Hradcany is one of the four historic districts of Prague, each of its streets and each of its houses holds the centuries-old history of the city. It starts from the Western Gate of Hradcany and becomes famous for its monasteries and palaces.
Nowadays Hradcany is an expensive and prestigious neighborhood, but in the past it was used by the servants, grooms, and falconers who operated the castle. Everything changed dramatically after a large fire in 1541, which destroyed their poor buildings. This event rushed to take advantage of the court wealthy families to buy land closer to the residence of the king. Literally for 30-40 years the area has changed completely – were built pompous palaces, residences in the style of the Italian Renaissance.
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One of the main sites of Hradcany is considered to be the Prague Castle, which gave its name to the entire district. This beautiful building has long served as the residence of kings. Now some of the royal families are buried here. At the beginning of the 20th century Prague Castle became the headquarters of the president of the country.
To get to the castle, you have to go through the gate from the side of Hradcany Square. They are guarded by amazing figures of giants, which were created by Ignác František Platzer. Every day at midday sharp it is possible to watch the changing of the guard.
The second castle courtyard is separated by the beautiful Mateusz Gate. Here you can take a closer look at the Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Prague Castle Picture Gallery, and in the center of the courtyard there is a fountain. The Gallery exhibits wonderful works by famous European masters such as Titian, Brandl, Rubens, Veronese, and others. The jewel in the collection is an image of Madonna Ara Coeli, made in the XIV century.
From the second courtyard one can enter the third. In the center rises the Cathedral of St. Vitus. For several centuries it has served the faithful. Coronations, baptisms, funerals and weddings took place there. Inside, the temple delights with its splendor. The twenty-two large chapels are unique, each made with gold and precious stones. In the center rises a tomb, and in the corner is the entrance to a special chamber where the treasures of the rulers of Bohemia are kept. The keys to the vault are held by the head of state and the main state officials.
The historical beginning of Hradčany is present-day Hradčanské Square, located by the Prague Castle itself. It is here that you can see the most magnificent palaces of Prague and it is here, on the square at the grand entrance to Prague Castle, that the changing of the guard of honour takes place every day at noon, accompanied by music.
The palaces around Hradčanské Square are valuable architectural monuments. The Archbishop’s Palace from the beginning of the 16th century, decorated with columns and stucco, has perfectly preserved its rich Baroque interiors to this day. And the Martinica Palace preserves its unique facade paintings (sgraffito) depicting religious scenes in pristine condition. The magnificent Tuscan Palace, built in the Baroque style in 1691, is decorated with many valuable sculptures by Czech and Italian masters, including the statues of the Seven Free Arts that adorn the balustrade and the statue of Michael the Archangel.
The Sternberg Palace, built in the 18th century, today houses an exhibition of European art from the Czech National Gallery. And the Schwarzenberg Palace, an architectural monument from the 17th century, which has almost entirely preserved its original interior and exterior decoration, including unique sgraffito facade and interior paintings, today houses the Military History Museum.
On Hradčanské Square there is also the Marian column, otherwise known as the “Plague Pillar”. This monument was erected in 1726 in gratitude from the citizens for deliverance from the plague. On top of the column is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and on pedestals around the column are sculptures of patron saints, to whom the population and clergy prayed for deliverance from the disease.
At the end of the 16th century, Hradčany was granted self-government, which meant that it was necessary to build a town hall in which this self-government would be exercised. The Hradcany town hall was built in 1598 in Renaissance style and it functioned as the seat of the local authorities until the unification of Prague towns in 1784. When it was no longer necessary, it was rebuilt into a residential building, which it is today. The main historical value is still preserved in its original form on the facade of the Hradčanský town hall, where you can see the old pictures – sgraffito of the Imperial and Hradčanský coat of arms and the Allegory of Justice. The wooden gate of the Town Hall has a seemingly unremarkable metal strip on it, which is the precise measure of the old Bohemian length, the so-called “Bohemian elbow” of 59.4 cm.
