Visiting a European castle has been one my travel obsessions for awhile, and I have been to my fair share of them. I have found that there are good castles and there are great ones, and Prague Castle is one of the great ones. I enjoyed it so much that I have been twice, but what did me in was the encompassing journey with the castle as the reward.
It was the captivating long walk to Prague castle from Old Town, crossing the historic Charles Bridge, meandering uphill through the winding streets of Lesser Town, and finally to the castle district. This route is about two kilometers in length, and is one of my favorite things to do in Praha. I certainly recommend the trek, as it gives a lasting impression of this enchanting city by being part of its old world neighborhoods.
The medieval complex of Prague Castle is very grand, and is noted as the largest ancient castle in the world. It occupies the top of Lesser Town, and overlooks the city of Prague and the Vltava River. The castle was built in the 9th-century and has been the seat of power for the kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and the presidents of Czechoslovakia. It is now the official office for the the President of the Czech Republic.
The castle’s history dates back more than 1,100 years when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built in 870. During the 10th century the Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were constructed under the Duke of Bohemia- Vratislaus I and his son St. Wenceslas. Then in the 12th century a Romanesque palace was built on the castle grounds. The buildings within the castle district represent several great styles of architecture from the last 1,000 years – Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque.
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture, and is considered the largest and most significant church in the Czech Republic. Inside the cathedral there are tombs of several Holy Roman Emperors and Bohemian kings, which was a burial practice common with cathedrals in Europe during its time.
St. George’s Basilica
The Romanesque St. George’s Basilica is the oldest surviving church inside the castle complex. It was founded in 920 by Vratislaus I of Bohemia, and contains tombs of individuals from the Premyslid dynasty, and relics of several saints. The interior of the church was kept simple in limestone blocks and wooden pews. Although it is not as embellished as other rococo and baroque churches, St. George Basilica remains classic and serene.
Inside the castle complex is a narrow cobblestone street lined with small colorful houses that were built in the 16th century. Golden Lane, was originally built to house the castle guards, and had taken its name from the goldsmiths who resided in the houses during the 17th century. Today you can walk inside the small homes, which are now museums and souvenir shops.
Sternberg Palace was constructed in the 17th century, as a baroque Palace for Count Wenceles Sternberg. It contains several floors of an impressive collection of European art, with an emphasis of the classical to the end of the baroque era (14th – 18th century). The museum features several Old Master paintings by El Greco, Rembrandt and Rubens.
If you plan on visiting Prague Castle, I recommend purchasing your entry ticket online prior. This way you skip the ticket queue, which saves you more time to explore the castle grounds. For ticketing information, please visit – Prague Castle for Visitors
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