Hradčany, Prague's Castle District
In 1784, four independent boroughs in Bohemia, came together to form the city of Prague. Today, each of these districts feels like their own unique area of the city, whose architecture, atmosphere and layout change as you move throughout them. The four neighbourhoods are Hradčany (the Castle District), Malá Strana (the Lesser Quarter below the Castle District), Staré Město (Old Town) and Nové Město (New Town).
Hradčany or the Castle District is located on the west bank of the Vltava river, above the Lesser Town. This area is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Prague and wandering around its narrow laneways, and old storefronts feel like stepping back in time.
Because the area of Hradčany was located beside Prague Castle, it had the status of being a “Royal Town” in the 14th century, shortly before New Town was founded by Charles IV. Because of this status, residents living there were all relatively wealthy and therefore were able to afford to hire the best artisans who created some of the most stunning structures
The area consists of noble historical palaces, romantic nooks, peaceful squares and beautiful lookouts.
Hradčany Square is one of the scenic points in the district, full of charming pastel palaces and houses. The square faces Prague castle and you can see the towers of St. Vitus Cathedral standing in the centre.
The middle of the square is dominated by a plague column. Plague columns were a popular piece of decorations for the squares in the 15th century, to give praise to the Virgin Mary for saving their people from the plague. The plague column represented the end of the disease and the resolve of the population of Prague. The statue designed for this square was created by Maxmilián Brokof.
Surrounding the square are the Schwarzenberg Palace and Salmov Palace. Two of the most elaborately designed palaces from the baroque area. Each one painted soft pastels and covered in naturalistic stucco designs.
There are plenty of famous sights to see along the way as you tour Hradčany. Take the time to visit the Royal Summer Palace and Gardens, tour the Riding Hall, the Strahov Monastery, Loreta and Capuchin Monastery. But my favourite thing to do in this area is simply to walk around aimlessly and admire all the romantic looking houses which dot the streets.
House No. 7 was used as Mozart’s residence in the film ‘Amadeus’, and much of the rest of the film was shot here as well thanks to the original Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The rococo 'Archbishop Palace' was used as the Viennese archbishop’s palace in the film as well.
Many famous artists, actors and politicians, have lived here throughout the years, including Madeleine Albright who took up residence in house No. 11 after WWII.
Aside from visiting Prague castle, most people don't make an effort to venture as far north as Hradčany. They instead venture down to Mala Strana. But wandering this area is often a pleasant respite from the busy, tourist filled streets of Prague. Take a moment before or after your visit to the castle, or come up in the morning for a peaceful stroll through these gothic streets.