In Prague, the historical capital of Bohemia, the magnificent City Castle (Pražský hrad) stands high and mighty over the entire city. With an array of historical buildings housing basilicas, battlements, Baroque art and the Bohemian Crown Jewels among other things, it is the world’s largest ancient castle (570m long, 130m wide) covering an area of 70,000 m2.
Without doubt it is one of the most exquisite of European monuments. Not just for its remarkable position overlooking a beautiful city, but also because it presents such an exciting opportunity to look back through the ages. With a history stretching back over 1,100 years, it offers visitors a host of architectural styles including the vast and imposing Gothic St Vitus Cathedral, the Romanesque Basilica of St George and the 15th century street of Golden Lane. The collection of palaces, gardens, museums, picture galleries and imposing ramparts give visitors a sense of having stepped into fantasy world.
The view down across the Old City of Prague, although magnificent at any time of the day, is particularly exciting at twilight as the terracotta roofs glow in the dying sunlight. You can almost hear conversations taking place as people cross the Vltava River on the famous 14th Century Charles Bridge. The last time I visited the castle I was lucky enough to dine in the Lobkowitz Palace Reception Hall. Gazing from the high ramparts I saw a hot air balloon drift over the Old City as if steered by Phileas Fogg himself.
From the outside it is difficult to see where it starts and ends. The maze of different structures dominates the skyline of pretty much any photo taken from the Old City.
Passing over Powder Bridge and through the main gate, with its regular changing of the guard ceremony, you immediately appreciate that St Vitus Cathedral, the most prominent skyline dominant, plays only a bit part in the great castle complex. Wandering through, across and between the maze of courtyards, cobbled streets and open squares you soon realise that you need days, not hours, to truly appreciate the inner mini-town that makes up all that is Pražský hrad.
So big is the over structure that even on busy tourist days you can appreciate the individual charm of each palace, church, monastery, museum, gallery, rampart fortification and state apartment.
I hope that this selection of my photos, all taken during a summer’s evening, gives you an idea of how impressive the overall size of the castle is, as well as the diversity of extraordinary exhibits, buildings and hideaways. It is after all, the largest fortified castle in the world, with spectacular interiors matching the grandeur of its exterior.
I highly recommend a visit: many a returning Nomadic Thoughts client has enthusiastically endorsed my view that the Castle is the cultural highlight of any trip to Prague.