PRAGUE CASTLE AND ST. VITUS CATHEDRAL
Largest Castle in Europe - Bohemian Kings and Emperors
sits above Prague like a crown on the head of the Queen of Bohemia.
Castle claims to be the world’s largest
inhabited castle, but the Prague Castle (Czech Praský Hrad)
which is more a collection of buildings including two churches and three
palaces is the largest ancient castle structure (according to Guiness
World Record), the remainder of a medieval city state within walls once
the seat of an empire which
took shape over six centuries and political systems from feudal kings
to Communism, and now tourism. The first construction
of a round tower and Chapel of King Wenceslas in the 10th Century (he
of the Christmas carol, a king who attained sainthood is buried there)
gave way to the Gothic features when King Charles IV, (Karl Quarto) rebuilt
much of Prague during his 14th Century reign.
The first convent in Bohemia was located in the castle at the church of St. George. The St. Vitus Cathedral with its gothic spires appears as the point of the crown from a distant view was begun in 1344 and wasn’t actually completed until 1929. Designed by a Frenchman, Matthew of Arras and begun under King Jan it is a massive and elegant cathedral of filigreed Gothic arches and flying buttresses. Inside the Chapel of St. Wenceslas is decorated with more than 1,300 semi-precious stones and jewels. The Czech crown jewels are kept in the chapel and buried in the tombs are centuries of Czech Kings.
The castle underwent further changes in the 14th and 16th Centuries as a royal palace with the addition of the Vladislav and Spanish Halls with further alterations under the Empress Maria Teresa. The formal gardens were added after WWI and the castle halls are now the seat of the Czech Republic president, managing to survive the march of Nazi boots in WWII (see Prague's Astronomical Clock) and communist rule. Inside the walls of the medieval portion of the castle you can go back to the middle-ages with costumed period craftsmen, an armor museum, and even try your hand at shooting a crossbow, or order your own suit of armor to send home. To get to the castle from the center of Prague old town you walk cross the distinctive Karlsbruck (Charles Bridge) named for King Charles with its statues of saints, and whose statue can be used as a snapshot background (see Prague Honeymoon). It’s a climb up the hill to the castle itself.
The castle also houses a number of museums and exhibitions, the National Gallery collection of Bohemian Baroque Art, the Czech History Exhibit, a Toy Museum and a picture gallery of the Prague Castle through various stages since the 1800s. Shakespeare even comes to the Prague Castle in summertime with a Summer Shakespeare Festival in the outdoor concert stage of the Burgrave Palace courtyard. And like other current national palaces, Buckingham Palace in London and the Grimaldi Palace in Monaco (see Grimaldi Palace Secret Monaco) the changing of the guard at the Czech Palace is a photo opportunity to get your picture with a stoic tormented palace guard.
If you want to avoid the walk around through the city you can find a hotel in the picturesque neighborhood around the Prague Castle called Hradcany. © Bargain Travel Europe
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