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The High Points of Prague (Where to See the City's Best Views)

Having spent twelve days in Prague, Liz and her husband are keen to share their experience and help others planning a visit to the city.

Zizkov Television Tower, Prague.

Zizkov Television Tower, Prague.

Getting Your Bearings

Whenever we visit a new city, no matter how much we have read up and researched the area, I always like to find a high point to get a good overall view. From there I can get an idea of the general geography and location of the main points of interest. Whether it is the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the London Eye, most cities have their own high points. Likewise in Prague. After seeing the city laid out before you, the tourist maps start to make sense.

Bird's eye view from the Zizkov Television Tower, Prague.

Bird's eye view from the Zizkov Television Tower, Prague.

Our Top 4 High Points

  1. Vysehrad
  2. Observation Tower, Petrin Park
  3. Zizkov Hill
  4. Zizkov Television Tower

1. Vysehrad

It was from Vysehrad that we got our first view of Prague. The literal translation of Vysehrad is "High Castle". The rocky outcrop, located just over 3km southeast of Prague Castle, was the sight of fortified barracks, with evidence of building on the site going back to the 10th Century. Legend has it that this was the place where Slav tribes first settled in Prague, but this theory has been disproved by archaeological evidence. From here we were able to see Prague Castle and Mala Strana as well as views away from the city to the south.

Vysehrad does not feature high on most tourist itineraries, because of its slightly out-of-town location and time constraints. We came here for two reasons. Firstly because it was within easy walking distance of our hotel, Holiday Inn Prague Congress Centre. Secondly, having traveled in from the airport across Prague, we were looking for a quiet, relaxing location to slow down and unwind. Vysehrad turned out to be just the place for this.

Views From Vysehrad

After entering the fortress area, we headed along paths through the park towards the northwestern edge. From here we could see Prague Castle in the distance. As we walked further west, we saw the River Vltava with Mala Strana and Hradcany stretching out from the opposite bank. Rounding the fortress area, heading southeast we could see the River Vltava and views south of the city.

Points of Interest in Vysehrad

Leopold Gate

Described as the most beautiful Baroque Gate in Prague, the Leopold Gate was built from 1653 to1672. It was designed by an Italian architect, Carlo Lurago, as the castle gate. It certainly makes an impressive entrance.

St. Martin's Rotunda

Shortly after passing through the gate, we saw St. Martin's Rotunda. This is a small Romanesque church, dating from the 11th Century. It was restored in 1878.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul

This church, which dominates the skyline of Vysehrad with its twin spires, has seen many changes since it was founded in the 11th Century. It was enlarged in 1129 but burned down in the mid-13th Century. Its replacement was an Early Gothic church. Following many restorations and redecorations, the Neo-Gothic church we see today dates from 1885, with the twin steeples added in 1902. There is a small charge for admission. Intent on exploring the outside areas on this occasion, we did not go in.

Vysehrad Cemetery

This is the most prestigious graveyard in Prague, the final resting place of famous artists and intellectuals since its founding in 1869. To the Czech people, there are many familiar names on the well-kept and ornate gravestones. The two most notable ones we found were for the Czech composers, Smetana and Dvorak. The first was in the main area and the second is under one of the arcades lining two sides of the small cemetery.

2. Observation Tower, Petrin Park

Some high points become a spectacle in themselves and can be easily spotted on the skyline from miles around. The Observation Tower, or mini version of the Eiffel Tower, in Petrin Park, falls into this category. Since its construction in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition, the Observation Tower has offered visitors a fascinating view over Prague. Although only a quarter of the height of the Eiffel Tower, at 60 meters (200 feet), what it lacks in height, it makes up for with its setting. Petrin Hill is 318 meters (960 feet) high, overlooking the city below.

An admission charge is payable, even if you are prepared to walk up the 299 steps to the top of the tower. A higher rate is charged for those who, like us, prefer to take the lift. Do not miss the exhibition showing how Petrin Hill has changed over the centuries.

