A prominent sight in Prague 1 is Prague Castle situated at the top of a hill overlooking the Czech Republic’s capital. 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 dominant feature. Prior to visiting Prague, 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 some great views and beautiful places for quiet study time once classes start. We took the many stairs leading up to the castle, and with it being a warm summer day, were pretty wiped after we reached the security checkpoint. We had to go through a metal detector before proceeding, but that was fairly quick and easy. We did not have any issues clearing their security, and after a short rest on a merciful bench, made our way up another set of stairs to get to the cathedral.
Though tiring, the trek was totally worth it. Even on the climb, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the city below. And once we reached the top, we came to the spectacular St. Vitus Cathedral.
We did not go into the cathedral, as to enter most of the buildings you need to purchase tickets ahead of time. There are also walking tours that one can pay for that may or may not include entry into any of the buildings (check carefully what you’re purchasing before you pay for the service). We did neither, and instead took part in our own impromptu walking tour. There was ample signage to indicate which buildings were which, as well as directions to the Golden Lane.
Golden Lane gets its name from the royal goldsmiths who occupied the houses in the 17th century. After they were first built a century prior, the homes had originally been used to house the royal guards. There is a myth, propagated today even by tour guides I overheard on our walk, that the street was named Golden Lane because the neighborhood was where the king’s alchemists worked on turning iron into gold. As far as history goes that wasn’t the case, and while some kings did have alchemists, they lived inside the main structure of the castle. And I’d venture to guess that they probably weren’t turning iron into gold, at least not successfully. There have been some famous folks who have taken residence in Golden Lane, not the least of whom is favorite author Franz Kafka, who is said to have lived in his sister’s home on Zlatá ulička for a couple years.
From there, we walked back down to the tram stop at Malostranská to head out and grab some Thai food for lunch. There were other areas of the castle we could have visited on our own and for free, as many of the gardens are accessible to the public. The presidential buildings are off limits, as would be expected, and as mentioned, entry to the cathedral buildings require tickets. Still, our tour on the cheap was one worth taking, and it was another fun afternoon that was an adventure to remember.