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Hradčany, the Castle district

Hradčany was founded in 1321, during the reign of John of Luxemburg, with the purpose of housing all the employees of the Castle nearby. The gothic part of this area disappeared during 1400 and over all because of the devastating fire of 1541, which started in the Malá Strana Square but reached also the upper part of this district. Hradčany depended directly on the Castle until 1598 when Rudolf II allowed the founding of a town hall. From that year the district was an independent town and in 1774 it became part of the city of Prague. This district as well as Malá strana has preserved its renaissance and baroque look, never accepting the intrusion of the Modern. Hradčany and Malá strana are my favorite districts and I often come here for a walk, during the day or better in the evening.

We start our walk from the upper part, Pohořelec.

The best way to come here is by tram 22 from Malostranská metro station, green line, A. Pass the stops for the Castle and take off at Pohořelec. Follow the tram tracks and after the right turn cross the street and go left. We are in front of the entrance of the Strahov Monastery

Strahov was founded in the XII century and was named Mount Zion. The name was changed during the reign of Charles IV (second half of 1300) who joined it to the gothic ramparts so the monastery became also a military outpost. Strahov comes from the Czech stráž which means guard.

The first buildings were in Romanic style but what we can see now is the result of the baroque restoring. The two library halls inside are very nice.

Opening time and tickets:

Every day except Mondays from 9.00 to 17.00
Adults: 100 Kc
Children, students: 50 Kc

The first hall is neoclassic and at the end of the corridor there is the early baroque hall. This second hall is famous because some scenes of the movie Amadeus were shot inside.

Let’s cross the yard and at the end an international sign marks the direction to an overlook terrace from which you can admire the whole historic center. This place is better in the afternoon for landscape-photographic reasons. We go back to the yard and turn right through the passage.We are now back in Pohořelec. Pohořelec is one of the squares of this district and its name means after the fire because it burnt and was rebuilt many times. In this square there is a baroque palace with a bank (tourist -financial tip: should you need to change money, do it here because it is the only bank in the district; there are many private change offices around but with higher commission). I was saying… in this palace lived the De Martinis: the members of this Italian family were the official chimney- sweepers of the district. We all agree that the business was pretty good…

We walk down the square and take the street on the left. We are now in a very nice square: Loreto Square, Loretanské Náměstí

For those of you who want to enter the Prague “spirit” deeper I suggest a stop at the beer house U Černého Vola, at the black steer Loretanské nám.1
The Černín palace dominates the square. Černín was a count and ambassador of the king in Venice. When he came back to Prague he wanted to build a palace as big as the Castle. He didn’t manage but he got into debits the family for generations to come. The family abandoned the Palace that was later used as a refuge for the poor, as a refuge for foreign armies and later as barracks.Since 1918 it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Almost in front there is the Prague Loreto.

After the Hussites war of 1400 Bohemia became a protestant country but when the Habsburg arrived here they imposed the Catholic faith as state faith. All the noble families who arrived with them helped in this process. The Lobkovic family was the most active and in the first half of 1600 Benigna Catherine Lobkovic built a copy of the Holy House. In 1700 the Holy House was surrounded by a baroque construction.In the tower there are 27 bells connected to a keyboard and a carillon and every hour they play a song.I suggest visiting inside if you are interested in church decorations. The most famous piece of this treasure is a monstrance made of 6222 diamonds, named the Sun of Prague.

Opening time and tickets:

Everyday 9AM to 5PM and in winter 9AM to 4PM
Adults: 150 kc
Children, students: 110 kc

From Loreto we cross the square in front of the monument and we walk along Černínská. At the end of this street we turn right to New World Street, which has nothing to do with Dvořák’s Symphony. This street has preserved its renaissance atmosphere with its tiny houses. The employees of the castle and now only those who can afford it. At the end we continue through Karmelitská to reach the main square of the district facing the Castle. Don’t miss the renaissance palace decorated with graffiti on your left. This is Martinic Palace. The palace belonged to one of the “victims” of Prague defenestration of 1618. Together with his partner Slavata and their secretary Fabio fabrizio, they were thrown out of the windows of the Castle because they represented king Matthias who lived in Vienna. They didn’t die because they fell on the garbage that was thrown out of the windows at that time. They were honored as heroes and Martinic later bought this palace. Look at your left and you will see the house of Mozart in the movie Amadeus. We continue and cross the square. Let’s stop under the street lamp and keep the Castle on our back so we can give a look at this square that once was the economic and social center of the district. After the fire of 1541 on the ruins many palaces of noble families arrived with the Hapsburg were built. On the other side there are smaller houses that once belonged to the Church. Near the Castle the rococo palace still house the Prague Archbishop.


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