Are you a first-time visitor to Prague? Then Prague Castle must be on your list of things to see and do. You can easily spend several hours touring the grounds, various buildings, museums, and gardens of this most important landmark. Doing so will help you understand more than 1,000 years of Czech history!
It can be confusing to understand what parts of Prague Castle can be viewed with one ticket, which parts require a separate ticket, and even which attractions are open to the public. Further complicating matters, Prague’s Castle Hill is divided into those attractions within the castle walls and those without.
This article breaks down what you can see at Prague Castle and what you should know before you go as well as which attractions require tickets.
- Attractions Within the Walls of Prague Castle
- Attractions Outside the Prague Castle Walls
- Seasonal Events at Prague Castle
- Tickets to Prague Castle
- Entrances to Prague Castle
- Tips for Visiting Prague Castle
Attractions Within the Walls of Prague Castle
Prague Castle, or Pražský hrad, isn’t just a castle. It’s a complex of palaces, churches, and other structures that sit atop Castle Hill, or Hradcany. Some main sights on Castle Hill are important to visit, but the less-known attractions also offer a revealing peek into the past.
The following are those that are within the castle complex proper.
St. Vitus Cathedral
One of the most visited sights of all of Prague is St. Vitus Cathedral, an enormous Gothic monument and place of worship. The work on this cathedral dates back to the mid-14th century, continuing under the auspices of generations of architects until completion in the early 20th century – six centuries after it was begun.
It was where Czech kings and queens underwent the coronation ceremony as well as where many important historical figures are buried.
St. Vitus Cathedral contains many important treasures. For example, the St. Wenceslas Chapel, which houses the relics of the saint, is decorated with semi-precious stones. This chapel, which cannot be viewed by visitors except from the entryway, leads to the Crown Chamber. It is here that the Czech crown jewels are held under lock and key.
Art objects within the cathedral’s interior are also of note. For example, the stained-glass windows by Alphonse Mucha, who is known as the Father of Art Nouveau, are beautiful to behold.
Great South Tower of the Cathedral
For amazing views of Old Town Prague, climb over 280 steps to the top of the Great South Tower of St. Vitus Cathedral.
When you’re up in the tower, you can also view the cathedral’s bells. The largest is so heavy that the strength of six people is required to ring it.
St. Vitus Cathedral can be visited on a combined ticket that will allow you to visit other main sights on the Castle Hill complex.
The Old Provosty
Next to St. Vitus Cathedral is an originally Romanesque, now Baroque, palace. Now the seat of the St. Vitus Chapter, it is not open to the public. However, note the statue of St. Wenceslas tucked into the corner that dates to the 17th century.
The Old Royal Palace
Prague Castle’s Old Royal Palace is where you can see a copy of the Czech crown jewels, which include the headpiece, scepter, and orb.
Vladislav Hall, which hosted royal festivities, is one of the architectural treasures of Prague Castle with its stone vaults. It’s still used for ceremonies of state. The Riders’ Staircase is another detail of note – it was built so that riders could enter the hall on horseback.
The Old Royal Palace is also be able to be visited on a combined ticket that includes St. Vitus Cathedral.
The Story of Prague Castle Exhibition
The Story of Prague Castle is a museum dedicated to telling the history of the castle and the Czech lands. It’s located in the Old Royal Palace. A ticket can be purchased separately to visit the exhibition.
All Saints Church
All Saints Church is a 12th century church that was renovated and was joined to Vladislav Hall. It contains the tomb of St. Procopius and is typically only open for religious services or other events.
St. George’s Basilica
St. George’s Basilica is a Romanesque church in the Prague Castle complex that dates back to the 10th century. It contains the tombs of members of the Přemyslid ruling family, who had authority over a significant swathe of Europe from the 10th to the 14th centuries.
Entry into the basilica, which is used as an exhibition space, is included on the combined ticket for the Old Royal Palace and St. Vitus Cathedral.
The Convent of St. George is attached to the basilica. No longer a working convent, it once housed artworks but now stands empty.
