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A Guide for Visiting Prague Castle

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Place Details

Name: Prague Castle

Rating: 4.7 / 5

City: Prague

Country: Czechia

Address: Hradčany, 119 08 Prague 1, Czechia

Phone Number: +420224373368

Website: Visit the Website

Hours of Operation: Monday – Sunday: 6 am–10 pm

Location

About Prague Castle

Representative of the history of Prague on a monumental scale, Prague Castle is believed to be the largest ancient castle complex on Earth per the Guinness Book of World Records. It was founded in the 880s by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty (Přemyslovci) in a hodgepodge of architectural styles. Although you can see St. Vitus Cathedral peaking out from most places in Prague, the cathedral is just a part of this 750,000-square-foot site.

You’ll find the castle in the aptly named Castle District, which is actually known as Hradčany locally. The castle is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses the entire historic center of Prague. You must see why over 1.5 million visitors from the main city below trek to the castle annually. After all, it is one of the most popular things to do in Prague.

Fast Facts:

  • Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world, covers an area of 45 hectares.
  • The castle attracts over 2 million visitors annually, making it one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Czech Republic.
  • St. Vitus Cathedral, located within Prague Castle, took over 600 years to complete and houses the tombs of numerous Bohemian kings.
  • The castle complex has three courtyards: First, Second, and Third, and features multiple architectural styles, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, spanning centuries.

Regional Guides

History of Prague Castle

Prague Castle over Old Town roofs with tourists
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Because of its founding in the 9th century, Prague Castle is one of the oldest castles in Europe and the world. This massive Medieval castle houses a plethora of buildings and gardens within its fortified walls. The Church of the Virgin Mary is the oldest walled building in the castle area. Although the most spectacular, St. Vitus Cathedral wasn’t built until the 10th century.

Prague Castle served a lot of purposes as both the seat of the head of state and the church. It was the site of the first convent in Bohemia and housed Emporer Charles IV in the 14th century, making the castle his home and the seat for the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Palaces within the castle compound were built, redesigned, or fixed up after various devastations through the years or wars.

The last significant rebuild of Prague Castle happened in the latter 18th century. What you see now is a fascinating combination of ancient builds and builds that followed in the centuries to come. Now, the compound houses many government offices in the Czech Republic.

See Related: Is Prague Safe to Visit?

A Guide to Prague Castle

Baroque Nový Královský Palác, Prague, with mythological statue against cloudy sky
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Tourists could easily spend an entire day meandering the castle grounds because it is so massive. But realistically, there are a handful of areas you’ll want to prioritize seeing. The rest of the grounds can be visited if you have the time.

The primary spots visitors clamor to are St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and Golden Lane. These are the most significant historical parts of Prague Castle. The majority of the castle area is open to the public.

Among the exhibits at the castle, there are also several museums to visit while you’re there. It houses the National Gallery, which houses Bohemian art, an exhibit on the history of the Czech Republic, a toy museum, and a picture gallery with the collection of Emperor Rudolph II. Once every five years, it has become a tradition for the Bohemian crown jewels to be put out for a limited display from their keeping in St. Vitus Cathedral.

When you need a break from wall-to-wall people, Prague Castle is always busy, it seems, pay a visit to a garden. There are a handful of gardens around the castle you can visit. The most peaceful is often the Royal Garden, which dates back to the 1500s.

How to Visit Prague Castle

Prague Castle against cloudy sky, iconic Czech landmark
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

I was wholly unprepared to visit Prague Castle. This massive complex was so much more than I expected, and I want to ensure you have the proper time to dedicate to it. I highly recommend visiting Prague Castle during the week and avoiding weekends at all costs — it will make your visit much more enjoyable.

There was a total ban on photography in castles in the Czech Republic. Thankfully, this ban has been lifted, and photos are allowed at Prague Castle. That said, there are areas of the compound where photos are not allowed. You will see signs if you enter an area where photos are prohibited. Be mindful of the signs because they are strictly enforced, as I witnessed from visitors who weren’t mindful.

If you are a take-everything-in visitor like me, I recommend grabbing a skip-the-line ticket ahead of time. These tickets do not include a tour, though you can get an audio guide to have on hand. If you would rather have someone lead you around Prague Castle and don’t mind more structure, I suggest a tour with a local guide, including your ticket and a 2.5-hour guided visit.

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