How to visit Prague Castle

Everything you need to know for a visit to Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Visiting Prague Castle

Home not just to kings, but also emperors, the complex at Prague Castle is one of the most important sites in the Czech Republic.

Visiting Prague Castle will be a highlight of your time in the city, with a depth of heritage to explore and a series of other magnificent things to see in the Prague Castle Complex.

A home fit for a king! And an emperor! And a bishop! And hundreds of others!

This enormous complex at the top of the hill overlooking Prague is home not just to Prague Castle, but also the incredible St Vitus Cathedral and some of the other most important buildings in the city, expanded and renovated over more than a millennium.

The Guinness Book of Records has declared Prague Castle as the largest ancient castle in the world. It’s a bit misleading, though.

Prague Castle, Prague, Czech Republic

When I think of a castle, I tend to think of a single building – preferably with a moat and turrets.

In this situation, though, you need to picture a castle as almost a mini city, with dozens of buildings collected together and protected by a fortified wall. If you’re going to call that a ‘castle’ then, yes, the one in Prague is enormous – almost 600 metres long.

There can often be a large queue to visit Prague Castle, so I recommend buying your ticket in advance.

The most important thing to understand first of all is that visiting Prague Castle will be a journey through multiple significant sights – and it can take a long time to explore it.

History of Prague Castle

There has been some kind of fort on this site since 880 AD and over the centuries new buildings have been added and extensive renovations and improvements have taken place.

That means more than 1000 years of constructions and reconstructions, with pretty much every major architectural style of the past millennium represented here.

Why is Prague Castle famous?

Prague Castle is one of the most significant sites in the Czech Republic, the seat of the head of state for centuries, including for the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. The complex is also the site of St Vitus Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. It is still today the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.

Is it worth visiting Prague Castle?

It is certainly worth visiting Prague Castle, and is one of the best things to do in Prague. Beyond its position as the seat of power in the Czech Republic, Prague Castle is a stunning site that has been reconstructed continually over the years into a magnificent complex of architectural styles, filled with art and other treasures.

Can you go inside Prague Castle?

Yes, it’s possible to go inside Prague Castle to visit some of the important historical areas, particularly the Old Royal Palace with its large gothic vaulted hall.
Other parts of the Prague Castle Complex are also open to the public, including St Vitus Cathedral, St George’s Basilica, and Golden Lane. However, some areas of Prague Castle are inaccessible because it’s still used for government functions.

The story of Prague Castle begins when an early medieval fort was constructed here at the end of the 9th century, although it wasn’t until the 10th century that it officially became the seat of the head of state.

In the following decades, other buildings were constructed around it – a convent and a basilica, for example.

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle really started to grow in the 14th century, when King Charles IV became the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and the castle was officially an imperial residence. The palace was expanded into a magnificent Gothic structure, and construction began on the Cathedral of St Vitus.

In 1483, after a period when the castle was uninhabited, the king again began living in Prague Castle the palace was enlarged and new fortifications were built.

Old Royal Palace, Prague, Czech Republic

The next big changes came in the 16th century, when the Habsburgs started rebuilding the castle in the Renaissance style, changing it from a darker medieval atmosphere to a more dignified residence full of art and scientific collections.

Again, the castle was abandoned by its residents in 1618 until a new effort was undertaken to rebuild parts of it in the second half of the 18th century, although it was not the seat of government at this time and was treated as more of a holiday home. Only minor additions were made to the complex after that.

St George’s Basilica, Prague, Czech Republic

The construction of St Vitus Cathedral wasn’t finished until 1929, after a push by a people’s movement. And since Prague Castle became the seat of the head of state of Czechoslovakia, and then the Czech Republic, a continual program of regular alterations has taken place.

From the ruins of the Church of the Virgin Mary, the first building constructed here and the oldest church in the Czech Republic, through to the new designs of the art gallery which were done in the post-communism era, you can trace the history of this land within the castle complex.

Visiting Prague Castle

Up on a hill on the northwestern edge of central Prague, the castle is hard to miss on approach.

Most people will get here by crossing a bridge over the Vltava River and, as you look up, you’ll see the outline of the castle drawn by the steep windowed walls of official buildings and the spires of St Vitus Cathedral rising from behind them.

Going through the main gates, I’m struck by how crowded it is. Many parts of the Czech Republic can be oddly empty of tourists during the peak season – but the main exception is Prague, which seems to be ridiculously busy any time of the year.

And when it comes to visiting Prague Castle… well, it’s probably the most popular tourist site in the city.

St George’s Basilica, Prague, Czech Republic

You can get into the main courtyard area without a ticket and at first I just wandered around a bit, looking at the facades of the buildings, amazed at the scope of the complex.

But then I join the queue to buy a ticket to go inside some of the different areas. I wish I had bought a ticket in advance, and I would suggest you do that here, if you can.

The standard ticket, called ‘Prague Castle – Circuit’, gives you access inside the four main sights within the complex – the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica, St Vitus Cathedral, and Golden Lane.

Although you may be tempted to save a bit of money and just see things from the outside, I urge you to buy the ticket and head into these buildings, because they really are spectacular.

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

I would give you between two to three hours to see everything that’s included in the circuit (although you could go faster because none of them are overly large sites).

Then, there is also the option to buy tickets to go up the Tower of the Cathedral; and/or to see the Story of Prague Castle exhibitions. I personally don’t think either is really necessary, but the views from the tower won’t disappoint if you want to do one of these attractions.

Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

One criticism I have is that there aren’t many comprehensive information signs throughout the interiors of the main attractions at Prague Castle. (I suspect they want you to buy their audioguide or use one of the official guides.)

