The biggest castle in the world
Did you know that Prague boasts the biggest castle in the world? Dating from the 9th century, it is the most impressive historical building in the Czech Republic. Its remarkable size is due to the fact that it isn’t a typical fortified medieval castle, but is made up of a large number of palaces and religious, governmental and residential buildings interconnected by picturesque narrow, winding lanes where losing yourself is a delight. Come with us!
History of Prague Castle
Prague Castle was founded in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj, the first historically documented prince of the Přemyslid dynasty (the Czech royal family). The first palace was built of wood, but its strategic location by the River Vltava soon made it the centre of power for the whole area and the residence of the Kings of Bohemia. During the reign of Charles IV the castle became the imperial residence and the first Habsburgs began building splendid palaces on the site. Abandoned throughout the 19th century, Prague Castle wasn’t used again until 1918, when it became the residence of the President of Czechoslovakia. The presidents of Czechoslovakia, and later of the Czech Republic, have had their office there ever since. In 1989, many areas of the castle were opened to the public.
What to see at Prague Castle: the key buildings
Prague Castle is a breathtaking complex of historical buildings reflecting virtually every architectural style. Here are some of the ones you mustn’t miss:
Saint Vitus Cathedral. Symbol of Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole, this Gothic cathedral took almost 600 years to be built. Its treasures include the Chapel of Saint Wenceslaus, ornately decorated with paintings and semiprecious gemstones, the crypt of the Czech monarchs and the Crown Chamber, where the stunning crown jewels are kept.
Former Royal Palace. Originally built of wood in the 9th century, this palace has gradually changed over time. It was the seat of the Czech monarchs until the 16th century. Presidential elections and other solemn state occasions are held here.
Golden Lane. One of the most charming spots in the whole castle complex, this characteristic lane is home to many coloured houses that appear straight out of the pages of a fairytale. Historically inhabited by goldsmiths, they now sell various craft souvenirs. Franz Kafka used No. 22 to write in between 1916 and 1917.
Saint George’s Basilica. Founded in 920, it is one of the oldest Romanesque buildings in Prague and the second oldest church in the city. It has two characteristic towers: the narrower one is called Eve and the wider one is called Adam. Inside are the tombs of the Přemyslid monarchs. It now houses Prague National Gallery’s 19th-century Bohemian art collection and is also used as a concert hall.
Prague Castle Gardens. Don’t miss the Royal Garden, built in 1534 by King Ferdinand of the Hapsburg Monarchy. The Singing Fountain is one of the most beautiful Renaissance fountains in Europe. Strolling through the southern gardens (the Garden of Paradise, the Garden on Ramparts and the Hartig Garden), you can enjoy stunning views over Prague, from Malá Strana to the Old City and neighbouring Petřín.
Powder Tower. The castle’s main defensive tower was built in the late 15th century as part of the citadel’s fortifications. It never had to face an actual attack, however, and ended up being used as an alchemists’ laboratory, gunpowder storeroom and home of the verger to Saint Vitus Cathedral. It now houses a permanent exhibition on the castle guard.
Daliborka Tower. It takes its name from its first prisoner, Dalibor z Kozojed, and was the city’s prison. Initially designated only for the nobility, it later held people of all ranks.
White Tower. This tower was the former prison for members of the nobility.
Black Tower. This debtors’ prison takes its name from the colour of its walls after a fire.
Sleeping close to Prague Castle
After visiting Prague Castle, there’s nothing better than heading back to your apartment in Prague and unwinding. At Friendly Rentals we have a selection of central, spacious apartments to make sightseeing as pleasant as possible. Check out our list of apartments in Prague, choose your favourite and enjoy your stay!