Vantage Point

Prague Castle
  • 16 Sep - 22 Sep, 2017
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Panorama

Built and renovated during 13 centuries, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world: 570m long, an average of 128m wide and covering a total area bigger than seven football fields. Located in the Castle District (Hrad•any), which is above the Lesser Town (Malá Strana), its serried ranks of spires, towers and palaces dominate the city centre like a fairy-tale fortress. Within its walls lies a varied and fascinating collection of historic buildings, museums and galleries that are home to some of the Czech Republic's greatest artistic and cultural treasures.

The castle has always been the seat of Czech monarchs as well as the official residence of the head of state. Its history begins in the 9th century, when Prince Borivoj founded a fortified settlement here. It grew haphazardly as rulers made their own additions – there have been four major reconstructions, from that of Prince Sobeslav in the 12th century to a classical facelift under Empress Maria Theresa (r 1740–80) – creating an eclectic mixture of architectural styles.

The dominant building within the complex, and the most recognisable landmark in Prague, is St. Vitus Cathedral. Destructive wars and fires (and the subsequent renovations), along with differing political forces, have resulted in an intriguing mix of historic buildings within the castle walls. There are palaces, churches, great halls, state apartments, a monastery, viewing towers, fortifications, museums and art galleries, and Golden Lane.