Across the river from Old Town, The Prague Castle dominates the skyline on top of the hill. If you think the structure is imposing from that distance, just wait until you stand on the steps of St. Vitus Cathedral and look straight up. It’s stunning.
If your walking there, give yourself plenty of time. We walked there in 30 minutes, but you may want to stop often for pictures, or, just to take a rest. There are a lot of steps to reach the top of the hill, but they’re worth it! (If you’re planning your own trip to Prague and can’t walk up steps well, you can always take the Metro.)
After walking up the steps, there was a large square that gave way to the entrance of the palace and castle area. In front of the palace gates, two guards stood still as statutes…even with folks taking pictures. I always marvel at how those guys can keep a straight face with everything going on! At the entrance to the castle, a security check funneled everyone down to walk through a metal detector. The process was quick and easy, and off we were. After the security check there was a garden on the left, which had Christmas trees lined up like a tree farm you’d see out in the country. It had snowed that morning and the white fluff still clung to the branches, a perfect spot for a few pictures. From there we went to the information desk to purchase tickets. This was also an easy process, for there was hardly any wait in line. We bought the “Circuit B” ticket which included St. Vitus Cathedral, the throne room, St. George’s Basilica and the Golden Lane. I also bought a photography license for 50 Czech kc that gave me permission to take photos inside the buildings.
St. Vitus Cathedral
St. Vitus Cathedral was the first building on the self guided tour. The cathedral was founded in 930 AD, but, the third and current stage of building didn’t begin on the cathedral until 1344 AD. The outside was massive and detailed – each gargoyle and spire displaying a beauty all their own. Though I was tempted to keep my gaze at the stonework ascending into the sky, there was so much more to take in around me. For example, the front doors were a work of art. Each panel told a story through carvings of priests and apostles displayed for all to see. Folks were taking pictures at the doors, which were twice the height of a man. When it was my turn, I stood in front of the doors and looked at the carvings, amazed at the detail on the faces and clothing. Though the outside was a stunning work of craftsmanship, even it didn’t prepare me for the grandeur that awaited me once I stepped through the doors. One thing is for certain, the Catholic Church knows how to make a place gorgeous! Everywhere you looked was gold, stories in stain glass and art covering the ceiling that was out of this world! Where do I start?
The height and depth of the cathedral was massive. Along the sides, huge columns separated the walkway from the sanctuary.
I adored the wooden pews – the scroll work on the sides were beautiful!
Along the outer hall, there was also a wooden portrait of the Little Quarter, the river, Charles Bridge and Old Town. Again, the workmanship was stunning.
As you walked along the outer edge, each chapel had a story to tell. My favorite was St. Nepomuk’s. His tomb (kinda creepy, I know) was cast in silver and was one of the largest in the church. It was very impressive and the one everyone lingered to look at.
As I walked back towards the entrance, my gaze was drawn to the rose medallion above the church entrance. From the outside in the daylight, it’s impressive, but until you step inside, you can’t appreciate the delicate beauty and colors of the stained glass.
Last but not least, you can’t enter a Cathedral without marveling at the organ. I’m a music person myself, and though I don’t play the organ, I love seeing them in old buildings. Especially when they take up a lot of room and have massive pipes. This one took up two levels of the church loft!
Stary Kralovsky Palac…Or, The Throne Hall
The second building we walked through was called the Stary Kralovsky Palac. It showcased a few rooms in the palace, the banquet hall and the throne room where a replica of the Crown Jewels were on display.
When you first walk in the building, there is a restroom on the right and a gift shop on the left before the turnstile admit you into the historic rooms. After crossing the threshold, you’ll be in the banquet hall. This large room stood mostly empty and there wasn’t a lot to see, but I loved seeing how large the room was and imagining a royal feast spread across tables that must have filled the room.
To the right, you could walk through a few rooms of the royal offices, which featured some wooden furniture, information about the time written on signs and nice views out the windows. The most notable thing from this area was the bright green 17th century Dutch style stove. Proudly displayed in the former offices of the Habsburgs.
Walking out the way you came into the royal offices, you could walk around the banquet hall to the throne room. This was where the medieval parliament gathered. It also displayed the replica of the Crown Jewels in a glass case – one of my favorite parts of the tour! The jewels looked huge in the crown and once again, if the originals were as big as the replicas, I was impressive with how fine the craftsmanship from that period would be. Absolutely stunning!
Saint George’s Basilica
The third building we toured was just behind the small Christmas market outside the exit of the throne hall. This Basilica is Prague’s best preserved Romanesque building. And get this, it was founded in 915-921 AD.
The Golden Lane
The fourth location on the tour was the Golden Lane. This area is located down the street towards the exit of the castle and has some neat history. Each house is numbered and has a story of its own and are now gift shops for tourists to shop in. The decorations on the doors and in the windows were so quaint, you couldn’t walk away without being in the Christmas spirit! As you exited the street the Golden Lane was on, everyone stopped to take pictures through the iron gate on the left, that I’m going to assume led to a deep dark dungeon!
Conclusion: If you’ve read about the Prague Castle online, you may have picked up on visitors mixed emotions. Is it a tourist trap? Or, is it worth it? Well, the answer may vary depending on a travelers personal preference, but here’s my take! The Prague Castle is a must see. So much of Prague’s history is memorialized in the 1,000 year old Cathedral. If you appreciate art, architecture or religious history, you need to see St. Vitus at least once. It’s beautiful, overwhelming and will make your jaw drop when you walk inside.