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An Afternoon of Lore at the Other Castle

3 March, 2020

Vysehrad fortress, often called. “The Other Castle,” is one of the oldest structures in Prague, with legends predating its construction— many of them are hard to believe, including horses making spectacular jumps, hauntings, and mystical visions.

The structure was where the first King of Bohemia, Vratislav II relocated from the Prague Castle. Since that time, many additions and alterations have been made to the site, but it remains representative of the most ancient of Czech history.

One of our favorite stories of the fortress in Czech folklore is the story of the condemned Knight Horymir, who asked for one last ride on his white horse before his execution. This final wish was granted and the knight escaped the fortress by jumping the ramparts (which are over 40 feet high!) to freedom.

While the Czech lands’ origin story is much more complicated and nuanced than that of the United States, it’s easy to feel the beginnings of the city of Prague when you enter through Vysehrad’s massive gates. Vysehrad is also the site where Queen Libuse had the vision of the city of Prague, “A city whose glory will reach the stars.” When you look at the scenic views of the entire city, it’s easy to see why she thought it was so inspiring!

Czech folklore is also shrouded in mysticism and stories of ghosts and spirits. Vysehrad is consistently ranked among one of the most haunted places in the Czech Republic and if you go after dark, you may just find yourself looking over your shoulder once or twice for someone—or something— who isn’t there.

While we don’t recommend jumping the ramparts or seeking out the ghosts yourself, there are still so many wonderful things to do once you walk through the gates of the fortress, especially as the weather gets warmer. It’s so easy to while away an afternoon in this hidden gem. Here are a few ideas to get started, but the possibilities are endless:

Vysehrad has an abundance of green space and breathtaking views of the city that can’t be seen from anywhere else. There are several restaurants within the fortress but we recommended packing a picnic and lounging with friends or a book for a leisurely afternoon in the sun (or shade!).

The Basilica Minor of Peter and Paul is one of the most underrated churches in the whole city. It’s typically pretty empty, leaving visitors with plenty of space to admire the hand-painted interior. Fun fact: the statue of the Virgin Mary was donated by the family of Alfons Mucha. Show your student ID at the door for half price admission.

The cemetery outside the basilica is also a beautiful place to explore. This is the burial site of many famous Czechs from Dvorak to Smetana to Mucha and the artistry of the mausoleums are second to none.

While you’re up there, you can also explore the tunnels underneath the fortress and view exhibitions about the structure. Go to the lower gate or the information center to learn more about the options for touring the structure itself.

Fom the museum lover to the athlete to the architecture buff. Grab a friend or two and head to the Vysehrad metro station or the Albertov tram stop for easiest access. Entrance to the grounds and many of the buildings and cemetery are free, or reduced with student ID. For more information about the castle, check out their website, available in English.