Prague’s skyline is dominated by the vast hilltop complex of Prague Castle in Hradčany (the district around Prague Castle). The castle looks out over the heart of the city from the west bank of the River Vltava. There’s been a royal seat here for over a millennium, and it continues to serve as headquarters of the Czech president. It is also home to many of Prague’s top tourist attractions.
Hradčany were, as the third town of Prague, founded at the beginning of the 14th century by a Royal Count Berka from Dubé. At that time, however, there was already the Prague Castle, formerly called Royal Castle, a historical-political and cultural dominating feature of not only Hradčany and Prague, but of the whole Bohemia, influencing with its significance the whole Central Europe for centuries, whose foundation dates back sometime after 880 A.D. Soon after its foundation, Czech princes moved their residence here from Levý Hradec. This choice was of great importance both to the fate of the castle and to the fate of the future city. The reign of Charles IV, and the later reign of Rudolph II, when the Castle was the residence of a Roman Emperor, were important periods in the history of the Castle and therefore, at the time of reconstructions, the Castle’s residential importance was expressed. Another marked constructional period was the 2nd half of the 18th century when the Habsburgs had the Castle extensively reconstructed according to the plans of Nicola Pacassi, an architect from Vienna.
The jewels of the Castle’s architecture are the Gothic St.Vitus Cathedral where the coronation jewels are deposited and the tomb of Czech rulers is found, the Old Royal Palace with Vladislav’s Hall, Romanesque church and the former St. George’s Monastery, Spanish Hall in the wing of the castle yard II, and other places such as Golden Lane. Outside the premises of the Castle, other places of interest are the Royal Garden with the Royal Summerhouse, Loretanské Square with Loreta, Angel Virgin Mary’s Church and Cernin Palace, and last but not the least, the Strahov Monastery with a unique library.
Getting around Prague Castle
The best metro stop is Malostranská or Hradčanská via line A, while tram enthusiasts should jump onto a tram line 22, getting off at the Pražský hrad. If you are getting to the Castle on foot, be prepared for a bit of climbing, but you will be rewarded with views of the colourful rooftops and the spires of the city centre. You can either start your walk from Nerudova just off the Lesser Town square or via The Old Castle Stairs from Malostranská metro.