There are few cities more beautiful than Prague. With its cobblestone streets, pastel-coloured buildings, and graceful bridges spanning the Vltava, it’s not hard to see why visitors fall in love with the city. (I’m also more than a little biased since it is my mother’s hometown.)
But those same love-struck visitors are what can make the city excruciating to enjoy, especially in summer when the Golden Mile from Old Town Square up to the Castle is so crowded you can barely move. Throw in a summer heatwave and you have a recipe for a holiday that leaves even the most optimistic traveller longing to leave town.
After a lifetime of visits to Prague, I’ve learned that the best way to preserve my sanity when the tourists or heat threaten to overwhelm me is to find a nice greenspace to relax in. While you’re unlikely to have these places entirely to yourself, I can guarantee they’ll be quieter than the rest of the city. And you get to smell flowers rather than sweaty Czech men. It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it.
Here are five of my favourite greenspaces in central Prague:
Prague Castle Gardens
Just outside the walls of the city’s busiest tourist attraction lie the castle’s beautiful formal gardens. The southern gardens offer stunning views of the red roofs of Malá Strana while the park-like Royal Garden to the north is the perfect place to find some shade on a hot day while enjoying an unusual perspective on the castle complex.
Palace Gardens (under Prague Castle)
My favourite, favourite place to visit in Prague. This is actually a series of gardens, all terraced on the steep hill below Prague castle. You can either enter from the castle walkway above or from below off Valdštejnská street (my preferred route – avoid castle crowds whenever possible!). Once inside, you’ll be amazed by the ingenuity and artistry of the terraces, which have everything from small stands of fruit trees to elegant pavilions. It’s such a clever and beautiful use of space that I never get tired of it.
This formal terraced garden is one of Prague’s great secrets. From the street, you don’t imagine it’s anything special. In fact, you wonder if you’re walking into someone’s driveway and if some angry homeowner is going to pop out and shout at you in Czech. But once you’re inside the garden stretches up and up and up, revealing with each tier what is to me the most beautiful view of the city.
This park alone may be why spring is my favourite time to visit Prague. With the trees white with blossoms and the city laid out before you, there is really no more beautiful place I can think of. Except possibly the library of the Strahov monastery that lies at the top of the park. See the monastery, then grab a glass of beer or wine to take in the view and mull over the question.
Here’s one for the locals. If you leave Prague Castle through the north gate and walk east through the Royal Garden, you’ll eventually find yourself in Letná Park, a sprawling greenspace full of grandmothers pushing strollers, teenagers skateboarding under the metronome (where the massive Stalin statue used to stare terrifyingly down at the river), and dogwalkers keeping cool under the avenues of trees. It also happens to have a beautifully shaded beer garden with one of the best views of the city – the perfect rest stop for a weary tourist.
- The official Prague tourist website has a whole section dedicated to the city’s parks and gardens. Check it out for even more info on these five spots plus all the city’s other great outdoor spaces.
- Before you go, don’t forget to verify the opening hours (these vary by season) and entrance costs for the gardens:
Have you visited any of these places or do you have any other great tips on ways to escape the crowds? Let me know in the comment section below!
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