Pražská Loreta is one of the most famous landmarks of Prague – it is a complex of religious buildings, including the Prague Loreta proper (Church of the Nativity), monastery, Loreta Treasury and the Holy Shrine of Our Lady of Loreta, which was built in 1626. The Prague Loreto Treasury contains a valuable collection of Czech art and antique religious objects made of precious metals and stones, the oldest of which is the silver gilded Gothic chalice from 1510, a bowl with images of the patron saints of Bohemia. No less valuable in the collection is the so-called “Prague Sun” or “Diamond” monstrance from 1698, a gilded monstrance encrusted with more than six thousand diamonds. The tower of the Loreto Monastery is adorned by an ancient mechanical chime with 27 bells, more than four hundred years old. The arrival of each new hour is greeted by a melodious chime – a hymn to the Virgin Mary.
Another interesting attraction of Loretońska Square is the Czernin Palace, built by order of the royal ambassador Jan Czernin in the early 18th century in the “baroque” style.
One of the oldest premonstratensian monasteries in the world is the Strahov Monastery, which gets its name from the word “guards”, because the area in Hradčany, where the monastery was built, had long been the location of the royal guards who guarded the roads to Prague Castle. The monastery was founded in 1140 and was built in a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The Baroque gate of the central entrance to the Strahov Monastery is crowned with a sculpture of St. Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian Order. And the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Strahov Church) is decorated with frescoes, each of which is a page from the life of St. Norbert. In the church there is an ancient organ. It is said that Mozart himself played it.
Of other temples of interest is the Church of the Nativity (1730s). The interior of the monastery is amazing with frescos and a magnificent organ. Music bells installed in the bell tower at the end of the XVII century still delight your ears with their melodious ringing. On the territory it is also worth seeing the ancient well, baroque fountains and the gallery surrounding the courtyard, the second floor of which houses the monastery’s treasury. The famous monstrance (1699), also called the Prague Sun, is on display here. This jewelry marvel is made of gold and silver, decorated with 6222 diamonds and it weighs 12 kg.
After seeing all the palaces and churches, of which Hradčany is rich, a leisurely stroll along the tiny Nový Svět Street, a favourite of the late 19th century bohemians and considered at one time the “Montmartre of Prague”, will be a pleasure. The plaque on house No. 1 states that Tycho Brahe, the royal astronomer, lived here.
Don’t forget to take a look at the famous Golden Lane (Zlata ulka). It is a cluster of small houses, where souvenir shops and galleries. Several centuries ago it was home to jewelers and alchemists.
How to get there
Metro: Malostranska (line A) then take the streetcar 22 to Prazsky Hrad or Pohorelec.
Prague Castle and Hradcany: attractions
Our tips for visiting Prague Castle: what sights to see, opening hours, ticket prices, tours, how to get there. Our pictures and reviews of Prague Castle.
We liked it at the Prague Castle (Pražský hrad): you can be transported to the Middle Ages, if you ignore the ubiquitous tourist groups with a guide. The area of the fortress is large, so tourists are scattered and almost do not interfere. Here we have described only the attractions of Prague Castle that we visited.
Tip 1: Come as early as possible if you want to avoid the crowds. You can also come in such a way that you can meet the sunset.
Tip 2: Have a hearty meal before you visit the fortress, as the establishments at Prague Castle are expensive. It will take you about half a day to take a close look around.
Look for interesting tours in Prague on Sputnik8 and Tripster sites. Individual and group, without crowds of tourists and in Russian.
Imperial Gate and changing of the guard
The changing of the guard and orchestra takes place daily at 12:00. There are many people who want to see the performance, and if you are not tall enough, sorry – you will hardly see anything. It is useless to take places, because the guards disperse the tourists crowded in front of the gate, so that the guard can go out and come in. The only thing left is to maneuver through the crowd when the guards come out and make your way into the front rows. Lucky are the lucky owners of long legs and sharp elbows.
Photo of the saddest soldier in the Czech Republic. Changing of the guard at Prague Castle. Because of the crowds of tourists you will see something like this.
St. Vitus Cathedral
Katedrála svatého Víta, Václava a Vojtěcha is the Czech name for St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.
The lacy Gothic cathedral will suddenly grow in front of you when you walk into the third narthex. It is incredibly impressive! The cathedral is interesting both in cloudy and sunny weather. You can not buy tickets separately, only as part of the combo. For free you can see the cathedral only partially – no one will get past the red ribbon without a ticket, and the surly guards will turn everyone away.
