Photos of Prague often show a densely packed, medieval cityscape of towers and castles, but the Czech capital is actually surprisingly green. The Husqvarna Urban Green Space Index, which ranks cities according to the amount of park land they have, recently listed Prague as the 13th greenest city in the world (and among the top 10 in Europe).
There are plenty of places to throw down a blanket and rest your feet from the trying cobblestones. Many parks and gardens offer breathtaking views of the city, and a few even toss in the added bonus of restorative, on-site beer gardens. Here are a few to consider:
Stromovka is the city’s largest centrally located park—257 acres to be exact—and arguably Prague’s loveliest, thanks to a multiyear development project that included new footpaths, ponds, bridges and gardens. Stromovka served as a hunting ground for royals in the 13th century and the park’s location, in a big bowl north of the Old Town, lends a feeling of intimacy and exclusivity that’s lasted to the present day.
An open-air restaurant on the park's eastern end called Vozovna Stromovka serves good Czech food and beer, and has a big, adjoining playground. Stromovka is home to Prague’s Planetarium, and it’s an easy walk from here to the Výstaviště Exhibition Grounds and Prague Zoo.
Leafy Letná Gardens is perched dramatically along a high ridge just across the Vltava River from Staré Město (Old Town). In addition pretty vistas overlooking the city below, the park has plenty of walking and cycling trails, as well as the beloved Letná beer garden, where you can fetch your own beer from a small kiosk and gaze at the city’s spires from one of the garden’s ramshackle picnic tables.
An oversized metronome, easily visible from Staré Město’s Pařížská ulice, keeps time from an elevated platform that six decades ago supported the world’s biggest statue of former Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. Paths link Letná to Prague Castle, making it easy to combine a visit to both.
Riegrovy Sady is a handsome 19th-century park modeled after a classic English garden, and a fitting addition to its posh residential neighborhood. People come here for the popular beer garden and to spread a blanket on the park’s western slope for stirring sunset views over Staré Město and Prague Castle in the distance.
The big lawn at Kampa in Malá Strana is one of the city’s most popular spots to relax on the grass with a bottle of beer or toss around a Frisbee. The park occupies a large island, bounded on one side by the Vltava, with a gorgeous side view of Charles Bridge.Find liquid sustenance at the nearby Mlýnská Kavárna, or nourish your artistic needs with a peek in at the adjoining Kampa Museum.
Prague’s Staré Město, often crowded with visitors, has little green space of its own, but thankfully several nearby islands in the Vltava River offer shaded respite (and pretty riverside views). Benches line the banks of peaceful, elongated Marksmen’s Island (Střelecký ostrov), just opposite the National Theater, making it an ideal spot for rest.
On summer evenings, the island often hosts concerts and open-air festivals. Nearby Slav Island (Slovanský ostrov), just south of the National Theater, has a well-maintained playground for kids and jetties where you can hire row boats by the hour. On the Malá Strana side of the river, traffic-free Children's Island (Dětský ostrov) is a veritable kid’s paradise, with swing sets, zip lines, climbing spots and even a mini soccer field.
Dramatic Petřín Hill, just west of Malá Strana, rises rapidly from river level to a height of around 1050 feet. The quiet, tree-shaded paths here form the perfect antidote to the narrow, crowded lanes of the center. The top of the hill is crowned by several family-friendly attractions, including a lookout tower, a scaled-down version of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, and a mirror maze, but the real reward of the climb is the breathtaking views of the city from paths that line the hill’s upper rim.
Another large park, Kinský Garden (Kinského zahrada), sprawls to the south of Petřín, while the hike toward the north brings you to Strahov Monastery and within easy walk of Prague Castle. To spare an admittedly exhausting walk up the hill, hop a funicular railway that starts near the Újezd tram stop (trams 9, 12, 20, 22).
Prague Castle Gardens
Prague Castle is much more than St Vitus Cathedral and the Old Royal Palace. The complex is surrounded on all sides by soothing gardens that are worth visiting both for their natural beauty and historic significance.
The Royal Gardens on the castle’s northern edge hold an important collection of Renaissance architecture, including the 16th-century Ball Game House, with its signature Renaissance sgraffito, and the beautifully proportioned Summer Palace.
A more adventurous, nearby hike traces the Stag Moat (Jelení příkop) along the Brusnice stream, which once formed a natural defensive barrier. On the castle’s southern side, find a beautiful collection of terraced baroque gardens called the Gardens Below Prague Castle, which were once owned by the kingdom’s wealthiest noble families.