Enjoy a Walk Around the Prague Castle
Most people cannot comprehend the kind of history that Prague Castle has gone through. You tell people that the earliest structures in the area were built in the year 880 and they just look blank. Rightly so as there are not many countries that have civilizations that can actually relate to anything going on in their own country at that time. At more than 77,000 square metres it is the largest working Castle complex in the world.
The beauty of Prague Castle is in the continuity of the architecture. It has been lucky to survive natural catastrophe and war to leave us with a clear view of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Gothic all in the one complex which is why it’s so popular.
People often ask how long they should spend at the Prague Castle. In my experience if you are going into the historic buildings then allow at least 3 hours and if you really like to look around you can increase that to 5 hours. For people just wandering around the publicly accessible areas then 2 hours should be sufficient.
Before you go to the Prague Castle ask yourself a few questions:
1) Do I want a personal human guide? If the answer to that is yes then look for a licenced Castle guide as they can get you to the front of the queue for the security check.
2) Do I want the electronic guide? Much cheaper than a real guide but confined to facts, dates and a pretty dry history.
3) Do I want to access all historic buildings? In this case you’ll need to buy the “Circuit A” ticket which includes all buildings and temporary exhibitions.
4) Do I want to access only the main historic buildings? In this case buy the “Circuit B” ticket.
5) Do I want to not pay any money or at least not much? For a completely FREE trip to the Prague Castle you can just stick to the public courtyard areas including the South Gardens. That is completely free and you might like to take my suggested route below. Alternatively, you may want to pay only to visit the Golden Lane or an exhibition in ST Vitus.
The main attractions at Prague Castle are covered on individual pages but here’s the route I normally suggest that people take for a “FREE” look around. If you have the “Circuit B” ticket then it’s the same route for you except you’ll be going into the buildings and hence taking longer to get around. You’ll find updated ticket prices on the Official Prague Castle Website.
My Suggested Route:
Start at the main entry. At the time of writing that means queuing for a security check and entering the Prague Castle via the Garden on the Bastions (technically the fourth courtyard). People won’t realise that this part of the Castle used to be a moat 20 metres across and 10 metres deep. You’ll pass through an archway where you can see the remnants of the first church in the area, the Church of the Virgin Mary” on the left. Then you enter the second courtyard.
The Second Courtyard of the Prague Castle is ringed by the state rooms and can also be called the New Palace. On your right are most of the drawing rooms and to your left the Prague Picture Gallery and the Spanish Hall. Look up to your right and on the roof you will see the Presidential Standard and maybe you’d like to enjoy a little story about it from 2015.
Walk straight ahead into the Third Courtyard and the west entry of the ST Vitus Cathedral will be towering over you. It may look old but actually this part was only built between 1860 and 1880. Turning to your right you walk into the main part of the third courtyard. That big Obelisk that you have passed is a tribute to all people killed during the First World War. If you are now looking at the south side of ST Vitus Cathedral then directly behind you is the office of the Czech President. On your right on the corner is the entry to the Old Royal Palace. Walk to your right and pass between the Old Royal Palace and the ST Vitus Cathedral.
This brings you into ST Georges Square and if you look to your right over the low wall you’ll see the large windows of the Vladislav Hall. Walk further into the ST George Square and you’ll find the red colour building in front of you which is the ST George Basilica (this was actually the first church built within the grounds of the present Prague Castle and the oldest complete structure of the Romanesque period). On the right of the Basilica is the deconsecrated Convent now used by the National Gallery. On your right is the Rosenberg Palace also known as the Convent of Noble Ladies after Queen Maria Theresa converted it into an institution to care for and educate the unmarried daughters of poor Czech Nobility.
Walk down the hill and after 50 metres a road opens up on the left. This will be for people who want to visit the Golden Lane (formerly Goldsmith Lane) which is famous for it’s quaint and tiny houses. Either way you’ll come out at the base of the road and pass through the Black Tower.
This is a scenic point for you to enjoy the view but, so long as it’s open, you should turn right into the South Gardens which also has many scenic viewing points. Halfway on the right you’ll find a building which juts out and right in the corner (next to the WC) you’ll find a tall monument close to the wall. This marks the spot where the two regents and a secretary were thrown from a 3rd floor window. They survived but the event became known as the second defenstration of Prague and triggered the Thirty Years War.
Continue along the garden until on your right you will see a staircase known as Plecniks lookout. Go up here and you’ll find yourself back in the third courtyard of the Prague Castle next to the Old Royal Palace. Head back to the west entry of ST Vitus and through the entry back to the second courtyard.
Now turn right and exit Prague Castle via the Pacassi Gate. This leads you over the Powder Bridge and 20 metres on your right is the first entry to the Imperial Gardens. On entering here, the first building you will see on your left will be the Ball Game Hall but if you continue into the Imperial Gardens on your right is the conservatory and at the end of the gardens is the Queen Anne Palace which is also called the Belvedere.
You can exit the gardens at this point and if you turn right, after the little park is a bridge which takes you over to Letna Park. Otherwise come back to the garden entry and turn right if you want to catch a tram back into the centre.