Prague Minos Guide

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Prague Castle

One of the largest castle in the world – the symbol of the country
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Prague Castle has stood above the Vltava River since the 9th century. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the largest castle complex in constant use in the world covering 70,000 square metres, it is on the UNESCO list. So many important events of Czech history are connected to it! It used to be the official residence of Czech princes and then kings, and twice it was the residence of the Holy Roman Emperor. Even today, it is the official residence of the head of the state, the President of the Czech Republic. Everybody that comes to visit this Major national monument can find here something of

interest that will satisfy the most demanding, whether it is the atmosphere, exceptional monuments, wealthy art collections, the majestic silence of the cathedral, beautiful and romantic hideouts, interesting exhibitions, watching the changes of the Guard, unforgettable view of the city, resting in the gardens in summer times, etc. Come with us to explore this "town inside the town", come for a walk through the castle courtyards, all the way to "Černá Věž" (Black Tower), you will become familiar with this monument, with this place where top meetings concerning the future of the Czech Nation are still held.



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0.0km / 1.427km 1. Statue of T. G. Masaryk

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In 2000, a monument of T. G. Masaryk (1850 - 1937) was unveiled on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the first Czechoslovak President´s birth. The monument reminds us that Prague Castle became the presidential residence during T. G. Masaryk´s Presidency. His portrait is on the 5000 CZK banknote which is the highest denomination. The Archbishop Palace is a monumental late Baroque structure. Archbishop Příchovský´s emblem decorates the frontage. The building is still the archbishop´s official residence in Prague. The passage next to

the left corner leads to Šternberský Palace. Even though we cannot see it from here, we strongly recommend you visit it as it houses the collections of old European art of the National Gallery in Prague. Do not forget the panorama platform and its marvelous view of Prague, the heart of Europe. The forged grating is the main entrance into the Prague Castle. You can watch the changing of the Guard every hour. Their uniforms were designed by an artist named T. Pištěk who also designed the costumes for the Forman's movie called Amadeus.

0.048km / 1.427km 2. 1st Courtyard

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The 1st Courtyard was created in the 18th century during Empress Maria Theresa´ reignjust filling up the castle trench. The Prague Castle western side thus acquired a grandier appearance. Important foreign delegations come here or one can watch the ceremonial changing of the guards, accompanied by music. The buildings are constructed in the Italian-Viennese Classic style. The attics are decorated with statues and military trophies by I. F. Platzer. The 1st and the 2nd Courtyards house representative halls of the Czech Republic Government, which are accessible to the public twice a year. The flagpoles are 25 meters tall, bearing the Czech

Republic flags. When a foreign delegation is invited, the relevant flag is raised. The President's Standard is on the roof in the corner when the President is in the country. When the President is outside of the Czech Republic, his Standard is removed. Among other things, the President's Standard bears the emblem of the Czech Republic and the text "PRAVDA VÍTĚZÍ" ( TRUTH PREVAILS). The Mathias Gate, named after Emperor Mathias), is traditionally regarded as the first Baroque structure in Prague, the 1614 is inscribed. This is also where one can see the ceremonial stairs leading to the representative quarters of the Prague Castle.

0.141km / 1.427km 3. 2nd Courtyard

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This entrance leading to the Office of the President of the Czech Republic was finished in 1996 by architect B. Šípek, following President Václav Havel´s initiative. The doors are decorated with golden female leopard contrasting with the male Czech Lion. The chapel of St. Cross interior from the 18th century is decorated with statues of St. Peter and St. Paul. The chapel is used for administrative purposes (one of the places to buy tickets and to get necessary information). Inside the chapel, you can see through the glazed door into the main nave. The early

Baroque Leopold's Fountain from 1686 is carved from sandstone. It is sometimes called Kohl's Fountain after the author of the sculptures J. Kohl, and sometimes also Lion's Fountain. The bottom reservoir is supported by figures of Antique Gods (Mercury, Volcano, Neptune and Hercules). The top reservoir is supported by two Tritons. The fountain is topped by a sphere supported by three lions. The latticework covers the 16th century well (14 meters deep). Water from the well was used by Prague Castle until 1905. We shall return to this quiet courtyard.

0.27km / 1.427km 4. 4th Courtyard

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The 4th Courtyard is accessible through the latticework gate from the Hradčany Square. It is just a small courtyard adjacent to the western wing. It links the castle to the garden at Bašta which was modified into a southern and Japanese garden style in 1930 by Slovenian architectural designer J. Plečnik, who lived in Prague. After the formation of the First Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, Plečnik worked on different

modifications at the Prague Castle for the needs of the government head office. The Rococo artwork of N. Pacassi conceals a special entrance to the Spanish Hall. There is a conveniently located restaurant which you can bypass so as to get to the Powder Bridge and into the Deers Trench. The circular staircase is the work of Plečnik as well. Please, take a little time to look at the depth of the Archbishop Palace.

