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Hradcany (Castle District) Walk (Self Guided), Prague

Hradčany, or the Castle District, is an area in Prague surrounding the Prague Castle. The latter is said to be the biggest castle in the world (measuring some 570 meters long and approximate 130 meters wide). Going back in history as far as the 9th century, the castle has been the seat of power for Bohemian kings, Holy Roman emperors, leaders of Czechoslovakia and is currently the official residence of the Czech Republic President. Located nearby is St Vitus' Cathedral, housing the Archbishop of Prague. Despite the presence of majestic, historic locations, Hradčany also has plenty of romantic and peaceful nooks and corners, complete with picturesque lookouts, much to the delight of numerous guests of the city and locals. Take this walk and explore some of these at your own pace!
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Hradcany (Castle District) Walk Map

Guide Name: Hradcany (Castle District) Walk
Guide Location: Czech Republic » Prague (See other walking tours in Prague)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Strahov Monastery
  • Strahov Monastic Brewery
  • Czernin Palace
  • Loreta
  • Schwarzenberg Palace
  • Archbishop Palace
  • Prague Castle
  • St. Vitus Cathedral
  • Old Royal Palace
  • St. George's Basilica at Prague Castle
  • Golden Lane
  • Lobkowicz Palace
  • Villa Richter Restaurant
  • Belvedere or Royal Summer Palace
Strahov Monastery

1) Strahov Monastery

Strahov Monastery is a Premonstratensian abbey founded in 1143 by Jindřich Zdík, Bishop John of Prague, and Vladislaus II, Duke of Bohemia. It is located in Strahov, Prague.

In the complex there is the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the rare Strahov Library with a number of medieval manuscripts, maps and globes, the Baroque Theological Hall, the Classical Philosophy Hall decorated with frescoes, and the Strahov Gallery, one of the most significant Central European collections of Gothic painting, Rudolfian art, and Baroque and Rococo paintings.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Strahov Monastic Brewery

2) Strahov Monastic Brewery

Not far from Prague Castle, the Strahov Monastery complex houses a brewery of unique atmosphere, which offers its own beer on site, with distinctive ambiance and excellent Czech cuisine. Its history is documented all the way back to around 1400 AD.

The present format of the Strahov Monastic Brewery includes three “locals” – a beerhall with its own copper brew-kettles and the two storey St. Norbert restaurant. During the summer months the brewery courtyard garden is open to visitors.

The history of the Royal canonicate brewery of the Premonstrates in Strahov is intertwined with the history of the monastery itself, founded in 1140. The first written record dates from the year 1400, when the brewery was rented out for ‘four times threescore groschen, a pound of pepper and one fattened hare per year’. In 1907 the brewery was closed, however, and in 1919 even converted into apartments. In the 1959 to 1963 period, the vaulting in the western part of the building was torn down and part-converted into a large hall, complete with a raised stage.

Czernin Palace

3) Czernin Palace

If you are making a photo album of Prague’s historic buildings, you must include Czernin Palace which stands on Loreta Square.

Built in 1668 the palace is 150 metres long and is the largest Baroque building in Prague. All along the eastern façade are 30 semi-columns which make the palace instantly recognizable. The building was damaged twice, once by the French army in 1742 and then by the Prussians in 1747. In 1851 the military government bought the palace, a part of it was transformed into barracks and the terrace became a training area. Between 1923 and 1939 it belonged to the Ministry of Foreign affairs, and then again at the end the second World War.

In 1948, Jan Masaryk, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president, fell to his death from one of the upper storey windows. It has never been proved whether he was pushed or whether he committed suicide, but those who believe the former, refer to his death as the 3rd Defenestration of Prague.

4) Loreta

Loreta is a large pilgrimage destination in Hradcany, a district of Prague. It consists of a cloister, the church of the Lord’s Birth, a Holy Hut and the clock tower with a famous chime. The construction had started in 1626 and the Holy Hut was blessed on March 25, 1631. The architect was the Italian Giovanni Orsi; the project was financed by a noblewoman of the Lobkowitz family.

