So you’ve walked past every gothic tower, you’ve visited the castles, you’ve picked your way through the melee of tourists on Charles Bridge, you’ve taken countless selfies, and you’ve visited one of Prague’s great cafes (see my guide ’Five great cafes in Prague’). What next? How about a tranquil break? Within walking distance of Prague’s centre lie some beautiful parks and gardens. Here’s my guide to some of the best.
Petrin Hill Park
This park on the side of Petrin Hill is easy to find. Not only does the hillside act as a natural backdrop to the west side of the city, it also has a mini Eiffel Tower perched on top of it.
Of course, because it’s on the side of a hill, it can be a little bit of a hike up to the top, especially at the height of summer. There is a funicular (tramcar) system in place for those who can’t, or don’t want to walk. There is also a cafe / restaurant three quarters of the way up. The Restaurant Nebozizek has some great views of the city, including Prague Castle. And unless you fancy climbing up to the very top of the mini Eiffle Tower, I would suggest it has the best views from the park.
So, take your time, enjoy the changing seasons (glorious dappled sunlight in summer, yellow carpets of leaves in autumn) and gently zigzag your way up the park’s many paths, before stopping off for a cool or hot drink and a magnificent view.
On the north side of the park you’ll also find an area full of fruit trees, ideal for a late-summer stroll and snack.
View of Prague Castle from Restuarant Nebozizek. The colours were amazing.
Address – Petřín, Prague-Prague 6.
For something a bit more formal and architectural try the Wallenstein Garden, established in 1629. It has all the trimmings of a grand European garden – water features (embellished with statues and stocked with koi carp), geometrical hedgerows, a pantheon of greek style statues, all enclosed by grand palace buildings, and populated by peacocks. There is also a giant fake stalactite wall.
It is free to enter, and has plenty of seating. After a few hours of sightseeing it is the perfect place for a break.
Address – Valdštejnský palác, Malá Strana, Prague-Prague 1.
Not so much a park as a tiny public area on the bank of the Vltava. Though there are seats and great views of both the Charles and the Manesuv bridges, the main pull of Cihelna are the swans. They congregate in large numbers on the sandy bank awaiting the next sprinkle of bread crumbs. They are not as aggressive as I expected, as I suspect they have had years of practice dealing with locals and tourist alike. Though, I felt this was being taken a little too for granted by some visitors, who saw nothing wrong with letting there spoilt children chase birds twice their size.
But dodgy parenting aside, this area is a lovely place to pause and watch some of nature’s most beautiful creatures against a stunning backdrop.
This moment made me think of a famous scene from the film ’Mary Poppins,’ – “feed the birds,” granted they’re a smidge bigger than the pigeons of old London town.
Address – Cihelná, Prague.
Splitting the river Vlatava under the Legion Bridge, just south of Charles Bridge, Strelecky Island is not only a peaceful haven, and natural viewing platform, it also hosts many events, including life music festivals. It’s moved on a bit since it was a training ground for medieval archers. During the summer, you’ll find that the park fills with sun-worshippers and the odd swimmer, intent on racing their dog to retrieve a floating ball. And as you shelter under one of the trees that line the banks of the island, you’ll also notice the endless regatta of pedalos passing by – from giant model swans, to 1920s style cars.
The island and park lie directly between Lesser Town and Old Town (two of the most beautiful areas of the city) – the perfect spot for a half time break.
Address – Střelecký ostrov, Prague-Prague 1.
When the sun hits Prague, and temperatures touch 40 degrees, this place fills with locals, tourists and dogs. Out come the blankets and wine, the books, and the footballs. The area is actually an island, even though it doesn’t feel like it (it has the river on one side and a narrow channel on the other). It also has a modern art gallery, crammed with odd statues – if you like that sought of thing. One of the most popular set of statues near the gallery are a group of giant crawling bronze babies, with barcodes for faces. Surprisingly, this sight can actually become more comical – with the addition of newlyweds posing for photographs on the backs of one of the babies, still not the strangest wedding photo staging I’ve seen here.
But strange photo opportunities apart, this is a lovely little park, and has been a favourite with the locals for decades.
Address – Kampa Island, Malá Strana, Prague-Prague 1.
Zahrady Pod Prazskym Hradem
Lastly I would like to talk about the gardens that spread up the bank beneath Prague Castle. Though this is the only place I have talked about that charges to get in, there is a small area near the entrance, which is free and worth visiting. Some of the best parts of the main garden are visible from it. And due to its weeping trees, and Spanish style architecture, it has the feel of the American Deep South, or what I would imagine the Deep South would have looked like, based on old movies.
The main gardens are a completely different experience. They’re set at an almost sheer angle, and decorated in Renaissance inspired architecture. Though the layout and look of the gardens are interesting, by far the biggest reason to enter them is for the views. If you’ve had your fix of views already, then maybe just visit the small area at the entrance. But if you fancy sitting on a Renaissance terrace while gazing across the red roof tops of the amazing Lesser Town (Mala Strana), towards the river and the rest of the city beyond, then give the gardens a look.
Address – Valdštejnská 12 – 14, Praha 1 – Malá Strana.
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