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. 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).
Self-Guide Prague Castle Tours
The courtyards and the gardens are free to enter so when we talk about “paying”, it’s to go into buildings. It’s popular for people to buy tickets to explore various parts of the Castle so here’s the current price list for the Historic Buildings;
To explore the majority of the fixed historic buildings in any Prague Castle tours you should be looking at either Circuit A or Circuit B. The difference is that Circuit A is really just the contents of Circuit B with the addition of the “Story of Prague Castle” exhibition and entry to the Rosenberg Palace. Circuit B just concentrates on the main historic buildings of ST Vitus, the Old Royal Palace, ST George Basilica, Golden Lane and Daliborka Tower. Circuit C is only for the “Treasures of ST Vitus exhibition” and note this is NOT in ST Vitus but in the Treasury Building in the 2nd courtyard.. There are family and senior discounts (passport required to prove age).
You’ll see people walking around using what looks like an old telephone handset. This is the 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 costs CZK350 for 3 hours so if you go over 3 hours you’ll pay double. My advice is to pay the CZK450 cost for the whole day as realistically for a proper exploration of the castle it will be between 3 and 4 hours.
Licenced Castle Guides
As well as the specialist indepth 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 email@example.com 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.
Overview Prague Castle Tours
My Prague City Walking Tour should be considered as an overview. The Prague Castle part covers some of the history of the complex and its separate buildings, the monuments, how it has changed and some bizarre stories. But the most important thing is that an overview tour generally does not go into the Historic Buildings.
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) It’s great to walk around the Castle courtyards after dark when it’s just you, the police, soldiers, guard dogs……..
4) The Castle complex entries via the Old Castle Steps and the Imperial Garden historically have the smallest queues.
How Long Should You Allow
It’s a common question. For self-guiding I say take a couple of hours to explore the 2nd courtyard and ST Vitus Cathedral (allow an extra 30 minutes if you want to climb the Great South Tower). Then take a break at one of the cafes. Then you’ll probably want another 90 minutes or so to look at the Old Royal Palace, ST George Basilica and Golden Lane. So as a rough guide for a quick look around allow two hours, for a more leisurely exploration then allow four hours plus a break.
Be aware that since 2016 that you 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.