Golden Lane didn’t always look the way it does today. For starters, there were originally two lanes of houses across the street from each other. Built in the 16th century, the houses originally served as dwellings for the castle guards.
Fast forward to the 19th century, and all the houses on one side of the street were demolished, leaving only the ones you still see today. At the time, the houses weren’t technically part of the castle, so they served as homes for poor people, who remained in the buildings until after WWII. After the war, the street was integrated into the castle grounds and the houses repainted in the colors they are today and converted into small shops and showrooms.
Some of the houses have been decorated with furniture, artifacts, and items that represent different eras. There are goldsmith work areas, small cinema rooms, and even tiny bedrooms and living areas represented here.
Myths and Legends
Golden Lane is still often referred to as the “Street of Alchemists.” The truth, however, is that the houses were never occupied by the king’s alchemists. Emperor Rudolf II of Austria (who eventually moved over to live permanently in Prague) did have alchemists living in the castle, but they occupied rooms inside the main structure, rather than living in the tiny houses of Golden Lane. Rudolf’s alchemists did most of their work inside the Mihulka Tower, which sits on the northern side of the castle.
The name Golden Lane, however, is not completely arbitrary. In the 17th century, the royal goldsmiths did live on this street.
At one point or another through history, Golden Lane was home to a number of famous names. Perhaps the best known is Prague native Franz Kafka, who lived in House #22 (actually, his sister‘s house) for almost two years.
Amateur film historian Josef Kazda lived in House #12. Kazda is best remembered for saving thousands of films and documentaries from the Nazis during WWII. While the Nazis were destroying films and other national treasures, Kazda hid copies in his house – and even organized small showings in secret. A big feat considering how tiny the Golden Lane houses are.
Nobel Prize–winning writer and poet Jaroslav Seifert also lived on Golden Lane in 1929, but his house was one of the ones demolished.