In the neighborhood of Hradčany lies the Prague castle. Locally known as Pražský hrad, the Prague Castle has set a record in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest ancient castle in the world. With an area of 70,000 square meters, the castle used to house Bohemian kings and is currently the official residence of the Czech president. Rich with the city’s history, the castle was originally built as a fort in 970 AD, and is currently one of Prague’s most visited attractions. The castle is home to a number of Prague’s top attractions, including St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, the Powder Tower, the Old Royal Palace, the Royal Garden, and the Golden Lane. Highlights include the Old Royal Palace’s main hall, the Vlasidav Hall, the castle’s wide staircases. Audio guides and guided tours with hourly rate are offered by Pražský hrad. The Prague castle is open for tourists from 6 AM to 10 PM, while the historical buildings are open from 9 AM to 5 PM, both of which has audio guides and guided tours available. The Prague castle also lights up at night, so try to go to a good spot where you can see the
Within the grounds of the Prague Castle is the Czech Republic’s largest and most important church—St. Vitus Cathedral. Also known as the Katedrala St. Vita, the church is embellished with beautiful Holy Trinity stained glass windows in its Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance structure that took 525 years to complete. The church houses a number of treasures including the mosaic of the Last Judgement, the silver tomb of St. John of Nepomuk, the elaborate Chapel of St. Wenceslas, and the tombs of saints and Bohemian kings, including St. Wenceslas and Charles IV. The Chapel of St. Wenceslas features an altar encrusted with more than 1,300 precious stones and the rarely exhibited crown jewels which are publicly displayed once every eight years. Another highlight of the church is its 97-meter main tower, which can be climbed in order to see the magnificent views of the city.
Another world-famous site can be found drifting along the Vltava River—the Charles Bridge. Also known as Karlův Most, Charles Bridge is one of the most recognizable old European bridges. With a 520-meter span, Prague’s most stunning bridge was commissioned by King Charles IV. Construction started in 1357 and was finally finished in the early 15th century. It replaced the old Judith Bridge that has been damaged by a flood in 1342. The Charles Bridge is protected by three bridge towers, one of which is on the Old Town side, while the other two are on the Lesser Quarter side. Across its cobblestone pathways are 30 statues and statuaries—some of which includes St. Luthgard, the Holy Crucifix and Calvary, and John of Nepomuk—that were erected between 1683 and 1714. If you want a peaceful time at the bridge, it’s best to go there at dawn and enjoy a quiet time with the Vltava. Although it may get a bit crowded in the afternoon, a stroll in the bridge painters and hot dog vendors lounge around Karlův Most is certainly an experience.
Situated next to the Charles Bridge is a 2-hectare complex wherein the largest collections of historic buildings in Europe is. The Klementinum houses a number of buildings, including the National Baroque Library of the Czech Republic which is the central library of the country wherein over six million books, manuscripts, and other publications issued in the Bohemian since the 19th century has been preserved; the fully equipped 68-meter high Astronomical Tower that offers a wonderful view of Prague’s Old Town wherein meteorological measurements have been performed since 1775; the Meridian Hall wherein the determination of noon is measured and calculated; the 3-century old Mirror Chapel adorned with mirrors in the walls and ceilings wherein many concert productions are hosted; and a number of churches and chapels, including the Church of the Holy Savior, the Cathedral of St. Clement, and the Italian Chapel of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. Guided tours are offered in the Clementinum for 250 CZK (discounts and group packages are offered), but the visit to the Mirror Chapel—the most beautiful part of the complex—cannot be guaranteed in advance due to the events that take place in the chapel.
In addition to the architectural stunners in the city, Prague is also home to the largest collection of Art in the Czech Republic.The National Gallery in Prague (or Národní Galerie v Praze) has Europe’s most important art collections housed in a number of historic structures within the city. Majority of the collection is exhibited in the Veletrzní Palace, wherein works of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt are housed. Other notable works are showcased Kinsky Palace wherein Asian, ancient, and the Baroque art collections are displayed, while European art from the Middle Ages is housed at the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia. The Sternberg Palace is home to the most famous pieces of the collection, which includes European art from the Classical era to the Baroque period, Greek and Roman pieces, Italian masterpieces, and works by El Greco, Goya, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, and van Goyen.
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