Prague Castle, founded in 870 AD, is the largest medieval castle in Europe. It was the seat of the Kings of Bohemia for centuries, and today the President of the Czech Republic rules from here. It is also Prague's top tourist attraction.
Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad) is located in the Castle District (Hradčany), above the Lesser Town (Malá Strana).
The Prague Castle complex covers over 7 hectares (18 acres) and is centred around three great courtyards. The dominant building within, and the most recognisable landmark in the city, is St. Vitus Cathedral. To some visitors St. Vitus is Prague Castle, but this is just the start.
Destructive wars and fires (and the subsequent renovations), along with differing political forces have combined to create an intriguing mix of great halls, state apartments, palaces, churches, a monastery, viewing towers, fortifications, museums, art galleries, cafés and finally Golden Lane.
Visitors to the Prague Castle complex can wander around the courtyards and admire the historic buildings for free, but to enter any of them, to gain an understanding of their history, you need to purchase a self-guided ticket or ideally visit the castle as part of a tour.
Many general sightseeing tours of Prague include a visit to Prague Castle in their programme. The tour will cover the most important elements of the castle complex, including St. Vitus Cathedral, and will explain the significant events in its history.
Alternatively, purchase a self-guided visitor ticket at the castle, which costs 250czk (short visit ticket) or 350czk (long visit ticket).
Classical concerts are also popular at Prague Castle. Regular concerts are held at lunchtime at Lobkowicz Palace and early evening at St. George's Basilica.
The history of Prague Castle dates back to the 9th century, when the first known building was erected on the site. In the 12th century it was replaced by a Romanesque palace. And in the 14th century it was rebuilt in the Gothic style, under the reign of Charles IV. A further reconstruction of the Royal Palace then took place under the Jagellons at the end of the 15th century.
Following a fire in 1541, Prague Castle underwent further works. The Spanish Hall was added during the reign of Rudolf II. And final alterations were made by Empress Maria Theresa.
After World War I, renovations to the castle buildings and to the Prague Castle Gardens were undertaken by the architect J. Plecnik.
Today, Prague Castle serves as the historical and political centre for both city and state. A Changing of the Guard ceremony at the front gates reflects this. It takes place daily on the hour every hour between certain times. The midday ceremony includes a fanfare and a banner exchange.
To discover more about Prague Castle, take a Prague tour:
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour & Boat
Prague Intro Sightseeing Tour
Best of Prague Walking Tour
Prague Explorer Walking Tour
Prague Castle Walking Tour.