Prague Castle Gardens (Zahrady Pražského hradu)
The Royal Gardens are historically the most valuable of all the castle gardens. Founded in 1534 by Ferdinand I. Habsburg, they were inspired by Italian designs; the current form of the garden, however, follows the English adaptation of the 19th century. One of its greatest treasures is the Singing Fountain, one of the most beautiful fountains in Renaissance Europe. The southern gardens (Paradise, Ramparts and Hartig Gardens) spreading along the southern facade of the Prague Castle offer striking views of the Lesser Quarter, Old Town and nearby Petřín.
April – October
- Whole week
- 10.00 – 18.00
The main entrance to the garden is from the U Prašného mostu Street, approximately opposite the Prague Castle Riding School (Jízdárna Pražského hradu). It spreads on a surface of 3.6 hectares between the Deer Moat (Jelení příkop) and the Mariánské hradby Street. You can walk through the garden all the way to Queen Anna’s Summer House (Letohrádek královny Anny). The garden was established by Ferdinand I of Habsburg in 1534 in place of several original vineyards. The original garden made in style of Italian garden architecture was established under the leadership of Giovanni Spatio, who also initiated the building of the summer house and the stone enclosure wall. The garden was connected with the castle via a bridge over a trench. Over time, the royal summer house was completed, with a fountain, in 1581 - 1583 a menagerie was established - The Lions’ or the Bear’s Yard, by architect Oldřich Aostalis; transformed into a luxury wine cellar and a restaurant in 1970 by architect Josef Hlavatý. The Ball Game Hall (Míčovna) was completed in 1569; the fig tree conservatory was built under the summer house in 1590, and orange conservatory was built in 1601. The original geometric Renaissance layout was preserved until the beginning of the 18th century. Rare trees and bushes were planted here; chestnut trees were grown here, as well as the first tulips in Europe, a gift of the Turkish sultan. From here they spread into the Netherlands. The garden also served the purpose of a utility garden. During the 18th century, the garden was modified in Baroque style by the gardener František Zinner Jr. in cooperation with Kilián Ignác Dienztenhofer and Matyáš Braun, who decorated the garden by different decorative sculptures: little angels playing with lions, vases and Braun’s sculptural group named Night from 1734 in front of the Ball Game Hall. The sculptural group named Night used to have its opposite named Day, which was destroyed in Prussian siege in 1757.
In the garden, there is the presidential residence (called Cottage - Domeček). It consists of a preserved bricked middle part of a Baroque greenhouse (built by K. I. Dientzenhofer in 1731). Upon a suggestion of president E. Beneš, two side wings were added to the Baroque greenhouse according to a project of Pavel Janák in the years 1937 - 38. All the presidents lived here between the years 1938 and 1989.
There is an alley stretching through the centre of the garden with a Baroque niche in the end, where there is a fountain with a statue of Hercules, made by Jan Jiří Bendl. There are rare coniferous trees growing here, as well as evergreen broad-leaved trees, and alleys of linden trees, hornbeams and horse chestnuts, beech trees, sycamores, maples, etc. and azaleas, rhododendrons, guelder-roses, tree peonies, and many others. There is a giardinetto in front of the Royal Summer House, which is a decorative small garden modified by architect Pavel Janák in Renaissance style according to the model of Dutch architect Vreedeman de Vries from the 2nd half of the 16th century.
