The Path of Greatness – Prague’s Royal Road

It is a route that Czech Kings took upon their coronation for centuries. And while there are no kings in Czechia these days, the Royal Road is still a crucial sightseeing trail through Prague.

A re-enactment of the coronation of Charles IV as king of Bohemia was staged in Prague's St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic, September 4, 2016 at the close of two-day festivity the City of Prague and Charles University jointly organised to mark the Holy Roman emperor's 700th birth anniversary
A re-enactment of the coronation of Charles IV (1316-1378) as King of Bohemia was staged in Prague's St Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic in 2016 at the close of a two-day festivity organized jointly by the City of Prague and Charles University to mark the Holy Roman emperor's 700th birth anniversary. Photo: PAP / CTK / Katerina Sulova

Royal Road is not the name of a street in Prague, nor can it be found on any ordinary map. Nevertheless, it is often mentioned in magazines, books, and tourist guides. The people of Prague have heard of it at least once in their lives, and many walk it daily. But many don’t know much about it. So what is it anyway?

Royal Road: can’t touch this

Prague’s Royal Route is one of the most important intangible sights of the Czech capital. It has been used on coronation days since the Czech lands had their king. In the Middle Ages, Czech kings did not live at Prague Castle, as logic would suggest. In those times, the royal court was located on the right bank of the Vltava River, on the present-day location of Republic Square. It was from this place that Czech kings for centuries rode out on the day of their coronation towards Prague Castle, on the hill where the Cathedral of St. Vitus was gradually built.

The first royal procession that took the Royal Road was the procession with the first Czech King, Vratislav, in 1086. The last coronation occurred on 7 September 1836, with the last crowned King of Bohemia, Ferdinand the Good, the fifth King of Bohemia of that name, and the first Emperor of Austria. During this long period, twenty-six Czech kings and twenty-eight queens were crowned in St. Vitus Cathedral. 

Tourist attractions attracting millions

Even today, there is no better way to explore the historical center of Prague than the Royal Road. It’s like a King of all tourist routes in Prague. Millions of tourists take it every year and explore the narrow streets of Prague. And it makes sense: this route will take you to all the places you need to see in Prague. The Royal Coronation Route begins at the above-mentioned Republic Square. It continues through Celetná Street to the Old Town Square, where the most famous Astronomical Clock and the statue of Master Jan Hus stand.

The path then leads to Charles Bridge, over the Vltava River to the Malá Strana. Then you climb the long Nerudova Street up to Prague Castle, where the Royal Road ends. The final stop is the same today as it was thousand years ago: St. Vitus Cathedral.

Every Man a King

Visiting Prague in the modern days gives you almost the same privileges medieval kings had. Spend a night in the luxurious chambers? Yes, in one of the Prague hotels. Eating like a king in a fancy restaurant? Of course! Taking the Royal Road? Yes, unfortunately, not on horseback. Finishing in the astonishing St. Vitus Cathedral and spending time in it? Yes, just without the crown jewels. These days, everyone can experience royal life in Prague.

And not only in Prague. There is a similar Royal Road in the Polish town of Krakow. Droga Królewska goes through the historical center of Krakow and ends in Wawel Castle. Kraków’s Royal Route was used for ceremonial entrances of monarchs to the city and coronation and funeral processions until 1734.

So, the assignment for this Christmas is straightforward. Visit Prague, take the Royal Road, and enjoy Prague like a king/queen! Then, head to the Prague Main Railway station, go to Krakow, and do the same. After that, you will be royal in two of the most beautiful European countries!

Marek Koten

A Ph.D. student in economics, specializing in nuclear energy from the Czech Republic, he also serves as a political consultant to the Czech government and the U.S. Republican Party.

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