A prominent sight in Prague 1 is Prague Castle. It is the largest castle complex in the world at 70000 square meters (approximately 17.3 acres). It is a UNESCO heritage site, and has been in existence for over 1000 years. Today, the castle is a popular tourist attraction as well as a seat of power. The Czech presidential buildings are located within the confines of Prague Castle.
It is thought that the castle was built by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty in the late 800s. Back in those days, the castle had a moat and ramparts for defense. The first walled building was the Church of the Virgin Mary, however it was destroyed in the 13th century and not rebuilt. The ruins lie beneath current administrative buildings. Still standing though are churches built in the 900s, with architectural styles of the time. St. Vitus Cathedral, built in a Gothic style is a prominent feature. I had thought that the cathedral was the castle itself, and was surprised to learn that the castle is actually the complex.
The St. George Basilica was also built in the first half of the 10th century, and was built in a Romanesque style.
We headed up to Prague Castle after touring Emily’s school. The steps up to the castle were within easy walking distance from the doors of her university. Needless to say, she has a fantastic view of the complex from where she will study, and will likely have ample opportunities to explore as she continues her time in Prague. We headed up the stairs and as the day was gorgeous and a little on the warm side, it actually took quite a bit of effort from up to make it up to the top. At least there were some beautiful views of the city below even on the climb.
Once at the top, we had to pass through security. Our bags were searched and there was a metal detector that we walked through. We made it through that easily and continued up the hill to the castle complex. At that point Emily was rather tired, and I could use a breather and a water break myself. We found a set of merciful benches on along the manicured lawns, and while Emily rested, I took in the views and played Pokemon GO. After a while we continued on, up the stairs and came to the St. Vitus Cathedral.
We did not enter the cathedral, as entry would have required advance tickets. Some tours include tickets inside, but not all do, so be sure to check what you’re paying for. Instead, we did our own exploring around the cathedral with some help from Google. The outside is a work of ornate medieval architecture and has been beautifully conserved. After walking around and taking photos for our social media, we continued on to find Golden Lane.
Golden Lane, or Zlatá ulička u Daliborky, was established back in the 16th century and served as homes for the castle guards. We overheard on another tour that it was called Golden Lane because it was the site of where alchemists would attempt to turn iron into gold, a feat that is chemically impossible, but this popular myth is just that- a myth. There were alchemists, however they lived in the castle building rather than in Golden Lane. There have been notable residents who made their homes in this colorful collection of houses. It is said that Franz Kafka lived there with his sister for about two years in house 22.
We didn’t get too far down Golden Lane before we were ready for some lunch, so we headed out and back down the hill in search of some Thai food. And we did. We headed to Cloverleaf in Mala Strana, and while the pad see ew was a bit different from that at home in the San Gabriel Valley, it was still pretty good.
For more information on Prague Castle, its history, and how to buy tickets, visit Prague Castle for Visitors. The presidential buildings are located within Prague Castle, so those active administrative areas are off limits to the public. However there are some pretty gardens that can be visited, as well as more to see along Golden Lane. I’d love one day to return and explore more. Happy trails!