The Singing Fountain - near the Summer House of Queen Anne in the Royal Garden of the Prague Castle; the fountain is one of the most beautiful Renaissance fountains north of the Alps. It was cast by Master Jaroš 1562-68 according to the design and wax model of the Italian painter Francesco Terzio from Bergamo, who worked and lived in Prague around the mid-16th century. The wooden mould was cut by Hanuš Peysser. The fountain is made of bell bronze. It is richly decorated with hunting motifs, relief masks and palmettoes. The thick column of the fountain is surrounded by figures. The beads of water dropping from the fountains give a melodious sound of water falling on the resounding bronze plate, however, it is necessary to listen to it when kneeling or squatting under the bow
In the beginning of the 19th century, the garden was transformed into an English park. In the years 1989 - 99, both the summer house and the presidential residence were restored. At the end of the 90s, new Orange Conservatory was built in place of the old one within the Southern wall, next to the Ball Game Hall and the Fig Tree House, according the a project of architect Eva Jiřičná. It is a 100m long original glass cylinder construction made of metal and glass, designed for regeneration of tall plants as well as smaller potted plants. In the Western part of the greenhouse, there is a preserved original marble fountain from the 1950s; inside the greenhouse, there is a symbolic indication of the Southern wall, which was demolished together with the winter garden in 1996. The greenhouse was festively put into service in May 1999. The construction was sponsored by Jennifer Simon from Canada, who dedicated it to the remembrance of Olga Havlová. The observatory path from the Royal Garden, past the Ball Game Hall into the lower part of the Deer Moat was newly made accessible.
Since the spring 1990, the Royal Garden is accessible for public during the season, and it is also used for representation and social purposes.
Prague Castle Southern Gardens (Paradise Garden (Rajská), Garden on the Ramparts (Na Valech), Hartig Garden)
The first two castle gardens were founded in place of the former Southern defence clearway of the Castle. There were ramparts and trenches, and later Vladislav of Jagiellon had a late-Gothic fortification built. When the fortification lost the military significance in the Renaissance era, the ramparts were gradually abolished and the area transformed into gardens or vineyards via embankments. They have been established and changed ever since the 16th century. The area, which became desolate over time, experienced a marked modification after 1918 by the castle architect Josip Plečnik. It was characteristic for the geometric concept of paths as well as the terrain formation, rectangular lawns, irregularly placed trees, architectural elements. In the beginning of the 1990s, a vast reconstruction of the gardens was completed after nearly 60 years, and they were opened to public. The modifications were made by the architects from the National Heritage Institute (Státní památkový ústav) for the reconstruction of monumental towns and objects (ing. arch. Jindřiška Crickettová-Petříková, arch. Miroslav Burian and ing. arch. Pavel Kupka). They returned the gardens the appearance which was as close as possible to the one arranged for by Josip Plečnik upon the wish of President T. G. Masaryk. The Hartig Garden, which is the smallest, was only added to the others in the 1960s. The total acreage of the Southern gardens amounts to approximately 1.88 hectares. Its terrain’s elevation above sea level varies between 235 and 262 m.
The gardens are accessible from a terrace in front of the first castle courtyard (from the New Castle Stairs), from the observation point at Opyš, and from the third courtyard via Plečnik’s Staircase, also called the Bulls’ Staircase (Býčí schodiště) from 1922.
When entering from the new Castle Stairs, the first garden is the Paradise Garden (Rajská zahrada) with a surface area of 0.38 hectares. It was established in 1562 upon an order of archduke Ferdinand of Tirol (son of Ferdinand I) as his private garden with several thousands of cartloads of earth. He had a personal doctor and good advisor regarding botany in the person of Petr Ondřej Matthioli, the well-known author of extensive Herbarium. In the era of Rudolf II, the garden was decorated by an aviary, a spa, and a tower for the trumpeters. After its demolition, a round Renaissance pavilion with a turret was built during the reign of Emperor Matthias in 1614, which has been preserved until today, decorated by wall paintings by Josef Navrátil from 1848, with a wooden ceiling, painted with 39 emblems of territories ruled by the emperor. Under the pavilion, architect Josip Plečnik established an observation terrace with a statue of Good Shepherd by Josef Kalvoda from 1922. A year before that, a monumental cascade staircase of granite was built, below which there is a decorative bowl made of a single piece of Mrákotín granite (also made according to Plečnik). It has a diameter of 430 cm; it is 180 cm high, and weighs 50 tons. Behind it, we can still see the edge of the old Baroque fountain from 1730. To the right from Plečnik’s Staircase, there is the evergreen Taxus baccata (English or European yew), the oldest woody plant in the castle gardens, which is 254 cm wide in perimeter at the height of 35 cm, and its age is estimated at about 400 years.