Tip: Arrive early to avoid queues. Mid-morning we queued for 30 minutes to take the lift.

Location

The Observation Tower is located in Mala Strana to the west of Prague. It is around 1.3 kilometers southwest of Prague Castle.

Access

We crossed the River Vltava by tram and alighted at the public transport stop on Ujezd. The base of Petrin Park runs parallel to the west of Ujezd. You can either follow the path north to the funicular railway and take the easy way up, as we did, or you can walk up the hill for the more strenuous route. We opted to walk back down from Petrin Park, taking a path to Strahov Monastery

Tip: Public transport tickets are valid on the funicular.

Petrin Park

Petrin Park is the largest area of green space in Prague. If you are looking for somewhere to get away from the crowds with pleasant woodland walks this might be the place for you. The Observation Tower is undoubtedly the main attraction. You can also find parts of the Hunger Wall (Prague's southern boundary dating from the 14th Century), Stefanik's Observatory (housing a small astronomical exhibition), a mini neo-Gothic castle containing a mirror maze and historical diorama, the Church of St. Lawrence and a rose garden.

The Views

On a clear day, it is said that you can see not only the whole of Prague from here but also most of Bohemia. The 360-degree viewing gallery at the top of the Observation Tower is fully enclosed. It is not the largest of spaces, but we were able to admire the view and take photos without feeling rushed. Our focus was on the city to the north and east of us. We were could pick out the different areas laid out below us, with views of Mala Strana, Hradcany, and Prague Castle to the north, Prague's Old Town, and New Town to the east as well as tracing the course of the River Vltava. In spite of the grey day, we got a good aerial view over Prague.

3. Zizkov Hill

Zizkov Hill is located around 2.4 km east of Old Town Square, Prague. The thin wedge of greenery separates the area of Zizkov from the neighboring area of Karlin, to the north. Formerly known as Vitkov Hill, it was renamed Zizkov in 1877 after the one-eyed Hussite general, Jan Zizka, who had led a small force of Hussites here in a victory against several thousand well-armed crusaders in 1420. Around the time of the renaming, a plan was made for a monument, but work did not start until 1928. The planned inauguration ceremony in 1938 was postponed due to the Munich Agreement and the outbreak of World War II. It was the 1950s before the bronze equestrian statue of Zizka was complete. Standing around 9 meters (30 feet) high, it is one of the largest equestrian statues in the world.

The National Memorial was also built on this site in 1928-38. The Nazis used it as an arsenal and it later became a Communist mausoleum. After the Velvet Revolution, the Communists were quietly cremated and reinterred in the Olsany cemetery. There is now an interesting museum on the country's 20th Century history, as well as a Communist monument to those who died in World War II and a cafe on the top. There is also a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the site.

Four reasons prompted our visit. We had read of the monument in guides to Prague, we had noticed the statue from afar, the museum sounded interesting and, after a week in Prague, we were starting to look at sites further out from the center.

Our Experience

Despite its prominent position on Prague's skyline, we did not find it easy getting to the National Memorial. The nearest metro at Florenc is 1.3km from the memorial. Signage was not great, but we eventually made it via the meandering paths which wind their way up the hill. Views of the surrounding area and across to the nearby Zizkov TV mast were good, but views to the west over central Prague were hindered by the trees.

We visited on a Tuesday afternoon and I was surprised to find so few people up there. We found the reason why when we went to enter the museum. It was closed, which was a great disappointment. We only had ourselves to blame, as we later found the opening times in a guidebook.

Tip: When planning your tour itinerary check the days and times of opening for the places you want to visit.

I think our assumption was based on the fact that this was a national memorial. We assumed that the museum would be open most of the time. It was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The museum and a visit to its rooftop cafe are on our list for a future visit to Prague.

Fixing our gaze on the Zizkov Television Mast, we decided to cut our losses and having checked it was open, we went off in search of another view.