The best way to admire Prague’s spires and rooftops is from its parks.
Access : By tram 9, 15, 12 or 20 to Švandovo divadlo and enter the main gates of Kinsky gardens, opposite the Court building (náměstí kinských)
By car : parking spaces (with parking meters) are plentiful in the surrounding streets. For free parking, it is necessary to park farther from the entrance. Free parking starts after Sacré Cœur church on the street Holečkova. Instead of walking all the way down to the entrance, you have access to Kinsky gardens via steps inside a hole-in-the-wall entrance on the Holečkova.
Difficulty : easy to moderate. Some paths are fairly steep but without any technical difficulty.
Distance : approx 5 Km
Time : approx 1h15
Tips : Your dog will have access to water. You will have access to refreshments (limited to certain periods of the year). Regulations laid down by the parks department and district of Prague 5 forbid free-running dogs on the flat lawn areas. Despite what you may witness actually happening on the lawns as you catch an areal glimpse of them from sections of the path, there is no valid reason for disrespecting these rules in my opinion, given the large number of areas where dogs are permitted. There is a rather complicated information board at the entrance of Kinsky Gardens and next to the Post Office at Újezd, which indicates the precise sections where dogs should be on a leash. On certain paths in Petřin, colour coding is still visible on the ground. The walk description takes these rules into consideration.
Summarized itinerary :
Enter Kinsky Gardens through the main gates and turn immediately right towards the steps. On your left you can admire a wonderful tree with its profusely generous spread of branches. It is over 160 years old.
When you reach the steps, your dog can be let off the leash. Free-running on the lawns is forbidden (see tips). When you reach the top of the steps, go left, then immediately follow the path branching up to the right. Keep walking straight on until you arrive at wooden fencing on your left, with the entrance to a children’s play park ahead of you. Before continuing, advance towards the waterfall and enjoy the view from above, of the pretty pond with the statue of Hercules and the backdrop of Letohrádek Kinských. This was the Summer Residence that Rudolph Kinsky, whose title of nobility was 6th Prince Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau, had built in 1827. The building now houses the ethnographic gallery of the National Museum. There is a pretty little café on the right hand side of the building where you may like to stop at the end of the walk and you will be able to get a much better view of the stately, classicist facade of the building. Now return to the fork in the path and follow the steep path leading upwards, (not the one forking to the right, above the path you came along). Your path will take you over a wooden bridge and up steps towards the upper entrance to the play park. Keep following this path until you reach the top of a steep slope. Cut across the grass ahead of you, to now take the concrete path which slopes upwards. In September-October you will beable to pick up some walnuts beneath the huge trees to your right and left. Go straight on and a narrower path, also lined with walnut trees will take you through a gap in black railings. Keep going until you reach a crossroads. You will see upper park gate to your left (with a dog excrement scoop-bag dispenser on the left). There are two paths leading downwards to your right but you must follow the third flat path which is lined with benches and goes straight on. Keep following this path (without taking the fork to your left) and you will pass between large, interesting rocks. You can even follow one of the little paths along the top of the rocks. When you reach the bottom of the path, you are going to go left and go through the door in the wall with turrets. However, before you do so, if you walk down the flat path to your right for approximately 150m your dog will be able to drink from the smaller (and cleaner) of the two ponds. At the far end of the bigger pond, you will be see a statue of a seal, commemorating the 12 year old seal, Gaston, from Prague zoo which was swept away in the terrible floods of 2002, and recaptured 120 Km away in the River Elbe, near Dresden. Sadly though, the exhausted seal did not survive the ordeal and died during his return journey. This statue, like other markers located near the Vltava, remains as a tender reminder of the devastating « century floods » which transformed the Prague metro system into an underground bath tub ; tunnels which communist authorities had boasted could be sealed off completely to protect the entire population even in case of nuclear threat. There are some benches located at the edge of this pond and it is a peaceful place to stop and enjoy the present, for a few minutes.
