Yesterday I visited Vyšehrad Park and Castle, a 10th century hillside fortress overlooking Prague. The Castle is accessible from many directions, but I decided to climb the old stone steps along the Vltava River.
It’s not a difficult climb and the lush parks leading to the castle give the area a wonderful “magical” aura.
The castle has many myths and legends, some dating back to the 8th century. According to a local legend Vyšehrad was the first settlement in the area and it later became Prague.
One entrance passes through Leopold’s Gate, a part of the castle’s 17th century defenses. The imposing original Baroque face sculptures are still in place.
Like each building in Vyšehrad, Leopold’s Gate has a legend. The French army occupied Vyšehrad in 1741 and it’s said that at the full moon the ghosts of French soldiers who died there reappear at the gate.
The cobbled walkway passes by a Romanesque church – the Rotunda of St. Martin. The rotunda leads to the spectacular 11th century neo-Gothic Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul with fifteen bells and an underground crypt. Once an hour, Vyšehrad’s courtyard is filled with the magical sound of bells ringing from the chapter church. The interior is “decorated with Art Nouveau ornamental and figural wall paintings”.
Vyšehrad ‘s church treasury houses a remarkable exhibition of jewelry and rare textiles. There’s an elaborate graveyard with ornate tombs where many Bohemian heroes and great Czech personalities are buried.
In the 1700s French soldiers built subterranean tunnels under Vyšehrad. At the end of the underground casements, there’s a large room called Gorlice Hall which was used for troop gatherings and to store food and weapons. Now the hall holds some of the original Baroque statues which once adorned Charles Bridge.
Surrounded by its original stone walls from the 10th century Vyšehrad includes an exhibition hall and art gallery. It’s a spectacular place to visit!