Prague Castle Tours and Tips
If you are coming to the city then you’ll certainly be spending some of your time exploring Prague Castle. At more than 77,000 square metres it’s the largest working castle complex in the world as well as being one of the oldest. There are several types of Prague Castle tours ranging from self-guiding, audioguide options, using guides like me and licenced castle guides. If you’ve read about the Prague Castle Attractions then this post is all about options for exploring them. Lets take a look at the choice.
The castle complex is open from 6am to 10pm the whole year round. For the Historic Buildings there are two defined seasons. The summer season is April 1st to October 31st where buildings open from 9am to 5pm. The winter season is November 1st to March 31st where buildings open from 9am to 4pm (and the South Garden is closed).
FREE Admission for 70+
The Prague Castle English Language webpages don’t go out of their way to tell you this but, at the time of writing, if you are aged 70 or over then if you present your National ID document or Passport at the Castle ticket office then you have FREE entry to the historic buildings, Prague Picture Gallery and a Castle exhibition. To see if this is still available go to the Castle Tickets page and click on the Admission to Prague Castle Premises PDF. Scroll down to the “Free Admission” section and it will say “Seniors 70+ Inclusive. You still have to queue to get the free ticket.
The Basic Castle Ticket
Historically Prague Castle ran different routes depending on what you wanted to see and these were called Circuit A, Circuit B and Circuit C. At the time of writing the Prague Castle divided it’s entry costs into two parts which is the Circuit B ticket which accesses the main historic buildings and then anything else like the Great Tower and/or exhibitions. So the regular way of getting your Circuit B ticket is to go to a Castle ticket office and queue. For Self-Guiders who do not want to go into the buildings I’ve put together a Recommended Route for Exploring Prague Castle post. If you want to explore the buildings and get entry tickets in advance or you don’t want to queue then read on for other options.
Recommended Self-Guide Prague Castle Tours And Skip-the-Line
TIP/Warning: If you use the ticket link from the hrad.cz site then you are forced to use the Ticketportal site. The bad news is that unless you remember to physically print the tickets at home then you can only pick up your tickets in Prague from a Ticketportal hub and guess what? they do NOT have a collection point at Prague Castle.
I currently recommend only two self-guide skip-the-line options below. The first is the Castle historic buildings plus Lobkowicz Palace which is really for people who want to see as much as they can. You meet a guy at the Lobkowicz Palace who will give you your entry tickets and then you spend whatever time at the Castle that you need.
The second is the Prague Castle Skip-the-Line where you meet a guide who will give you your Historic Buildings entry ticket and a short orientation talk. So this is only for the regular Circuit B route and if you decide later that you want to go into Lobkowicz Palace you’ll need to pay for that separately.
Both of these tours have optional audio guides for your phone (you select this when booking and you must bring earphones). Both will skip the ticket queue line but you still have to queue for any security and/or buildings.
Recommended Organised Prague Castle Tours
Here you are joining a group. Again, of all the possible options I only recommend two and they are slightly different. For a start neither of them begin at the Castle. The one called “Tour with local guide and entry ticket” meets right outside the Malostranska metro station and you catch a tram up to the castle to begin your tour so expect the Castle part two be about two and a quarter hours. This service offers a faster security entry because you are using a qualified Castle guide.
The one called “Prague Castle 2.5 hour tour including admission ticket” meets on the Old Town side of Charles Bridge so this tour includes the bridge and then you catch a tram up to the Castle. So in this case you’ll be at the castle for about 1hr 50 mins.
I know people would like to try the trams so both of these options give you a controlled way of seeing how the trams work if only on a short ride and then you explore the castle at the end.
You’ll see people walking around using what looks like an old telephone handset. This is the official Castle audio guide which walks you around 96 points throughout the castle but you should combine this with a Circuit A or B ticket. Also be careful of the time. The Audioguide price is for 3 hours so if you go over 3 hours you’ll pay double when you return it. My advice is to pay the extra for the whole day as realistically for a proper exploration of the castle it will be between 3 and 4 hours including breaks.
Licenced Castle Guides
As well as the specialist in depth knowledge of a Castle guide they also have the advantage of skipping queues. This is important on their short tour. People use me to get an overview of the castle but one of the Licenced guide Prague Castle tours you should consider is the basic 1 hour option. You can do this at the Prague Castle ticket office any day or simply email the castle on firstname.lastname@example.org in advance (you cannot reserve places for a Sunday tour). Tell them the language that you want and the day you want to tour. They’ll respond with time options. You confirm what you want and pay when you get here. The 1 hour tour concentrates on the ST Vitus Cathedral and the Old Royal Palace and it’s listed as CZK100 for a foreign language tour but you’ll need to buy the Circuit B ticket as well as this. You then visit ST Vitus and the Old Royal Palace as part of Circuit B but using their guide. The rest of Circuit B (Golden Lane, Daliborka, ST George Basilica) you do on your own. They also do customised tours for different duration but again you deal with the castle to arrange that.
TIP: If you book the official castle 60 minute tour then you are just reserving places. On the day of the tour go to the ticket office in the 3rd courtyard (opposite the entry to ST Vitus). Then turn right into the ticket office and you want the last ticket desk. That person takes payment for the guided part of the tour and issues you with your entry ticket to do the other places on your own. This is also the meeting point for your tour. There is a screen to the left of the desk which shows how many people will be on the tour.
1) The South Gardens offer some of the best scenic views over the city and most Prague Castle tours take advantage of it but these gardens are only open in the summer season April to October 1000-1800.
2) There may be other exhibitions in progress which are not listed in the regular admission list. Take some time to look at the admission rules as if you buy one type of ticket you may get free entry to one or more of the temporary exhibitions.
3) Complex opening time is until 10pm. It’s great to walk around the Castle courtyards after dark when it’s just you, the police, soldiers, guard dogs……..
How Long Should You Allow
It’s a common question. Factors include the level of detail of your exploration, queues and if the exploration includes the gardens. You could easily spend two hours just looking at ST Vitus Cathedral on it’s own and yet just to walk around it takes less than 10 minutes. Likewise at the Old Royal Palace. So if you are doing the free stuff i.e. gardens and external views then allow an hour. If you intend entering buildings as well then as a rough guide for a quick look around, taking pictures and not too bothered about detail then allow two hours. For a more leisurely exploration, absorbing detail and/or following an audio-guide then allow four hours plus a break. Add 30 minutes to that if you climb the High Tower.
Be aware that since 2016 that you may need to pass through entry “airport style” security which requires a scan for metallic objects and a bag search. Note that the Prague Castle is the Official residence of the Czech President so it can be closed in part or the whole complex can be closed for State visits. Any closures planned are listed on the Prague Castle website.