Visiting Prague Castle – Everything You Need to Know
For its fascinating history and centuries-old architecture visiting Prague Castle should be at the top of every tourist’s list of things to do in Prague! As far as Prague sightseeing and attractions go it’s hard to visit this city for the first time and NOT go and explore the castle that overlooks the entire Old Town.
On a hill high above the Vltava River stands Prague Castle in all its glory. Once the home of Bohemian monarchs and emperors, now it is the official residence of the Czech president. It also happens to be the world’s biggest medieval castle complex according to the Guinness Book of World Records. And did we mention that it’s one of the 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic?
Prague Castle was founded as a fortress in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj, the first Christian prince of Bohemia. Perched atop a hill near the Vltava River it was an ideal vantage point to look out for invading enemies.
Over the next few centuries the castle complex grew as new rulers made their own additions to the grounds. Churches and fortification towers were constructed, destroyed, restored and altered. Gardens were added, palaces were built, and Prague Castle grew into the complex that it is today. You can see the evidence of this layered history as you make your way through the castle grounds.
So, we’ve established that as far as Prague sightseeing goes Prague Castle is not to be missed. Now that we got that out of the way, lets get to all the practical information you will need for your visit to Prague Castle!
Things to Do in Prague – Visiting Prague Castle
How to Get to Prague Castle
The Prague Castle complex, also known as the Castle Quarter, is located above Lesser Town (Malá Strana) in Prague 1. You can get there on foot or by public transportation, both options offering incredible views of the city. We recommend taking the tram up to the complex and heading back down on foot.
Getting to Prague Castle on Foot
From the Malostranskà underground station, you can take the Old Castle Staircase to the eastern side of the castle. The path offers romantic views of Prague, mesmerizing enough to make you forget that the climb is steep.
Getting to Prague Castle by Public Transportation
If you prefer to save your energy, public transport also offers scenic views on the way to the castle. Luckily the public transportation in Prague runs very very well, and is really inexpensive to use.
Catch the 22 Tram from Národní třída or the Malostranská metro station. But instead of getting off at the main Prague Castle stop (Pražský hrad), stay on until you reach Pohořelec. You will have a leisurely downhill walk to the main castle entrance, passing charming streets and historic monuments, such as the Church of the Nativity.
Note: During peak hours, trams go back and forth fairly frequently. But for planning purposes, you can get the tram schedule here.
Best Time For Visiting Prague Castle
The Prague Castle grounds are open daily from 6 AM to 10 PM, however the monuments don’t open until 9 AM. To avoid the overwhelming crowds of tourists and long security lines, we highly recommend getting there about 15 to 20 minutes before it opens (around 8:40 AM). You can enter the castle through the main entrance. Walking around the empty grounds will make the experience even more magical. If you can, plan your visit to the castle for during the week, as the weekend always sees the biggest crowds.
There are 3 entrances to Prague Castle, all of which have security checks. You will be asked to open your bags and walk through a security frame. Liquids are okay to bring with you. During peak hours, the security lines can get pretty long (not so fun in the cold winters or humid summers). If you are visiting Prague in seasons other than summer you’ll likely still run into some crowds around noon, so come early!
Give yourself at least 3 hours to tour the castle complex. If you start in the morning, you’ll be done in time to grab lunch within the Castle Quarter or at one of the many traditional Czech restaurants around Mala Strana.
Buying Prague Castle Tickets
While it’s free to roam the castle grounds, there IS a Prague Castle entrance fee if you want to visit the various buildings on the complex. The Prague Castle entrance fee is broken down into circuits and only covers self-guided tours. You can also buy tickets to visit some of the individual structures within Prague Castle.
Prague Castle tickets are also valid for two consecutive days. You can come back the following day if you didn’t manage to get through it all on the first day. There is plenty to see so don’t rush through it.
Circuit A/ Prague Castle Entry Fee: 350 Kč / person. Circuit A offers entry into St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, exhibition “The Story of Prague Castle”, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Rosenberg Palace
Circuit B/ Prague Castle Entry Fee: 250 Kč / person. Circuit B offers entry into St. Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower.
Circuit C/ Prague Castle Entry Fee: 350 Kč/ person. Circuit C offers entry into the Exhibition “The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral”, Prague Castle Picture Gallery.
Things to Do in Prague Castle
You don’t have to be a history or architecture buff to find things to do in Prague Castle. Spread over 18 acres, there are fortifications, palaces, gardens and galleries to explore. In the winter, stand at the top of the Old Castle Staircase and enjoy the view of the city’s traditional red roofs dusted with snow.
In the summer, escape the crowds and stroll through the magnificent gardens.
Old Royal Palace
The Old Royal Palace is one of the oldest structures in the Castle Quarter, dating all the way back from 1135. Here, you can find a complex of halls, corridors and buildings, all designed in the Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Originally used by Czech princesses in the 12th century, it eventually become the king’s palace from the 13th to the 16th century.
The must-see part of the Old Royal Palace is Vladislav Hall, constructed by Benedikt Ried at the end of the 15th century. It’s the largest hall in medieval Prague, with late Gothic elements. The most notable feature is the ribbed vaulted ceiling with five domes and Italian Renaissance windows.
From the 16th century, Vladislav Hall hosted all of the Bohemian court occasions, including tournaments, banquets, and coronation ceremonies. Nowadays, it still hosts various celebrations for the important dates in Czech history.