The chapel is most known for its peal, heard since August 15, 1695. It was constructed during 1694 by watchmaker Peter Neumann from thirty smaller and larger bells. Today the building also hosts large collection of liturgical tools, mainly monstrances. Exhibitions are occasionally held on the first floor of the cloister. Neighbouring square is named after Loreta.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Schwarzenberg Palace

5) Schwarzenberg Palace

Schwarzenberg Palace is perhaps one of the most impressive buildings in Prague. The façade of this 16th century Renaissance palace looks as though it is of pyramidal relief, but this is a clever 3D effect painted onto the stonework, which is actually flat.

Inside, many of the ceilings are covered in paintings on canvas. These frescoes, depicting scenes such as the Judgment of Paris and the Conquest of Troy, have been carefully restored during the five-year renovation of the palace which was finished in 2008, during which time the building was closed to the public.

Now a department of the National Gallery of Prague, you can visit the wonderful permanent exhibition of sculptures and paintings of Renaissance and Bohemian art on three floors of the palace. The exhibition rooms are light and airy and the beautifully painted ceilings are sometimes more impressive than the exhibits themselves.

There is a museum of curiosities in true Baroque style and in one of the basement areas is a tactile exhibition called 'Touches of Baroque' for the blind. Another part of the basement is given over to an archaeological exhibition. Recently an exhibition of the Imperial Armoury has been installed in one of the attics of the palace.

Why You Should Visit:
Tastefully renovated and eye-catching Renaissance building with a fine collection of paintings, sculptures, and exhibitions for everyone.

Don't miss the amazing ceilings that boast canvases stretched onto wooden frames.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Archbishop Palace

6) Archbishop Palace

Situated at Castle Square near Prague Castle, the beautiful Archbishop Palace is the residence of the Archbishop of Prague. It was built on the site of a Renaissance building and has been rebuilt several times in the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo styles. There are vestiges of 16th century Renaissance sgraffitoes in the courtyard.

The interior is an amazing mix of wood-carvings and Rococo stuccowork, the Throne Hall is decorated with French 18th century tapestries and on the walls of the Eating Hall are portraits of Prague’s Archbishops. The furniture is contemporary and the rooms are filled with priceless glass and porcelain vases and statuettes.

The only part of the palace that is open to the public is the Chapel of St John the Baptist which was built in 1599. You can only visit it on the day before Good Friday, and if you are lucky enough to be in Prague at that time, you really shouldn’t miss a trip to the chapel.

Here you will notice a magnificent painting of the Crucifixion behind the chapel alter. This painting was executed under rather gruesome circumstances. It was commissioned by the Archbishop of that time and the work was carried out by a young Italian artist. The artist hired a beggar as a model and tied him to a cross, but because the poor man didn’t seem to be suffering enough, the artist stabbed him through the heart and painted his agony-filled face. After delivering the painting, the artist, full of remorse, committed suicide.
Prague Castle

7) Prague Castle (must see)

Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) is where the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, as well as presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept here. Prague Castle is one of the biggest in the world (according to Guinness Book of Records the biggest ancient castle) at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.

The castle buildings represent virtually every architectural style of the last millennium. The Prague Castle includes Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, Romanesque Basilica of St. George, a monastery and several palaces, gardens and defense towers. Most of the castle areas are open to tourists. Nowadays, the castle houses several museums, including the National Gallery collection of Bohemian baroque and mannerism art, an exhibition dedicated to Czech history, a Toy Museum and the picture gallery of Prague Castle, based on the collection of Rudolph II.

Why You Should Visit:
Prague's highlight; a remarkable blend of history with different architectural styling from the inhabitants of the castle and its walls over the years.

There are multiple ticket booths, so if the main line is too long, walk into the courtyard to check the other line as well.
Plan for a minimum of 3-5 hours to explore the whole Castle complex. Gardens are free and you're welcome to enjoy them as much time as you like.

Opening Hours:
(April-October) Prague Castle complex: 6am-10pm; Historical buildings: 9am-5pm
(November-March) Prague Castle complex: 6am-10pm; Historical buildings: 9am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Vitus Cathedral

8) St. Vitus Cathedral (must see)

Situated in Prague Castle, St Vitus Cathedral is the most visited of all Prague’s sacred monuments. It is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Prague.

The cathedral is built on the place where Wenceslas I founded a Romanesque rotunda in 925 dedicated to St Vitus. At the beginning of the 11th century a Romanesque basilica replaced the rotunda, and in 1344 Charles IV commissioned the building of the cathedral you can see today. He intended it to be the final resting place of St Wenceslas and a coronation church.

