Getting Wonderfully Lost in the Gardens of Prague

Pin It

If there was ever a fairy-tale city, Prague is it. There’s a castle on a hill, UNESCO-protected Easter egg-hued architecture, stone bridges spanning a river, and sculptures galore. The gently rolling cityscape is a sea of red tile roofs and spiky church spires. Music and the sweet scent of roasting trdelniks waft in the air. In short, I don’t think there’s another place like it on earth.

The trouble is, the secret is most definitely out. Flag/umbrella/plastic rose/silver ladle-wielding guides herd groups of tourists through the old town in an unending stream. We visited in the middle of October – supposedly the off season – and the place was still heaving with people. But take a few steps into one of Prague’s many gardens and parks, and all the craziness disappears. It’s almost as if you’ve entered another world.

While every visitor to Prague should absolutely spend some time admiring the historic architecture and marvelous sights, it’s also important to stop every so often to soak up the city’s unique atmosphere and sweeping beauty.

IMG_8185

Prague Castle is at the top of every visitor’s agenda, and for good reason. But it’s the Palace Gardens Below Prague Castle that really shouldn’t be missed. These are different from the Gardens Under the Ramparts, the green space running along the southern edge of the castle. The Palace Gardens, once the private backyards of 17th century aristocrats, are now a series of interconnected and steeply terraced gardens that anyone willing to pay the four dollar entrance fee can wander through. Amazingly, we had the gorgeous and winding pathways nearly to ourselves!

IMG_8299

The ivy-covered entrance to the Palace Gardens Below Prague Castle.

IMG_8311

We spent hours meandering through the terraces, relishing the shifting views of Prague from level to level. There are many stairs in the Palace Gardens, but also plenty of benches and hidden alcoves, places I could have happily sat reading or sipping a glass of wine. (If only the gardens had a wine bar!)

IMG_8324

IMG_8312

IMG_8328

IMG_8289

IMG_8345

IMG_8342

If you don’t want to pay the Palace Gardens admission or are unable to climb down the stairs, the Gardens Under the Ramparts is a great alternative. This public park on the grounds of Prague Castle is free to explore and offers spectacular views from its walls. You just might have to elbow some other visitors out of the way first.

IMG_8717

The Gardens Under the Ramparts of Prague Castle.

Prague7

A robotic carpet sweeper kept the lawn free of leaves and debris.

IMG_8889

Another terraced wonderland is the Vrtba Garden, which was designed in 1720 for the Count of Vrtba, an important court official. Thanks to Vrtba Garden’s tucked-away location in a private courtyard, we once again found ourselves almost completely alone in a city that receives over four million visitors annually.

IMG_9025

The secluded entrance to Vrtba Garden.

IMG_9078

IMG_9054

IMG_9045

Vrtba Gardens are wonderfully ornate, with fountains and sculptures interspersed with manicured box hedges and ivy-covered walls. Birds chirped from the confines of the large aviary while neighborhood cats patrolled the grounds. We could see a family enjoying a leisurely lunch on their patio while dogs played at their feet. The atmosphere was so warm and inviting that we sat on a bench and read for an hour!

Prague8

IMG_9082

IMG_9040

IMG_9096

The serene expanses of Wallenstein Gardens belie their callous benefactor. The gardens were designed for Albrecht von Wallenstein, a brutally successful general in the army of the Holy Roman Empire. Wallenstein reportedly had 26 houses razed to make way for his vast palace, now home to the Czech Republic’s Senate. The interior gardens have been painstakingly restored and are now a free public park.

IMG_8798

IMG_8777

The beautifully painted and stuccoed ceiling of the loggia in Wallenstein Gardens.

IMG_8793

IMG_8813

Notable features of Wallenstein Gardens include a loggia painted with scenes from the Trojan wars, a grotto with an artificial stalactite wall, an aviary, multiple fountains, bronze sculptures of Greek gods, a large carp pond and a family of peacocks that roams freely around the grounds.

Prague9

These bronze sculptures are copies of the originals, which were stolen by the Swedish army in the 17th century.

IMG_8797

IMG_8834

IMG_8854

Prague10

Have you ever seen a snow white peacock before?

The Strahov Monastery gardens flow down the hill below the cloister between Petrin Hill and the Hradcany neighborhood. What was once the monastic vineyard is now a public park boasting some of the best views in the city. I watched the sunset from atop the hill with a handful of locals and like-minded tourists, an experience infinitely more enjoyable that jostling for space with thousands of others on the Charles Bridge!

IMG_8389

The 12th century Strahov Monastery.

IMG_8383

The Eiffel Tower doppelganger atop the hill is the Petrin Lookout Tower.

IMG_9111

IMG_8918

IMG_8927

IMG_8400

IMG_8451

The path through Strahov Monastery gardens leads directly to the back of the Questenberk Hotel, which we were happy to call home during our stay in Prague. Dating to 1620, the Questenberk building was originally the home of Sir Caspar Von Questenberg, the German Abbott of Strahov Monastery. The neighborhood was free of crowds and blissfully quiet at night.

IMG_8402

The Questenberk Hotel is located next to the Swedish Embassy in Prague.

The Questenberk Hotel is located next to the Swedish Embassy in Prague.

Part of the hill we had to climb every day to get back to the hotel. Perfect for working off those heavy Czech meals!

Part of the hill we had to climb every day to get back to the hotel. Perfect for working off those heavy Czech meals!

Which of Prague’s gardens would you most like to explore?

17 thoughts on “Getting Wonderfully Lost in the Gardens of Prague

    • LOL, looking back through these photos is enough to bring a tear to my eye as well. Prague is such a special place and I’m already wanting to return! Thanks for your comment, Henry!

    • Me too! It can be hard to do, especially in cities as popular as Prague, but is so worth the effort. Now I’m going to be on the hunt for fancy gardens in Riga! 🙂

  1. Spectacular pictures! I love gardens and these are beautiful. We went to the Vrtba gardens before but I couldn’t climb the stairs. Wonderful colors. I loved Prague!

    • I still can’t believe there were so few people in the gardens, but that definitely added to the charm. It was like we were in our own secret world!

    • It’s probably why Central Park is my favorite place in Manhattan. As much as I love the energy of big cities, sometimes you just need a break!

    • No this was autumn, just a few weeks ago! We were blessed with perfect weather, which definitely enhanced the beauty. Though Prague would still be pretty during a hailstorm 🙂

Comments are closed.