The Prague Castle has been a seat of Czech rulers, kings, Holy Roman Emperors and later presidents since the 9 th century. It is the largest ancient castle in the world. There are many important historical buildings in the area of the Prague Castle – such as the monumental St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, the originally Romanesque St. George´s Basilica, aristocratic residences and many more. The Prague Castle has been rebuilt many times through the centuries, so it is a splendid mix of architectural styles. It is situated on a hill on the left bank of river Vltava and it makes the typical beautiful Prague panorama.
History of the Prague Castle
The Prague Castle history begins in 875, when the Premyslid ruler Borivoj founded his seat at the place. The biggest development came in the 14 th century, when the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. made the Prague Castle his residence and had the St. Vitus Cathedral built there. Habsburg emperor Rudolph II. added some buildings in Renaissance style in the 16 th century. Then the rulers moved to Vienna. The Prague Castle became a seat of Czechoslovakian (and later Czech) presidents in 1918.
I. Prague Castle Courtyard – Matthias Gate
If you enter the Prague Castle from the Castle Square, you will go through a gate adorned with sculptures of Titans, made by I. F. Platzer in 1770. The gate is guarded by two guards and it will lead you to the 1 st courtyard, “the Courtyard of Honour”. There is the Matthias Gate from 1614 with staircases leading to the state rooms of the Prague Castle, such as the Throne Hall or the Spanish Hall. These rooms are accessible to the public only exceptionally, twice a year.
II. Prague Castle Courtyard – Prague Castle Gallery
The Matthias Gate leads to the 2 nd courtyard. The early-Baroque Leopold´s Fountain is situated in the middle of it. You can see the Chapel of the Holy Cross from the 18 th century there. The interior of the chapel is decorated with wall paintings with biblical motifs. The entrance of the Prague Castle Gallery is situated on the opposite side. There are valuable works of art made by Rubens, Titian or Veronese and many more important artists. The Imperial Stables in the north are also a place of exhibitions.
III. Prague Castle Courtyard – St. Vitus Cathedral
The dominant building of the 3 rd courtyard is the St. Vitus Cathedral. Emperor Charles IV. founded it in 1344 as a coronation church. A part of it was finished as late as in the 20 th century. There is a Royal Mausoleum of Czech Kings inside and also the valuable St. Wenceslas Chapel, decorated with splendid Gothic murals and semi precious stones. A door in the chapel leads to the Crown Chamber, where the Czech Crown Jewels are kept. You can see the building of the Old Provosty, the former seat of Prague bishops, on the southwest corner of the cathedral. The important St. George´s Statue, a replica of a sculpture from 1373, is also situated on the 3 rd courtyard.
St. George´s Basilica and Convent
When you continue your way in the Prague Castle area, you will arrive at the St. George´s Square. The Old Royal Palace is situated there. It was a seat of Czech kings for several centuries and you can see especially Gothic and Renaissance architectural features there. The Vladislav Hall inside the Old Royal Palace is an important representation room, where the presidential elections take place. It was built around 1500. The St. George´s Basilica, situated also at the square, is the second oldest church in Prague. Founded in 920, it is an important Romanesque historical building. It belongs to the St. George´s Convent, founded as the first monastery in Bohemia in 973. There is a permanent exhibition of the National Gallery in Prague in the convent nowadays.
You can continue your walk along the Jirska Street, which will lead you to the Golden Lane. It is an old, picturesque lane, lined with very small and colourful houses. Some of them are from the 16 th century. There are various legends about alchemists, that allegedly used to live and work in the Golden Lane. Writer Franz Kafka lived there in house No.22 between 1916 and 1917. The artillery tower called White Tower is situated in the west end of the lane. It used to be a dungeon in the 16 th century, just like the Daliborka tower, another part of the Prague Castle fortification. The Supreme Burgrave´s House in the Jirska Lane is the former seat of Burgraves, the administrators of the Prague Castle in the past. Exhibitions are held there nowadays and also the Toy Museum is located in the house.
Mihulka Powder Tower is accessible through a gateway in Vikarska Lane. Built as a part of Prague Castle´s fortification, it was used among others as a storage of gunpowder. A laboratory of the legendary alchemists was in the tower in the 16 th century.
Royal Garden and the Royal Summer Residence
You can enter the Royal Garden from the street U Prasneho mostu. It is a valuable historical garden with a beautiful Renaissance Royal Summer Residence.
Tours of the Prague Castle
The sightseeing tour of the Prague Castle includes the Old Royal Palace, the permanent exhibition “The Story of the Prague Castle”, St. George´s Basilica, St. George´s Convent (the National Gallery exhibition), the Golden Lane, Daliborka and the Prague Castle Gallery.
Several other buildings are accessible, when an exhibition or a concert take place there. It is the Supreme Burgrave´s House, Imperial Stables, the Theresian Wing of the Old Royal Palace, Royal Summer Residence, Royal Ball Game Hall and the Prague Castle Riding School.