Legend has it that during the seventh century, Chieftain Krok built a fortress here. His daughter Libuse married nobleman-farmer Premysl and founded the Premysl line of Czech rulers. Allegedly, she was a prophetess who foretold the founding of Prague: "I see a large city whose fame will reach the stars." Archeological evidence shows that in the eleventh century, Premsyl Vratislav of Bohemia built a royal palace on this rocky outcrop.
One of the highlights of Vysehrad is the Church of St. Peter and Paul. Peer up at the open-work twin spires that look almost like lace. They are a stark contrast to the neo-Gothic facade. If the church is open, pop inside to see Art Nouveau frescoes.
Push open the creaky gate beside the church, and enter Vysehrad Cemetery. Slavin Monument is the centerpiece. This tall stele, topped by a sarcophagus and a statue of Genius, is the resting place of more than fifty Czech artists. Their names are engraved on commemoratives plates. Among them is painter Alfons Mucha, architect Josef Gocar and sculptor Bohumil Kafka. Slavin Monument — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
The rest of the Cemetery is filled with graves. Take your time and read the names on the headstones. You may notice that Rodiny is a name that re-occurs. It is not a pretty female name, but it means "family." When you leave the cemetery, turn left and walk past the church to Vysehrad Gardens. Four gigantic statues grace the four corners.
Opposite the Gardens is Galerie Vysehrad, an art gallery that holds temporary exhibitions. Below this gallery is Libuse's Bath. All that's left are ruined guard towers, but legend has it that Princess Libuse bathed here with her lovers. She then threw them down into the river through a hole in the rock.
Walk almost the entire length of the ramparts and take in the superb views of the Vltava River and the city below. Meander through the rest of the fortress. Be sure to include the fortress dungeon, or Kasematy. It was built in the mid eighteenth century by occupying French troops and used as a storage of arms and guns.
A short guided tour through these storage chambers leads to a vast hall where the army used to gather and which is now used to store four of Charles Bridge's original statues. Threatened by demolition or the weather, the other original statues are in the Lapidarium Museum, the official depot for the city's sculptures. The entrance to Kasematy is next to Cihelna Brana ("Brick Gate"). Rotunda, Vysehrad — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
Amble along K Rotunde, the path in between the Church of St. Peter and Paul and the garden. On your right is the New Archdeaconry. Behind the deaconry are three stone columns (known as "Devil's Column"). Their origin is unknown. They may have been part of a basilica or part of an ancient sun dial. A story tells that a priest made a bet with the devil. The priest said that he could say mass quicker than the devil could bring a column from Rome to Vysehrad. The priest then prayed to Saint Peter to help him win the bet. When the devil found out that he had lost, he became so angry that he threw these three stone columns to Vysehrad.
Straight ahead are two churches, St. Mary's in the Ramparts - dating back to the mid eighteenth century, and right behind are the remains of the fourteenth-century Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.
If you have done enough walking, then exit via Tabor Gate, which is straight ahead. Turn left into Na Bucance, go past Prague Congress Center and then go straight to reach Vysehrad Metro Station.