On the must visit list for Prague was the sprawling Prague Castle. I was going to say the “must see” list, but the castle complex is something you can see from just about everywhere around the heart of Prague. Its position on a hill in Mala Strana and its sheer size has it towering over the Vltava River and demanding your gaze. No matter how picturesque the castle is from viewpoints along the river, it takes a trip through the complex to fully appreciate it.
The first stop for us inside Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. There are a lot of beautiful churches in Prague, but this one is the most spectacular:
The outside Gothic architecture is especially striking in the early morning light and it’s a great prelude to what’s inside. Interestingly, this is the third religious building on this site. The precursor buildings were originally built in 925 and 1060 respectively, with this cathedral starting to take shape in the mid 1300s.
There are wonderful monuments, large stain-glass windows and even the impression of a cannon ball on the marble floor near the front of the church. The tour of the church had a lot of looking up to take in the intricate stone work throughout. While my wife was listening to the audio tour, I slipped away briefly to admire the pipe organ (I have a soft spot for pipe organs). The architecture of this one was particularly majestic:
Our next stop on the tour was St. George’s Basilica. It is the oldest church building within Prague Castle. Originally constructed in 920, it was rebuilt in the 1140s after a major fire. This is a small footprint building (at least relative to St. Vitus). The stone surroundings and narrow dimensions draw your attention forward to the altar.
Next up was the Old Royal Palace. When you enter, you’re almost immediately in the impressive Vladislav Hall. This has been the site of many state functions. Since 1500, presidential elections, the awarding of medals, state banquets and so much more have taken place here. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the hall justice. The wall at the far end is about 200 feet away.
A very different feature of the castle complex is the Golden Lane. It is a street within the complex that has a number of what were very small houses. At #22 is the house which Franz Kafka sought out to help him write in peace and quiet for more than two years.
Just at the end of the Golden Lane is Daliborka Tower. This was a dungeon used to keep control of the most dangerous criminals. You can climb down into the dungeon where a number of period torture instruments are on display.
As we came out of the Tower and dungeons, we watched a procession of guards march by:
Even if you don’t have the time to tour the inside of Prague Castle, do yourself one favour – head up there just for the views back out over the city. If you get a spectacularly beautiful day, this is a can’t miss stop on any trip to Prague. Don’t believe me? Here you go… the Lesser Town looks pretty special from up here:
We spent quite a bit of time just marveling at the roofs and the gardens below:
And here’s the view from the castle back toward the Old Town. On the right you can see the spires of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. Just to the right of that off in the distance is the Zizkov Television Tower:
There are many, many castles in the Czech Republic, but for our trip of two weeks where we took a couple of off the beaten track day trips rather than seeing some of the castles in the countryside, spending the morning and afternoon at Prague Castle was a highlight. The smile on my face below is from a great day spent in an idyllic setting.