Enjoy a Walk Around the Prague Castle
I cover the Prague Castle public areas on my Prague City Walking Tour where you’ll learn about the individual buildings and gardens with a selection of stories both ancient and modern. Below I describe some of the questions that you need to ask yourself as to how you want to explore the Castle. My Suggested Route is simply a nice walk but if you’ve bought the Circuit B entry ticket then you can go into each historic building (or lane) as we pass it.
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. If you’re English then Alfred the Great was on the throne. 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 an hour should be sufficient.
NOTE: that “airport-style” security is in place at all Prague Castle entries. Metal detectors and bag searches are mandatory so expect to queue to get in.
Before you go to the Prague Castle ask yourself a few questions
1) In addition to accessing them, do I want an expert to explain all about the historic buildings? I mean a really detailed explanation. If the answer to that is yes then hire a licenced Castle guide. Use the Prague castle regular email email@example.com and send your request for information on tours in English and they’ll get back to you with options etc.
2) Do I want the electronic guide? Much cheaper than a real guide but confined to facts, dates and a pretty dry history. CAREFUL! you hire an audioguide either for 3 hours or the whole day.
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 and the Gardens (summer only). That is completely free and you might like to take my suggested route below.
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 details at the end.
My Suggested Route:
Remember that to explore ST Vitus and go into the Old Royal Palace, St George Basilica and Golden Lane you need the Circuit B ticket. If you want to include the Rosenberg Palace as well then you need Circuit A.
Start at the main entry. If you can start at 12pm then you can see the changing of the Castle Guard ceremony. 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 22 metres across and 5 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. You don’t have to pay to go into ST Vitus just to look so go in if it’s open. When you exit the cathedral turn to your left (or if you did not go in, turn to your right) and 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 (they held markets, presidential elections and even jousting competitions here). 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 (green building) 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. In the winter season that’s it, the walk finishes and you continue down the steps or into the Vineyard. In the summer season you can now turn to your right and go back along the castle via the South Gardens which also has many scenic viewing points. NOTE: Gardens shut at 6pm and they start clearing the garden at 1745 so you must be at the end of the garden by then or else you’ll be forced to walk back. 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 scenic lookout on your left. You now have two options. You can continue to the end of the South Gardens through the exit gate in which case this walking tour ends. Or opposite the lookout you’ll find Plecnik’s staircase. 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 (summer only). 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. If the gardens are already closed then exit the Castle to the main road and turn right. At the end of the wall is the exit mentioned below from the imperial Gardens.
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.