Prague Castle's Old Royal Palace has been the seat of Bohemian Dukes, Kings and Holy Roman Emperors for centuries. The oldest mentions date back to the 9th century when the palace was mainly wooden. Later on, it was reconstructed during the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicist period.
Even though Prague Castle visitors sometimes have a hard time pinpointing the location of the Old Royal Palace, since its facade was covered up with 18th century plaster, this palace will surprise you with its interiors. The most famous representative space is Vladislav Hall, which had been used for social events and presidential inaugurations until recently.
The Old Royal Palace dates back to the 9th century. Back then it was a small, wooden structure, the location of which has not confirmed by archeologists.
In the 12th century, duke Sobeslav I ordered the residence to be reconstructed into a stone palace. The bottom floor of the Old Royal Palace is still partially original from that time. In the 13th century, few adjustments were done during the reign of Premysl Otakar II.
The most significant reconstruction was done during the reign of Charles IV, who was not only the King of Bohemia but also the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles IV extended the palace and added another floor. The height of the Old Royal Palace today is basically equivalent to the 14th-century one. The Gothic arcades that you can see from the northern side also come from this reconstruction.
In the 15th century, the top floor of the palace was completely rebuilt and given the nowadays visuals. The king who ordered the reconstruction was Vladislav II of Hungary, or how we Czechs call him, Vladislav II Jagellonsky. It is after him, that the most famous part of the Old Royal Palace is named - the Vladislav Hall. It is one of the largest Gothic vaulted spaces in Europe.
Louis Wing was also constructed at this time by the same architect, who built the Vladislav Hall, Benedikt Ried. This is where the famous 3rd Prague Defenestration took place, an event that started the 30 Years War in Europe.
In 1541, a few blocks below Prague Castle, a fire started. The fire was caused by a cooking mistake in one of the houses of Mala Strana. This seemingly trifling kitchen incident caused the most devastating fire in this area. The fire of 1541 destroyed around 155 buildings, killed 40 people and made its way all the way to Prague Castle, and completely engulfed the Old Royal Palace in flames. Till today, you can see the reddish stones in the walls of the interiors, those are the stones that were heated up by this fire.
The Old Royal Palace didn't collapse but almost all of its wooden interior was destroyed and the palace had to be majorly reconstructed in the 16th century.
The 16th century is also the last time that kings would use the building of the Old Royal Palace as the place of their residence. It will be mainly used for official purposes from now on, like court hearings or diet meetings.
In the 18th century, Maria Tereza will order the entire Prague Castle to be renovated, and most of the palaces will be unified under one plaster, of Baroque-Classicist style.
Few adjustments were done also throughout the 20th century, especially after the First World War and the Second World War.
The most famous event of the Old Royal Palace's history is the 3rd Prague Defenestration (sometimes also called the 2nd). On the 23rd of May 1618, a group of Bohemian Estates stormed into Prague Castle and threw out of the window of Louis Wing two administrators of the Bohemian king and one scribe. This event started the infamous 30 Years War - the bloodiest war of the 17th century.
There are two possible ways to visit the Old Royal Palace, with the A Circuit Ticket and the B Circuit Ticket. The A Circuit Ticket will allow you to enter two floors of the palace and will give you access to the Story of Prague Castle exhibition. The B Circuit Ticket will give you access only to the top floor, where you can visit the Vladislav Hall and the Louis Wing.
Read our complete guide to Prague Castle Tickets, if you want to know which ticket gives you access to which exhibitions, and where to buy the tickets.
There are multiple ways of how you can see the Old Royal Palace with a guide. You can purchase the audio guide at the Prague Castle information center. You can join a guided tour organized by Prague Castle. Or you can book a tour to Prague Castle interiors with one of the tour agencies in Prague.
Author: Valeriia Zahradnikova and Vaclav Zahradnik, Prague guides certified by Prague City Tourism agency. Valeriia and Vaclav have worked in tourism for over 6 years and have guided thousands of Prague visitors.