The cathedral had many different architects. The first, Mattias of Arras, drew up the plans based on French Gothic style but he died shortly after work was started. Peter Parler took over and was succeeded by his sons. Between them, Mattias of Arras and Peter Parler built the chancel with its ring of chapels, the Golden Portal and the lower part of the steeple.

The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1929. In the crypt below the royal mausoleum in front of the high alter lie Bohemian Kings and Holy Roman Emperors. Coronations were held in the partly finished church until 1836 and the Crown Jewels are kept in the Crown Chamber just off St Wenceslas chapel. This lovely chapel is decorated in frescoes and semi-precious stones. The stained glass windows and the rose window are particularly beautiful. You can climb to the tower and see the bell which is the biggest in Europe.

Why You Should Visit:
Largest of Prague's churches overlooking the entire city.
The incredible stained glass windows alone are worth the visit.

Choose a tour guide if you want to get in easier, without waiting in long lines.

Opening Hours:
April–October: 9am-5pm; November–March: 9am-4pm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Old Royal Palace

9) Old Royal Palace

The most visited part of Prague Castle is the Old Royal Palace, once the home of kings and where the 30 Years War started in 1618 when two Imperial Catholic Governors were thrown out of the window of one of the Bohemian Chancellery Rooms by Protestant nobles. The rather funny thing about this piece of Czech history is that the two unfortunates had their lives saved because they fell onto the Royal Stable muck-heap below the window!

The most notable part of the palace is the 60m long Vladislav Hall which has marvelous stellar-ribbed vaulted ceilings. The Hall was used for all sorts of events, including indoor tournaments; the knights on horseback reached the hall by the Rider's staircase which was specially adapted with long, shallow stairs for the horses to climb. Nowadays the hall is used for the investiture of President of the Czech Republic and other important state events.

In the palace's All Saints Chapel, paintings are dedicated to the legend of St Procopius. The chapel is open to the public on Saturday at 4pm and for concerts. In the Charles Hall and the Wenceslas IV Hall you can admire the 'Story of Prague Castle' exhibition, which relates the history of the castle, important characters and events from the castle's creation to the present day. In the Theresian Wing, a Creative Art exhibition is well worth a visit, while the New State Boards Chancellery holds an impressive collection of Coats of Arms.

Why You Should Visit:
A palace that is imbibed with Czech History and is a nice way to spend a cultural afternoon.

Remember to look up, because that's where some of the best things to see are!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
St. George's Basilica at Prague Castle

10) St. George's Basilica at Prague Castle

St. George's Basilica is the oldest surviving church building within Prague Castle. The basilica was founded by Vratislaus I of Bohemia in 920. It is dedicated to Saint George.

The basilica was substantially enlarged in 973 with the addition of the Benedictine St. George's Abbey. It was rebuilt following a major fire in 1142. The Baroque façade dates from the late 17th century. A Gothic style chapel dedicated to Ludmila of Bohemia holds the tomb of the saint. The shrines of Vratislav and Boleslaus II of Bohemia are also in the basilica. The abbess of this community had the right to crown the Bohemian queens consort.

The building now houses the 19th century Bohemian Art Collection of National Gallery in Prague. It also serves as a concert hall.
Golden Lane

11) Golden Lane (must see)

One of the most fascinating areas of Prague Castle is undoubtedly Golden Lane, where you will find a collection of tiny houses, all brightly painted.

There were once 24, built up against the castle’s northern fortification in the 16th century. At first, they housed Rudolf II’s marksmen and legend has it that he ordered them not to build houses that exceeded the wall’s arches, which would explain why they are so small. In all likelihood, the real reason was due to a lack of space. The houses were rather poorly made out of stone, mud, and wood and had to be restored regularly.

When the marksmen were moved to new lodgings, the tiny houses were given to various palace workers, including goldsmiths, which is where the name Golden Lane came from. Another story tells that alchemists lived there, but in reality, they lived in another part of the castle complex. Later the tiny houses were occupied by the poor and Kafka’s sister lived at N°22. He stayed there with her for a short time and a memorial plaque has been fixed to the wall.

Today there are only eleven houses left; they have been restored, repainted and are now used to exhibit medieval armor, weapons and textiles, or have become souvenir shops and snack bars.

Why You Should Visit:
No golden pavement, unfortunately, but plenty of cobblestones, colorful facades, a few small windows, and interesting histories.