0.403km / 1.427km 5. 3rd Courtyard

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There are long vaulted horse stables on both sides of the passage. The stables were built towards the end of the 16th century to accomodate Emperor Rudolf the Second Spanish horses. Rudolf the Second was a passionate breeder of these horses. This also affected the later naming of the Spanish Hall, which was built in the beginning of the 17th century, together with the Rudolf's Gallery above the stables. The Spanish Hall is the most famous of the ceremonial halls. For instance, the last presidential elections were held here. All other rooms are used as exhibition space. Prague Castle Painting Gallery

has artwork of the Renaissance and Baroque period, including the original collection of Rudolf the Second (e.g. Tizian, Tintoretto, Rubens, Etc.). Rudolf the Second was an art-loving emperor and he resided permanently in Prague from 1583. The city became a true European cultural metropolis under his reign. The Emperor Rudolf's stables hold important events several times a year for Prague residents and foreign visitors. For you information: the passage can be used for walking through to the Powder Bridge, to the Riding Hall (exhibition), and in summer to the Royal Garden or to the tram stop.

0.626km / 1.427km 6. Cathedral entrance

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The St. Vitus Cathedral, St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert (The consecration includes the 3 saints buried here) is in the 3rd Courtyard. It is the main and largest church in Prague and it is the third structure built on the same place. The cathedral was founded in 1344 and the first architect was a Frenchman named Matthias of Arras. The cathedral was completed much later in 1929 and you are now standing in front of its newest section. The western towers dominate thanks to their height (82 meters), and visitors should try to

look at them from a distance. The facade reveals the basic character of the church – a three-nave layout. The rose window is over 10 meters in diameter. The side bronze gate depicts the legends of St. Adalbert (second Prague bishop) and that of St. Wenceslas (the main patron of Bohemia), and the middle one shows scenes from the history of the church construction. The portals sandstone tympan with the Reliefs of Birth, Crucifixion and Ascension of Christ are immediately noticeable. We recommend visiting the cathedral.

0.745km / 1.427km 7. South Wing Balcony

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Here, the cathedral beautifully shows itself to the city. One can see how the tower separates the old gothic part of the Cathedral from the newer neo-gothic side. This is also clear when looking at the Cathedral from the Charles bridge.The oldest part is from the 14th century with its gargoyles and flying butresses. The original entrance is decorated with a mosaic from the 14th century depicting the Last Judgment. The latticed windows in the mosaic lead to the chamber of the crown jewels. The tower is almost 100 metres and has an observation gallery. The tower is decorated with two unusual clock faces, the top

one showing the clock and the bottom one showing the quarter hours and minutes between them. The golden latticework is Neo-Renaissance. The view is slightly obstructed by the former Capitular Provost Office. There is a granite monolith from 1928 in memory of World War I victims. The riding statue of St. George is a copy (the original from 1373 is in the subterranean vault of the Royal Palace). The southern wing houses the Czech Republic President Office. He speaks from the balcony during certain events. The Taurine Staircase leads to the Southern Gardens. A passage connects The Royal Palace to the Cathedral.

0.916km / 1.427km 8. Royal Palace

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The Old Royal Palace is a complex of several buildings built over many centuries that gradually came to constitute what is today known as Prague Castle. It was founded in the 9th century as royal residence, served emperors until the accession of the Habsburg in 1525. The palace was repaired in the 20th century, today it is accessible to the public as a historical monument. The lower Romanesque and Gothic floor features a permanent exhibition named "Příběh Pražského Hradu" (The Story of Prague Castle).

The most renowned is Vladislavský Hall, the largest secular vaulted space of medieval Prague built between 1492 and 1502. Pay attention to the windows, which are the first signs of Renaissance in the Castle. On the occasion of the Czech Republic State Holiday on October 28th, famous personalities receive here their awards each year. We recommend you visit this hall, The Gothic vaults alone are worth it! St. Jan Nepomucký shrine from the 18th century is situated between the supporting pillars.

0.984km / 1.427km 9. Square by St. George

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The Benedictine Nuns at St. George Convent, the oldest in Bohemia was founded in 973. Today there is a permanent National Gallery exhibition of 19th century Czech Art. While you would not guess it because of its early Baroque facade, the church is actually the best preserved Romanesque monument in Prague, and the oldest church at the Prague Castle. It was founded around the year of 920. The gable is decorated with a relief of St. George with the dragon, and the statues show Mlada, founder of the Monastery as well as Vratislav the First, founder of the church. The chapel of St. Jan Nepomucký adjoins on the side.