The New Provosty is also on St. George’s Square. This building, not open to the public, was originally of Renaissance style, but it was given an updated Neo-Gothic look in the late 19th century.
Golden Lane might look out of place on Hradcany. After all, these dwellings are not royal dwellings or grand places of worship. They’re 16th-century buildings that were intended for the castle guards. They were then taken over by goldsmiths in the 17th century, and it’s from this era that the lane gets its name. The houses have considerable documentation to indicate the sometimes colorful characters who lived there.
For example, one of the houses, number 22, was the residence of the Czech writer Franz Kafka in the early 20th century. In another, a fortune teller who predicted the fall of the Third Reich plied her trade.
Today, you’ll find Czech souvenir shops tucked into these charming houses, and purchasing a reminder of your visit is a fitting way to end a tour of Prague Castle.
Golden Lane is included on the combined ticket with the Old Royal Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, and St. George’s Basilica.
Accessible from Golden Lane (included in the combined ticket) is Daliborka Tower. Daliborka was a cannon tower from the 15th century, but it also served as a prison. It gets its name from the first resident of the prison, who collaborated with serfs in their rebellion.
Prisoners were lowered into the oubliette via pulley.
The New Royal Palace
The New Royal Palace is found within the Castle Walls, but it is only open to the public on rare occasions. It’s used for the office of the president and diplomatic or state occasions.
The Prague Castle Picture Gallery
The Prague Castle Picture Gallery is housed in the former imperial stables – a separate ticket is required for the exhibition.
The Supreme Burgrave’s House
On Jirska Street on Castle Hill is the Supreme Burgrave’s House. It’s now a museum of fine art, and one wing of the building houses the Toy Museum. This family collection includes dolls, mechanical toys, soft toys, and other types of toys children have played with across the generations. Separate ticket required.
Giants’ Gate, or the Wrestling Titans, is one entryway to Prague Castle, found at the west end of the complex. In addition to its sculptures, it is flanked by guards, who ceremoniously rotate every hour. You’ll pass through this gate, a Baroque structure, to enter the first courtyard from Castle Square (Hradčanské náměstí).
You can then move on through Matthias Gate to the second courtyard and the rest of the Prague Castle grounds.
Attractions Outside the Prague Castle Walls
While major sights on Castle Hill are found within the walls – and these include the attractions mentioned above – others are found outside the castle walls and are not included in the tickets for the castle proper.
Note that the gardens are free to enter but have seasonal hours of operation.
The Royal Garden
Thought the Royal Garden is currently an English-style garden, it originally followed a Renaissance plan, elements of which are still in existence.
Located in the Royal Garden:
- Queen Anne’s Summer Palace, a much-lauded example of Italian Renaissance architecture, which is now used for exhibitions – separate ticket required.
- The Ball Game Hall, which was used for games in the 16th century and later as a stable – it’s now a concert venue.
- The Orangery is a new building used to grow tropical plants and Mediterranean fruit.
- The Presidential Villa housed the second presidents of the country from 1938-1989. It is not open to the public.
- The Renaissance Singing Fountain is found in front of St. Anne’s Summer Palace – it makes a picturesque element to the gardens.
St. Wenceslas Vineyard
The St. Wenceslas Vineyard and the Villa Richter, which contains a restaurant, have been restored. Wines produced from the vineyard’s grapes are available at the restaurant.
The South Gardens
The South Gardens are actually a series of smaller gardens: the Garden on the Ramparts, the Hartig Garden, and the Paradise Garden.
This long piece of land gets its name from its location on the south side of Prague Castle. Along one side is the Rosenberg Palace, a former institute for noble ladies and later the location of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Part of it is now open to the public (separate ticket required).
The Lobkowicz Palace
The Lobkowicz Palace is a privately owned palace that is home to a collection of paintings, decorative art, and religious objects, and a library and archives. It’s also an events venue and contains a café. The museum shop that is great for browsing unique gifts such as crystal, stationery items, and home décor.
A separate ticket is required for entry to this palace and can be purchased on site.
