Our second day in Prague we headed to the top of the hill to visit Pražský hrad- Prague Castle – which dates from the 9th century and is jumbo sized. It is the largest coherent castle complex in the world; made up of the Old Royal Palace, the Basilica of St. George, the Golden Lane, the Powder Tower, the Cathedral of St. Vitus, St. Wenceslas vineyard (and a few other buildings)… almost 70.000 square meters! We took the tram up (it is quite a hike, especially in the heat of July) and then took the Old Castle Steps (Staré zámecké schody) back down to town; which provide a great view of town.
Constructed in the 9th century by Prince Bořivoj, the castle transformed itself from a wooden fortress surrounded by earthen bulwarks to the imposing form it has today. It has always been the seat of Czech rulers as well as the official residence. Prague castle has had four major reconstructions, but it keeps its classical facelift it took on in the 18 century during the reign of Maria Theresa. You can see all different kinds of architecture (Gothic to Romanesque) and while the Vladislav Hall and the Rosenberg Palace were pretty impressive (more on those below..) – the Cathedral is really amazing. The stained glass was gorgeous! The cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1344 by Emperor Charles IV. Over the following centuries renaissance and baroque details were added and the job was completed in 1929. You feel so small walking around Vladislav Hall (it is (62m x 16m x 13m) and the construction of the complex stone vaulting system, spanning 16m, was a refined engineering feat in the medieval times. The Rosenberg Palace was rebuilt to be used as a Residence for Noblewomen in 1756. Thirty poor noblewomen lived in the palace; all of them had to be 24 years old or older. There were great views of the town from these rooms… I can totally picture myself sitting by one of these windows to read a book.
The castle complex is so large, it took more than half the day for us to tour it (mainly hitting the highlights.. there was more we could have seen). I was so glad we decided to walk down the stairs to get back to town.. the views were totally worth it and it took us right by Pražská čokoláda – Thunovská (a chocolate shop) where we bought some delicious chocolate covered almonds dusted with cinnamon. I sure could go for some right now! Next we walked to Staronova synagoga (the Old-New Synagogue) which is the oldest surviving example of a medieval twin-nave synagogue, but unfortunately only got to see the outside. The neighborhood it is in is very nice today; which shops like Hermes and Louis Vuitton – which we stopped in to window shop and cool off in the air conditioning. Then we walked over to the Poweder Tower Gate, which can trace its origins back to the 11th century, when the original gate was one of 13 entrances to Prague’s Old Town. We decided to cool off in a restaurant next to it to have a drink and some cake. It was a little overpriced, but worth it to get out of the heat and sit for a little while! We ended the day walking along the river and had some great views of Prague Castle and the Cathedral up on the hill.