PRAGUE — Little Quarter

The Little Quarter (Malá Strana) is full of beautiful Baroque palaces and old houses with their wonderful signs. This area which was founded in 1257 is on the left (west) bank of the river Vltava, on the slopes just below the Prague Castle and is joined to the larger areas of Prague on the right(east) bank by the Charles Bridge. The centre of the Little Quarter is Little Quarter Square which is dominated by the Church of St Nicholas.

The sights found here are:
Wallenstein Palace and Garden
At St Thomas
Church of St Thomas
Little Quarter Square
Church of St Nicholas
Nerudova Street
Italian Street
Vrtba Garden
Church of Our Lady Victorious
Maltese Square
Kampa Island
Grand Priory Square
Church of Our Lady Beneath the Chain
Charles Bridge
At the Three Ostriches
Bridge Street
Vojan Park
Kampa Museum of Modern Art
Ledebour Garden
Observation Tower
Mirror Maze
Church of St Lawrence
Observatory
Hunger Wall
Petřín Park
Funicular Railway
Museum of Music
Michna Palace

Wallenstein Palace

Wallenstein Palace and Garden
Wallenstein Palace (Valdštejnský Palác) was the first large secular palace of the Baroque era in Prague. It was built for Albrecht von Wallenstein, a nobleman and an imperial military commander, between 1624 and 1628. It is absolutely enormous and was meant to be a monument to the owner’s achievements and to overshadow Prague Castle. Albrecht von Wallenstein became just a little too ambitious for the liking of Emperor Ferdinand 11 that he had him killed. The palace is magnificent inside especially the main hall which is two stories high with stunning ceiling frescoes of Wallestein portrayed as Mars, the God of War. The palace is now used as the home of the Czech Senate and is open to visitors free-of-charge every weekend from 10 am to 4 pm and to 5 pm during summer.
For information about the Palace visit the following website at: http://www.senat.cz/informace/infocentrum-eng.php?ke_dni=16.04.2010&O=7

At St Thomas
The St Thomas beer hall (U sv Tomáše) was part of a brewery opened by Augustinan monks in 1352 and they brewed their own beer and sold it to Prague Castle. This brewery was open until 1952 and since then it has sold a special dark beer from the Braník brewery. In the 19th century the beer hall was a meeting place for many famous Czech artists and writers. You can visit the beer hall where you will find a restaurant and in the basement there are three beer halls including the ‘Cave’ which is mock-Medieval.

Church of St Thomas

Church of St Thomas
The Church of St Thomas (Kostel sv Tomáše) was built in 1379 in the Gothic style on the foundation of an older, probably Romanesque church. It was founded by Wenceslas 11 in 1285 as the monastery church of the Augustinians. This was one of the few churches in Prague to remain Catholic during the Hussite period and so it suffered fire damage during this time. Over the centuries it suffered other damage and as a result was rebuilt in several different architectural styles and today there is little left of its Gothic origins apart from the steeple which is 62 metres high and a familiar silhouette in the Little Quarter. The highlight of the church is the Baroque ceiling frescoes in the nave painted by Václav Vavřinec Reiner. This church is now used by the English-speaking Catholic community in Prague.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.augustiniani.cz/en/mainen.html

Little Quarter Square

Little Quarter Square
Little Quarter Square (Malostranské Náměstí) started as a marketplace in 1257 and since then it has been at the centre of everything in the Little Quarter. It is surrounded by Medieval houses that have been rebuilt during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. The centre of the square is dominated by the Baroque church of St Nicholas and Lichtenstein Palace. In front of this palace is a column in honour of the Holy Trinity to mark the end of a plague epidemic in 1713. Other important buildings found near the square are no 142 which is the Rott House which has a Romanesque basement inside and a painting-decorated facade depicting crafts and agriculture. Also the Smiřický Palace with its turrets and hexagonal towers and the Baroque Kaiserstein Palace with the bust of Czech soprano Emmy Destinn on its facade.

Church of St Nicholas

Church of St Nicholas
The Church of St Nicholas (Kostel sv Mikuláše) found in the Little Quarter is one of three St Nicholas churches in Prague. Construction of the church began in 1703 and was finished in 1761 on the site of a former parish church of the same name. The church is beautiful and is considered the masterpiece of Baroque father and son architects Christoph and Kilian Ignaz Dienzenhofer but unfortunately they both died before the church was completed. St Nicholas Church is found on Little Quarter Square and is the largest church in Prague founded by the Jesuits. The interior is decorated with statues, paintings and frescoes by leading artists of the day. A highlight is a fresco of the Celebration of the Holy Trinity by Franz Palko found in the dome. The belfry was the last part of the church to be built and houses a small museum of musical instruments. You can climb the tower for a good view over the Little Quarter and across the Vltava River to the Old Town.

