Prague Castle is a complex of castle buildings built around the 9th century in Prague, Czech Republic. Prague Castle has been an important symbol of the Czech Republic for more than 1,000 years. It is the official office of the Czech President. As a seat of power for kings and emperors of Bohemia as well as Czechoslovak presidents, the castle has a long history. A hidden chamber within it houses the Bohemian Crown Jewels.
The Guinness Book describes Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It occupies an area of nearly 70,000 square meters (750,000 square feet) at approximately 570 meters (1,870 feet) in length and about 130 meters (430 feet) wide. The castle is among the most visited attractions in Prague, with an average of more than 1.8 million visitors a year.
It has a fascinating history and centuries-old architecture. It should be on top of every European Travelers bucket list of places to visit. It is located on a hill high above the Vltava River and is easy to see in most parts of Prague.
Prague Castles History
The history of the castle begins in 870 when the first walled building—the Church of the Virgin Mary—was built. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded in the first half of the 10th century under the rule of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia and his son Wenceslas.
The first convent in Bohemia was built in the castle, next to the church of St. George. During the 12th century, a Romanesque palace was erected here.
King Ottokar II of Bohemia built up the castle’s fortifications and remodeled the royal palace for purposes of representation and housing. In the 14th century, during the reign of Charles IV, the palace was reconstructed in Gothic style and the castle walls were strengthened. In place of the rotunda and basilica of St. Vitus was built a vast Gothic church, which was completed almost six centuries later.
During the Hussite Wars and the decades that followed, the castle was not inhabited. King Vladislaus II Jagiellon began to rebuild the castle in 1485. The massive Vladislav Hall was added to the Royal Palace by Benedikt Rejt. New defensive towers were also built on the north side of the castle.
In 1541, a large fire destroyed large parts of the castle. Under the Habsburgs, several buildings in Renaissance style were constructed. Ferdinand I built the Belvedere for his wife, Anne. Rudolph II made Prague Castle his primary residence. He founded the northern wing of the palace, which included the Spanish Hall, which housed his precious art collections.
The end of the sixteenth century saw the Third Defenestration of Prague and the beginning of the Bohemian Revolt. During the wars that followed, the castle became damaged and dilapidated. The Swedes looted many works from the collection of Rudolph II during the Battle of Prague (1648), which was the final act of the Thirty Years’ War.
Empress Maria Theresa reconstructed the castle for the last time in the second half of the 18th century. The former emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home after his abdication in 1848 and the succession of his nephew, Franz Joseph, to the throne.
Prague Castle in the 20th Century
In 1918, the castle served as the Presidential residence for T.G. Masaryk, the new president of the Czechoslovak Republic. The St. Vitus Cathedral was finished in this period (on September 28, 1929). In 1936, Pavel Janák, Plenik’s successor, continued the renovations.
On March 15, 1939, shortly after Nazi Germany forced Czech State President Emil Hacha (who is known to have suffered a heart attack during the negotiations) to give up his country to the Germans, Adolf Hitler spent the night in Prague Castle, “proudly examining his new possession.”
During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in World War II, Prague Castle was converted into the headquarters of Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. According to a popular rumor, he was said to have placed the Bohemian crown on his head; according to old legends, one who places the crown on his head will die within a year. Less than a year after taking power, on May 27, 1942, Heydrich was ambushed by British-trained Slovak and Czech resistance soldiers while on his way to the castle. He died of his wounds a week later. Klaus, his firstborn son, died the next year in a traffic accident, a fact also mentioned in the legend.
After the liberation of Czechoslovakia and the coup of 1948, the Castle housed the offices of the communist government. In 1993, after the Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this castle became the seat of the new Czech Republic’s head of state. President Václav Havel commissioned Bořek Šípek to be the architect of post-communism Prague Castle’s necessary improvements, notably the refurbishment of the castle’s collection of paintings.
Prague Castle Opening Hours
- November – March
- 09:00 – 16:00
- April – October
- 09:00 – 17:00
Prague Castle Grounds:
- Daily 6.00 – 22.00
Cathedral of St Vitus, St Wenceslas and St Adalbert (last entrance into the tower 20 minutes before the closing time)
- April – October: Mon – Sat 9.00 – 17.00, Sun 12.00 – 17.00
- November – March: Mon – Sat 9.00 – 16.00, Sun 12.00 – 16.00
Great South Tower of Cathedral of St Vitus, St Wenceslas and St Adalbert (last entrance 30 minutes before the closing time, tower is closed in case of bad weather)
- April – October: Mon – Sun 10.00 – 18.00
- November – March: Mon – Sun 10.00 – 17.00
How to get to Prague Castle
The Prague Castle complex is easy to reach by public transportation. There are several tram stops nearby (Královský letohrádek, Pražský hrad, Pohořelec) and also two metro stations (Malostranská, Hradčanská). The visitors use mostly tram No. 22 (stop called Pražský hrad). Then they leave the Castle through the Old Castle Stairs to metro station Malostranská.
Best Time To Go To Prague Castle
Prague Food Festival-Annually in May
I have to say that I think the best time to go to Prague castle is in May. Every May they hold the annual Prague Food Festival on the castle grounds. The Prague Food Festival is a fantastic culinary event held every year in the beautiful Prague Castle Gardens in Czechia. Guests will be able to enjoy the offerings of over 40 booths, which includes international cuisine served by the finest restaurants in the area and a variety of beverages such as Pilsner Urquell beer, Korunní water, Hennessy cognac and Czech wines. Pilsner Urquell usually offers a beer and food pairing class, while it is given in the Czech language most people would still understand the concepts and get to taste some great beer and food.
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