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The Prague Castle

As a symbol for the country, seat of princes, kings and presidents, Prague Castle is an imposing feature on the city's skyline. It lies on a hill high above the River Vltava at the western edge of Lesser Town of Prague, part of the medieval city center located on the left side of the river.

History

The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The oldest existing buildings or their parts are dated back to the 10th century. Former Romanesque Church of Our Lady is forming part of basement and tomb of the St. Vitus Cathedral. Former Rotunda of St. Vitus is incorporated into St. Wenceslas Chapel, the oldest part of the Cathedral. Romanesque Basilica of St. George has been preserved to the current times. It is the oldest working church building in Czechia and the place where many Czech kings, princes and knights are buried.
Subsequently, in 973, the Castle became the residence of a bishop and at the same time a Benedictine convent was set up at the St. George Church. The Castle was then significantly fortified with thick walls and gates.
The City of Prague as well as the Castle itself underwent the most impressive development during the times of Kaiser Charles IV in 14th century. Charles IV selected Prague as his seat and made it the center of the Roman Empire. He initiated construction of many major buildings and churches, including Cathedral of St. Vitus, Charles Bridge, Charles University and others. Cathedral of St. Vitus has been hosting the most important events like decorations of kings and archbishops since then and remained the most famous and visited sacral building in Czechia to date.
Vladislav Jagiellon was responsible for Gothic alterations to the Castle, which took place from 1486 when new ramparts with gun towers were put in place, the Royal Palace underwent further changes, and the Vladislav Hall and Ludwig Wing were erected. The Royal Gardens and Royal Summer Palace were built by Ferdinand I in 1534. Renaissance reconstructions followed a devastating fire in 1541, reaching a peak during the times of the art-loving emperor Rudolf II who moved his residence from Vienna to Prague. This was all to be topped off by alterations of Maria Theresia during 1753-1775 who had the facades of all the wings of the castle united in the then popular Classical style. St. Vitus Cathedral was completed at the beginning of the 20th century by adding the second front tower.

Exploring the Prague Castle

How to get there:
- take subway A to Malostranska station. You have four options from there:
- climb the Old Castle Stairs towards the eastern Castle entrance next to the Daliborka tower
- take tram 22 to the Castle station and use the northern entrance
- continue riding tram 22 to Pohorelec and take the Loretanska street back to the main western entrance
- take tram 20 or 22 to Malostranske square and walk up the Nerudova street to the main western entrance

What to see and do:
- walk around the St. Vitus Cathedral, admire the front rosetta window and then go inside. Spend some extra time in the St. Wenceslav chapel. Avoid the tomb. Climb the tower. The Cathedral is by far the nicest and largest church in Czechia so do not hurry.
- visit the Basilica of St. George but avoid the tomb.
- take the castle tour which covers Vladislav Hall, the second largest Gothical hall in Europe
- see the Golden Lane, side street with tiny houses - the number 22 was once inhabited by Franz Kafka
- eat at Vikarka - one of the best and most expensive restaurants in the city. You will probably see some minister or member of the President Office there.
- take a tour around President´s wing
- enjoy view of Prague from the square in front of the western entrance
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