The castle is easy to reach. There are two popular routes: our favourite starts at the front of postcard-pretty Neruda Street (Nerudova), moving onto the castle stairs – a gentle climb of five minutes – leading straight to the castle gates. Or you may take the other entrance, which is reached by walking up the Old Castle Steps off Klárov Street – again a journey of five minutes – and be rewarded with views of Prague's lower skyline.
The unique architecture of the castle complex reflects its great age. The oldest existing written sources, backed by modern archeological research, tell us that the castle was built in approximately 880 AD. The first Christian rulers of the Czech lands, Prince Bořivoj of the house of Přemyslides and his wife, Saint Ludmila, founded the complex, which included the Church of Our Lady.
In 925 the couple's son, Vratislav I, laid the foundations of St. George's Church. In 973 the castle was established as the official residence of the Bishop of Prague. Subsequently the Abbess Mlada, Vratislav's granddaughter, founded a convent for the Benedictine order of nuns in the grounds of St. George's Church. It was the first convent built in Bohemia. Here many of the earliest Czech monarchs and nobles were buried; Czech archeologists discovered an astonishing 121 in total.
It was Emperor Charles IV who exerted the greatest influence over the shaping of the castle, and indeed of the city. Determined to make Prague the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, he founded Charles University, commissioned Charles Bridge, collected religious relics and a mass of art – much of which is now shown in the Sternberg Palace – and funded the costly rebuilding of the castle complex. In 1344, thanks to Charles' considerable influence, the city of Prague was granted the title of Archbishopric. In the same year he founded St. Vitus Cathedral.