April during my college year in Prague was unseasonably warm, giving me an early chance to start working on my tan in the city’s parks. Throughout the spring and summer, I could be found splayed out on some stretch of grass while tourists trampled cobblestoned Old Town (and my schoolmates dutifully sat in their classrooms out in the godforsaken industrial district of Hloubetin).
However, Prague’s parks offer more than just an escape from the crowds; they can also deliver front-row seating to watch the Vltava River flow by, vistas of the city’s famed spires, or a leafy setting to quaff fresh golden Czech pilsners. And here’s the real clincher: they’re filled with locals rather than visitors. So, if you want to authentically experience the city and catch a respite from the tourist crush, consider adding the following green spots to the Prague itinerary you plan on Inspirock.
Situated just south of the Charles Bridge along the banks of the Vltava River on Mala Strana (the Lesser Side), Kampa Park was my favorite daytime haunt. It was really hard to believe that so much open grassy space was left unoccupied right in the heart of the city. The lawn is immaculately maintained and a couple of gigantic deciduous trees grace visitors with plenty of shade. I passed up the benches in favor of a blanket on the grass or a seat along the retaining wall to gaze out on the river, the bridge, and the pastel buildings across the water. I also used to come down to Kampa with a friend who played the guitar and sang; if you can find one of those, I recommend bringing them, too.
Going to the top of Petrin Hill and staring down at the Golden City laid out in all its glory was another one of my favorite things to do in Prague. Sitting directly behind Kampa Park, the hill offers two ways to reach its prominence from Ujezd Street: a quick hike following the warren of walkways or a ride up the funicular. The former can leave you lathered in sweat, while the latter wastes precious time waiting in line. I would approach from Prague Castle instead. There’s no climb involved and the easy amble brings you past Strahov Monastery, where you can stop for a monk-brewed beer. Make sure you’re up to speed on your phone’s panorama function, because your wide-angle Prague money shot awaits.
Letna Park was actually more of a nighttime spot for me, but it’s equally appealing during the day. It sits at the bend of the Vltava, also on the side opposite from Old Town, and features a giant metronome ticking back and forth. My friends and I used to sit beneath it and look out over the illuminated city below. Turn your gaze south, and you can view the city center’s bridges in near-perfect alignment. Day or night, Letna offers another ginormous panoramic view of Prague, just from a different perspective than Petrin Hill’s.
Out in Zizkov, which used to be the people’s neighborhood, the grounds of Riegrovy Sady are worth the quick trip from Old Town for the beer garden alone. Although expats have recently given Zizkov a more international character, this big park’s central attraction still retains a genuine Czech tradition. Pilsner flows from the taps, sausages sizzle on the grills, and bacchanalia permeates. The big screens sometimes show soccer matches, and you might catch live music at night. As for the rest of the park, its rolling hills offer a perfectly pleasant atmosphere for strolling.
Let’s face it, sightseeing in a town like Prague can be hard work. I’m not saying you should skip it in favor of lazing about—you need to do your duty . . . and the sights of Prague are pretty damn impressive. If you do want to incorporate some R&R, though, here’s how I would add the city’s best parks to your schedule of things to do in Prague: