The Prague Castle and adjoining St. Vitus’s Cathedral are two very impressive pieces of real estate, but the crowds here can be a little bit overwhelming. Still, a walk up the castle hill and around the great edifice is a very educational journey, even if you never go indoors. For a real change of pace and a large dose of peace and quiet, try a visit to the Vysehrad Castle. Just take the C line on the underground Metro and heads towards Haje. When you get to the Vysehrad stop, get off the metro and head to your right (west). Shortly, you will see the church towers, and the castle grounds, which are surrounded by a very thick, low-lying stone wall.
Welcome to the Vysehrad Castle, an oasis of calm in a bustling city filled with tourists and sightseers. The wall is impressive in the way it rings the place and then heads off on its own across the valley towards the thriving city of Prague. For a great view of the area hop right up on the wall, and take a look. From the west wall there are some great views that look down into the Vltava River valley. Bring your camera because this is one of the best viewpoints in all of Prague.
Dating back to the 10th Century this castle is almost as old as the Prague Castle, but in no way can it ever be seen as the architectural or cultural rival of the other place. It was built for the unique military position, where it sits on a high cliff that overlooks the Vltava River and also to house the royal family. There are stairs that descend down to the riverside, a great way to leave the castle grounds, but their ascent is only recommended for bona fide mountain goats.
The heyday of this majestic place occurred shortly after its early construction, when Vratislav II, a Bohemian Prince, resided here at the strategically located fortress. This lasted for about only forty years as the royal family then relocated back to the main castle that is so popular today. Today it is the beautiful cathedral that is the main draw of the old royal residence.
The Church of Saint Peter and Paul was one of the first buildings to be constructed and it is also the largest structure at Vysehrad. The Gothic silhouette dominates the area and is recognizable from miles around. A visit to the interior of the cathedral is well worth the time and effort. It has a beautiful altar and knave with an active congregation. When I visited several years ago, there were pictures of a backpacking trip that the church youth group had taken in the nearby mountains (Alps, I think). It appeared to be a fun and adventurous trip with a great time being had by all.
Other places of note are the church cemetery (where the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak is buried), the St. Martin Rotunda ( a classic Romanesque building), various shops and museums and several places where light meals can be acquired, but the real beauty here is the view and quiet majesty of the castle forest . This is a great place for a picnic lunch.
Photo credit: Jim Linwood