Hradčany is an outstanding historic district full of impressive architectural examples as well as contrasts. The story of the neighbourhood is inextricably linked with that of Prague Castle – Hradčany forms its outer area and hinterland. The irregular pattern of the main streets of Hradčany traces the ancient routes linking Prague Castle with important fortified settlements nearby. From the beginning, those whose lives were connected in some way with the running of the Castle settled at Hradčany.
In contrast to the Old Town or Lesser Town, the dwellings there were typically rather unassuming. Often, they formed extraordinarily picturesque, intimate spots, exemplified by the perfectly preserved alleys of Nový svět (New World). Conversely, the immediate vicinity of the Castle naturally attracted the attention of the nobility, whose members constructed magnificent palaces in the 16th century. Such properties were located both on Hradčanské Square and along the main road gradually rising to Strahov.
Unlike those living in the historic quarters below the Castle, Hradčany residents were unaffected by sweeping structural redevelopments in the modern age. Thus, the unique character of this district of extensive palaces and picturesque cottages remains has been preserved.
Most important monuments:
Testifying to the earliest history of Hradčany are the Romanesque remains of the church and monastery at Strahov, one of the most impressive monastery complexes in Prague. The Schwarzenberg Palace, a superb example of flourishing development in the Renaissance and Rudolfine ages, houses the National Gallery’s collection of Baroque art.
Today, the most important period on display in Hradčany is the Baroque era, when extensive palaces were built near Hradčanské Square (Sternberg Palace, Thun Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace). In the upper part of Hradčany, they (Černín Palace) even rival Prague Castle in the local panorama.
Something of the atmosphere of fervent Baroque piety can be sensed at the unique Loreto complex, built between the early 17th century and the late 18th century. The contradictions of the Enlightenment can be seen at the Strahov Library, whose monumental paintings celebrate the spiritual development of mankind.