Prague Highlights - Prague Castle and a Vineyard

I originally thought I could get all my Prague highlights into one post, as whilst we were there it didn't seem like we did much other than just lots of walking, exploring, relaxing and taking in all that the city had to offer. Once I started writing my first post though I soon realised just one post of highlights wasn't going to be practical. With that in mind this post is all about another top tourist spot in Prague that we had to visit, the castle.

The castle is more like a small town than what I traditionally think of as a castle with a whole complex of buildings within its grounds, built in the 9th century by PÅ™emysl princes and growing further as subsequent rulers added to it and now the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. Prior to that though it has been a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are also kept at the castle in a hidden room. 

On my first visit to Prague we also naturally spent some time at the castle too, if you want to go in to the buildings you can buy entrance tickets but just to walk around the grounds is  completely free. On both my visits I've only done the grounds and whilst I'm sure the interiors would be amazing to see the grounds just by themselves are worth it too. I did think though from when I visited before that the Golden Lane, a cobbled street of colourful cottages and one time home of Franz Kafka who lived at his sister's house from 1916 to 1917, was also accessible for free. I might be wrong about this memory but I'm sure on my first visit we walked along the street but now there are ticket barriers and a ticket is required to enter. Despite that there is still plenty to see just within the grounds and this didn't spoil our day. 

Walking around the grounds without doubt one of the most imposing buildings is the St Vitus cathedral, the largest and most important church in the country. Perhaps not surprising given its location and importance it contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors. This cathedral is the third of a series of religious buildings on the site all dedicated to St Vitus. Construction of the current Gothic cathedral began in November 1344 but was not completed until 1929, due to a variety of reasons including other building projects in the city such as that of the Charles bridge, the beginning of the Hussite wars in the 15th century and a large fire in 1541 which damaged much of the cathedral. With its spires looming over the tourists below and being easy to spot from many other points around the city the current cathedral is a stunning sight and is certainly worth taking a break to admire from all angles before continuing on through the castle grounds.

Continuing on from the cathedral we soon came to the striking bright red Basilica of St George. On our visit there were a series of stalls, looking almost like a Christmas fair (you can just see the top of them in my photo below), in the courtyard in front of it selling various food and drink which made a nice stop off point for refreshments as we walked around. The basilica is actually the oldest surviving church building in the castle grounds founded by Vratislaus l of Bohemia in 920.

We continued on eventually exiting the castle grounds close to the Golden Lane which I mentioned above. The castle is perched high above the city so leaving it means descending down a series of steps or a steep hill. At this exit though there is an unexpected bonus, a vineyard with gorgeous views across the city. The medieval vineyard is actually now part of a restaurant and has been restored but it is allegedly the oldest vineyard in Bohemia and was reputedly once cultivated by the patron saint of the Czech nation, St Wenceslas. Whatever the truth the views across the city are lovely. During our visit I sampled a few Czech wines and they were all reasonably good. I don't recall seeing the vineyard from my first visit to Prague and the castle so it was great to see something that was new to me.

The castle is obviously another must see if you're visiting the city. It's a busy spot but with some patience it's still pleasant enough to walk around and not impossible to avoid the heaviest of the crowds. As I said I've only visited the grounds but I don't feel I've missed out, have you bought a ticket to go into the buildings? If so is it worth doing if I'm lucky enough to return to Prague for a third time?


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