Hradčany and Prague castle
Prague’s history begins with a castle, perched upon a hilltop. Over the course of more than 1000 years, it has evolved to form a skyline that continues to enchant visitors. Hradčany is an unbelievable mix of buildings showcasing various architectural periods and styles.
The seat of the Bohemian monarchs, whether princes, kings or Holy Roman Emperors (today the presidential seat of the Czech Republic), Prague Castle has been a symbol of authority for more than a thousand years. Although Prague Castle is one of the oldest institutions in Prague (established some time in the ninth century), most of the buildings in the castle compound are much newer. Much of the castle was destroyed in a fire in 1541, and many of today's buildings are undeniably Renaissance in character. Another important period of construction came after the establishment of an independent Czechoslovak state, when President Masaryk hired important architects such as Slovenia's Jože Plečník to create the seat of the Czechoslovak presidents.
The castle's dominant feature, however, is St. Vitus Cathedral, final resting place of many Bohemian kings. The cathedral was begun in the Gothic style in 1344, but not fully completed until 1929 - with the inclusion of neo-Gothic elements and stained glass windows by Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha.
But there is more to Hradčany (as the castle hill is called)! In about 1320, the town of Hradčany was founded as a kind of suburb to the castle, where courtiers and other nobles of similar ambition built their palaces, each trying to be more beautiful than the others. Lobkovic Palace is one such example; another example is Černin Palace, which now houses the Foreign Ministry.
Also on Hradčany, is Strahov Monastery with its gardens on Petřín hill and a splendid library. And located behind Černin palace is the Loreta, a famous pilgrimage church built during the re-Catholisation of the Czech lands following the defeat of Protestant forces at White Mountain in 1620.