Just across the Vltava River from Prague’s Old Town (click here to read about Old Town) sits the Prague Castle complex. On a hill overlooking the river and nearby Lesser Town, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, at more than 750,000 square feet. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Prague.
Prague Castle is actually a full complex of buildings on the hill, including palaces, churches, and outbuildings. Many of these are open to the public, though nearly all have entrance fees. (The buildings I will feature in this article are those I experienced, which happen to be those included in my Prague Visitor Pass. Thank you to Prague City Tourism for sponsoring my Prague Visitor Pass, allowing me to see so much during my trip.)
The first walled building here was constructed in the year 870, though the oldest remaining building is the Basilica of St. George, which was founded in 920. The inside is pretty, but the reason to enter would be to find the remains of St. Ludmila, one of the Czech patron saints. She is buried here, though signage was unclear exactly as to where. It might be the tomb by the main altar, or the crypts, or perhaps the bones in a side chapel altarpiece are hers. I really don’t know for certain.
While St. George is the oldest, the largest and most important religious building is St. Vitus Cathedral. The current building dates to 1344, and is enormous! It is also insanely crowded, so if claustrophobia is a thing for you, you might want to avoid the area behind the main altar, where the shoving crowds are squeezed into a mostly single file pathway. The easy highlight of the cathedral is the stained glass, which takes deeper colors here than in many other similar buildings I’ve explored all over the world.
Outside, the side edifice is gilt in gold. This side also holds the separate entrance to the tower, which has an additional admission fee.
Speaking of admission fees, let’s talk a bit about how to get tickets for the sights in Prague Castle. While a couple (Lobkowicz Palace, most notably) have separate admission, most Prague Castle sights will be combined on a single ticket. That ticket must be purchased (or redeemed, in the case of your having a Prague Visitor Pass) at the ticket office, located outside the main entrance to St. Vitus. What this means is that if you – as I did – come up the “back” pathway to the castle, the one not from Charles Bridge, you will need to walk all the way through to the other side of the complex (you can walk through without a ticket; you just can’t enter the buildings) to get your ticket, and then trace your steps back. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is worth noting.
As for the castle itself, only a few portions of it are open for exploration, and only one with the basic ticket. This oldest portion of the castle has an enormous room that is quite impressive, and the throne room, which is quite crowded. The side rooms are not all that fantastic.
For me, the highlight of Prague Castle was Lobkowicz Palace. This was the private palace of the Lobkowicz family and their hereditary princely titles, from the 1600s. Vehemently anti-Nazi, the family was forced to flee during World War Two, and then again during communism. The palace returned to the ownership of the family, who had been residing in Boston, in 2002, and in 2007 opened as a museum to display the family art collection, which had also been returned to them.
The collection is solid, and headlined by some of the first edition musical works the family commissioned over the year, works by Beethoven and Mozart, among others. There is an audio tour that is pretty thorough, and one could easily spend the better part of a day in the museum. Make sure to also visit the balcony for one of the best viewpoints in the entire castle complex.
(Just across from the palace is a pastry shop that makes incredible and beautiful treats. Make sure to get one.)
Security at Prague Castle is tight, which makes sense given that it is the location of the offices of the President of the Czech Republic. But that also means you’ll be treated to a changing of the guard.
Overall, Prague Castle is a solid way to spend a day in Prague. It is not at the top of my list, mainly due to crowds, but is nice enough.
Like it? Pin it!