The Heartbeat of Prague’s Castle Complex

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Place Details

Name: St. Vitus Cathedral

Rating: 4.8 / 5

City: Prague

Country: Czech Republic

Address: III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany, Czechia




About St. Vitus Cathedral

Take in the grandeur of St. Vitus Cathedral, a stunning example of Gothic architecture in the heart of the Prague Castle complex, adorned with Renaissance and Baroque design elements. Venture inside to witness the majestic Bohemian Crown Jewels and pay respects at the tombs of Czech kings and leaders. Climb the Great South Tower to capture unparalleled views of Prague. This cathedral is a beacon of Czech heritage and spirituality, inviting you to explore its historical and cultural significance.


History of St. Vitus Cathedral

Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Located within the Prague Castle complex, St. Vitus Cathedral is what visitors see of the castle area from Old Town. That’s right! It is the steeple and not a castle that you see peeking out from the top of the hill. The building’s full name is The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, renamed in 1997. However, most folks call it St. Vitus Cathedral.

St. Vitus is the patron saint of dancers and entertainers and is one of the patron saints of the Czech Republic, along with St. Prokop and St. Wenceslas. Vitus is believed to have been martyred at a young age, either 12 or 13, in the year 303.

The Gothic Cathedral dates back to 1344. However, a series of catastrophes, changing powers, and wars got in the way of finishing it. St. Vitus Cathedral was finally finished in 1929.

Since so many centuries passed between the start and end of the construction, you’ll see a range of artistic styles incorporated into the building and interior decor. It is Gothic but also very much rooted in Renaissance and Baroque styles.

St. Vitus Cathedral’s massive structure is also the final resting place of St. Wenceslas and many former Bohemian kings and Czech leaders. It is the largest church in the Czech Republic.

See Related: Prague vs Budapest: What is Best to Visit?

The Bohemian Crown Jewels

Breathtaking stained glass window at St. Vitus Cathedral, Gothic architecture and religious art
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Bohemian Crown Jewels are stashed away inside the inner sanctum of Prague Castle. These priceless artifacts generally only come out for display once every five years. When not displayed, they are locked away in The Crown Jewels Chamber in St. Vitus Cathedral.

This place should house the jewels of the former kingdom of Bohemia. Since so many of its sovereigns die in the cathedral’s crypt, it only makes sense that the jewels they beheld do the same. You can see replicas of The Bohemian Crown Jewels in the Old Royal Palace, located within the Prague Castle complex.

These treasures comprise the St. Wenceslas Crown circa 1347, the Royal Apple, the Royal Sceptre, and The Coronation Cloak. Researchers believe the cloak first belonged to Ferdinand II, crowned in 1617.

How to Visit St. Vitus Cathedral

Alt-Text: Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral aerial view
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

In order to visit all of the cathedral, you will need an entry ticket for Prague Castle. You can visit just the front of the cathedral for free, though you’ll miss out on 90% of the art and architecture by not buying a ticket.

I highly recommend getting a skip-the-line ticket to save time, particularly if you visit during the summer and/or on weekends. You’ll also save a lot of time just by booking even a regular ticket ahead of time. You could also book a private castle tour for more individualized attention.

Another recommendation is to arrive in the morning before the other visitors descend onto the castle complex. If you’d rather sleep in, book the castle for a weekday when crowds will be much smaller. The cathedral is much more pleasant to visit when it isn’t full of visitors.

See Related: Best Things to Do in Prague with Kids

Considerations for St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral interior with Gothic architecture and stained glass in Prague
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers
  • Photography is allowed without the use of flash.
  • Do not take phone calls or use video calling.
  • Take off any hats upon entering the building.
  • If it’s busy, there may be a one-way touring path around the cathedral. It may seem inconsequential; however, I was scolded for going the wrong way to look at something again.
  • The cathedral does not have a dress code for visitors. It is a consecrated holy space, and guests should treat it as such. Please dress modestly. Generally, that means covered shoulders, no midriff or cleavage showing, and shorts/skirts that go longer than your fingertips.
  • Please keep your voice down when visiting. Since it is still a religious sanctuary, other people in the building may be praying.

Great South Tower

St. Vitus Cathedral Prague Gothic architecture facade and tourists
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Great South Tower, a huge sight, was first planned in 1396. Peter Parler had the original idea, but he died before finishing it. His sons took over and kept building. But things didn’t always go well. In 1419, the Hussite revolution stopped work, and a big fire in 1541 damaged its beauty.

Then, architects Bonifac Wahlmut and Hans Tirol stepped in. They worked hard from 1560 to 1562. They built a beautiful Renaissance gallery and helmet on top of the old Gothic parts. This turned the disaster into a grand wonder.

Time brought further enhancements. Renowned architect Nicolo Pacassi gave the tower its baroque makeover in 1770. Later, in an era of further advancement from 1879 to 1899, Josef Macker led extensive restructuring efforts, annexing a new chapter to the tower’s history.

If you’re up for a hike, you can climb to the top of the Great South Tower for a fee (it’s worth the climb) for incredible views of St. Vitus Cathedral, the entire Prague Castle Complex, and the Charles Bridge. Check out these photos:

St. Vitus Cathedral Twin Spires, Prague Gothic architecture landmark aerial view.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The Iconic Bell of the South Tower

St. Vitus Cathedral Gothic Tower in Prague
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Among hidden treasures, did you know that the South Tower of St. Vitus is home to the largest bell in the Czech Republic? Here’s a fun fact – its suspension is solely dependent on cowhide! Before you wonder, there is more to this story. In 2002, the bell served as a prophetic signal for the disastrous flood that enveloped Prague.

Weighing an incredible 15 tons and dating back to 1540, this bell became a monumental achievement for the metal founder, Tomáš Jaroš. Unique embossments and engravings adorned the massive bell, introducing new design elements into Bohemian art and culture.

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