Under Green Arches: The Mutable Charm of Prague´s Parks and Gardens
This longer route is ideal for lovers of romantic landscapes. It will take you through a seemingly endless series of parks and gardens with magical views of the city, while avoiding areas with lots of tourists. This gently hilly route leads you along the left bank of the Vltava from north to south; be sure to wear shoes that accommodate different surfaces, including a dirt path. Beginning in Holešovice, it ascends to Letná, continues along the river to Prague Castle, through Petřín Park to the very edge of the Lesser Town, to finally reach one of Prague’s most beautiful parks – the Kinsky Garden. You’ll have quite a few opportunities to stop for refreshments along the way; the most romantic, however, is a picnic in one of the parks with a view of the city.
Route Length: 8 km / 5 miles
Tram stop Strossmayerovo náměstí/Square – Skalecká St.
Small Strossmayerovo Square is the central hub of Holešovice, a district that has undergone quite a bit of development in recent years, becoming something of an art and design hotspot. The square is dominated by the neo-Gothic Church of St. Anthony of Padua.
– Letenské sady / Letná Park – Expo 58 Building
Letná Park covers part of Letná Plain, which stretches from Holešovice all the way to the Castle area. Lawns alternate with landscaping, flowerbeds, and paved surfaces. You’ll find a picturesque view of the city and a number of notable buildings.
The distinctive Expo 58, with its characteristic rounded silhouette, was transported to Prague after serving as the Czechoslovak pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. At that time, it represented the peak of modern construction technology and won the top prize at the Fair. Today it’s used as office space.
– Letenský zámeček / Letná Château
The neo-Renaissance Letná Château today serves as a restaurant, and weddings often take place here. Nearby, you’ll find a popular beer garden overlooking the Old Town; during the summer months in particular, this is a favourite place for locals to stop “for one”.
– Metronome – Hanavský Pavilion
The huge Metronome occupies a symbolic spot on the map of Prague – a gigantic statue of Joseph Stalin used to loom over the city from here. It was dynamited in 1962, many years after his death. The seven-tonne metronome, installed in 1991, was intended to be a symbol of the new era. Today the area is primarily a skateboarders’ paradise.
Hanavský Pavilion, a charming cast iron structure with many ornate Art Nouveau details, was originally designed as a product showcase for ironworks owned by Prince William Hanavský for the Prague Jubilee Exhibition in 1891.
From here, you can see the imposing Kramář Villa, now the Czech prime minister’s residence. It is not normally open to the public.
– footbridge across Chotkova St. – Chotkovy sady/Gardens – Belvedere
The Chotkovy Gardens offer a somewhat unusual view of Prague Castle and the Lesser Town. The monument to Czech author Julius Zeyer in the middle is a memorable work of Symbolist sculpture.
The Belvedere (a.k.a. Queen Anne’s Summer House) is an exquisite example of the Italian Renaissance – in Prague, where Emperor Ferdinand built it in the mid-1500s. From here, take the steps down.
Note: The Deer Moat is closed from 1 November to 1 April. You can instead take the path alongside the Mariánské hradby / Castle Walls, then cross Prašný bridge to Prague Castle, walk through to Hradčanské náměstí/Square and up Kanovická St. to Nový Svět. Continue along the original route from here.
– Fig Garden – Jelení příkop / Deer Moat – tunnel under the Prašný Bridge
Like the Belvedere, the Fíkovna / Fig Garden, a walled garden situated under the Summer Palace, is a sort of tribute to sunny Italy. In the 16th century a roof would be pitched over the garden in winter, with artificial heating during cold spells to keep the fig trees warm; today, the Castle gardeners don’t pamper them quite so much.
Descend the steep walkway to the Deer Moat, formerly a royal game preserve. The view through the tall trees to the walls of Prague Castle is extraordinary, as is the peace and quiet here, unlike in the Castle courtyards above. Continue toward the elliptical pedestrian tunnel, the work of contemporary Czech architect Josef Pleskot.
– Masarykova vyhlídka / the Masaryk Overlook – U Brusnice St. – Nový Svět St. – Černínská St. – Loretánské náměstí/Square
The Masaryk Overlook is an elevated terrace in the upper Deer Moat where first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk had his outdoor study. From here there is a lovely view of the Castle.
The fairy-tale appearance of Nový Svět Street makes it one of the most charming spots in Prague and a delightful place to stop for coffee or a snack.
Loretánské Square is dominated by two important buildings: Loreta – a Baroque pilgrimage church with a Capuchin chapel and monastery (a separate visit is recommended) and the massive Černínský Palace, today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
– Loretánská St. – Pohořelec – Strahov Monastery – Promenáda Raoula Wallenberga / Raoul Wallenberg Promenade
Strahov Monastery (more on pg. 38) is a Premonstratensian abbey known primarily for its extraordinary library. Mozart improvised on the organ in the church here; thanks to notes made by a quickthinking monk, the musical notation has been preserved. On the monastery grounds, you’ll also find the famous St. Norbert brewery and sample its renowned brew. The view of Prague from here is incomparable.
– Petřín Steps with lanterns – under the Petřín Lookout Tower – Štefánik Observatory – Rose Garden – Květnice / Flower Garden
The Petřín Lookout Tower is a miniature copy of the Eiffel Tower; the top of each tower is at the same altitude. A popular retro activity is the mirror maze a few steps away.
The Rose Garden has its charm, but even more beautiful is the Flower Garden, which you can find through a discreet entrance in the wall. You’ll find it in the downhill section past the Štefaník Observatory.
– Kinského zahrada / Kinsky Garden – upper lake with seal statue – down the water steps – Church of St. Michael – lower lake and Hercules statue – Letohrádek Kinských / Kinsky Summer Palace – náměstí Kinských/Square Tram stop “Švandovo divadlo”
The Kinsky Garden is an extensive, well-maintained park covering the south-eastern slope of Petřín Hill. Here you’ll find romantic landscape elements such as lakes, waterfalls, cascades, and viewing terraces, as well as the wooden Church of St. Michael, which was transported here from the Carpathian Mountains in 1929. The lower park features an extensive meadow and the Kinsky Summer Palace, home of the National Museum’s ethnographic collection. There’s a playground for smaller children near the park’s exit.
Kinských Square, with a fountain in the middle, is just a stone’s throw from the city centre. There are a number of pleasant restaurants and cafés in the vicinity.