|Prague Castle (Pražský hrad), founded around 880 AD, is the No. 1 tourist attraction in Prague and the largest ancient castle complex in the world.|
The castle is also the city's most recognisable landmark, because it dominates the skyline: the castle is perched majestically on the hillside in the Castle District (Hradčany), high above the Lesser Town.
For parts of the 14th, 16th and 17th centuries, Prague Castle was the seat of the Kings of Bohemia. Today, the President of the Czech Republic rules from here.
Prague Castle is not a single edifice though. It is a complex of buildings covering 7 hectares (18 acres), centred around three great courtyards, and enclosed within castle walls.
The most prominent structure in the complex is St. Vitus Cathedral.
Prague Castle has had an eventful history. Differing political and religious forces, along with several programmes of rebuilding following destructive wars and fires, have produced an intriguing mix of historical buildings: ancient churches, palaces, great halls, state apartments, towers, fortifications, a monastery, museums, art galleries and Golden Lane.
Visitors can enter the castle complex for free, walk around the courtyards, and admire the historic buildings from the outside. But to gain a true understanding of the history and significance of it all, we recommend taking a Prague tour, as it will include a visit to Prague Castle in the itinerary.
Another option is to join the queue at the castle to purchase a self-guided ticket.
Alternatively, you can attend a Prague Castle concert in one of the historic buildings.
HOW TO VISIT PRAGUE CASTLE:
1. Tours of Prague:
All Prague Experience tours of Prague include a visit to Prague Castle in the itinerary. You will be transported up to the castle. A guide will lead you through the shortest security queue, and guide you around the Prague Castle complex, including inside St. Vitus Cathedral. Some tours include a hotel pick up:
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour
Prague Grand City Sightseeing Tour & Boat
Prague All Inclusive Walking Tour & Boat
Prague Castle at Night Walking Tour.
2. Self-Guided Prague Castle Ticket:
Purchase a self-guided ticket at Prague Castle on the day of your visit. Arrive early to reduce the queue time at both security and at the ticket office. Tickets cost 350 CZK for all areas, 250 CZK for selected areas.
3. Prague Castle Concert:
A classical concert is a popular way to experience the grandeur of Prague Castle. Two historic buildings hold regular concerts:
Lunchtime concerts are held daily at Lobkowicz Palace.
Early evening concerts are held several times a week at St. George's Basilica.
The concerts are popular and tickets are limited, so advance booking is required.
Concert listings & tickets: Book Concerts.
4. Refreshments at Prague Castle:
There are several cafés within the castle complex, where you can buy hot and cold food and drinks. The one at Lobkowicz Palace, where classical concerts are held, offers views over the city from its terrace.
HISTORY OF PRAGUE CASTLE:
The first known building was erected on the site of Prague Castle in the 9th century. In the 12th century it was transformed into a Romanesque palace. And in the 14th century, under Charles IV, it was rebuilt in the Gothic style.
A further reconstruction of the Royal Palace took place under the Jagellons at the end of the 15th century, but a major fire in 1541 necessitated yet more rebuilding.
The Spanish Hall was added during the reign of Rudolf II (1552-1612), and final alterations were made by Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780).
After World War I, renovations to the castle buildings and to the Prague Castle Gardens were undertaken by the architect J. Plecnik.
In recent times, the exterior of St. Vitus Cathedral has been cleaned and now gleams in the sunlight, while the stone courtyards have been renovated.
PRESENT DAY AT PRAGUE CASTLE:
Prague Castle is the official residence and office of the President of the Czech Republic.
A Changing of the Guard ceremony at the main gates reflects this. It takes place every day at midday, all year round, and includes a fanfare and banner exchange.
Easter and Christmas markets are held on the square in front of St. George's Basilica.
Security checks at Prague Castle can result in lengthy queues, with waiting times ranging between 10 and 50 minutes. The morning is generally the busiest.
Note: despite what some websites might tell you, it is NOT possible to 'skip the line' at security, unless you are the president! ALL visitors must wait in line.
BUT, there are several entrances to the castle, and if you book a guided tour your guide will lead through the one with the shortest queue.