Visiting Prague’s Petřín Hill With a Dog
No matter where in the world we may be and especially in a big city; I keep an eye out for great pet friendly parks. In Prague I found a gold star winner: Petřín Hill.
What do I look for in a city park?
Well obviously it has to be safe but beyond that I am in search of a good hike; something a bit challenging. It doesn’t have to be a difficult hike, but we do want to feel our heart rates go up if possible. We also like it if there are some juicy stories, ghosts or myths associated with the park. A special monument or two is always welcome. And although I am happy with just being out and about, the bipeds enjoy a stellar view to reward their efforts.
These are not “must haves” but they certainly make for a more enjoyable experience. And if you REALLY want to make our day, let it be off-leash!
About Petřín Hill
Right in the center of town on the left bank of the Vltava River is Petřín Hill. At 327 meters (1072 feet) high, this hill is entirely covered with green spaces. It’s no surprise to us that it’s a favourite place for locals to relax.
The summit of the hill is linked to Prague’s Malá Strana district by the Petřín funicular, a funicular railway that first operated in 1891. For those with mobility issues this is good news. You can take a funicular all the way up (or hop on and off along the way), even with a small dog in your arms. But honestly the lineup is ridiculously long and frankly we just really wanted to take it slow and enjoy everything the park had to offer on a glorious fall day.
Marching right past the funicular ticket office we followed a well-marked path. We did take a moment to watch the funicular fill up and then slowly make its way under the little bridge we were standing on and continue its climb.
Following some locals, we noticed a large open space with pretty fountains here and there and loads of fruit trees creating shade along the main path.
And much to our delight, very early on, the park was marked as off-leash. And we just LOVED the signage system. Painted directly on the path – facing the direction you would be walking – is a sign that indicates a dog on … or a dog off… leash. It shows you exactly where on the path you have gone from one zone into the other. No language barrier issues here.
We had such a good time, quietly finding paths that always led upwards. Sometimes we’d find stairs too and you KNOW how much I LOVE stairs!
The Tower and More!
In the end we made it to the top where a tower that looks like a short stubby Eiffel Tower awaits. The lookout tower was built in 1891 and is the central point of an entire picnic area that also includes a rose garden, a mirror maze, the St Lawrence Cathedral and St Michael Church.
The towers itself isn’t pet friendly, nor are the maze and religious buildings. But we did the usual hand off thing. Dad went up to the top of the tower and really enjoyed the stellar view of Prague. Meanwhile Mom and I explored the ground level fun.
Even as October was coming in, it was beautiful. We watched as kids ran about ice cream in hand and adults indulged in some fries and a beer as they sat at little tables belonging to the food stalls. It was busy but not overly crowded.
The Hunger Wall!
Taking a different route down, we followed the medieval defense wall. Now, Dear reader I am going to get a bit historical on you but it really is worth mentioning … the Hunger Wall.
Built between 1360 and 1362 by order of Charles IV, the purpose of the construction was said to be strengthening the fortifications of Prague Castle and Malá Strana against any attack from the west or south.
But then why is it called the Hunger Wall? The adjective Hladová (hungry) starts to appear in documents after the famine of 1361. The story goes that the purpose of the wall was not in fact defensive but rather and early example of “strategic public works” meant to employ and thus feed the poor.
All I know is that it certainly was a fun way to mark our decent and I took full advantage of playing “catch me if you can” with the bipeds around the lookout. And the views were really something.
We discovered the striking statue of Karel Hynek Mácha, poet of the Czech epic Maj (May). The statue depicts Mácha gazing upon flowers, cast forever in the act of recording their beauty. He appears serene, confident and quite dashing.
Sadly his life and death were not.
Mácha was born in 1810. Poor as they come, he still managed to study law. He also composed poetry, drama, and prose. An enthusiastic traveler he loved to “work and wonder” and detail his adventures in diaries, inspired by the likes of Byron and Shelley. Do I dare say – early travel bloggers?
