Prague Castle – Must-See Tourist Attraction in Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is the home to dozens of beautiful and historical attractions and locations that tourists and locals frequently visit, but one of, if not the most popular tourist spots in the country is arguably Prague Castle. Every time you ask someone who has been to the Czech Republic what their favorite attraction is in the country, he or she will most likely say that Prague Castle is their favorite due to many reasons.

Besides having historical significance for the Czech Republic, the castle in Prague is also known for being the largest ancient castle on Earth, and because of how large it is, it is separated into different divisions, areas, and buildings. To learn more about this tourist attraction, here are some details about the amazing Prague Castle.

History of Prague Castle

The origins of the Prague Castle can be traced back to the year 870 when the first walled building (Church of the Virgin Mary) within its location was built. The two other churches or basilicas in the area, the Basilica of St. Vitus and Basilica of Saint George, were then built during the reign of Vratislaus I, the Duke of Bohemia, and his son, St. Wenceslas, which occurred in the early 10th century. The very first convent in Bohemia was also built within the castle’s location during the 12th century.

King Ottokar II, also known as the Iron and Golden King that reigned as the King of Bohemia from 153 to 1278, enhanced the fortifications of the castle in order for it to be used in housing and representing the beauty of Bohemia as a whole. Then, in the 14th century, Charles IV, the first King of Bohemia who became the Holy Roman Emperor, rebuilt the royal palace to have a Gothic style with strengthened fortifications.

In the midst of the Hussite Wars that began in 1419 and ended in 1434, the Prague Castle was uninhabited by royalty. Then, in 1485, King Vladislaus II Jagellon rebuilt the castle and added the Vladislav Hall to the royal palace. On the north side of the location, defense towers were also erected. Unfortunately, most parts of the castle were destroyed due to a large fire that occurred in 1541.

When the House of Habsburg became the residents of Prague Castle, they built new buildings that had a Renaissance style of architecture. One of the first rulers within the House of Habsburg, Ferdinand I, built the summer palace called Belvedere for his wife, Anna Jagellonica. The Belvedere would later be known as “Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.” Rudolph II then used Prague Castle as the main residence for him and his family. He is responsible for planning the northern wing of the castle, which houses the Spanish Hall where his art collection was displayed.

The 1618 Defenestration of Prague (dismissing someone from a position of authority) resulted in the Prague Castle being damaged and dilapidated. Many of the art pieces collected by Rudolph II were looted by the Swedish forces in 1648 during the Battle of Prague.

bridge leading to Prague Castle

Empress Maria Theresa, who served as the ruler of the Habsburg dominions from 1740 to 1780, facilitated the last major rebuilding of the castle. The former emperor, Ferdinand I (different from the previously mentioned Ferdinand I), then made Prague Castle his permanent residence when he abdicated the throne in 1848.

When the First Czechoslovak Republic was established in 1918, the first president of the government, TG Masaryk, made it his primary residence. The royal palace and the palace gardens surrounding the Prague Castle were then renovated and redesigned by architect Jože Plečnik. The successor of Plečnik, Pavel Janák, then continued the renovations for the castle in 1936.

In March 1939, Nazi Germany was able to take over the Czech Republic after the country’s president, Emil Hacha, suffered a heart attack during the tense negotiations. It was reported that Adolf Hitler spent the night inside Prague Castle, where he was able to admire its beauty. Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Moravia and Bohemia, then took over the country and determined Prague Castle to be his headquarters.

After the liberation of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II and the coup that occurred in 1948, the Prague Castle became the headquarters of the communist Czechoslovak government. When Czechoslovakia was split in 1993 into Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the latter made the castle the seat of the state’s head.

In 2013, the Prague Castle became the residence of Miloš Zeman, the third and current (as of 2021) president of the Czech Republic.

Buildings and Areas within Prague Castle

Prague Castle during a winter night

Because Prague Castle has existed for more than 1000 years, it is expected that the location would feature buildings and attractions that feature different designs and styles when it comes to their architecture.

Some of the most popular spots in Prague Castle include the St. Vitus Cathedral, the National Gallery Prague, and Toy Museum. The caretakers of the castle also host various events within the castle, with one of the most popular being the Summer Shakespeare Festival, where plays written by William Shakespeare are performed. Here is a list of buildings and areas that you can visit in Prague Castle.

Palaces

  • Lobkowicz Palace – built in 1550
  • Old Royal Palace – built during the 12th century
  • New Royal Palace – opened in 1918 as the new residence of the First Czechoslovak Republic president, TG Masaryk
  • Queen Anne’s Summer Palace (Belvedere) – opened in 1560 in honor of Ferdinand I’s wife, Anna Jagellonica

Churches

  • Vitus Cathedral – built in 1929 in its current appearance, but it is believed that it has been in existence since 930
  • George’s Basilica – built in 920 under the orders of Vratislaus I of Bohemia
  • All Saints Church – completed construction during the 14th century
  • Holy Cross Chapel

Towers

  • Black Tower
  • White Tower
  • Mihulka
  • Dalibor Tower

Halls

  • Spanish Hall – built from 1602 to 160 to house Rudolph II’s art collection
  • Vladislav Hall – built between 1493 to 1502 under the orders of Vladislav II
  • Column Hall
  • Rudolph’s Gallery – a new hall where Rudolph II’s art collection is exhibited
  • Rothmayer’s Hall

Gardens

  • Royal Garden of Prague Castle
  • The Garden on the Bastion
  • Riding School Terrace Garden
  • South Gardens (includes Garden on the Ramparts, Paradise Garden, and the Hartig Garden)
  • Horticultural Gardens
  • Deer Moat
  • Wenceslas Vineyard

Those are the essential pieces of information for you to know more about the history and structures of Prague Castle. If ever you travel to the Czech Republic one of these days, be sure to visit Prague Castle so that you can complete the full tourist experience in the country.