Enjoy a Walk Around the Prague Castle
This page summarises the different Prague Castle Attractions i.e. the buildings and the courtyards on a specific route. This is really for people who want to self-guide. If you want options for organised tours then I give tips and make some recommendations on the Prague Castle Tours post.
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 below 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.
Let’s Answer the 7 most often asked questions:
1) When Does the Prague Castle Open?
The accessible castle complex opens between 6am and 10pm. Within that time frame the historic buildings will open from 9am all year but the closing time depends on the season.
2) How Much Does It Cost?
If you are aged 70 or over and carrying your passport then if you present this at the castle ticket office you’ll get free entry. If only want to see inside ST Vitus, the courtyards and the gardens then it’s FREE. Current Historic Building Entry Ticket prices are CZK250 for the basic adult ticket (Circuit B), CZK350 for the enhanced ticket (Circuit A – buildings and exhibitions) and CZK500 for a Family ticket. There is a senior discount.
3) Can I Buy Entry Tickets in Advance?
If you want different options for tours then go to my Prague Castle Tours post. I have put four options below. The first two are skip-the-line options if you want to self-guide. The second two are skip-the-line options if you want to be guided.
4) How Long is an Entry Ticket Valid for?
The day of purchase and the following day.
5) How Long Do I Need To Explore Prague Castle?
There are two seasons i.e. winter and summer. The South Gardens and the Imperial Gardens close between November and March but if they are open allow 90 minutes. There are 5 main historic buildings, St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, ST George Basilica and Golden Lane. If you are here for a quick look then allow 90 minutes in total for the buildings. If you are here to absorb then allow a minimum of 4 hours. Add another 30 minutes if you want to climb the High Tower.
6) Can You Eat at Prague Castle?
All year round there are three sit-down cafe/restaurants. In the summer season another two cafes plus the Castle Vineyard bar will be open.
7) When Is the Best Time of Day to Visit?
I’ve always preferred the afternoons. Take an early lunch and get into the Prague Castle for 1230 and it gives you 4 hours to explore before buildings begin closing. Also I’ve found that coach groups prefer mornings so they can get in and out before going off for lunch somewhere.
NOTE: that “airport-style” security can be randomly used at all Prague Castle entries. In this case, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 Cathedral 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 Cathedral so go in if it’s open (you need a ticket if you want to explore it). 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 and was going to be the tomb of the unknown soldier. 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 including the Vladislav Hall. 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 Prague 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. In the summer season you’ve got options. If you are thirsty or just want to stop for a break then take a look at the Prague Castle Vineyard (scenic cafe) or 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 Third 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 and now might be a good time to think about going up the High Tower (you’ll need to buy tickets). 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 Prague Castle 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.