Nerudova Street

Nerudova Street
Nerudova Street (Nerudova Ulice) also called Royal Way or King Street is the historic street linking Prague Castle to Charles Bridge, via the Little Quarter. The street is named after the 19th century Czech writer and journalist Jan Neruda who lived in no 47 — At the Two Suns between 1845 and 1857. Nerudova Street is very pretty with its ancient burgher houses which are now quaint hotels, restaurants and small shops. The street has many examples of houses with signs including the house near the bottom which is called the Three Little Fiddles and was the home of a family of violin makers around 1700. Neruda Street is also home to some rather grand Baroque buildings including no 2 which is the Italian Embassy and a former palace and no 5, the Rumanian Embassy also a former palace. There are also some impressive looking churches.

Italian Street
Italian Street (Vlašská Ulice) was settled by Italian immigrants in the 16th century who were artists and craftsmen employed to rebuild and redecorate Prague Castle. The street contains a number of grand Baroque buildings including the former Italian Hospital which is now part of the Italian embassy and the magnificent German embassy which was once the Lobkowicz Palace.

Vrtba Garden

Vrtba Garden
The Vrtba Garden (Vrtbovská Zahrada) is found behind Vrtba Palace. It is a beautiful Baroque garden with balustraded terraces. The highest part of the garden has magnificent views of Prague Castle and over the Little Quarter. The garden was designed by Františeke Maximilián Kaňka in around 1720. There are many statues, stone vases and beautiful plants found in the garden and though it is small it is a lovely place to visit.

Church of Our Lady Victorious

Church of Our Lady Victorious
The Church of Our Lady Victorious (Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné) was the first Baroque church in Prague and was built by Giovanni Maria Filippi in 1613 for the German Lutherans. Originally, the church was called the church of the Holy Trinity but in 1620 it was given to the church of the Carmelites who rebuilt and renamed it. One of the highlights of the church is the glass case with a wax effigy of the Holy Infant of Prague also known as il Bambino di Praga. Legend says the effigy has healing powers and that it was the protector of the city against plague and destruction in the 30 Years war.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.pragjesu.info/en/

Traveller's Tip

The wax effigy of the infant has been dressed in different clothes from the beginning. Most of the outfits are gifts and there are around a hundred costumes. Some of these can be seen in a small museum opposite the church which you can visit free of charge. The Carmelite Sisters who belong to the church have the task of changing the clothes.
Maltese Square

Maltese Square
Maltese Square(Maltézské Náměstí) was named after the Knights of Malta who in 1169 established a monastery beside the Church of Our Lady Below the Chain. The largest building found on this square is Nostitz Palace which is now the Dutch embassy. In summer concerts are played here. The Japanese embassy is found in the former Turba Palace which is the pink Rococo building you can see.

Kampa Island

Kampa Island
Kampa is an island formed by a branch of the Vltava River known as the Devil’s Stream (Čertovka). This stream is supposedly named after a lady who lived in the nearby Maltese Square who had a terrible temper. From Kampa you can see the remains of three old mills from the time when this stream was used as a millrace and two of them still have their mill wheels. In some parts the stream flows between rows of houses and this has led the area to be known as ‘the Venice of Prague’. The first buildings to appear in Kampa were the homes of bricklayers, carpenters and stonemasons who worked on the Charles Bridge to maintain it. Na Kampě Square is where traditional pottery markets took place for centuries. On the island you will find an English-style park at the southern end and at the northern end there are Renaissance houses and a Baroque palace. It is a very pretty place that is also very peaceful and worth visiting.

Grand Priory Square
Grand Priory Square (Velkopřevorské Náměstí) is a quiet leafy square with two former Baroque palaces. On the northern side is the former seat of the Grand Prior of the Knights of Malta which is a palace dating from the 1720s and on the opposite side is the Buquoy Palace that is now the home of the French embassy. Also in the square you will find the John Lennon Peace wall which is a monument to the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth in the Communist era. Although Lennon never actually visited Prague the wall acts as a memorial to his ideas and free thinking speech.

Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain

Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain
The Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain (Kostel Panny Marie Pod Řetězem) was once a priory. The church was a gift to the Knights of St John who were later known as the Knights of Malta from King Vladislav II in the 12 th century. In former times the church stood in the heart of the Knight’s monastery to guard the old Judith Bridge. The name of the church refers to the chain that was used to lock the monastery gate. The church has undergone a number of renovations over the centuries and the church you see today was built in 1640 and has a distinctively Baroque appearance with its two imposing towers dominating the surrounding area.

Charles Bridge

Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge (Karlův Most) is the stone Gothic bridge that connects the Old Town and The Little Quarter and is possibly the most famous and popular tourist spot in Prague. It is now only open to pedestrians though at one time you would have seen carriages, cars and trams crossing here. Work began on the bridge in 1357 on the orders of Charles 1V but originally it was called Stone Bridge. The first bridge built over the river was Judith Bridge which was built in 1172 and collapsed in a flood in 1342. Charles Bridge has survived many floods, most recently in August 2002 when the country experienced the worst flood in the past 500 years but it is still standing, due some say to the egg yolks that were supposedly used in the construction. On both sides of the bridge are Baroque statues which have been there since the 17th century. Now many of them are copies due to wear and tear and the originals can be seen in the Lapidarium of the National Museum and the fortress of Vyšehrad. The most popular statue is probably the one of St John Nepomuk, a Czech martyr saint who was executed during the reign of Wenceslas IV by being thrown into the Vltava from the bridge and people come to touch it for luck. There is also a tower standing on each end of the bridge which can be climbed for a view of Prague and the bridge from above. These days you will find many Czech artists, musicians and souvenir sellers lining the sides of the bridge.
For information about the bridge towers visit the following website at:
http://www.praguetowers.com/malostranska-mostecka-vez.html

Traveller's Tip

Make sure that you make at least one visit to the bridge at sunset so you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the fully lit Prague Castle against the evening sky. The bridge is always full of people but if you go there very early in the morning you will find that it is almost empty.

At the Three Ostriches
At the Three Ostriches (U Tří Pštrosů) is a house found near the Charles Bridge. It was owned by Jan Fux who was an ostrich-feather merchant in the 16th century. Ostrich feathers were considered very fashionable for decorating hats amongst the courtiers and officers at Prague Castle at this time. The building is now an expensive hotel and restaurant.

Bridge Street

Bridge Street
Bridge Street (Mostecká Ulice) has been the street linking Charles Bridge with the Little Quarter Square since the Middle Ages. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries the area north of the street was the Court of the Bishop of Prague but this was destroyed during the Hussite Wars. One of the Gothic towers from this time has been preserved in the courtyard of the house called At the Three Golden Bells. Bridge street has a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque houses and some of the ones to watch out for are At the Black Eagle on the left as well as Kaunic Palace which is a Rococo building with stunning stucco decorations and sculptures.

Vojan Park

Vojan Park
Vojan Park (Vojanovy Sady) was formerly the gardens of the Monastery of the Barefooted Carmelites but taken over by the Order of the English Virgins. There is a high wall around the garden and it is now part of the Ministry of Finance. It is a pleasant place to stroll with its weeping willows, fruit trees and benches and occasionally there are exhibitions of modern sculpture. You will also find here the two chapels of Elijah with its unusual form of a stalagmite and stalactite cave and St Teresa.

Kampa Museum of Modern Art
The Kampa Museum of Modern Art (Muzeum Kampa)) is housed in the historic Sova mill named after Vaclav Sova, the original owner in the 15th century. The mill with its magnificent white facade has been renovated after centuries of fires, floods and damage. The museum houses an impressive collection of Central European art and was founded by Jan and Meda Mládková who were well-known Czech-American art collectors. Some of the highlights include works by Frantisek Kupka and Otto Gutfreund and there are also changing Avant-Garde international exhibitions.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.museumkampa.com/en/

Ledebour Garden

Ledebour Garden
Ledebour Garden (Ledeburská Zahrada) is one of three gardens that are linled together and found on the steep southern slope below Prague Castle. The other two are Cernín and Páiffy. Over the years these gardens have been renovated and today are a great place to relax on a warm summer’s day with their terraces, fountains, stone passageways and secluded alcoves as well as giving you a fabulous view of the city. On Friday and Saturday nights in June and July there are Baroque music concerts held in the gardens.

