Saturday, October 27, 2012

Prague Castle

Prague Castle began as a fortified settlement in the 800s AD. It grew in leaps and starts throughout the subsequent years, including architecture from many different ages, until now it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest ancient castle in the world--570 meters long, averaging 128 meters wide and taking up 7.28 hectares. It has been both the home and the seat of power for Czech rulers up until the current president, who still has offices here but reside just outside of town.

We entered the castle by the Powder Bridge (built in 1540) which led straight to the Second Courtyard. As we walked up, the hour struck and some guards marched up. We waited and watched the ceremonial change of guards which takes place every hour on the hour. If we had been there at noon they would have had a small band and an exchange of banners as well as of the guards.

Changing of the guards

Old guards march off

Walking in to the Second Courtyard (we never did make it to the First Courtyard), we saw the Kohl Fountain from the Baroque period and the Chapel of the Holy Cross built in 1763.

Second courtyard with a fountain and a chapel!

Chapel of the Holy Cross with Peter and Paul on guard duty

After Jacob admired the fountain, we headed into the Third Courtyard, where St. Vitus Cathedral dominates (more on that in the next post). There's also another nice fountain with a statue from the 1300s of St. George on top. Behind St. George is an obilisk dedicated to the veterans and those who lost their lives in World War I. We also discovered a staircase to nowhere which the children enjoyed exploring. We parents would have enjoyed it more if they had installed handrails!

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. George and the war memorial

Let me in!

In need of somewhere to sit.

Random statue in a corner

We proceeded to St. George Square, named after the convent and basilica dedicated to St. George. The convent was the first in Bohemia, begun in 973. Later (i.e. 1782) it was turned into army barricks. Now it is part of the National Gallery and has Renaissance and Baroque art. The basilica also dates from the 10th century, though it was given a facelift in the 17th century. The late 1800s and early 1900s saw further embellishments.

St. George's Basilica

Side door into the basilica

Another part of the National Gallery is found at the corner of the Noblewomen's Dwelling, with a rather fancy entrance.

Another part of the National Gallery

Still further down the castle is the Toy Museum, which we did not go into. Luckily the children can't read Czech or they might have insisted on seeing what was inside.

Toy Museum seems popular, doesn't it?

At the other end of the castle we walked through the Black Tower. The views of Prague are quite impressive just outside the tower gate.


More Prague

We walked through the Rampart Garden along the walls of the castle and saw some more spectacular views and fountains.

The water is coming out of an animal's mouth, really!

Not quite a fountain, but still fascinating

The American Embassy!

St. Nicholas's Church

Behind us, we noticed the Bull Staircase, which leads back up to the Third Courtyard. We took this shortcut, not knowing if we'd have to walk a lot more to get back inside the castle. I think if we had we would have gone through the First Courtyard.

Bull Staircase with St. Vitus's peeking over

Back in the Third Courtyard

The children were getting hungry, so we made a beeline for the Powder Bridge. As we were walking out, we saw some newlyweds by the Riding Hall just over the bridge. They were being photographed in this wonderfully picturesque spot.

Running away from my camera!

The castle complex is quite huge and we barely scratched the surface of it. If we'd had more time we probably would have explored the many art and history galleries that it offers and maybe even the Toy Museum too.


  1. I'm learning so much about our vacation after the fact!

  2. Me too! Someday I'll do research before we go on vacation instead of after.