The original castle on the site dated back to the 9th century. Around the 12th to 13th centuries the castle was expanded and fortifications were added. A community started to grow around the castle and in 1257 the town was granted rights as a city. This city is where the Lesser Town stands today. King Charles IV renovated the castle in the 14th century, and this included a further expansion of the castle.
After the First World War, Prague Castle became the seat of the Czechoslovakian government. Today it is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. Every hour there is a display of the Changing of the Guard. As an extra attraction at noon, they also exchange banners. The main entrance gate is known as the Gate of Giants, or Giants Gate. This gate opens on to one of the castles squares. An impressive feature of the gates is that it is flanked by sculptures of a pair of giants attacking their enemies, one raising a knife, the other a club. The sculptures themselves are copies, the originals, dating from the 18th century, were replaced to preserve them from the elements.
Golden Lane was created during the period when a new outer wall to the castle was being constructed. It was originally known as Goldsmiths Lane due to the number of goldsmiths living there. The original dwellings were much smaller. When they fell into disrepair, they were replaced with the 11 historic buildings we can see today. Period scenes have been recreated within these buildings to display how people lived here in the past.
Prague Castle is the largest medieval castle in Europe. Founded in 870 it has developed into a huge rambling complex that is a “must see” for any visitor to Prague. Many visitors make the mistake of thinking that the St Vitas Cathedral is in fact the castle. This is an easy mistake to make as the cathedral seem to tower over the whole site, but in fact, although an important part of the castles history, it is only one aspect of this site with its Palaces, Great Halls, Museums, and Art Galleries, the famous Golden Lane, and even a Monastery.