Garden on the Ramparts (Na Valech) is a direct continuation of the Paradise Garden and it spreads all the way to Opyš. Its surface area covers 1.43 hectares. The garden is also accessible from the Prague Castle’s third courtyard via Plečnik’s Staircase called the Bulls’ Staircase according to bronze bulls carrying the pillars with carved roof beams in the upper part of the staircase, and via the so called Vase Staircase (Vázové schodiště) from the palace (dating back to Pacassi’s transformation of the Castle). Josip Plečnik placed a relief of The Goddess of Victory by Jan Štursa above the entrance.
It was this garden, where the Catholic governors Jaroslav Bořita of Martinice and Vilém Slavata of Chlum fell after being thrown out of the windows of the Old Royal Palace in 1618. The event is commemorated by two early-Baroque sandstone obelisks. There are several other architectural elements placed in the garden: Baroque fountain at the opening of the garden, Plečnik’s balustrade made of polished granite, female bust above the garden wicket made by Damian Pešan in 1990, and a fountain dating back to 1920s with early-Baroque statue of Hercules. Plečnik’s observation points spread throughout the entire garden: Small bellevue, Great bellevue and Moravian Bastion observation point. In the last one, Plečnik placed a granite monolith with Ionic head, carrying a gold-plated ball and a granite desk. The small observation point with the obelisk is opposite the Bulls’ Staircase and provides access to the Hartig Garden. The Great observation point is located on the observation path under the former Institute for Noble women - Plečnik’s antique-imitating column hall dating back to 1924 - 25, in front of which there are three groups of light-bearers made by Ignác František Platzer in the 1770s.
Hartig Garden, accessible via a staircase from the Garden on the Ramparts, was only added to the Castle’s Southern gardens in 1960. It spreads on 757 m2 and it was originally a part of the Hartig Palace No. 184 in Thun Street. It was established by Isabela Švihovská of Salm in 1670 by the newly built palace. At the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, the garden was re-built in Baroque style, with added upper and lower terraces, interconnected via a staircase with a balustrade and decorated by vases. New owner, count Josef Hartig, rebuilt the palace in 1720 and had a storey-high Baroque music pavilion built in the garden with unique stucco decoration. Josef Hartig was an excellent pianist and organized important music academies here. His son Ludvík Jan was an excellent violinist, clarinettist and a composer, too, and he also had his own musical band. However, taste for music did not yield much and the object was sold in an auction. The owners kept changing until it was added to the Prague Castle premises in the 1960s. The value of the garden was strengthened by an installation of five statues of antique gods made in the workshop of Matyáš Bernard Braun, specifically by his nephew Antonín in the 1730s, which were transferred here from Štiřín Castle. They are located under the garden’s supporting wall, to the left from the music pavilion. Concerts and theatre performances are held on the garden’s terrace.
Deer Moat (Jelení příkop)
Deer Moat is a natural gullet within the premises of Prague Castle, with a surface area exceeding 8 hectares. The gullet used to be traversed by the Brusnice stream, which was later regulated and partly drained into a pipeline. It spreads all the way from U Brusnice Street to the great curve of the Chotkova Road. Originally, it was significant for defence. The entire premises became a part of the royal property during the reign of Rudolf II. Deer animals were brought here, and there even used to be hunting events held here. A riding school was built on a part of the premises at the end of the 17th century. Above the Deer Moat, there used to be a Powder bridge (Prašný most), which would connect the Royal Garden and the castle objects. In the era of Maria Theresa, the bridge was replaced by an embankment, which divided the moat into an upper part covering a surface area of more than 3 hectares, and a lower part with a size exceeding 5 hectares.
