Visit Prague Castle Tips and How to Beat the Queue
Visit Prague Castle; the best-known landmark of the city! The castle is situated on a hill high above the Vltava River. The iconic spires of St Vitus Cathedral are a beacon and seen from everywhere in the city. This is the place were kings were crowned and buried. A visit to Prague Castle is a crash course in historical facts, legends and architectural styles. Prague Castle and its grounds form a town in itself and are perfectly suited for wandering about. Today, the president of the Czech Republic has his offices in the complex.
Visit Prague castle and you will notice that it is not a ‘classic’ castle. There is no moat, battlements, drawbridge or arrow slits. It was built in different periods and in different architectural styles and spreads out horizontally rather than vertically. The main attraction is St Vitus Cathedral, built in the fourteenth century.
Visit Prague Castle and How to Beat the Waiting Lines
Prague Castle waiting lines are notorious! But there are ways to avoid waiting in the queue for hours. Arrive early or late, and even better book a guided tour. Prague Castle is the city’s number one landmark, very popular and always crowded. Security measures mean you always have to wait in line to enter the grounds. The queue is exceedingly long in the summer and just long in the winter season. Buy your ticket online in advance because this means you will have to join the queue only for the security check and not at the ticket office. When you have not bought your ticket in advance, you will have to line up for a second time to buy your ticket.
Tip: Buy your tickets for Prague Castle, Pražský hrad, online and skip the waiting line at the ticket office! Or book the Prague Castle in Detail Tour including transport from the city centre.
Prague Castle First Courtyard
Visit Prague Castle and start your visit at the first courtyard. Two sentries stand guard next to Matthias Gate which is flanked by two gigantic statues of wrestling Titans. This is the main entrance. When inside the courtyard, look up at the sculptures on the parapets of the buildings which are palace buildings commissioned by Empress Maria Theresa, the only female Habsburg ruler. A narrow passageway connects the first and the second courtyard. Here a staircase leads up to the castle state rooms of the castle. The Czech president uses them as audience chambers. The staircase to the left leads up to the Spanish Hall.
Changing of the Guard
Presidential guards stand at all three main entrances to Prague Castle, and every hour you can watch the changing of the guard. The ceremony at the first courtyard is the most spectacular whereas at the side entrances it is low-key. The changing of the guard takes place every hour on the hour. At noon (first courtyard only) there is a longer and more impressive ceremony when a brass band is playing, a short parade and the banners are exchanged.
After the fall of communism in 1989, the then president, Vaclav Havel, decided that the khaki uniforms of the castle guards had to be replaced. He asked Theodor Pistek, the costume designer of the costumes in the film Amadeus. He came up with pale blue uniforms in the summer and dark blue uniforms in the winter. They remind of the army uniforms of the first Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938).
The changing of the guards at the main entrance gates takes place on the hour from 0.00 to 20.00 in the summer season and on the hour from 7.00 to 18.00 in the winter season.
Prague Castle Second Courtyard
The eye catcher in this courtyard is the fountain and the St Cross Chapel. Emperor Rudolf II, a great art lover, developed this courtyard. He used the stables in this courtyard to store his art collection. As he needed more space, he added a second floor and the Spanish Hall. Today the Spanish hall or Picture Gallery is home to a small part of his collection. Much of Rudolf’s art was lost when the Swedes pillaged the collection during the raids of the Castle in 1648. Today, the picture gallery on the ground floor displays works by Holbein, Bassano, Titian, Rubens and Tintoretto.
Prague Castle Third Courtyard
You enter the third courtyard through a passageway. This is the oldest part of the castle complex. The pavement dates back only to the 1920s but underneath it the remains of original medieval buildings including a 12th-century church and a graveyard have been preserved. Imposing St Vitus Cathedral dominates this courtyard. This is the largest church in Prague; here the Czech kings were crowned and laid to rest. Today, it is a place of worship, a museum and a treasury. Highlights in the cathedral are the crown jewels and the silver tomb of St John of Nepomuk.
Old Royal Palace
This palace was the seat of the Kings of Bohemia. Today, the Gothic Vladislav Hall with a magnificent rib vaulting is used for ceremonial state events. In the old days it was the banqueting hall and in bad weather it was used for jousting hence the sloping Riders’ Staircase. In the Ludvig wing the defenestration of two catholic councilors took place. They survived because the moat was full of dung ensuring them a soft landing. This event sparked the Thirty Years’ War in 1618.
The Story of Prague Castle Exhibition
The vaults beneath the old royal palace are home to the Story of Prague Castle, an interactive exhibition. Large scale models show the development of the castle grounds in the various stages of its evolution. St Wenceslas’ helmet and his chain mail as well as illustrated manuscripts are on display.
Prague Castle More Highlights
St George’s Basilica – the oldest church in Prague. Especially noteworthy are the chapels of John of Nepomuk and St Ludmilla, the first Czech martyr.
Chapel of the Holy Cross – exhibition space of precious object from St Vitus Cathedral including almost 149 reliquaries and historic liturgical objects.
Golden Lane – An alley of small houses which were built on to the castle walls. Marksmen used to live here and later artisans. The author Franz Kafka lived at no 22 for a short time. Today, you will find here many souvenir shops.
Prague Castle Waiting Line at the Ticket Office: Get fast-track Entry
Prague Castle waiting lines at the ticket office are long. The only way to avoid them is by purchasing your tickets online as this includes fast-track entry. If you are in Prague on a short trip, it is worth considering buying the Prague Castle in Detail tour. You board a bus in Narodni Street (close to Wenceslas Square) which takes you to Prague Castle. This saves you walking uphill! Your guide will show you the Royal Palace, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George Basilica and Golden Lane.
Prague Castle Waiting Lines at Security and How to Beat Them
Arrive early. Arrive as soon as the grounds open, (05.00 in summer and 06.00 in winter). Not many tourists arrive early and the line at the security check is short. There are three main entries to the castle complex:
1. Main front entry – longest line but many security officers
2. Power Bridge Entry (at the back of the complex) – long queues but also a large staff
3. Old Castle Steps (at the back of the complex) – queue is shorter but fewer staff
In peak times waiting times can be 30 minutes and often more.
There is a 4th ‘secret entry’ that not many people know, open only from April to September. Take tram 22 or 23, get off at Brusnice, one stop after Prague Castle (Prazsky Hrad) stop. Cross the road and walk straight on. You are now in U Brusnice Street. Halfway on your left is a concealed gate (security check but no queue) that gives access to the Deer Moat (Jeleni prikop). Follow the path and you will get to the side entrance of the castle complex.
Prague Castle and Opening Hours
Entry to Prague castle complex is free but you will have to go through security. A ticket is needed when you want to see the Royal Palace, St. George Basilica, Golden Lane, Convent of St George, National Gallery, Prague Castle Picture Gallery and Daliborka Tower. Entry to St Vitus Cathedral is free.
During the summer season (April – September) the castle complex is open daily from 05.00 to midnight. The ticket offices are open from 09.00 to 18.00.
Prague Castle Gardens and the Deer Moat are open in April and October from 10.00 to 18.00, in May and September from 09.00 to 19.00 in August from 09.00 to 20.00, and in June and July from 09.00 to 21.00.
In the winter season (October – March) the castle complex is open daily from 06.00 to 23.00. The ticket offices are open from 09.00 to 16.00. Prague Castle Gardens, including the Deer Moat and the Riding School Terrace are closed.
Visit Prague Castle photos: Marianne Crone