Mihulka Powder Tower
The Mihulka Powder Tower was once an alchemists’ lab and then a storeroom for – you guessed it – gunpowder. The tower is now a museum of military history. It can be accessed from Vikarska Street via a passageway that leads to the outer walls of Prague Castle. The Powder Tower is temporarily closed to visitors. When it is open, a separate ticket is required.
Seasonal Events at Prague Castle
Prague Castle is the site of various seasonal events and festivals. These events may either encourage your visit during a particular time of year – or, alternatively, if you want to avoid crowds, help you plan around them.
Christmas at Prague Castle
One of the most popular winter activities for visitors to Prague is to celebrate Christmas in the Czech Republic. At Prague Castle, a Christmas tree is placed among the historic architecture and a Czech Christmas market is set up in front of St. George’s Basilica. (Be sure to also check out the market in Old Town Prague.)
Summer Shakespeare Festival
One of the locations of the Summer Shakespeare Festival is Prague Castle, which interprets works of Shakespeare in open-air spaces throughout the city and the country of Czechia.
Prague Castle is also the site of a craft beer festival, where microbreweries showcase their best options in the Royal Garden.
In July, the organ of St. Vitus Cathedral is allowed to shine with the St. Vitus Organ Festival, with the cathedral turning into a concert venue like no other.
In September, explore Czech wines during the St. Wenceslas Wine Festival at the St. Wenceslas Vineyard and Villa Richter.
Easter Mass and Market
If you’re in Prague during Easter, you may be interested in attending Easter Mass at St. Vitus Cathedral.
Furthermore, an Easter market at Prague Castle celebrates the secular side of this holiday.
Tickets to Prague Castle
Prague Castle tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket booth onsite in the castle’s second courtyard. However, be prepared for a wait if you don’t book in advance. Many people prefer to reserve their Prague Castle ticket ahead of time to skip the line.
The official Prague Castle site does not offer online ticketing. Purchase tickets online through a third-party vendor.
Of course, some people choose to book a guided tour. This option is a good one if you like the benefit of having someone knowledgeable show you around and answer questions to make sure you don’t miss anything particularly interesting.
An audio guide is also available for purchase.
Also note that, due to the age of the buildings, they may be subject to renovation and preservation projects at any time. Therefore, some sections of the castle may be closed to visitors temporarily while these projects are underway. Some spaces may also be closed due to the exhibition being changed.
The Prague Castle grounds themselves are free to enter. It is only entry to the buildings and museums that must be purchased with a Prague Castle ticket or separate tickets.
Entrances to Prague Castle
Prague Castle has several entrances or approach points, which facilitates quick access to the castle no matter where you’re coming from.
- Giants’ Gate – From here, you can enter the first courtyard and pass through Matthias Gate into the second courtyard.
- Second Courtyard – Enter the second courtyard directly from the north entrance of Prague Castle.
- The Fifth Courtyard – Entry through the western fifth courtyard of Prague Castle.
- Na Opyši Gate – This entrance to Prague Castle is on the east side of the complex in the Golden Lane area.
- Queen Anne’s Summer Palace – Facilitates entry to the castle grounds from the northeastern part of the complex but requires a 15-20 minute walk and is only available during the summer.
Tips for Visiting Prague Castle
- Allow yourself several hours to explore Prague Castle.
- Wear clothing that will be comfortable in the weather. While many attractions are indoors, you may have to wait in line outside at peak times.
- Consider purchasing a digital ticket online instead of wasting time at the ticket desk.
- Do some research before you go to consider whether, besides the main sights on the combined ticket, you want to visit other museums on that day or wait until another day.
- Remember that you’ll have to go through security before entering.
- Make sure your camera/phone has enough storage and battery power for all of the photos you will take!
- Check events calendars to see what’s on at Prague Castle during your intended time of visit – you may either want to attend or reschedule so you can avoid additional crowds of people.
- Plan for a food stop following your visit to Prague Castle. You’ll want to rest your feet and refuel, especially if you plan to do more sightseeing on the same day.