Next, pass through the turret of the wall you saw earlier. As you emerge from the other side, you have a stunning view of Narodní Třida and Prague’s National Theatre, Narodni Divadlo, with it’s golden crown like rooftop. The wall that you can see running down towards the town and also upwards to your left is known as the Hunger Wall. During the reign of Charles IV (Karluv IV who gave his name to both the University and the Bridge), starving peasants were paid to build this wall, mostly as a charitable act to justify renumerating them. Now you are in Petřin. Take the small road going upwards with steep embankments to your left. The occasional vehicule runs up or down this road and not always very slowly, therefore you might want to put your dog on the leash for this short stretch. You will see the funicular rails underneath which brings visitors from the foot of the hill at Újezd to the Štefánikova observatory and rose garden at the top of Petřin Hill, and vice-versa. Just after you pass over the funicular rails, take the first path, running flat, on your right. Before you get to the end of this path, turn left and you will have a wonderful view of Petřinská rozhledna, Prague’s replica of the Eiffel Tower. During the day, you can have a light refreshment in the cafe at the foot of the tower but it won’t be the cheapest coffee and cake you’ll have purchased in Prague. At night the Tower is illiminated and casts a magical, silver glow onto the surrounding paths. Follow the wide path which slopes downwards. You will see a couple of Stations of the Cross depicted on the high wall running to your left. Do not go down the steep flight of steps when the path turns to the right. Instead, pass through the hole in the wall and follow the forest path downwards to the tarmac path. Here, beyond the sprawling orchards below you, you will have an absolutely magnificent view of Prague castle. My dogs have been photographed by tourists so many times at this point, as they consistently stop side by side, motionless, surveying intently their surroundings. Now I have my suspicions that they are scrutinizing the orchard, poised in keen anticipation of a potential rabbit hunt but I fully agree that their strained, elegant pose could easily be translated into a postcard of two proud, almost pompous dogs admiring the magestic seat of their president.
When you can finally divert your gaze from Prague castle, look down the slope directly below you and you may beable to see a tiny water source. It is but a trickle of water but this special little source is named after Sir Nicholas Winton, who as a brave, young English entrepreneur saved 669 Czechloslovak, Jewish children just prior to the outset of WWII by sending them, by train, to London, where foster families awaited them. A statue was erected in his honour in Hlavní Nádraží, Prague’s main railway station, much more recently. His deeds only became known when he was an elderly man as he had told noone, not even his wife.
Now, go towards the right and pass through another gap in a brick wall. Keep going then follow the forest path up to the right and once the path levels out, continue to the end. It will lead you downwards and around a deep and rather unexpected sunken, circular structure. Once on the tarmac path again, you will find yourself at another wall, through which you must pass. If your dog is in need of a drink, you can go straight on for about 25 m and he/she will be able to drink from the bottom of a fresh drinking water fountain. However, I recommend that you then turn back again and return to where you passed through the wall. You will be at the top of an orchard and you will take the steep path slanting diagonally downwards towards the right, in the direction of a collesseum type chapel. To your left is a sprawling orchard of which the beauty leaves one speechless during the months of April and May, as pink or white cherry and apple blossoms clothe the trees in Spring ball gowns. Do not go down the last part of the path leading to the chapel but follow the trodden grass trail down vertically. Turn towards your right but immediately left down another path. Just after the low mirabel trees, laden with yellow and red fruit in June, turn sharp right and follow the narrow dirt path which will lead you to a fountain and a main footpath. Here, you should put your dog briefly on the leash. There is a path going down to the left, one going sharp right upwards (the path is visible), one going straight on towards a tunnel and another going towards the right, round a bend. You must take this last one and you will pass through a tunnel (which you can’t see from the fountain). Keep going up this path and pass the statue photographed above, but where the path hairpins round towards the right, you will continue straight on, along a slightly narrower path. Just at this junction, you will see a statue commemorating a famous Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha. Over the years, I have been asked for directions to this statue by dozens of Czech couples, young and old, thus, curiosity led me to read some of his poetry, the most famous of which is “Mayo”. Once familiar with the poem, it became clearer why Macha’s statue is a traditional photo shoot spot for romantic couples on the 1st of May.
You can let your dog off the leash again as you turn onto the subsidery path (only the large path winding upwards is in the restricted catagory). Keep going straight on and once again, you will pass through a lower section of the Hunger Wall. You are now back in Kinsky Gardens. Right on the other side of the wall, you will go up to the right. You will arrive at yet another wonderful panoramic view point, where steps lead down to the left and right. After admiring the view over Smichov, do not go down the steps; follow instead, the flat path along to your right. At the end of this path, follow the level path almost straight on (building in ruins on your right). The path starts to slope downwards and you must look out for a very narrow, dirt path going diagonally upwards to your right. This path is often littered with rubbish but fortunately it is very short. It will bring you out at the back of a very beautiful, historic church, constructed entirely out of wood. Accessible only occasionally, St. Michal Carpathian Chapel was transported to Prague, in 1929, from its original location in the village of Medvědovce which is located at the Ukraine-Slovakian border. I have been inside only once. The interior is dark but very charming and the colours, white, green and red represent faith, hope and love. Go around the church and with its door to your back, walk down the steep winding path on your left until you arrive back at the bridge over the waterfall. There is another fresh water drinking fountain on the left near the playpark entrance, with a rather battered, metal dog bowl attached, which you can fill if your dog needs another drink. After crossing the bridge over the waterfall, go down the steps on your left, and down the sloping path towards Kinsky Summer palace. Here, you can end your walk with some refreshments either inside the cafe or on its quiet Summer terrasse or put your dog on the leash and follow the lawns down to the park entrance again.
We hope you will enjoy your walk and all those stunning perspectives of Prague.