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Europe > Central Europe > Czech Republic > Central Bohemia > Prague > Prague/Castle and Lesser Town

Castle and Lesser Town

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The Royal Garden in autumn
Lesser Town from the Castle

Both in district Prague 1, Castle district of Prague (Czech: Hradčany.) is the highest part of the city while the Lesser Town of Prague (Czech: Malá Strana) is the lower area on the left bank.

Understand

Prague Castle is symbol of Czech state. It became seat of Bohemian dukes since 9th century. Since then, the Prague Castle is continually seat of ruler of the Czech lands. From kongs of Bohemia to Czechoslovak and Czech presidents. According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Castle complex is a unique mixture of different architecural styles. From romanesque St. George's Basilica, gothic St. Vitus cathedral, renaissance Belvedere with gardens to adjustments by well-known architects form 20th century. Under the Castle is Lesser Town. Founded in 13th century, this part of Prague was inhabited mostly by Germans. Lesser Town was destroyed during the Hussite Rebellion, therefore Baroque architecture predominants there.

Get in

Public transport is the preferred way. To reach the Prague Castle, use station of line A "Malostranská" or "Hradčanská". The best way how to get to Lesser Town is station of line A "Malostranská", station of trams 12, 20 and 22 "Malostranské náměstí". Probably the best option is a walk from Old Town via the Charles bridge.

The nearest car park (paid and guarded) is in the U Prašného mostu street.

See

The main attraction of Hradčany (Castle Quarter or Castle District) is the Prague Castle itself. However the Castle Quarter is much larger and is filled with many other attractions, palaces, churches and monasteries. Some of the palaces host excellent galleries, others are used as government or church buildings.

Some of the areas require you to buy a ticket for entrance. You can buy one of two combined tickets as well. The short tour allows entrance to the Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica, Golden Lane and Daliborka Tower for 250 Kč. The long tour allows entry to all the same places as the short tour, as well as "The Story of Prague Castle" exhibition, the National Gallery display in the Convent of St. George, and the Prague Castle Picture Gallery all for 350 Kč. The entry to the St. Vithus Cathedral is free (but crowds are regulated) when the owned by the state, but money is charged when owned by the Catholic church. The legal battle over the ownership of the cathedral still continues.

