Admission fees re-introduced at St Vitus Cathedral – but not for believers

St Vitus Cathedral

After four years when entrance was free, visitors now have to pay admission fees again at St Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. The castle’s operators say charging should make the magnificent cathedral more peaceful. But not everyone has to pay. If you come to pray – and you look the part – you can still enter for free.

St Vitus Cathedral
Guards punch visitors’ tickets inside St Vitus Cathedral on Tuesday morning, the second day since admission fees to one of Prague’s most significant landmarks were brought back. To see the whole cathedral, people now have to pay for one of two tours offered by its operators. The cheaper one costs 250 crowns, or around 13 US dollars, and will also allow you to visit other sites, such as the nearby St George’s Basilica.

The guards are standing by a rope near the rear entrance, separating the relatively small free area, where everyone is allowed, from the rest of the cathedral. Inside the paid zone, I asked a Danish tourist named Henrik what he thought about the fees.

“Having been around Europe, there is normally a fee to get into some of the larger places. So I was not surprised at all. But when you say it’s a church, you can always wonder whether there should be a fee. On the other hand it costs so much money to keep it up… I think it’s quite ok.”

In front of the rope, in the free area, I asked Christian and Tanja from Germany if they were going to get tickets and go in.

“I don’t think so. It’s expensive, and we just look from here.”

St Vitus Cathedral
“And you can see a lot from here, too”.

Do you think the admission should be free, or is it ok to charge people?

“I think it should be free because so many people come here and you have to pay at some many places. So I think it should be free.”

“I expected to pay at the entrance to the castle, and I was surprised that it wasn’t so.”

The castle administration says the fees will bring more peace and quiet to the cathedral, which they say had become as busy as a train station. It will also provide extra funds for maintenance. But there is an exception: if you come to the cathedral to pray, you will be let in free of charge – if you don’t look like a tourist, that is. Václav Smolka is one of the guards.

“For example today, a couple from Moravia came and asked me if they can enter to pray. I noticed that they were not tourists, so I agreed and let them enter.”

How do you tell that someone really wants to come inside to pray, and not just avoid the admission fee?

“I’ve been working here for four years and I have some experience in telling who is a tourist and who is a practicing Catholic. The fact is that someone with two cameras and pockets full of guidebooks is probably a tourist.”

St Vitus Cathedral,  photo: CzechTourism
Daniel from the Slovak city of Žilina had a camera around his neck, but when he told the guards he and his family came to pray, they were allowed in.

“It was a little strange at the entrance. The guards were a little too jovial and facetious. I don’t think this is a right move, to pay to enter the cathedral. But I hope they will also let my wife in, and my mother who also came with us.”

You can find thorough information about visiting St Vitus Cathedral, and other sites at Prague Castle, at