The Czech Republic: 5 Gardens of Prague
January 1, 1970
by Daria Tolokonnikova
Of course, there are spots in Prague visiting which is a duty of any tourist and traveler with at least some self-respect. The Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, Petrin tower – all of them are widely known for both beauty and over-crowdedness. However, studying in a new city has certain advantages: while being free from writing research proposal and endless essays, you simply leave the room, shut the door triumphantly and go to see the city which is fully and completely yours for these two hours
After spending here a year and, importantly, summer vacations, I have marked several special spots on my personal map – and am willing to share them with you. After all, it’s not only emptiness which makes a garden particularly memorable, is it?
Some of you, I am sure, will now shake your heads and move to the next point. ‘I went there on the second day of my trip,’ – you’ll say with the slight air of arrogance travelers have over tourists. Nevertheless, I know a lot of fellow students who, though living right next to it, have never visited this wonderful place.
Vysehrad (read: Vyshehrad) itself is a castle built on the top of an ancient hill in the historic centre of Prague. For some mysterious reason, it is not overwhelmed with tourists, in contrast with the Prague Castle, and is surrounded by a light green park and old cemetery. While the former is always somehow illumined by the breath of spring, the old cemetery is clearly ruled by autumn. Wherever you come to walk around, there are young couples and Labradors wallowing in the grass with the happiness usually possessed by this kind of dogs. On the other hand, the cemetery is always silent despite the people passing by, and the only sound it makes is the whisper from your own lips reading lines on gravestones.
There is also a church and the castle itself, but the responsible visitors wishing to come in have no choice but paying for entrance tickets. The price is not high, since we are still talking about the Czech Republic, but even if you’re not in the mood to enjoy the inner decorations of medieval buildings, bear in mind that the both of them are just as beautiful from outside. What’s more, when your neck starts to hurt during such observations, you can put your chin back down, turn around and look at the stunning scenery revealed for you from the wall.
2. Botanicka zahrada (Botanical garden) of Charles University.
There are two botanical gardens in Prague the existence of which I’m aware of, and my favorite of the two is owned by the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University. It is not big, and could even be considered small in comparison with the main Botanical garden, but there’s some unexplainable charm about it. Since the area itself is not flat, the park consists of several levels, all quiet, green and fit with nice small signs with the names of the plants written. Pines are balmy in any season, and flowers become fragrant every spring, staying this way for the whole summer and making you dizzy while walking along the stone paths in the evening.
Importantly, there’s also a separated building for exhibitions, where you can look (and touch – at your own risk) at cactuses of all shapes and sizes.
The park is close to the city centre, so that you won’t meet any difficulties while getting there. Among other pros, it’s a couple of minutes away from Vysehrad, so that you can easily kill two birds with one stone.
3. Botanicka zahrada (Botanical garden).
The main botanical garden of the city of Prague. As you can guess, the park is a huge one, and is worth at least one day of uninterrupted attention.
The Botanical garden is divided into parts according to the style of landscape architecture used in each. For instance, there are Mexico, Peony Meadow, adorable in summer, Japanese garden and Fata Morgana, which costs about 65 crowns in addition to the basic price. However, if you don’t exactly remember how it feels when a big exotic butterfly lands right on your head, buying this ticket might prove to be a good idea.
Of all the parts of the park, undoubtedly interesting, my favorite from the very beginning has been the Japanese garden. It is filled with carefully placed stones, bonsai trees and the sound of running water. You can hardly find a better place to sit down cross-legged with your eyes fixed on a red maple tree, and meditate, completely missing the moment the eyelids go down.
If you are genuinely interested in alcohol (oh, you’ve come to the right place), go to the vineyard. Not only the size of it is pretty impressive, but there are signs with the names of the sorts of wine produced from those particular grapes you’re looking at.
Although the location is not the city centre – let’s face it, have all interesting places been put together near the Charles Bridge, dozens of people will die immediately of the lack of private space and oxygen, – it’s quite easy to get there. Do not call Uber – the transportation system of Prague is extremely convenient.
All the main information including that concerning tickets & the way you can get there can be found on the garden’s website.
4. Franciscan garden.
That’s a small – almost tiny – garden few steps from the Wenceslas Square. One of my favorite places for a simple reason: each time I meet up with Czech people they look at me with that mysterious glance in their eyes and say: ‘There’s a secret place I want to show you’. I nod obediently, all ears, and am led to the Franciscan garden.
The desire of locals to show the spot is perfectly understandable. The wonderful thing about this park is that despite the closeness of one of the noisiest streets in the country, it’s silent around. The leaves are rustling next to your right ear, and roses of all colors are blooming voluptuously.
To get there, you simply get off the Vaclavske namesti tram stop and go through the closest shopping centre – the one near a small pizza place. Then you turn left – and voila!
5. Petrinske sady (Petrin gardens).
You very likely are aware of the beauty of Petrin gardens. Even if you had never heard about them before, you almost inevitably enjoy a walk there while climbing a hill to see Prague from the famous tower. Therefore, my aim now is not to tell you about the soft grass so good to lie down in, and even not to give a detailed description of children playing downstairs – not that time. I will simply give you a tip: go there at night, when the city is shining with millions lights, and take someone special with you. Or go alone and stay on the bench for hours, looking at the sky and feeling that life is beautiful as ever.
These are the spots I wanted you to know, and, while reading the text over, I suddenly realized that, surprisingly as it is, all of them are parks. You know how it happens: without any intention to focus on something particular you end up with a set of things suspiciously similar.
And the last important point: don’t forget to drink a glass of wine on Vysehrad! It’s definitely worth it.