From Soviet structures to secret parks and grand gardens, discover a new side of the city with this alternative guide to hidden Prague
Prague may be known as ‘the city of a hundred spires’ but there’s more to the Czech capital than gothic towers and castles. After ticking off essential pit-stops like Old Town Square, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, it’s time to delve deeper into the city’s cultural heart. Visit lesser-known sights and attractions such as Žižkov Tower, Strahov Monastery and Wallenstein Garden to avoid the summer queues and discover another side to the city with this alternative guide to hidden Prague.
It may not be the most attractive building in our guide to Prague but Žižkov Tower is certainly unique. The former Soviet television tower is the tallest structure in the capital, set amidst a sea of red-roofed Czech houses. As well as being a landmark, the tower is also an art piece, known for its giant metallic babies crawling up the mast in a captivating display by Czech sculptor David Černý. Inside, where the former control rooms would have been, there’s an elevated restaurant and an observation deck with some of the best panoramic views of the city.
If the city centre gets too busy, take a breather at local summer retreat, Divoká Šárka. The park, located in the valley of Šárecký creek, is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon with the whole family. Visitors can cool off with a swim in the public pool, take a hike along the creek, sunbathe in the green meadow or catch a show at the open-air theatre.
While Divoká Šárka is all about relaxing, Petřín’s appeal lies in its attractions. The hilltop park is home to a number of intriguing sights including the Hunger Wall, a former defense wall stretching from Strahov to Ujezd. It’s not quite the Great Wall of China but it’s fascinating nonetheless. Other park highlights include the Petřín lookout tower, the educational Štefánik Observatory, a statue of famous Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha, and the powerful Memorial to the Victims of Communism.
Strahov Monastery is not only one of the oldest religious structures in the city, it’s also one of Prague’s most important literary havens. The complex houses an astonishing Baroque library with two grand halls and around 60,000 texts, including many rare volumes. The Theological Hall contains thousands of religious books and the Philosophical Hall is a destination for scholars and intellectuals alike.
While crowds queue at the National Museum, discover one of our favourite places in hidden Prague by exploring the city’s connections with the dark arts. Mysteria Pragensia encompasses two museums – the Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague and the Prague Ghosts and Legends Museum – which together take visitors on an insightful and entertaining look at Prague’s relationship with a parallel world.
Return to the light at Wallenstein Garden, an early Baroque Italian-style garden next to Wallenstein Palace. The stunning garden, which is the second-largest in Prague, opens its gates to the public each summer. Visitors are invited to explore its perfectly manicured lawns decorated with fountains and sculptures, including Dutch sculptor Adrian de Vries’ striking bronze statues of Neptune and Bacchus. Other highlights include the imposing Sala Terrena with its grand archways and an intriguing wall of artificial stalactites – look closely to spot faces and animals among the grey stalactites.