Prague Castle in the night-time
The enormous interior of St. Vitus Cathedral
  • 1 Prague Castle (Pražský Hrad). the former seat of the King and is now the seat of the Czech president. This is Prague's number one tourist attraction so expect huge crowds and possibly long lines, especially during high tourist season. Your best bet is to come early, as soon as the castle opens.
Similar to other Royal Palaces, there is an hourly changing of the guard ceremony. At noon, the ceremony includes fanfare at a flag ceremony as well in the first courtyard.
    • 2 St. Vitus Cathedral (Katedrala svateho Vita). In the center of the castle and the most important cathedral in all of the Czech republic. The oldest parts of the cathedral are from the 14th century, but the cathedral was not completed in the Medieval period. The highest tower was completed in Renaissance and Baroque styles much later, as is clearly obvious. The Western portal and both Western towers are even younger, completed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the original Medieval plans were used for them and their relatively small age is not obvious. St. Vitus Cathedral was the place of royal coronations and also the location of the remains of several famous Czech Kings (notably Charles IV, of Charles Bridge fame). Go around the cathedral so you not only see the Western portal with the rose window and beautiful gargoyles, but also the original medieval Golden Portal in the south and the stunning Flying Buttresses in the east. Things not to miss inside the cathedral include the stained glass Rose Window in the west portal, the stained glass window by Alfons Mucha, the tomb of St. John of Nepomuk made of pure silver, the Royal Crypt underneath the cathedral (with the graves of Charles IV, his four wives, Wenceslas IV, Ladislas the Posthumous, George of Podebrady, Rudolf II, and Marie Amalie of Austria, the daughter of Maria Theresa of Austria) and the stunning St. Wenceslas Chapel with the relics of the saint and walls decorated with gold and more than 1300 gems. The Czech Coronation Jewels are kept behind the door with the seven locks (seven important people including the Czech President and the Czech Prime Minister keep the keys) in the St. Wenceslas Chapel. If you're willing to hike the 287 stairs to the top of the Bell Tower (the one with Baroque roof) you'll be rewarded with excellent views of the castle and the surrounding area. The Bell Tower holds Zikmund, the biggest bell in the Czech Republic.
    • 3 Old Royal Palace (Starý královský palác). The original seat of Czech rulers. Visitors first enter the Vladislav hall, the largest high-Gothic vaulted space in Central Europe. Other rooms include the Palace chapel and throne room. At the end of the exhibit is "The Story of Prague Castle" exhibit, which features artificats from the castle's past.
    • 4 St. George's Basilica. The 2nd oldest church in the castle and features a colorful Baroque facade. The interior is visibly older and is the burial place of the Premyslid family and the first Czech saint, Princess Ludmila.
    • St. George's Convent - National Gallery. One of several branches of the National Gallery is located inside this, the first convent in Bohemia. Today it houses the collection of Czech Mannerist and Baroque art.
    • 5 The Golden Lane (Zlatá ulička). During the reign of Rudolf II, goldsmiths lived in a lively alleyway filled with tiny workshops, which were also their residence, hence it’s name. Tiny, cobblestoned walkway filled with brightly-painted little houses, where modern man has a hard time standing with the low ceiling. (It's tough to realize just how tiny our pre-20th-century ancestors were until you go somewhere like this). Franz Kafka occupied one of the houses for a short time, and this is why most people visit the Golden Lane. There really isn't another good reason unless you want to buy some overpriced souvenirs in the small shops now occupying the houses, or need to cut through the crowds to see the Daliborka.
    • The Daliborka. Built by Prince Vladislav in 1496, the tower at the far end of the castle is part of a new fortified wall. Its first prisoner was a recalcitrant knight named Dalibor who, according to legend, played his violin very sadly at the wall serenading the castle residents. Though, the thickness of the walls makes that legend a little unlikely. No one would have been able to hear him outside! Today the tower holds a small display of prison and torture techniques used during that time.
    • Prague Castle Picture Gallery. Housed in the original castle stables. It contains Renaissance and Baroque art, including parts of the original collection of Rudolph II.
    • The Royal Garden. To the east/north-east of the palace is a large park. Aside from its own beauty, it has an excellent view of the east bank of the river. Entrance is free.
    • The State Rooms at Prague Castle. Open to the public two days of the year, as they are mostly used exclusively by the President. Contact the Castle Information office for more details.
  • 6 Charles Bridge (Karlův Most). connects the Old Town with Lesser Town. Commissioned by Czech king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and constructed between 1357 and 1402, it is one of the most interesting historical stone bridges in Europe. It is 516 meters long with 16 arches. Baroque statues (a total of 30) began to be placed here in the 17th century. The best time to visit the bridge is in the quiet morning or in the evening at sunset, when one can enjoy a view of the fully lit Prague Castle.
  • 7 Child Jesus of Prague, Karmelitská 385/9 (Church of Our Lady Victorious of Discalced Carmelite Order). This image of Christ, known also as the Holy Infant of Prague, is among the most widespread religious images in the world. The statue was brought from Spain in the 16th century and given to the Carmelites in 1628. It is 47 cm high and represents Jesus as a Child and King. The statue is carved out of wood and the surface is modeled in coloured wax. The entrance to the church is free of charge.
  • 8 Petrin Hill. Due to a housing crunch, most young Czechs don't move out of their parents' house until they marry (sometimes long after!). This lack of privacy leads to some very public displays of affection - what you see on the metro or trams won't compare to what you’re likely to encounter on Petrin Hill. This hillside slopes down from the Castle and Strahov Monastery to Mala Strana and Malostranske namesti metro station. It affords an amazing view of the city on a clear day, and in springtime the trees are all in bloom. This is possibly the nicest place to kick back with a bottle of wine and your significant other to watch the sun set over the city. Just be careful not to trip over the modesty-lacking couples who will probably already be there. In a city filled with apartment buildings and only a handful of single family houses (almost all in the diplomats' favored housing area, Dejvice, and priced far above the average Czech family's wage) parks take on a greater importance. Petrin has a miniature Eiffel Tower that offers a nice view over Prague and its suburbs. The most famous "inhabitant" of the park is a statue of poet Karel Hynek Macha, at whose feet lovers leave wreaths every spring in honour of his romantic poem Maj.
  • 9 Petřínská rozhledna. A smaller version of the Eiffel Tower on the top of Petrin Hill overlooking Prague. Climbing the tower costs 105 CZK for a standard ticket or 55 CZK for discounts. Paid lift available.
  • 12 The Pedagogical Comenius Museum, Valdštejnská 20, Praha 1. A museum documenting the writings of the Czech Renaissance erudite.
  • 13 Lobkowicz Palace, Jiřská 3. 10:00-18:00. Art museum near Prague Castle. Houses the original manuscript for Beethoven's famous 5th symphony, and many other interesting artifacts. 275 crowns.
  • Museum Kampa. A museum of modern Central European art.

Do

  • Watch the Castle Guard changing ceremony at a full hour, best at noon.
  • Listen to the Loreta bells at a full hour.
  • Visit the excellent art galleries both inside the Castle and in the surrounding palaces.
  • Climb the highest tower of the St. Vitus Cathedral and enjoy Prague from the excellent perspective.
  • Go up the Petrin Observation Tower for a worthwhile view over the city for 60 Kč (reductions 40 Kč).
  • Watch the night sky with a big telescope from the Stefanik Observatory (40 Kč).
  • Children of all ages like the distorting mirrors in the Mirror Maze on Petřín Hill.

Buy

Number of little gift shop with Prague-themed items on Nerudova street. More affordable prices than in Old Town, less crowded and especially offers more original and peculiar items.

Eat

  • 1 Lvi Dvur Restaurant, U Prasneho Mostu 6, Hradcany. Set in the back of Prague castle, the Lvi Dvur offers a truly unique dining experience. Traditional Czech cuisine is served in a room full of original period furnishings. Be sure to try the roast pig, the speciality of the house.
  • 2 U Zavesenyho Kafe, Uvoz 6 (near Hradčany square). one of the very few restaurants in the tourist area of Prague with a quirky atmosphere that isn't excessively touristy. Offering food at reasonable prices and serving good, modest food. A great place to have lunch while exploring Hradčany and Petrin Park, it's conveniently located in the middle between these two tourist attractions.
  • 3 Restaurant U Zlatých nůžek (At the Golder Scissors), Na Kampě 6/494, +420 257 530 473. Open every day 11AM-11PM. offers a wide selection of Czech and international cuisine including first-class Moravian wines. Enjoy the unique atmosphere of calmness in the centre of Prague with its beautiful view of the Charles Bridge and enjoy the garden in front of the hotel during the summer season (May-October). The restaurant is suitable for family gatherings, company events and wedding celebrations.
  • 4 El Centro, Maltézské Náměstí 9, +420 257 533 343, . Open every day 12PM-12AM (Last orders at 11PM).. An excellent little restaurant located near the Charles Bridge, but tucked behind a couple of other buildings. It's a typical Spanish restaurant, has a very friendly atmosphere, good prices and isn't crowded. Also, it doesn't have any hidden charges such as service taxes which are common in Prague. English menus and takeout available. Mains 90Kč-350Kč..
  • 5 Malostranska Pivnice, Cihelná 3 (Near the Charles Bridge). Traditional Czech cuisine. Sometimes you get a hand written bill with a service charge. Do not pay it. Tip only as much as you like.
  • 6 Bar Bar, Vsehrdova 17. Arty place with reasonable prices and tasty crepes. With a young and hip clientèle that has USA on its mind, Bar Bar serves tasty burgers, jumbo salads and American beers. The owner is Prince Antonin Kinsky, the scion of the ancient Czech dynasty, who can be found behind the bar.
  • 7 Baráčnická Rychta, Tržiště 23/555, +420 257 532 461. A classic pub near the sloppy streets leading to the Prague Castle. They serve an excellent Svijany beer and their Moravian Sparow, potatoe dumplings, spinach is famous throughout the city.
  • 8 Peklo, Strahovské nádvoří 1/132 Praha 1 - Hradčany 11800, +420 220516652. 1200-2300. Restaurant set in the vaulted wine cellars of the monastery. Peklo means Hell.
  • 9 Kampa Park, Na Kampě 8b, +420 257 532 685. High quality (and price) restaurant with excellent view of the Charles bridge and river.
  • 10 Červená Sedma (Just too the south of Charles bridge), +420 257 530 469. Traditional food serving tourists, tables outside in pedestrian area.
  • 11 Střelecký ostrov, Střelecký Island 336 (on the island that the Legii bridge spans). Terrace provide a nice place to sit and drink and admire the view over the river.
  • 12 LoVeg, Nerudova 36 (Short walk down the hill from the backside of the castle). 11:30 am - 10:00 p.m.. Vegan restaurant serving both local Czech dishes and international cuisine. 150Kč-350Kč.