But his life would prove as tragic as any verse: he died of unknown causes at just 26, the day before he was due to marry the woman with whom he had already fathered a son.
And like so many artists he became famous after his death. Mácha’s complex masterwork of poetry, Maj, was published at his own expense shortly before his death. It sadly received scathing reviews. Upon his death, he was buried in a pauper’s grave in 1836.
Karel Hynek Mácha was never wed, never a lawyer, and seen by his contemporaries as a failed artist. It’s truly tragic.
Luckily, for those of us alive today, Mácha’s work was rediscovered and his posthumous reputation grew such that in 1939 his body was exhumed and he was given a state funeral at Vyšehrad cemetery in Prague, the final resting place of Czech luminaries.
Maj is now required reading for Czech schoolchildren, many of whom can recite its opening lines: “It was late evening – first of May – the time for love.”
It is a tradition on May 1st for couples to gather and lay flowers at Mácha’s statue in Petřín Park, honoring the man who is now regarded by his countrymen as “the poet of love.”
And on a far more whimsical note a few steps further along the path is Reon Argondie’s Magic Cavern! We were not going to go in at first but then thought better of it. It is pet friendly and ridiculously cheap (CZK70…about Euro 2.50 and this included a glass of sangria) so for the blogs sake (I took one for the team) we thought we’d give it a go. It certainly looked crazy!
As soon as we entered we felt relaxed. It’s kind of dusty, and chaotic but the art is actually interesting if not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s very alchemist, fairy tale, alternate universe stuff. Although we didn’t want to buy any paintings; personally I really wanted this dragon.
We chatted with some kind travellers from Australia and the UK. We sat on the dusty couch, relaxed in the quiet and sipped some water. I admit, we left the cavern in good spirits.
Memorial to the victims of Communism
We were nearly back at the bottom of the hill and hungry. We nearly stopped at the big restaurant with it’s huge terrace for a bite to eat… but we decided to risk getting “hangry” and keep heading down to finish on a more somber note at the Memorial to the victims of Communism.
This series of statues commemorating the victims of the communist era between 1948 and 1989 is located at the base of Petřín hill, on Újezd street. It was unveiled on the 22 May 2002 and is the work of Czech sculptor Olbram Zoubek and architects Jan Kerel and Zdeněk Holzel.
It shows seven bronze figures descending a flight of stairs. The statues appear to “decay” more and more as they lose limbs and break apart; symbolizing the effects of communism on body and spirit.
Understandably we did not take selfies or pose with these statues out of respect.
A bronze strip that runs along the center of the memorial with some shocking stats made Mom very introspective. This memorial affected her more than dad given how her Ukrainian side of the family suffered similar fates. Here are some of those numbers jotted down to share with you.
- 205,486 arrested
- 170,938 forced into exile
- 4,500 died in prison
- 327 shot trying to escape
- 248 executed
A bronze plaque nearby reads:
“The memorial to the victims of communism is dedicated to all victims not only were those who were jailed or executed but also those whose lives ruined by totalitarian despotism”.
And so, on that somber note we left Petřín Hill in search of some dinner and a pick me up.
We’ve seen some amazing parks on our travels. Florence had a few nice ones – if small. The city of Nice has a particularly amazing park, on a hill too now that I think of it. Oh and Bern … also on a hill! I sense a theme! Vienna has by far the largest we’ve ever seen and Budapest has a rather epic park on a hill too. Europe seems to do these big parks really well and consistently.
But Prague’s is one we will always remember fondly for it’s variety and panache. I like these “wilder” parks in the middle of big urban spaces. I love that they always seem to be a place for humans and dogs to spend some quality time together and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
In review: Visiting Prague’s Petřín Hill With a Dog is absolutely worth it. It was refreshing after days of city sightseeing to just spend several hours under the trees and to be a little bit “one” with nature. We followed our own pace: quiet and steady. Being off-leash for nearly the entire time was certainly a welcome treat! This park has all the things we look for when it comes to a pet friendly city hike!