Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)
By Dana Shanberg

Records indicate that Prague Castle is the largest castle area in the world. Its three courtyards and a number of magnificent buildings cover over 7 hectares (18 acres), so be prepared to see a lot and do some walking. Depending on the time you have and your interests, you can decide which interiors to visit.


History | Getting There | Opening Hours | Admission

History Prague Castle from Malostranske namesti

The Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) was founded around 880 by prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid dynasty. The first stone building in the castle area was the Church of the Virgin Mary of which only remnants can be seen today. In the 10th century, St. George's Basilica was founded and the first Czech convent was established there - St. George's Convent, which now houses a gallery. St. Vitus Rotunda, also from the 10th century, was replaced by St. Vitus Basilica in the 11th century, and it is where St. Vitus Cathedral stands today.


Starting in the 10th century, the Prague Castle served as the seat of Czech princes and later kings, and the seat of the Prague bishop.

The Prague Castle experienced one of its greatest periods during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378) when it became the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Royal Palace was rebuilt, the fortifications were strengthened, and the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was initiated, following the style of Gothic French cathedrals of the time.

The expansion of the Castle continued during the reign of Charles' son Wenceslas IV, but the Hussite wars (1419 - 1437) and the subsequent decades during which the Castle was abandoned lead to its deterioration.

St. Vitus CathedralKing Wladislaw Jagellon moved into the Castle after 1483 and the complex grew once again. New fortifications and guard towers (the Powder Tower, New White Tower, and Daliborka) were built. The Royal Palace was further remodeled and expanded by the grandiose Wladislaw Hall, one of the first demonstrations of the Renaissance style in the Czech lands.

By the time the Habsburg dynasty took over the Czech throne in 1526, the Renaissance style was in full swing in Europe. The seat of power moved to Vienna and the Prague Castle served mainly for recreational purposes. The Royal Garden was built and entertainment sites such as the Belvedere and Ballgame Hall were added in the 16th century. The Cathedral and Royal Palace were modified. New residential buildings were built to the west of the Old Royal Palace.

The reconstruction of the Castle culminated during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II who became Czech king in 1575 and moved his court back to Prague. He wished to turn the Castle into an elegant center of power that would attract foreign artists, scientists and diplomats. The north wing of the Palace and the Spanish Hall were added to house the emperor's vast collections of art and science.

Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička)The Prague Defenestration of 1618 initiated a long period of wars during which the Prague Castle was damaged and looted, rarely serving as the seat of power.

The last large reconstruction of the Castle took place in the second half of the 18th century when it took on a style of a chateau. However, the seat of power was again in Vienna and the Castle continued to deteriorate.

In 1848, emperor Ferdinand V moved to the Prague Castle. The Chapel of the Holy Cross on the Second Courtyard was rebuilt and the Spanish Hall and Rudolf's Gallery were remodeled.

With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, the Prague Castle welcomed the first president of independent Czechoslovakia, Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Some needed remodeling was commissioned to the Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik. The construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was finished in 1929.

After 1989, many areas of the Castle were made accessible to the public for the first time in history, including the Royal Garden, Ballgame Hall, the south gardens, or the Imperial Stables. Today, the Prague Castle is the seat of the Czech president and the most important National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic. A number of priceless art relics, historical documents, as well as the Czech Crown Jewels are stored there.

The above historical information is based on the Czech language version of the official Prague Castle website.

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Getting There


Getting There on Foot Old Castle Stairs

If you would like to walk, you have several options:

Nerudova Street - walk up the picturesque (and quite steep) Nerudova street from Malostranské náměstí and at the top take a sharp right onto Ke Hradu. You will end up in front of the main entrance to the Castle.

Castle Steps (Zámecké schody) - start up Nerudova from Malostranské náměstí and take a quick right onto Zámecká street. Then turn left to climb the romantic Castle Stairs, which will take you to the Garden on the Ramparts (Zahrada na Valech).

Old Castle Steps (Staré zámecké schody) - the stairs start near the Malostranská metro station and will put you at the beginning of Jiřská street. You will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views of Prague.


Getting There by Tram

Taking the tram will save you a walk uphill or up the stairs, and the ride is quite scenic. Take tram 22 (e.g. from Národní třída or the Malostranská metro station) and get off at one of these stops:

Královský letohrádek - if you get off here, you can start with the Royal Garden, Belveder and Ballgame Hall, then cross the Deer Moat bridge to get to the Second Courtyard
Note: The Royal Garden and Deer Moat are closed from November through March

Pražský hrad - as its name suggests, this is considered the main Prague Castle stop. Get off here if you would like to start at the Second Courtyard.

