To call it “Prague Castle” is a bit misleading. In truth, it’s more of a sprawling complex that currently holds the Guinness World Record for Largest Ancient Castle. So, you know, it’s a bit big.
In order to reach it, you have to walk up, up, up these lovely steps until you reach the top of the hill where Hradčany is located. Farther on begins the castle complex, which measures a total of 70,000 square meters and consists of gardens, churches, halls, and palaces, some of them holding galleries and museums.
The Old Royal Palace has what is now one of my favorite things ever – the Vladislav Hall.
Look. At. It.
This beauty of a hall was built between 1493-1502 by Benedikt Rejt for Vladislav II, and was used for banquets, coronations, and receptions. It’s still used to this day by the present Czech government to hold special ceremonies.
St. George’s Basilica (on the left) was originally built in 920, and then rebuilt in 1142 after a fire caused substantial damage to the original structure, although the present façade is from the 17th century.
The crowning jewel of Prague Castle, however, and its most recognizable structure by far, is St. Vitus Cathedral.
The third structure of its kind to be built in the same site, St. Vitus Cathedral is not just the largest and most important spiritual building in Prague – it was also used for the coronation of Czech kings and queens, and is the burial place of patron saints, noblemen, sovereigns, and archbishops.
The Golden Lane is a street of tiny colored houses once inhabited by servants, marksmen, artisans, and craftsmen employed by the royal castle. Today some of the homes have been replaced by souvenir shops, while some others have been preserved as a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there. No. 22 was, for a time, occupied by Franz Kafka, who would come here to spend time alone and write.
There are seven gardens in the Prague Castle complex, but I only visited the Royal Garden. Located north of the main complex in what was once a vineyard, it houses both the Royal Summer Residence and the President’s Villa.
The Royal Summer Residence was built in the mid-16th century for Queen Anna Jagiello, and is used today as an exhibition hall.
Basically, when visiting Prague Castle, plan to dedicate it a whole day. There’s definitely more than enough to see and do, and it’d be a shame to have to rush through it.