For this reason, I would actually recommend booking a guided tour. Not only will this let you skip the line for tickets, but you’ll get a much better understanding of all the details of the castle complex, including its history and its architecture.

I would recommend this excellent guided tour of Prague Castle – or there are some other good options here, which offer slightly different things:

Things to see at Prague Castle Complex

There are dozens of different sights to see with the Prague Castle Complex, and you’ll easily fill your time exploring them.

The standard entrance ticket gives you access to four places that demonstrate the different stages of the castle’s use, and I wanted to give you a bit more detail about each of them.

Old Royal Palace

The Old Royal Palace as it looks today was built in two main periods in the 14th and 15th centuries. It had an important ceremonial role with the large halls used for banquets and official functions.

The Gothic architecture has been preserved well and it is still used sometimes for events.

Old Royal Palace, Prague, Czech Republic

St George’s Basilica

St George’s Basilica was the second church built on the castle site and was originally founded in about 920. The current building, though, is a reconstruction from 1142.

It has Romanesque architecture and a rather austere feel to the interior design.

St George’s Basilica, Prague, Czech Republic

Golden Lane

This section of the castle shows the accommodation of workers in the complex who lived in small houses in laneways over the centuries. The inhabitants were generally soldiers or tradespeople – such as goldsmiths, after whom this lane is named.

They were of a lower social status but important enough to be housed within the main fortifications.

Golden Lane, Prague, Czech Republic

St Vitus Cathedral

And then there is St Vitus Cathedral – my highlight of the castle and arguably the most important building within the complex.

St Vitus Cathedral is the biggest church in the Czech Republic and has a long history. It’s not a simple history, though.

Construction of the cathedral started in 1344 but it wasn’t actually finished until 1929. For most of this time, it was in use but with large sections still to be built.

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

Now that it is finished, it’s an incredible building on the inside – tall vaults with diagonal ribs, peculiar column designs, vibrant stained glass windows and statues throughout.

Within these walls, the coronations of Czech kings and queens have taken place. Buried underneath it are several Holy Roman Emperors.

Prague Castle tickets

There are three tickets you can buy to see different parts of the main complex at Prague Castle.

  • Prague Castle – Circuit: This gives you access to the interiors of the four main sights at Prague Castle: The Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, and St Vitus Cathedral. I would recommend this is what you buy.
  • Tower of the Cathedral with a View Gallery: This lets you go up the cathedral’s tower to get a view across the city. It’s lovely but not necessary.
  • The Story of Prague Castle: This is an exhibition about the complex’s history, which is well put together but is not essential and I would prefer to spend the time in the actual buildings.

I’ve got details about the costs of the tours and the opening hours in the information box below.

Even outside of peak season, it can get crowded at Prague Castle, and there’s often a line to buy tickets. You’ll save time by buying your tickets in advance and I recommend you do that here.

St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

You’ll also get a lot more out of your visit with a guide. The castle offers an audioguide in multiple languages for 350 CZK (US$14) but I think you’re better off joining a tour, which is a much more rewarding experience.

I would recommend this excellent guided tour of Prague Castle – or there are some other good options here, which offer slightly different things:

Up on the hill that supports the castle, there are some lovely viewpoints, and as I look out at the urban centre below, I think that it does make sense to battle the crowds and begin a visit to Prague up here at this compound to understand the city’s story.

Where is Prague Castle?

The Prague Castle complex is on the top of a hill in the northwestern part of the historic centre.
You can see it on a map here.

How do you get to Prague Castle?

If you’re travelling to Prague Castle by public transport, the easiest way to get there is on tram number 22, getting off at the stop called Pražský hrad.
The other option is to use the metro. It is on Line A at the stop called Malostranská.
I think it’s also very pleasant to walk up to the castle from the town centre if you have time.

When is Prague Castle open?

From April – October, the Prague Castle complex is open from 06:00 – 22:00 but the buildings are only open from 09:00 – 17:00.
From November – March, the Prague Castle complex is also open from 06:00 – 22:00 but the buildings are only open from 09:00 – 16:00.

How much does it cost to visit Prague Castle?

The main ticket to visit the site is called the ‘Prague Castle – Circuit’. It gives you access to the Old Royal Palace, St George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, and St Vitus Cathedral.
This costs 450 CZK (US$19) for an adult or 300 CZK (US$12.70) for a concession. A family ticket for two adults and up to five children is 950 CZK (US$40.10).
I would recommend buying your ticket in advance to skip the line. Or, this excellent guided tour also includes admission.
Entry to the Tower of the Cathedral with a View Gallery costs 150 CZK (US$6) for an adult, 80 CZK (US$3.20) for a concession, or 300 CZK (US$12) for a family.
The Story of Prague Castle exhibition costs 200 CZK (US$8.45) for an adult, 150 CZK (US$6.35) for a concession, or 300 CZK (US$12.65) for a family.

More information

For more information, you can visit the castle’s official website.

Visiting Prague Castle takes you through the city’s history, but don’t forget that Prague also has a modern side to it, with an emerging culture that straddles the best of Eastern and Western Europe.

For more information on that, you can read my story about the best things to do in Prague.

And, finally, if you’re planning to spend a few days in the city (which I recommend), I’ve got some tips for where to stay in Prague.


Prague has very affordable accommodation – and it has amazing luxury. You’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for.


If you’re looking for a budget option, I would suggest the Post Hostel which is modern and friendly.


For something good value and a bit local, Family Lorenz & Coffee House is a great place.


For a cool and stylish option, you should try Design Hotel Jewel Prague.


And if you want to splurge for somewhere really cool, have a look at the BoHo Prague Hotel.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

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