Pohořelec - getting off here will enable you to walk to the Castle through Hradčany and arrive at the main entrance. This is probably the nicest route (and our favorite).

A good way to go is to take the tram up to the Castle and walk back down when you're done.

Check tram schedules at dpp.cz.

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Opening Hours

The opening times below are subject to change and can be checked at hrad.cz.

• Summer season (April 1 - October 31, St. Vitus Cathedral March 1 - October 31)

Exteriors: Daily 5 a.m. - midnight
Ticketed areas: Daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
(Old Royal Palace, 'The Story of Prague Castle' Permanent Exhibition, 'The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral' exhibition - open year round 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.), St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, Powder Tower, Rosenberg Palace, the Great South Tower of St. Vitus Cathedral 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.)
St. Vitus Cathedral: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sun 12 noon - 6 p.m.
Prague Castle Gardens and Deer Moat: Daily 10 a.m. - 6/7/8/9 p.m. depending on the month

• Winter season (November 1 - March 31, St. Vitus Cathedral November 1 - February 28)

Exteriors: 6 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Ticketed areas: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. (closed on December 24)
(Old Royal Palace, 'The Story of Prague Castle' Permanent Exhibition, 'The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral' exhibition - open year round 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.), St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, Powder Tower, Rosenberg Palace, the Great South Tower of St. Vitus Cathedral 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
St. Vitus Cathedral: Mon-Sat 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sun 12 noon - 4 p.m.
Prague Castle Gardens and Deer Moat: Closed

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Admission

Tickets can be purchased at the Prague Castle Information Center on the Second and Third Courtyards and in the Chapel of the Holy Cross on the Second Courtyard, and at the ticket counters in the Old Royal Palace, 'The Story of Prague Castle' Exhibition and the Golden Lane. Each ticket is valid on the day of purchase and the following day.

The prices below are subject to change and are available at hrad.cz.

  Full admission Reduced admission* Family admission**
Prague Castle - Long Tour (Old Royal Palace, 'The Story of Prague Castle' Exhibition, St. George's Basilica, St. George's Convent - National Gallery, Golden Lane & Daliborka Tower, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, Powder Tower, St. Wenceslas Vineyard) 350 Kč 175 700
Prague Castle - Short Tour (Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane & Daliborka Tower, St. Wenceslas Vineyard, Powder Tower) 250 125 500
'The Story of Prague Castle' Exhibition 140 Kč 70 Kč 280 Kč
Prague Castle Picture Gallery 150 Kč 80 Kč 300 Kč
Powder Tower 70 Kč 40 Kč 140 Kč
'The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral' Exhibition 300 Kč 150 Kč 600 Kč

*Reduced admission: children aged 6 - 16, high school and college students up to age 26, seniors over 65
**Family admission: 1 - 5 children under 16 and up to 2 adults

Free admission: children under 6, handicapped persons

The following monuments are wheelchair accessible:

Old Royal Palace - Wladislaw Hall entrance
St. George's Basilica
Ballgame Hall
Imperial Stables
Rudolf's Gallery and Spanish Hall
Prague Castle Picture Gallery
Prague Castle Gardens
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral public restroom

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 Recommended Hotels near Prague Castle:
Golden Well Golden Well 5 stars
U Zlaté Studně 166/4, Prague 1 - Lesser Town
This world-class boutique hotel enjoys a fantastic location right by the Prague Castle. The rooms overlook Prague's rooftops or the Royal Gardens, and the view from the open-air terrace is breathtaking. Exceptional service and a great range of luxurious amenities will make your stay at the Golden Well an unforgettable experience.
Santini Residence Santini Residence 5 stars
Nerudova 211/14, Prague 1 - Lesser Town
The Santini Residence is housed in a 17th-century building and offers elegant accommodation in spacious suites with period furniture. It is located on Nerudova Street that leads up to the Prague Castle and is within walking distance from Charles Bridge. A nice touch is the à-la-carte breakfast that is served in your room.
Alchymist Prague Castle Suites Alchymist Prague Castle Suites 5 stars
Sněmovní 8, Prague 1 - Lesser Town
The Alchymist Prague Castle Suites is an extraordinary small hotel located in a historical building at the foot of Prague Castle. It has just eight suites and feels private and quiet. The hotel prides itself in first-class service provided by friendly, helpful staff. The magnificent rooms are spacious and luxuriously furnished.
Domus Henrici Boutique Hotel Domus Henrici Boutique Hotel 4 stars
Loretánská 11, Prague 1 – Prague Castle District
The Domus Henrici Boutique hotel enjoys a superb location in the Prague Castle area, between the Castle's main entrance, the Loreta Chapel and Strahov Monastery. Each room is equipped with free Wi-Fi. The terraces offer panoramic views over Prague.