The Renaissance Rožmberský Palace was rebuilt under the reign of Maria Theresa for the needs of the Institute of Noble Ladies, designated for the upbringing of aristocratic young ladies. Nowadays, the palace holds social and cultural events. The capitular church of All Saints is adjacent to the Old Royal Palace. The Neo-Gothic house of the New Office of the Provost designed by the architect Mocker is decorated with a statue of St. Wenceslas at the corner. The Cathedral beautiful Gothic flying buttresses will entice you to take photographs. The new paving beautifully enhances the atmosphere of the square.

1.094km / 1.427km 10. Golden Street

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Access to the "Zlatá Ulička" (Golden Street) isn´t free, there is an entrance fee. The street is a picturesque and bizarre urban development, which contrasts with the majestic architecture of the Prague Castle. It is the last remaining exemple of small residential houses that belonged to the Prague Castle area. The current street was created during Rudolf the Second´s reign who granted the twenty-four castle shooters permission to build their small houses against the vaults of the bailey fortification (18 to 20 square meters in area). There are altogether

16 of these houses and they are "glued" to the northern fortification wall. They differ in age, width, height and colour. One of them is known for having sheltered Prague born writer Franz Kafka. There are now souvenir shops for tourists. The name of the street is easily explained, goldbeaters used to live here. A romantic legend about gold and alchemists who tried to produce it is not true. You can take a peek at the street through its entrance gate.
You can also visit "Nový Svět" (New World) – please see the route Hradčany and Nový Svět.

1.278km / 1.427km 11. Highest Burgrave Office

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Going through the gate decorated with four coats of arms, we have just arrived at the Highest Burgrave Office. All four coats of arms belonged to the Highest Burgrave. The palace acquired its Renaissance appearance after the 1541 fire. Who was the Highest Burgrave? It was the Kingdom highest official and represented the King when he was absent. The building was used before 1989 for the needs of the House of Czechoslovak Children. A statue of Youth from 1963 also relates to this period. It is connected to a small story. The Communist Control Committee ordered the removal of the boy's genitalia from the statue and only after

embarrassment during the unveiling of the statue. Its original appearance was restored to the order of the Czechoslovak President. The palace is now a private Toy Museum, with numerous European and American toys. The courtyard holds regular summer theatre festivals and there are exhibition galleries. The Black Tower attracts the attention. The Lobkowicz Palace was returned to the major Czech aristocratic family of the same name in 2002. The family shows their own art collection called "Treasures of the Lobkowicz Collections". Did you know that the Lobkowicz royal family was for example a major benefactor for Beethoven?

1.33km / 1.427km 12. The Black Tower and View

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The Black Tower used to be part of the Medieval fortification. The changing of the guards takes place every hour at the main gate. Stop where the former barbican used to stand (a strong defensive tower). In the 19th century, a canon ball shot from here signaled the hour of noon. Enjoy the amazing view over Prague, the Lesser Town, St Nicolas, the Vltava, the Old Town and more from the terraced gardens sloping down from the Prague Castle (the entrance can be found in the Southern Gardens of the Prague Castle). Prague,

the hundred spires town, is so beautiful isn´t it ! During the summer months, it is possible to return to Hradčanské Square through the Southern Gardens. You can get to the Lesser Town using the old manor-house stairs (a road to the Prague Castle was here already in the 9th century). There is also a walk to the same place going through the St. Wenceslas Winery, the oldest Bohemian vineyard, featuring other unusual panoramic views of Prague. When cultural events are held inside, access is always subject to payment.

1.427km / 1.427km 13. Southern Gardens

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The Southern gardens were originally designed to connect the Rajská garden and the garden na Valech. The architect Plečnik modified them at the time of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Presidency. After their expensive reconstruction, the terrace-shaped gardens were made accessible to the public for a small fee. From the gardens, you can see through the Lesser Town all the way to the Petřín Hill and the Petřín Tower. In addition, you can see churches of the Lesser Town and their towers. You already know St. Mikuláš church dome. Nearby is also the Charles Bridge and Vltava River. The Mánes Bridge leads

to the Rudolphinum and then the Old Town. Can you recognize, for instance, the church of the Virgin Mary before the Týn, or possibly even the National Theatre? If you feel like walking further, from roughly the middle of the garden, you will see two obelisks commemorating the beginning of the Thirty Year War in 1618 (throwing governors out of the windows of the Prague Castle - Prague defenestration). The Taurine Staircase leads up directly to the cathedral. It was built by Plečnik as well. The garden ends at Hradčany Square at the level of New Manor Stairs, not far from our first stop.

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