What’s a trip to a medieval castle without a glimpse of its gory history? One of the doors in Vladislav Hall leads to the former office of the Bohemian Chancellery. This also happens to be where Prague’s second defenestration took place.
In response to a Protestant rebellion, the emperor threw two of his royal governors and their secretary out the window (defenestration is the actual act of throwing someone out of a window!) They survived, but not without setting the stage for the famous Thirty Years’ War.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Visiting St. Vitus Cathedral is THE thing to do in Prague Castle.
Towering over the castle grounds, it’s the most popular attraction within the quarter and the most important church in the Czech Republic. Despite being a predominantly Gothic structure, there are multiple architectural influences represented in this monument, including Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque. No surprise considering Emperor Charles IV began the construction in 1344 and it continued for nearly 600 years.
Take the time to admire the detail in the carved doors, arches, and gargoyles that decorate the exterior of the cathedral.
St. Wenceslas Chapel
At the heart of the twin spire cathedral is St. Wenceslas Chapel, where you can find the tomb containing the relics of the iconic Czech patron saint. Walk inside to marvel at the Gothic frescoes, stained glass windows, and walls decorated with Bohemian gemstones. There’s even a hidden coronation chamber that holds the Crown Jewels of the Czech Republic.
Great South Tower of the Cathedral
If you’re willing to test your endurance, make sure you make your way up the 287 steps to the top of the Great South Tower of the Cathedral. Left unfinished in the 15th-century, the 100-meter high tower is also known for its iconic bell known as Zikmund (the biggest in the Czech Republic).
See the Changing of the Guards at Prague Castle
Head to the first courtyard at Prague Castle at noon and you’ll get to witness the Changing the Guard ceremony. While this handover occurs every hour, the official ceremony at noon includes an exchange of flags and a trumpet call.
St. George’s Basilica
The second church in the complex also happens to be its oldest. St. George’s Basilica was built in 920, but like the rest of Prague Castle, has had some work done to it over the years. Its two white marlstone towers and Romanesque windows date back to the 12th century, while the early 18th century saw the addition of the Baroque chapel. One of the tombs inside of the basilica belongs to prince Vratislav, the father of St. Wenceslas.
Today, it also serves as a concert hall and you can book tickets to see live classical music.
Situated in the north-east corner of the Castle Quarter, Golden Lane is a charming cobblestone street lined with tiny 16th-century houses.
Inside some of the homes are period scenes filled with antiques and artifacts, reconstructed to showcase the lives of their famous inhabits. Some of the most notable include author Franz Kafka and Nobel Prize winner Jaroslav Seifert.
The Prague Castle Picture Gallery
Rudolph II was a major supporter of the arts, so it’s only appropriate that The Prague Castle Picture Gallery is housed in his former stables. Aside from the vast collection of paintings representing landscapes and mythological creatures, the gallery’s vaulted ceilings and burnt orange walls are an inviting break from the rest of the grounds.
Booking a Prague Castle Tour
Choosing a guided Prague Castle tour with a knowledgeable guide is a great way to learn all about the history of Prague Castle and the surrounding area. You pay one fee to the company and it will cover the entrance costs and the tour (tips are not included but highly encouraged).
Here are a few that we recommend:
Tour of Lesser Town & Prague Castle
On this amazing two-and-a-half-hour Prague Castle tour, you’ll get to hear all about the fascinating history of the complex and its most noteworthy sites. The tour begins at Charles Bridge and goes through Lesser Town (Malá Strana). You will then take a tram directly to Prague castle (transport fees are included).
- Duration: 2.5 hours
- Cost: 927 kc (about $41)/ person
Prague Castle & Interiors Tour
This three-hour tour takes you on a coach bus from Old Town Square directly to Prague Castle. You’ll have the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about the monuments in the complex, including the Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George‘s Basilica and Golden Lane.
- Duration: 3 hours
- Cost: 954 kc (about $42)/ person
Where to Stay When Visiting Prague, and Prague Castle
Not sure where to unpack your suitcase? Prague offers a wide array of accommodations, everything from budget-friendly hostels to chic boutique hotels. We listed a few of our favorites below but if you want more options, check out our comprehensive guide on where to stay in Prague.
Awesome Hostel in Prague – Hostel DownTown
If you want save money on lodging, Hostel DownTown might be the right choice for you. Offering a variety of private rooms and shared dorms, this hostel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. The key feature? A huge communal kitchen with multiple stoves, and plenty of countertop and storage space for your groceries.
Great Hotel in Prague – The Emblem Hotel
The Emblem Hotel is located on a quiet street in Old Town. Prague Castle is only a 15-minute walk away, and many of the other historic tourist attractions are close by. The modern-chic rooms feature luxury bedding, marble bathrooms and Nespresso machines. Guests also have complimentary access to an exclusive spa with saunas and steam rooms.
Exceptional Boutique Hotel in Prague – Palac U Kocku
Housed in a Baroque building in Old Town, Palac U Kocku is one of the best boutique hotels in Prague. It’ also located on the Royal Route of Prague’s sightseeing trail, only a short walk away from some of the best historic sites in the city. Enjoy the spacious rooms with beautiful city views and a friendly staff that will help you find your way around the area.
And there you have it folks, that’s our guide to visiting Prague Castle. Hope we helped you plan and budget your trip! As always, happy travels, and we’ll see you guys on the road!
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