praha castle and the old town combined is definitely recommended as well.
I would also advise you to buy your tickets to the Prague castle beforehand, that way you won’t lose any precious time just waiting in line.
Opening hours Prague castle
For Prazsky Rad two seasons are distinguished: summer and winter. For every season there are different opening hours.
In summer the compound is open from six in the morning until ten in the evening. Do bear in mind that the historical buildings are open from nine to five. The Saint Vitus Cathedral only opens at twelve on Sundays. The exhibitions can be visited from ten to six.
In winter Prague castle is also open from six in the morning until ten in the evening, but the historical buildings already close at four. They open at nine as well. Saint Vitus Cathedral also opens at twelve on Sundays and is closed at four. You have until five to visit the exhibitions.
How to reach Prague castle?
You can easily reach Praha castle by public transport. The most convenient way would be either tram 22 (stop Prazsky hrad) or by subway where you get off at Malostranska. An excellent route would be arriving by tram and leaving by subway.
Of course you can also get there on foot, but do remember that you have to do an awful lot of stairs before you get to the entrance.
If you would rather not take public transport, you can also book a ticket for Prague castle with a transfer included.
When is the best time to visit Prague castle?
This depends whether you want to have the best weather of the least tourists. If the former is the most important to you, it’s best to get here between the end of spring and the beginning of fall (mid-May and June and September). Temperatures will hover in the low 20s (Celsius) and it will be sunny most of the time. In the summer months obviously you’ll have the hottest temperature and least rain in Prague. At the end of spring and in the summer, you also have more daylight than in fall.
If you prefer not being in the company of too many tourists, then you should avoid the summer months. The end of spring and the beginning of fall are the quietest months. In November, January, February and a part of March, temperatures are (really) cold and you can visit Prague castle in peace.
Four fun facts about the Prague castle
- This castle in Prague is noted as the biggest old castle in the world in the Guinness Book of Records. Its length is about 570 meters and the average width 130 meters. Altogether this accounts for a surface of 70,000 square meters!
- On March 15th 1939, shortly after the then Czechoslovakia was taken by Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler spent a night in the castle.
- Every year about 1,8 million tourists visit this keep in Prague.
- When it’s dark, the Prague castle is being illuminated in a brilliant way and we have none other than the Rolling Stones to thank for it. The iconic band was one of the first international concerts after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and its members befriended Czech president Vaclav Havel. According to a local legend, Praha castle was discussed, whereby the Americans expressed their admiration for it. However, they thought it was a pity that it couldn’t be seen at night. The president had other things to worry about back then, so the band members decided to shell out 32,000 dollars to provide the castle with lighting.
Three nice hotels near the Prague Castle
The neighborhood surrounding this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a particularly fun and quiet area to spend the night. To help you out I’ve chosen three nice hotels in every price range.
- ticket for Prague castle with a transfer included (51 euros for a double room)
This hotel is located in a seventeenth century building and every room is equipped with antique Czech furniture and original oil paintings. Simple yet elegant.
- Boutique Hotel Constans (71 euros for a double room)
This hotel is situated right below the Prague castle and is lodged in three renovated buildings from the sixteenth century. The rooms are spacious and stylish, which as it were allows you to spend the night in the grandeur of the past.
- Alchymist Prague Castle Suites (182 euros for a double room)
You can reside as a Czech king and queen in this luxurious hotel. You won’t only bathe in luxury, but also in the marble bathrooms which were originally designed in 1930. You can relax in the sauna, hot tub or lounge with library. On top of that, there’s also a gym.
The great thing about visiting the Prague castle is that you get to choose how much time (and money) you spend here. You can easily walk around for an hour without going into any places, or you can enjoy a detailed guided tour. Just make sure you’ve definitely been here during your trip to Prague!
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.