Vyšehrad Prague

by Jun 2, 2020

VYSEHRAD PRAGUE

Vysehrad Prague is a beautiful fortress and park just south of Prague city center. It’s a little off the beaten path in Prague terms, as many short-term visitors don’t have time to see it, but we’ve come to love the place, and rate it one of the most appealing places to visit in Prague.

So what’s there to do in Vysehrad Castle Prague? It’s a fortress above the Vltava river, a stout castle whose ramparts have some of the best viewpoints in Prague, including views down the river to nearby Prague Castle. It has one of the two oldest churches in Prague, the most famous cemetery in the Czech Republic, a superb neo-Gothic basilica and one of the best parks in Prague.

There isn’t quite as much to see in Vysehrad as at Prague Castle, and there are a fraction of the crowds that throng the more famous Castle for most of the year. Vysehrad is a quieter, more enjoyable experience – read on to find out why we think it’s one of the best things to do in Prague.

VYSEHRAD CASTLE HISTORY

Image of Vysehrad Castle Prague from the river Vltava
Vysehrad has towered above the Vltava river for over a thousand years

As far as we can tell, Vysehrad fortress Prague was founded in the 10th century, possibly at a similar time to Prague Castle. It was the more prominent of the two for a period in the 11th century under the Přemyslid dynasty, and King Vratislav II of Bohemia moved his seat there from Prague Castle. However within 50 years Vladislav II moved the seat back to Prague Castle in 1140, beginning a long period of gradual decline.

Vyšehrad underwent something of a revival during the reign of Charles IV (who commissioned the Charles Bridge) between 1346 and 1378. He considered Vyšehrad to be one of the most important places in Bohemian and Czech history, and incorporated it into the coronation route. It is strongly associated with the legendary Queen Libuše, whose statue can be found close to the Basilica.

Image of statue of Lumir in Vysehrad Park Prague
The statue of legendary bard Lumir, one of many Czech figures associated with Vysehrad

The 15th century saw a downturn in Vyšehrad’s fortunes when the Hussites (religious reformists) sacked the site. Vyšehrad was later turned into a town with a vineyard, and the fortress was re-established during the Baroque period, roughly between 1639 and 1727. A network of underground tunnels and dungeons was included. It was used as a military base by French, Prussian and Austrian forces, but didn’t see military action again.The most recent construction was the 19th century Cihelna (Brick) Gate, which is now the main entrance point to Vyšehrad.

WHERE IS VYSEHRAD IN PRAGUE?

Image of the view of Prague from the ramparts of Vysehrad fortress
One of the best views in Prague, frm the Vysehrad ramparts to Prague Castle

Vyšehrad is at the southern edge of Prague city centre, on the right bank of the River Vltava. This is the same side as the Old Town (Stare Město) and New Town (Nové Město). It’s 2.8 km (1.7 miles) south of Charles Bridge and the Old Town – around a 10-minute journey by tram.

Image of the view up the river Vlatava from Vysehrad in Prague
The view up the river towards the Bohemian countryside

It’s one of the most prominent landmarks of Prague, and the twin spires of the Vyšehrad Basilica of SS Peter and Paul can be seen from many places along the river, especially the Mala Strana, Prague Castle and Smichov areas. It’s also visible from most of the main bridges in Prague.

HOW DO YOU GET TO VYSEHRAD?

Image of Prague and the Vltava River from Vysehrad
Vysehrad is just to the south of Prague city centre, close to the Smichov railway bridge

The tram is easily the most convenient way to get to Vyšehrad. The number 17 tram runs along the river from the city centre, stopping at Výtoň. From there, head under the railway bridge towards the base of the hill, bearing left.  Pass the Pod Vyšehradem pub then turn right up Vratislavova, going past several bars and cafes along the way. Stay on this road for a few minutes and you reach the Cihelna gate of the Vysehrad fortress.

Image of the 17 tram passing through the tunnel beneath Vysehrad fortress in Prague
The 17 tram passing through a tunnel below Libuse’s Bath, the oldest surviving part of Vysehrad Castle

You can also reach Vysehrad by tram if you’re heading from Vršovice, the Prague suburb 2 km east. Trams 6, 7 and 14 pass this way, stopping at another Výtoň stop around 100 metres from the riverside one. Follow the directions above, heading up Vratislavova to the Cihelna Gate.

