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Prague – Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad)

Prague Castle
Prague Castle, home of kings, princes and presidents, is also the site upon which Prague was founded in the ninth century. In legend, Princess Lubuse, who had the gift of prophecy, declared that the city should be established in the forest where an old man was building the doorway (praha) to his house. Prague Castle is a large complex, including a huge Gothic cathedral, old palaces, courtyards, gardens, museums, and the present day administrative offices of the Czech Republic.
Tip: There are three different entrances to Prague Castle – if you approach through the Old Castle Steps (eastern entrance) or the First Courtyard (western entrance), you'll climb up some steps, which is fun. Alternatively, you can take the trams that go along Marianske hradby and Jeleni, get off, and walk across the Powder Bridge (no steps for little kids to climb). Also, in summer, the castle is open in the evening – it's truly memorable to see it at night.
  Battling Titans – When you visit Prague Castle, if you start at the western entrance, you'll pass through a gate flanked by two huge Titan statues, each with a giant sword and big hulking stick for whacking enemies under foot. At the gate, you can also watch the changing of the guard every hour – guards in spiffy blue uniforms present arms, march in and out.
    St. Vitus' Cathedral – St. Vitus' Cathedral was started in 1344, but it wasn't completely finished until 1929. The south transcept is part of the original Gothic construction in the 14th century, so start with a climb up the huge south tower. It's 287 steps, and goes round and round. (There isn't much room to stop on the way up, so it probably isn't a good idea to try to carry a toddler up the stairs). As you ascend, check out the big bell. At the top, you'll get a marvelous view of cathedral spires, the red roofs of Prague, and the Vltava River.
St. Vitus Cathedral
    In the cathedral proper, the stained glass windows are stunning, brilliant oranges, greens and reds, but these windows aren't very old – some were made in the early 20th century. Golden light pours into the cathedral, illuminating the soaring ceilings and stone walls, making good on the nickname for Prague, the "Golden City."
      Kids will enjoy the 17th century carved wooden panels, showing Prague and the Charles Bridge in high relief, the Baroque tomb of St. Nepomuk, decorated with tons of silver angels (look for the tongue of the martyr), and best of the all is the south door in the Chapel of Saint Vaclav (Saint Wenceslas). The huge studded wooden door, ornamented with a lion's head door ring, is locked with seven locks (and seven different people have the keys, including the president) – this door leads to the chamber that houses the Bohemian crown jewels (which are rarely on public display).
Prague Castle
  Golden Lane – Golden Lane is where Emperor Rudolf II's alchemists lived (trying to turn metal into gold) as well as goldsmiths. Today, in the defense corridor, you'll find a whole collection of armor and shields, painted on leather, and a room full of torture instruments. The gift shop has all sorts of medieval goodies, such as metal wild boar's head door knockers, tin soldiers, little metal golem figures, swords, helmets and chain mail.
    Castle towers – It's just a few steps to climb upIn the Powder Tower, and inside there are exhibits about alchemists, glass retorts and a typical bench. The Black Tower, adjacent to the Old Castle Steps entrance, has a nice ambiance inside, darkened beams in the ceiling, and you can look down into a level below. It's also a nice place to walk around the ramparts.
Prague Castle
  Toy Museum – Don't miss this charming toy museum, with lovely European toys from the late 19th and early 20th century – tin toys driven by a small steam engine, turn of the century doll houses, old fashioned dolls with porcelain heads, miniature trains, wind-up toys, and traditional wooden folk toys. Upstairs is an amazing collection of Barbie dolls. Exhibits are labeled in English.
    Museum of Czech National Past – To get a taste of Czech history, step into exhibits of medieval helmets, silver and iron swords, Gothic chalices, thumbs screws, models of 18th century Czech farmhouse and water wheel – each room is a different era in history. The labels are in Czech, but ask for a booklet that explains the displays in English.
    Concerts – In the Lobkovic Palace, check out the schedule of concerts. Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, performed in a memorable setting.
    The South Gardens has grass and benches to sit down, plus a great view of Prague in the distance.
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