The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.
Commanding Bohemia since Borivoj founded it in the 9th century, Prague Castle’s catalogue of architectural splendour forms the city’s literal high point, centred on St Vitus’ Cathedral. Palaces, museums, chapels, a crypt, a prison tower, a fortress for the black arts and a stunning Gothic spire make up the extensive pile. The president’s office looks out over it all.
Vaclav Havel, the last president of Czechoslovakia (1989-92), created the guard-changing ceremony, daily on the hour, though best at noon with fanfare.
The original Czech Crown Jewels, including the Crown of Saint Wenceslas, are stored in St Vitus Cathedral. You can see reproductions on permanent exhibition in the former Royal Palace in the castle.
The ‘Story of Prague Castle’ exhibit in the Old Royal Palace shows how royals ate, slept and intrigued here, along with how pre-castle pagans conducted rites.
The Powder Tower has Renaissance alchemical labs bubbling away and there’s an arrow shooting range on the battlements above Golden Lane – invariably the most popular attraction with kids.
St Vitus’ Great Tower, soaring above the castle complex and holding the massive 16th-century Sigismund bell, is well worth the steep climb (ticket required).
The easily overlooked Bull Staircase south of St. Vitus leads to Paradise Gardens, which has cascading paths down the hillside to Mala Strana – well worth the small access fee.
Getting there & doing it
The nearest metro stops are Malostranska and Hradcanska; alternatively catch tram 22. When buying your entrance ticket, you may choose a short or long, opting for the audio guide if history’s your thing.
For a break from the crowds – and a workout – stroll up the Old Castle Steps from the Malostranská metro stop and enter the castle from the east.
When to do it
The museums and exhibitions are open all year round, seven days a week.
Spring and summer see masses of tourists descending on the castle from mid-morning till 3pm or so. Evening walks through the castle grounds are refreshingly quiet and a good option, if you don’t mind skipping the displays and chapels, which will be closed.
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