The other entrance to Vysehrad castle is via the Tabor Gate and Leopold Gate, reached via Na Pankraci and V Pevnosti, on the south-east side of the fort.This is a five-minute walk from Vyšehrad Metro station and the Hotel Corinthia.

WHAT TO DO IN VYSEHRAD PRAGUE?

Image of one of the streets in Vysehrad, looking towards the Basilica of SS Peter & Paul
Wandering the streets of Vysehrad

Vyšehrad is a National Cultural Monument and one of the most enjoyable Prague attractions, and most visitors seem to be locals or from elsewhere in the Czech Republic. Many visitors we’ve met seem to head up there for a relaxing couple of hours away from the city, often combining it with some time for their kids in the playground, which is one of the best in Prague.

Image of the church of St Mary in the Wall in Vysehrad Prague
The tiny Baroque church of St Mary in the Wall

The Vyšehrad cemetery Prague is the most important in the country, with a great many Czech cultural figures and luminaries interred there.  Six of the original Charles Bridge statues can also be seen in the Gorlice Hall as part of the guided tour. There are also a couple of cafes within the grounds of the Castle, and the fine Basilica church to visit – all of which makes for a lovely afternoon out.

WHAT ABOUT VYSEHRAD PRAGUE TICKETS?

Image of the doors of the Basilica of SS Peter & Paul in Vysehrad Prague
The ornate doors of the Vysehrad Basilica, with the famous Lion of Bohemia

Entry to Vyšehrad is free – this includes the fortress, ramparts, wall walks, park, Cemetery and Rotunda.

Three parts of Vyšehrad require tickets. The Casemates (Tunnels) and Gorlice Hall cost a mere 90 CZK ($3.80), which can be booked at the ticket office in the Brick Gate (Cihelna brana). Entrance to the Gothic Cellar, which contains a small exhibition on the history of Vyšehrad, costs an additional 70 CZK ($2.90). And entrance to the Basilica costs 90 CZK ($3.80)

You normally have to book a guided tour a week in advance, and it’s well worth doing so – you gain a lot more insight into one of the most fascinating attractions of Prague and see far more than you would if you just walk around the Park and Cemetery.

VYSEHRAD FORTRESS

Image of the walls in Vysehrad Castle with the River Vltava Prague Czech Republic
The formidable walls of Vysehrad overlooking the Vltava River

Most of what you now see of Vysehrad Castle dates from between the 17th and 19th centuries. The walls are best appreciated from the south, around the Podolska vodarna tram stop (on the 3 and 17 route). The oldest part of the Vysehrad citadel is a small section of medieval wall known as Libuše’s Bath, on an outcrop of rock under which the road and tram tracks now run.

Image of the Tabor Gate to the Vysehrad Castle complex in Prague
The Tabor Gate is the south-western entrance to Vysehrad

The best part of the ramparts to explore is along the south and west side, overlooking the Vltava River. These date from the 17th-18th centuries. Keep walking along the perimeter walls, and you’ll eventually reach some of the best views of Prague. The view south over the river, some of its islands and the suburb of Podoli are superb. – you can see from here how close the forests and countryside are to the city centre of Prague. The best views are down the river, over the Smichov railway bridge to the city, with Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral dominating the scene.

There is a network of additional paths down to the Výtoň area just below the Castle, with paths just outside the walls and steps leading down. One of these paths – accessed through a gateway next to the WCs outside the Basilica – gives extraordinary views down to Prague Castle.

VYSEHRAD ROTUNDA

Image of the Rotunda of St Martin in Vysehrad Prague
The Romanesque Rotunda of St Martin, one of the oldest buildings in Prague

The Rotunda of St Martin is one of the oldest buildings in. Prague, along with St George’s Basilica in Prague Castle. It dates from the 11th or 12th century, and is one of a few Romanesque buildings to have survived in the city. If you have an interest in Prague architecture, it’s well worth making the trip up the hill to see it. It has been recently restored, and looks in very good condition at the time of writing. 

Unfortunately ,the only time you can normally see inside is when services are held – at the time of writing, this is at 1800 Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Saturdays at 0800.

VYSEHRAD CHURCH

Image of the Basilica of SS Peter & Paul in Vysehrad Prague
The present Basilica of SS Peter and Paul is the fifth on the site

The twin spires of the Basilica of SS Peter and Paul are one of the great Prague landmarks. The church is the fifth on the site, and was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its architectural style, inside and out, is very much Gothic Revival, but much of the interior decoration – painted walls, pillars and vaults – is prime Art Nouveau Prague vintage.

