Prague's Historic Gardens

The best and most accessible gardens to enjoy in Prague

David Creighton

Written by David Creighton Published on 21.08.2012 14:09:30 (updated on 21.08.2012) Reading time: 5 minutes

If you want to unwind for an hour or two and escape the bustle of daily life in Prague, the city’s many historic gardens are a perfect way of doing so. In this second part of our series on lesser known attractions in the Czech capital, we look at some of the best and most accessible historic gardens to enjoy.

You’ll find historic gardens all over Prague, but several are concentrated in Malá Strana, including the Velkopřevorská Gardens, Vojanovy Gardens, Vrtbovská Gardens, and Waldstein Gardens, and all feature this article. Despite being in the heart of tourist territory, these four green oases are relatively calm, perhaps partly because they are hidden behind walls or buildings. Further away, in Prague 6, the gardens at Břevnov Monastery have been recently re-opened after restoration.

Each garden has a very different character: the vast Waldstein Gardens are extensive and self-confident, as befits the famous historical figure who created them. In contrast, the Velkopřevorská Gardens have the dimensions of a large suburban back yard.

Břevnov Monastery Gardens (Břevnovský klášter – klášterní zahrada)
Markétská 1, Prague 6

Prague's Historic Gardens

Prague is awash with EU funding, and utilitarian projects are often the recipients. The Břevnov Monastery Gardens is one of the exceptions; the first phase of the renewal of the gardens, which had been derelict for years, was completed earlier in 2012. Established in the 18th century, the gently sloping gardens run roughly along an east-west axis and are punctuated by a number of features such as the once dilapidated orangery (Oranžérie).

Prague's Historic Gardens

Břevnov Monastery is just a few tram stops away from Prague Castle, but is located in a suburban setting; the contrast between the pristine white Baroque monastery and the paneláky nearby is striking. Although the church is close to the constantly-busy artery of Patočkova, the Gardens are tucked away behind the monastery. They open as early at 06:45, which makes them perfect for some quiet morning strolls.

Velkopřevorská Garden (Velkopřevorská zahrada)
Velkopřevorské náměstí, Malá Strana

Prague's Historic Gardens

Everyone knows about the ever-transforming John Lennon Wall at Kampa, but many of the visitors who come to admire it don’t step through the doorway and see what lies behind the other side – the modest but calming Velkopřevorská Gardens.

The group of buildings around the four sides, many of them covered in foliage, create the atmosphere rather than the garden itself, which is rather plain. The group includes the southern side of the Our Lady on the Chain (Kostel panny Marie pod řetězem) Church and examples of typical Malá Strana architecture.
The lawn is fenced off from the restaurant terrace, which forms part of the Campanulla café/restaurant, so to properly enjoy the garden and spend time there you’ll need to order something in the restaurant. On the other hand, the surroundings are some of the most relaxing and attractive in historic Prague.

Vrtbovská Gardens (Vrtbovská zahrada)
Karmelitská 25

Prague's Historic Gardens

Few hotels in Prague have a Baroque garden on their doorsteps, but the 5-star Aria Hotel in Malá Strana offers guests this very privilege, and members of the public can enjoy it too, and especially the amazing views.
The slopes below Petřín Hill presented the famous designer (František Maxmilián Kaňka) with an opportunity to create a garden cascade, which was built around 1720, for Jan Josef Vrtba. The aristocrat gave his name to the gardens and his palace (Karmelitská 25). Other leading artists of the day were also involved: Matyáš Bernard Braun designed the series of statues, and Vaclav Reiner was responsible for the artwork in the Sala Terrena.
The Gardens are arranged in three tiers, starting at the Vyhlídka at the top and opening out at the Sala Terrena at the base. The views are superb, and you can take in a whole series of Prague landmarks simply by standing in one spot and turning round 360 degrees. Landmarks include in the Castle, the imposing bulk of St. Nicholas Church in Malá Strana, and the spires of the Old Town. Open daily, May to October.

Waldstein Gardens (Valdštejnská zahrada)

Prague's Historic Gardens

By far the grandest of the historic gardens featured in this article, the Waldstein Gardens, are a huge surprise. You could easily walk past them and never know they existed, hidden as they are behind a long blank wall close to Malostranská metro station.

But once you step through the wooden door on Letenská, you’re transported back a few centuries into a world of formal layouts, neat paths, statues and fountains. But this harmonious, peaceful environment hidden behind a simple wooden door belies major upheaval. In the 17th century, the famous military leader Albrecht von Waldstein had several old palaces demolished to make way for the gardens and the palace named after him. The palace (Valdštejnský palac) now houses the senate of the Czech parliament.

At the heart of the Waldstein Gardens and the most impressive feature of the complex is the huge Sala Terrena, an Italianate loggia, in front of which stretches an avenue of statues, the originals of which were stolen by the Swedes in 1648.

Prague's Historic Gardens

The gardens contain other attractions such as the mock grotto along the southern wall, with fake stalactites, and a small aviary that’s home to a collection of dozy owls and peacocks. On the other side, towards Malostranská metro station, a network of hedges offers some shady spots, and the large fish pond at the eastern end is home to the ubiquitous carp, and koi carp. The Waldstein Riding School (Valdštejnská jízdárna) was also part of the huge complex, and is now one of Prague’s major galleries. It can’t be accessed from the gardens, and the main entrance is located in the small courtyard at Malostranská metro station. Open May to October. There’s also access to the Gardens from the metro station.

Vojan Gardens (Vojanovy sady)
U lužického semináře, Malá Strana

Prague's Historic Gardens

Like the nearby Waldstein Gardens, the extensive Vojanovy sady are also hidden behind a long wall, although the open entrance makes their presence more obvious. They used to be a monastic garden belonging to the Carmelite order, but today they’re a favorite spot for relaxation. Thanks to a diverse collection of mature trees, the Gardens offer refuge from the summer sun.

Although very attractive, they are perhaps not quite as beautiful as the more famous Waldstein Gardens, partly because the ugly Ministry of Finance buildings adjoining them. On the other hand, the Vojanovy sady have a more informal atmosphere. Open all year.

Read also:
Lesser Known Sights – Some of Prague’s most rewarding but overlooked attractions
Prague Restaurants with the Best Views – Where to find a view while you chew

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