Traveller's Tip

You will have to pay a small fee to visit the gardens but it is possible to view them by walking to the back of the Prague Castle gardens and taking the path down through several terraces before ending at the little tower where the tickets are sold.

Observation Tower
The Observation Tower (Petřínská Rozhledna) which sits at the top of Petřín hill was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition. It is 60m tall and the view from the top is magnificent and well worth the 299 steps you have to climb to reach the viewing platform. On a clear day it is possible to see the highest peak in the Czech Republic, Snéžka, which is 150km from the tower. To get to the tower you can take the funicular up Petřín hill from Ujezd street in the Little Quarter or you can catch a taxi or walk for 25-30 minutes up Petřín hill. The climb is fairly steep but passes through gardens and an apple orchard.

Mirror Maze
The Mirror Maze (Zrcadlové Bludišté) was also part of the Jubilee Exhibition and also found in Petřín Park. It is housed in a wooden pavilion that has walls lined with distorting mirrors. There is also a diorama of The Defence of Prague against the Swedes which took place in 1648 on Charles Bridge. It is a good place to visit if you are travelling with children.

Petrin Park

Petřín Park
Petřín Park (Petřínské Sady) is found to the west of the Little Quarter and it rises above the city to 318metres. There used to be a forest here but in the 12th century the southern side of the hill was planted with vineyards but by the 18th century these were replaced by gardens and orchards. In the park there are two monuments — one is the Monument to the Victims of Communism and the other is of the poet Karel Hynek Mácha.

Funicular Railway

Funicular Railway
The Funicular Railway (Lanová Dráha) was built to carry visitors to the Jubilee Exhibition up to the Observation Tower at the top of Petřín Hill. It originally ran on water until 1914 when it was converted to electricity. In 1965 it had to be closed because part of the hill collapsed due to the coal mines that were active in the 19th century. It took 20 years to get the railway up and running again but now it is very useful if you want to get to the top of the hill.
For information about the Funicular Railway visit the following website at: http://www.dpp.cz/en/the-petrin-funicular/

Church of St Lawrence

Church of St Lawrence
The Church of St Lawrence (Kostel sv Vavřince) is a beautiful Baroque church found on the top of the Petřín hill next to the Observation Tower. It is thought that the original church may have been built in the 10th century on the site of a pagan shrine and the ceiling in the sacristy is decorated with a painting illustrating this. The painting dates from the 1700s when the Romanesque church was rebuilt in the Baroque style. It has two tall slender towers in the forefront and there are semicircular windows topped by a typical onion dome with lantern and finial. In 1995 Prague Council rented this church to the Catholic Church.

Observatory
The Observatory (Hvézdárna) is found on Petřín hill and has been there since 1930. Visitors can use the telescopes to view the craters of the moon and other astronomical observations. There is also an exhibition of old astronomical instruments and if you are travelling with children on the weekend there are special activities for them.
For information about the Observatory visit the website at: http://www.observatory.cz/english.html

Hunger Wall

Hunger Wall
The Hunger Wall (Hladová Zeď) is the name given to the fortifications built around the southern edge of the Little Quarter between 1360 and 1362 in the reign of Charles 1V. Around 1200 metres of the wall has survived including the crenellated battlements and a platform for marksmen. It runs from Újezd across Petřín park to Strahov. The name for the wall comes from a story that Charles 1V built the wall to give the poor employment during a time of famine and as there was really a famine at that time the name stuck.

Museum of Music
The Museum of Music (České Muzeum Hudby) is found in the Baroque Church of Santa Maria Magdalena built in the 17th century. The museum is run by the National Museum and exhibits include a collection of handcrafted instruments, the history of musical notation and original recordings of music played by the displayed instruments that you can listen to with headphones.
For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.nm.cz/sluzby-detail.php?f_id=38

Michna Palace

Michna Palace
Michna Palace (Michnův Palác) was built as a summer palace for the Kinský family in 1580 on the site of an old Dominican convent. In 1623 it was bought by Pavel Michna of Vacinov who was an officer in the Imperial Army and he wanted a palace to rival that of Wallenstein. In 1767 the palace was sold to the army and over the years fell into disrepair. It was finally bought in around 1918 by Sokol and converted into a gym and sports centre and was renamed Tyrš House.