St. Vitus Cathedral – view from the square.
Old Royal Palace
The modest furnishings of the Old Royal Palace (Starý královský palác) resemble a monastery more than a palace. However, it was unexpectedly interesting. The Vladislav Hall and the room with the coats of arms are beautiful. You can take pictures only after buying a permit (50 CZK).
Basilica of St. George
Basilica of St. George (Bazilika svatého Jiří) is a small Romanesque church. It is the oldest church in Prague – it exists since 920. It is gloomy, dusky and has a grave coldness of ancient slabs. The acoustics are excellent: concerts are held here.
On Zlatá ulička (Golden Lane) you’ll find the picturesque houses that you’ve seen in so many Prague photographs. They are built into the fortress wall. The street, although excessively popular with tourists, is extremely interesting. Some of the houses have stores, and in others the life of craftsmen has been restored. In the house number 22 lived Kafka. Everything is very nice and cozy.
In the tower of the castle wall, there is a torture room and an exhibition of armor and weapons. Very authentic! You can get into the street for free after 16:00 (in winter) and after 17:00 in summer, but almost all the houses will already be closed – except for the stores.
Photo of the street without tourists. Wait until the staff are closing the lodges and escorting tourists off the street. At this point, and take pictures! The main thing – have time, because the street is empty just 2-3 minutes. Then those who did not buy tickets are let through the turnstiles.
Panoramas and gardens
There are plenty of panoramas from the surrounding gardens! There are from the fortress itself too, we visited two: one by the Daliborka Tower, the other to the right of the Black Gate (that’s the end of Prague Castle). Beautiful views of the tiled roofs of the city. We met the sunset there. The grounds are cluttered with tourists, but you can get through.
Gardens. The gardens, according to tourist reviews, are excellent in Prague. Since they are closed in winter, we could not visit them. In the summer season, the gardens are open: Royal, Southern, Lumbe, St. Wenceslas vineyard and others.
Visit Loreta (Pražská Loreta), Hradčanské Square and palaces. Tourists advise to visit a quiet baroque lane Nový Svět – there are almost no tourists there, and meanwhile it is one of the most interesting places in Hradčany. We didn’t go there because we found out about it much later.
The ticket to Loreto costs 150 kronor. Opening hours: daily in summer from 9:00 to 17:00, in winter from 9:30 to 16:00. On some holidays it is closed. Audio guide – 150 CZK, photo permit – 100 CZK.
Prague Castle opening hours
- During the summer season (April 1 – October 31) the complex is open from 6:00 to 22:00, and the historic buildings from 9:00 to 17:00. St. Vitus Cathedral on Sundays is open from 12:00 to 17:00.
- In winter (November 1 to March 31), the complex is open from 6:00 to 22:00 and the historic buildings from 9:00 to 16:00. St. Vitus Cathedral on Fri is open from 12:00 to 16:00.
During winter holidays the attractions operate on a special schedule, so check the opening hours of Prague Castle on the official website.
Tickets to Prague Castle
In general, you can walk around the Prague Castle for free. But admission to many attractions – only with combo tickets. We recommend to get a District B ticket, so you will see the main sights of the Prague Castle. We chose this type of ticket, as well as most tourists.
Tickets to Prague Castle are valid for 2 days: the day of purchase and the next day.
Where to buy tickets:
- At the information centers in the second and third courtyards;
- at the picture gallery;
- at the Old Royal Palace;
- Two ticket booths on Golden Lane.
It is forbidden to take pictures of the interiors – you have to buy a special permit for 50 crowns. You can’t use a tripod or flash. Permit does not apply to some exhibitions (“History of Prague Castle”, “The Treasure of St. Vitus Cathedral” and the art gallery).
Prague Castle tours
Where to find Russian-speaking guide:
- At tourist sites (e.g., Old Town Square or Wenceslas Square).
- At the information center in the third courtyard of Prague Castle for 100 CZK per person (minimum 4 persons). The tour takes 1 hour through St. Vitus Cathedral and the old royal palace.
- The sputnik8.com website offers many interesting guided tours, from classic overviews to highly specialized tours.
How to get to Prague Castle?
There are 5 ways to get to Prague Castle, which are shown in the screenshot above. Let’s tell you more about each one.