High atop the rooftops of Prague, there is a secret pathway with one of the best views you can find across the entire city. This hidden gem is called ‘Petrin Hill’. Locals like to call it Peaceful Petrin and for good reason. From here you can look out not only across Prague itself but far off to the countryside as well. Compared to the packed streets of Old Town Prague, this park high above is so quiet, and sometimes you’ll be the only one walking its paths.
How to Get there
To get to Petrin Hill you have two options. You can walk or take the funicular. The walk takes about 30 minutes; it's a bit steep but your path through the woods as you climb is a lovely experience well worth the effort. But if the weather is a bit chilly or rainy, the funicular is a great option and a really neat way to see some of the history of this area.
History and Details
Petrin Hill rises over 130m above the Vltava River. In ancient times, the hill was covered in rocks, which were later excavated and used to build the city. In the absence of these stones, the people of Prague built atop the hill. In 1360 the Hunger Wall was put up as a medieval defensive system to protect the town from invaders. In 1891, for the Jubilee Exhibition, the Petrin Tower was built, a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower for the people of Prague who had come to love the one in Paris.
The Funicular railway is free if you’ve purchased a public transport ticket that day. Take the tram to stop “Ujezd” (trams No 12, 22, 23) to arrive at the Petrin Hill Funicular station. Keep your transfer from the tram, and you'll be able to get onto the funicular for free! If you walked to the Petrin Funicular station or took a cab, you can still buy tickets inside the station. Remember that you need to go inside, buy your ticket, and then come back out to wait in the long line to get onto the funicular. Many people wait in the long line expecting to buy tickets at the front of the queue and are unfortunately told to go back, purchase the ticket and wait in line once more. Tickets cost the same as the regular public transport, 26 CZK or $1.15 USD. The funicular dates back to 1851 and as such is quite slow so even with a short line, expect to wait around 10-20 mins to get to the front of the queue. When we visited we decided to take the funicular up to the top but then walk all the way down, it is the best of both worlds.
Petřín Rose Garden
After you get off the tram, take a walk through Petřín Rose Garden. The Rose Garden covers over six hectares, and it is said there are over twelve thousand roses in bloom in the summer months! Dotted along the garden are dozens of benches should you want to rest your feet and enjoy the sweet smells of the flowers.
The Štefánik Observatory
The Štefánik Observatory is located inside an assuming neo-baroque building and if it weren't for the giant domed telescopes, you'd never imagine what could be inside. The observatory was built in 1928 but even to this day, the telescopes draws people in to take a look up into the skies. Entry is only 100 CZK ($4 USD) and especially if you have kids or are interested in space, you'll really find the price to be more than worth it! There is rarely a line and you can take a look at the sun, various usually hard to spot planets as well as stars, nebulas, star clusters or galaxies. The staff speak English as well as Czech and are happy to help answer all your questions with a cheery attitude for the subject they love.
The Petrin Tower may only 60m tall, but after climbing the 299 steps it takes to reach the top, you have a fantastic view of the city of Prague below. Tickets are 150 CZK ($6.5 USD), but the lineups for the stairs can get very long since the number of people allowed to go up is pretty minimal. The best way to get in without a wait is to visit early or late in the day and not on the weekend. Once you’re at the top of the tower it’s interesting to know that although not as tall as the real Eiffel Tower, you are actually at the same altitude as the real Eiffel Tower.
Since it was a chilly morning, we couldn't resist getting a warm treat to heat up our hands. We had seen this circular treated being cooked up all over the city and couldn't resist trying one for ourselves. Little did we know that this one taste would get us hooked for the rest of the trip. These pastries are called 'Trdelník'. A Trdelník is a sweet pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar or nuts. There is a small coating of sugar and eggs that is applied when it is grilled which results in caramelization of the sugar. They are insanely delicious, although not a traditional Czech treat as many believe it is. The trdelník was first created in the Slovak town of Skalica. The name trdelník comes from "trdlo" (a wooden tool used for pounding materials in a hollowed-out log).
Hall of Mirrors
Beside the Petrin Tower is a small palace like building, called the Hall of Mirrors. Inside the Mirror Maze, you'll find just that. A maze full fo mirrors. You'll bump into a few walls, but it's an antiquated attraction worth poking your head inside. In the Victorian era, people were obsessed with these types of game rooms.
This was their snap chat, it was the thing everyone did, and you were nobody is you hadn't checked it out. In addition to the maze, you'll also find the "Hall of laughter" where you can stand and take your photo in front of a mirror which warps the look of your body into all sorts of funny shapes. Kids get a kid out of this one. Oddly enough, the Maze finished with a lifesize depiction of the Thirty Years War, set on the Charles Bridge in 1648. I can't tell you why this element was added, but I suppose it leaves the viewer with a piece of history to go alongside all the frivolity.
Cathedral of St. Lawrence
Opposite the Mirror Maze is the amber painted, St Lawrence Cathedral. The baroque facade and bright colouring make it stand out against the greens and browns of the rest of the park. There are stories that once this was the site of high importance for ancient pagan Slavs which was the destroyed to make room for the new religion. The interior is rather modern but the exterior is still work a long look.
St. Michael Church
Beside St. Lawrence Cathedral is St. Michael Church. A wooden church from the second half of the 17th century. Although I could not go inside, I sat on the cold stone steps and marvelled at this simple church. There wasn't anything elegant about it or regal, but there was something immensely charming about its quaint appearance.
Head down towards Strahov Monastery and walk through the Seminary Garden. The Carmelite monastery gardens once belonged to the archbishop of the seminary in the 18th century, hence its name. There are over 2000 fruit trees and 800 almond trees which spread out across the gardens. As we walked through the park and out to the gardens we would repeatedly get lost and then found again, over and over as the streets twisted and turned. The weather was crisp and it was a weekday so there was barely anyone out for a walk. We seemed to be the only ones from time to time. It was so romantic, walking hand in hand through these beautiful fruit trees.
When we finally got out to the clearing, we could see far across the gardens and out across the city. It was breathtaking, it seemed so clear like we could see forever. Far in the distance, we could see the dark towers of Prague Cathedral surrounded by the pastel coloured houses of Mala Strana.
Klášterní Pivovar Strahov
Klášterní Pivovar Strahov or The Strahov Brewery was established in the 1600's, and the monks would work and produce beer to create income their order. Even today you can visit the brewery and drink a glass sitting in their scenic beer garden. We made sure to make a pit stop here before heading to the library. Like all beer in Prague, it is cheap and delicious! And the view is unbeatable, look out over the valley and across to Prague Castle.
Strahov Monastery Library
The Strahov Monastery was first established in 1140. Throughout the years it was destroyed and rebuilt, time after time, war after war. Many of their precious books were stolen, and despite this, every time they rebuilt it, they sought to rebuild their libraries, even grander. Creating a space of importance and preservation for the tomes within. Today, the Monastery and the library stand as a jewel of the Baroque era. Even from afar their bright red-tiled roofs and copper spires, aged to a brilliant teal colour, contrast the grey skies.
Don’t leave Petrin Hill without a visit to the Strahov Library. The library has three parts which visitors can explore. The Grand Philosophical Hall, The Baroque Theological Hall and the Cabinets of Curiosities. The Grand Philosophical Hall is the jewel of the monastery. Looking from floor to ceiling at this ornately designed library will literally take your breath away. It contains over 42,000 ancient philosophical texts, sprawling along the room like a wave of knowledge.
Petrin Hill is definitely one of the calmer and quieter parts of Prague, so if you're in town during a high tourist season, an escape out to Petrin Hill will be a welcome rest from all the busy crowds.