Buying a ticket will grant access to other parts of the complex, including the Prague Castle.
If you'd rather not pay the ticket, you may still walk through the street after 5pm, although most houses and shops are closed by that time.

Opening Hours (paid entrance):
April–October: 9am-5pm; November–March: 9am-4pm.
Lobkowicz Palace

12) Lobkowicz Palace (must see)

Lobkovic Palace is the only privately owned building in the great Prague Castle multiplex. Built in the 16th century, it belongs to the Lobkowicz family and was restored to them after the fall of the communist regime. It is one of the most beautiful palaces in Prague and is certainly worth a visit.

The palace is now a museum, reception rooms and concert hall where classical music is played every lunch time. The museum relates the Czech history through the Lobkowicz family; the exhibits come from the family collection of guns and musical instruments. You can also see several original music scores and manuscripts written by Beethoven and Mozart among other famous compositors and you can admire the Old Masters, painted by Breughel the Elder, Velazquez and Canaletto.

The reception rooms, concert Hall, Balcony and Marble hall are beautifully decorated with frescos of Greek mythology on the stuccowork ceilings. The Imperial Hall is magnificent with its trompe-l’oeil paintings of Roman statues. The palace’s 17th-century chapel is dedicated to St Wenceslas and the walls are decorated with medallions depicting the legend of the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

When you have finished your visit and have bought your souvenirs at the museum shop, you can relax and have a wonderful meal in the palace café-restaurant which is geared to all palettes and where the burgers are the best in Prague. From here you have a wonderful view of the city.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent value, especially for music lovers.

Private audio guide available, giving insight into the collection of ancient portraits, paintings, musical instruments, and weaponry.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Villa Richter Restaurant

13) Villa Richter Restaurant

Piano Nobile is a charming place to dine and enjoy beautiful panorama of Old Town. French cuisine and wines are elite. Try chef dishes that contribute to the fairy tale ambiance of the restaurant. It is a truly romantic place.
Belvedere or Royal Summer Palace

14) Belvedere or Royal Summer Palace

Prague Castle is the biggest castle complex in the world and it contains many buildings. When visiting the castle, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to take in the Royal Summer Palace or Belvedere. This construction was commissioned by Ferdinand 1 for his wife Queen Anne and is a fine sample of Italian Renaissance based on the project by the Italian architect Paolo Della Stella.

Located at the far end of the Royal Gardens to the north of Prague Castle, the Belvedere is an elegant building; its copper roof resembles an upturned ship’s keel, the arches between the thirty six columns of the ornate arcade have 114 reliefs depicting scenes from royal hunts, battles and Greek and Roman mythology. One relief shows Ferdinand 1 presenting a flower to his wife.

The first floor of the palace was once an observatory, the building’s remote location made it ideal for observing the night sky. It has a splendid fresco of famous events in Czech history. The ground floor was once made up of drawing rooms and ballrooms, but nowadays these rooms are used for modern and creative art exhibitions.

The geometrical gardens in front of the palace are graced by the famous Singing Fountain. This fountain is made of bronze and metal and is decorated with scenes of royal hunts. It is the sound of the water spilling into the bronze basin that creates a “song”. You need to use a little imagination and also to crouch down beside the fountain basin to hear the song.

Walking Tours in Prague, Czech Republic

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Old Town (Czech: Staré Město) is a medieval settlement of Prague, once separated from the outside by a semi-circular moat and wall, connected to the Vltava at both of its ends. The moat is now covered up by the streets, which remain the official boundary of the cadastral district of Old Town. Notable places in the Old Town include the Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Kinsky Palace and many...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
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Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
New Town Walking Tour

New Town Walking Tour

Nové Město (“New Town” in Czech) is a district in Prague, the youngest (est. 1348) and the largest (three times the size of the Old Town) of the five originally independent townships that form today's historic center of the Czech capital. The area bears great historic significance and is traditionally dense with tourists. Among the attractions found here are the Dancing House (named so...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Lesser Town Walking Tour

Lesser Town Walking Tour

Malá Strana ("Lesser Town") is a district in Prague, one of the most historically significant in the city. Back in the Middle Ages, it was predominantly populated by ethnic Germans and, in later years, largely retained Germanic influence, despite prevalence of the Baroque style in architecture. The most prominent landmark of Malá Strana is the Wallenstein Palace. There are also a...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles

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