Drink

  • 3 Dobrá trafika, Újezd 37, +420 732 852 364. Cosy cafe near Kampa with nice atmosphere, small garden and variety of small snacks and hot drinks. The cafe is located behind a newsstand (in Czech - trafika).
  • 4 Cafe Club Ujezd, Ujezd 18, +420 251 510 873. Kind of an odd bar in Mala Strana. Interesting art on the walls and ceilings. Even more interesting clientele. Cheap beer and a great place for groups.

Sleep

New Provost Residence
  • 1 EA Hotel Jeleni dvur, Jeleni 197, +420 233 028 333, . Check-in: 2:00PM, check-out: 12:00PM. All 30 rooms are equipped with TV/SAT, high speed Internet connection, direct dial telephone and safe deposit box. Public PC desk with Internet access and printer is available at the reception. Some rooms offer a wonderful view of the historical parts of Prague. There is a parking lot in front of the hotel for those coming by car.
  • 2 Golden Well Hotel, U Zlate studne 166/4, +420 257 01 12 13. Boutique hotel with one of the most beautiful views in Prague and restaurant terrace leading directly to Prague Castle.
  • 3 Hotel Questenberk, Úvoz 15/155, +420 220 407 600. Romantic, baroque-style, 17th century hotel. Each of the Single, Double, Deluxe Double rooms as well as the three Royal apartments are originally furnished and equipped with TV, WiFi, phone, safe, and minibar.
  • 4 Arpacay Hostel, Nerudova 40, +420 251 552 297, . Facilities include a kitchen, laundry and personal lockers. There's also a roof top terrace overlooking the city. Free breakfast, linens and internet access. There's no curfew.
  • 6 The Charles Hotel, Křemencova 13, +420 211 151 300, . Josefska 1; Romantic 4 star hotel near to the Charles Bridge. Some rooms have antique wooden painted ceilings. Rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with safe, satellite tv, phone and minibar. Each room has private bathroom and free WiFi.
  • 7 Hotel Sax, Jánský vršek 328/3. 4 star vintage design hotel. Hotel Sax is the ideal place for tourists as well as business travelers. Every room or suite has an original appearance: design of the 1970s, furniture of the 1950s or 1960s.
  • Nerudova Apartment House, Nerudova 40, +420 224 990 900, . All apartments are fully furnished in standard way. A spacious living room includes a fully equipped kitchenette and a dinette. Maid service twice per week. Prices vary according to the season and type of apartment, from 50€ for one bedroom apartment to 150€ for large three bedroom apartment.
  • 8 Pension Dietzenhofer, Nosticova 2 (tram 12, stop Malostranske Namesti), . The main house is a cute green building dating from 1572. Rooms and suites there start from 1500 kc for a single. The flat, which sleeps up to 4, is a great value for backpackers at 1800 kc/night. It has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and is located on Karmelitska, a main thoroughfare in Lesser Town.
This district travel guide to Castle and Lesser Town is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.