Upper Deer Moat is accessible from the Garden on the Ramparts via a staircase named Cyclopian, and from the U Brusnice Street via a path within a slope. In the era of the first republic, there was a bear pit here for the bears which T. G. Masaryk received from the legionaries from Russia. Before it was re-opened for public, it was re-cultivated according to a project by architect Petr Hlaváček. There is an extensive meadow here, a cottage of the former bear keeper, an artificial cave with a fountain, and a sandstone statue of a Bellman (Ponocný), a gift of the Hořice Stonecutters’ Academy students to President Masaryk. You can climb a path uphill from here to get to a turning leading towards a newly arranged circular Masaryk’s observation point, where the president liked to sit under the lime tree, and which was not accessible anymore after the war. The reconstructed observation point with a new access path was festively opened for public on the 22nd September 2007.
Lower Deer Moat was first made accessible for public on the 5th June 1999. Access path was built from the Chotkova Road. Today, there are different cultural and social events held in both parts of the Deer Moat occasionally.
The connection of the Upper and the Lower Deer Moat was festively opened on the 3rd September 2002.
Other Prague Castle gardens (Na Opyši Garden, St. Václav’s Vineyard (Svatováclavská vinice), Garden on the Bastion (Na baště), Riding School’s Terrace, Lumbe Garden, Pheasantry (Bažantnice))
Na Opyši Garden with a surface area of 4,184 m2 is located below the fortification with the Black Tower and Daliborka. It is not kempt and it is not accessible for public.
St. Václav’s Vineyard can be found in front of the Na Opyši castle gate, between the Na Opyši Street and the Old Castle Stairs, separated from them via a high enclosure wall, on a Northern slope above the Chotkova Road. It spreads on 6,972 m2. The original vineyard was gradually transformed into a garden around a villa built here in the 1830s. It was opened for public in June 2008 following a restoration.
To the left from the Court of Honour (Čestný dvůr), there is the Garden on the Bastion (Na Baště) with an acreage of 2,720 m2. Archaeological research discovered remains of buildings from the Romanic era in this area. The former territory between the castle trenches and the defensive wall was modified into a bastion court during the reign of Maria Theresa. The place was completely renewed when the Czechoslovak Republic was established, according to a project of the castle architect Josip Plečnik at the turn of the 1920s and 30s. Plečnik’s footbridge built on arcades will take us from here to the Powder Bridge. The garden is divided into two height zones interconnected via a round staircase. There is a garden restaurant in the corner of the garden next to the Archbishops’ Palace, dating back to the 1950s. When the garden was modified in the 1990s, an automatic watering device was established, which uses water from the restored historical castle water conduit, just like the Royal Garden.
The garden on the Riding School’s Terrace was projected by castle architect Pavel Janák on a surface area of 3,452 m2 in a style of Baroque gardens. The modification was completed by architect Vladimír Tintěra in 1957. The garden used to serve the purpose of a summer riding school and was established on the roof of the newly built underground garages. The riding school’s yard was laid out at the same time, with acreage of 2,241 m2. In 1723, world premiere of an Italian opera named Constanza e Fortezza (Constancy and Firmness) by Jan Josef Fux was held within the summer riding school. On this occasion, an amphitheatre was built here with night illumination for several thousands of visitors.
The winter riding school was re-stored by architect Pavel Janák in 1946 into a gallery. At present, the garden on the Riding School’s Terrace is also used for cultural events. Since 1998, International Festivals of Ethnic Music are held here.
During the reign of Rudolf II, a pheasantry and some farmstead objects were established above the Northern part of the Upper Deer Moat, to the west from the Riding School. Further on, there is the Lumbe Garden, named after Prague surgeon Karel Lumbe, who purchased these land plots in 1852. In 1925, the Office of the President of the Republic bought them back from the heirs. Today, the Prague Castle Administration has its gardening grange here.
Prague Castle has been a National Cultural Monument since 1962.