Arguably the single biggest must-see in Prague is the Prague Castle, which dates all the way back to the 9th century.
The complex has been the seat of power for countless kings, emperors, and Presidents. Today it is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. We were two of over 1.8 million people who visit the castle annually, thankfully, not all at the same time.
The castle is visible from all over Prague. Once we crossed the Charles bridge, we ended up at the foot of the hill it on which it sits.
Once you climb the multitudinous stairs to get to the complex, you’re treated to a wonderful view of Prague.
We were fortunate enough to go there in the afternoon and stay into the night, which meant we were also treated to wonderful evening views.
Prague Castle includes the gothic St. Vitus Cathedral, the Romanesque Basilica of St. George, a monastery and several palaces, gardens and defense towers. The castle houses a number of museums as well.
We arrived a little bit late in the day mostly because we wandered into the area and even though it wasn’t on that day’s agenda, decided to tackle the attraction anyway.
As a result, we hurried through a couple of the buildings because they were due to close within the hour. The bonus of that was that there were hardly any other people there. The double bonus is that we conquered the entire thing in less than a couple of hours, which isn’t what most visitors would tell you is enough, but it worked out that way for us, perhaps due to the lack of crowds.
Inside the castle complex is St. Vitus Cathedral, construction of which began in 1344.
The outside of St. Vitus is both imposing and gothically beautiful. It is easily one of the most impressive churches we’ve seen since we’ve been here.
When buying tickets to see whatever you want to see, you’re presented with three choices, or “circuits.” We chose Circuit B after doing rock, paper, scissors. Turned out to be the right one, especially with our limited time budget.
Amazingly enough, the construction of the Cathedral wasn’t completed until 1929, almost 600 years from when it began. If this had been the focus of The Money Pit, when the foreman was asked when it was going to be finished, instead of “two weeks, two weeks,” he might have said “two centuries, two centuries.”
And he’d still have been off by 400 years.
Inside, St. Vitus also impresses, which was the whole point in those days. You were supposed to be made to feel small; the church was meant to convey the enormity of God in comparison. I already feel tiny in comparison anytime I’m beneath a very starry sky, but back then they hadn’t learned to look up yet.
There was a lot of controversy over art like this, with critics complaining that the kids would just sit around inside and stare at it instead of going outside to play like they did back when they were kids. The controversy abated once television was invented.
The Czech Crown Jewels. Or more accurately, reproductions of them, not that anyone could tell. The crown was made for Charles IV in 1347, making it the fourth oldest crown in Europe, just after one in Queen Elizabeth II’s mouth.
This is one of the souvenir shops on an alley called “The Golden Lane,” so-named because goldsmiths used to work there. Apparently one of the job requirements of a goldsmith was to be not much more than five feet tall.
While the Golden Lane wasn’t particularly impressive, they did have dozens of suits of armor on display as part of the attraction. It’s hard to imagine walking around in one of those things, especially on a hot day. And they hadn’t even invented anti-perspirant yet. And how do you take a leak?
On the grounds is the Rosenberg Palace, which was originally named the Renaissance palace. We peeked inside but most reviews are fairly blah on the place, so we used our limited time for other, more interesting things.
I can’t remember what this is, although I know it’s a building.
The changing of the guard. All thoughts of stealing the fake crown jewels abated once I saw their fierce weaponry.
Another view of Prague from the castle.
When the sun goes down and the lights come up, the church looks like something from an old horror movie.
In the end, the castle was certainly a sight to behold. With a little extemporaneous planning we were actually able to see everything we wanted to see without spending the entire day there.