Image of painted vaulting in the Basilica in Vysehrad Prague
Art Nouveau style painting on a Neo-Gothic stone vault – only in Prague

It’s quite a small church inside, but absolutely packed with interest. The pillars are decorated with paintings of various Czech and European saints, and it’s worth taking your time over it. You’ll do some of your best Prague sightseeing here, at a very reasonable price too.

VYSEHRAD CEMETERY

Image of the Slavin Monument in Vysehrad cemetery Prague
The Slavin Monment holds the remains of around 80 famous Czechs

The Vyšehrad Cemetery is an outdoor pantheon with many of the great cultural figures of Czech history buried there. The notion of Vyšehrad being one of the birthplaces of Czech identity and nationhood was strong in the 19th century, when Bohemia and Moravia were still part of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire.

Image of an Art Nouveau memorial in the Vysehrad cemetery in Prague
Vysehrad also happens to be one of the best places to see Art Nouveau in Prague

Many eminent Czechs are interred in the monumental Slavin tomb, in the north-east corner of the Cemetery. They include Art Nouveau painter Alfons Mucha, sculptor Ladislav Šaloun and architect Josef Gočar, one of the most famous Czech architects of the 20th century. It’s one of the most imposing Prague monuments, its statues towering high above the surrounding tombs and arcades.

Image of the tomb of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak in Vysehrad Cemetery, Prague
The tomb of the Czech composer Antonin Dvorak

The rest of the Cemetery is just as impressive. Composers Antonin Dvořak and Bedřich Smetana are buried in individual tombs, and people as diverse as poet Jan Neruda and footballer Josef Bican, the striker for the famous Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s. It’s one of the most fascinating things to see in Prague. The arcaded part is especially beautiful.

VYSEHRAD MUSEUM – THE GOTHIC CELLAR

Image of the Gothic Cellar Museum in Vysehrad, Prague
The Gothic Cellar contains a small museum on the history and legends of Vysehrad

This small underground museum in an atmospheric medieval cellar gives an intriguing insight into the history of Vyšehrad, from its foundation to the present. It helps fill in a lot of the gaps, such as what the previous four basilicas looked, and there are many artefacts discovered around the grounds of the site. It won’t detain you long,  but greatly improves you r understanding of one of the best

VYSEHRAD PARK

Image of gardens in Vysehrad Park Prague
Some of the gardens in Vysehrad, with the Basilica in the background

Vysehrad is also one of the best Prague parks. The park includes the rampart walks and views over the Vltaa river, where there are plenty of benches to admire the views.

Image of the Devil's Column in Vysehrad Park in Prague
The Devil’s Column in V ysehrad Park, steeped in legend and with mysterious origins

The Gardens next to the Basilica are also lovely, with shady walks and bold statues of Czech historical figures like Premysl and Libuse.  We’ve been here many times and even on weekends it’s not crowded.

VYSEHRAD PLAYGROUND

Image of the playground in Vysehrad Park Prague
The Vysehrad playground has an ancient Czech history theme

The most popular part of Vyšehrad is the playground across the road from the Rotunda of St Martin. My young so thinks it’s one of the best playgrounds of Prague. Most of the climbing frames and rides are wooden, and it’s themed on legendary Bohemian and Czech figures which are painted on pillars around the playground.

CUBIST ARCHITECTURE

Image of three Cubist houses below Vysehrad Prague
Rare Cubist triplex. National Cultural Monument above. Superb river views.

Cubist architecture is an almost uniquely Czech phenomenon. It started in Prague with the House of the Black Madonna in the Old Town, designed and built by the aforementioned Josef Gočar. Very few early Cubist buildings – from the 1911-1914 period – survive, but there is a small cluster of them below the Vyšehrad fortress, close to the Vltava river.

Image of the Cubist Villa Kovaricova below Vysehrad Castle in Prague
The Cubist Villa Kovaricova

One of them, the white Kovařovicova Villa on Libušina, is, like Vyšehrad, a Czech National Cultural Monument, which affords it protected status. The red and white row of three houses 100 metres around the corner on Rašinovo Nabřeži is another rare, beautiful example of Cubism, and was built in 1912-13 by Josef Chochol.

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