Lesser Town Walking Tour, Prague

Lesser Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Prague

Mala Strana (or "Lesser Town") is a district in Prague situated on the left bank of the Vltava River. Renowned for its architectural beauty, this is one of the capital's most historically significant neighborhoods. Back in the Middle Ages, it was predominantly populated by ethnic Germans and, in later years, despite the prevalence of Baroque in its architecture, largely retained its Germanic vibe.

Undoubtedly, one of the most iconic landmarks here is the Charles Bridge, a stunning medieval overpass adorned with Baroque statues, offering breathtaking views of the city.

In Lesser Town, visitors can immerse themselves in the literary world of Franz Kafka at the Franz Kafka Museum, showcasing exhibits dedicated to the renowned Czech writer.

Further ahead, Wallenstein Palace, Prague's inaugural venture into Baroque architecture, dazzles with its meticulously manicured gardens, ornate Renaissance rooms, and a mesmerizing dripstone "Grotto".

The Lesser Town Square, a bustling marketplace since the 10th century, adorned with remarkable buildings such as the Old Town Hall and Saint Nicholas Church, is a sight to behold in its own right.

Wandering along Bridge Street (Mostecka), visitors encounter the John Lennon Wall, a colorful mural symbolizing peace and love. A few blocks away, the Church of Our Lady Victorious is a cherished pilgrimage site, housing the revered Infant Jesus of Prague statue.

For a whimsical experience, visitors can explore the Mirror Maze, a fun-filled attraction offering optical illusions and endless entertainment. For panoramic views of Prague, a visit to the Petrin Lookout Tower – renowned for its resemblance with the Eiffel Tower in Paris – is a must. The tower offers sweeping vistas of the cityscape from its lofty heights.

Indeed, a visit to Lesser Town promises a captivating journey. Don't miss the opportunity to explore its landmarks on your next trip to Prague! To check them all out at your comfortable pace, take this self-guided walk!
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Lesser Town Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Lesser Town Walking Tour
Guide Location: Czech Republic » Prague (See other walking tours in Prague)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Charles Bridge
  • Franz Kafka Museum
  • Wallenstein Palace & Gardens
  • Lesser Town Square
  • Church of St. Nicholas (Lesser Town)
  • Bridge Street (Mostecka)
  • John Lennon Wall
  • Church of Our Lady Victorious and of the Infant Jesus of Prague
  • Mirror Maze
  • Petrin Lookout Tower
Charles Bridge

1) Charles Bridge (must see)

The Charles Bridge, a renowned symbol of Prague, commenced its construction on July 9, 1357, at precisely 5:31 AM. This timing was no mere coincidence but based on the belief of Charles IV, the Roman Emperor, in the powers of numerology and astrology. His choice of the specific date and time, forming a palindrome, was thought to endow the bridge with added strength. Whether this belief held true, or whether the rumored mixtures of eggs, wine, or milk into the foundations contributed to durability, remains one of the structure's intriguing mysteries.

Spanning the Vltava River and stretching 516 meters long, nearly 10 meters wide, and supported by 16 arches protected by ice guards, the Charles Bridge served as the vital link between the Old Town, Prague Castle, and surrounding areas until 1841. Witnessing a surge in traffic during the early 20th century, it eventually transitioned to pedestrian-only access in 1978.

Adding a unique artistic dimension to the bridge are thirty Baroque statues, installed between the late 17th century and 1928, seamlessly blending with the underlying Gothic architecture. While strolling toward Lesser Town ("Malá Strana"), take a moment to appreciate these statues up close. Notable among them is the bronze crucifix, the oldest dating back to the mid-17th century, and the striking depiction of Saint Francis Xavier converting four pagan princes—an Indian, Moor, Chinese, and Tartar—a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture. Another significant figure is the eighth on the right, Saint John of Nepomuk, associated with a legendary tale of martyrdom on the bridge. Tradition holds that touching his statue brings good fortune or, in some renditions, ensures a return visit to Prague.

For a more leisurely experience, visit early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds.
Franz Kafka Museum

2) Franz Kafka Museum

The renowned early-20th-century Jewish author Franz Kafka (1883–1924), although not typically regarded as Czech and composing his works in German, spent the majority of his short, angst-ridden existence in Prague. So, it's only fitting that his shrine finds its home here too. The designers of this museum apparently decided to fully embrace Kafka's darkly paranoid and paradoxical world, resulting in exhibits that stay true to this spirit. While some might find the results a tad eccentric, they certainly deserve an A for effort.

Prepare to be greeted by facsimiles of manuscripts, documents, first editions, photographs, and newspaper obituaries housed in glass vitrines, all set within what can only be described as "Kafkaesque" environments. Venture downstairs to the basement level, where things take a turn for the freaky, with expressionistic interpretations of Kafka's works, including a chilling model of the infamous torture machine from the "In the Penal Colony" story. Not exactly ideal for a casual stroll with young children or a romantic rendezvous, but an absolute must-see for anyone versed in Kafka's literary labyrinth.

Moving on to the upper floors, be prepared for audiovisuals and theatrical wizardry aimed at delving deep into the torment, alienation, and claustrophobia that permeated Kafka's life and reverberated through his writings. And on a slightly lighter note, don't overlook David Černý's attention-grabbing 'Pissing Figures' statue taking center stage in the courtyard outside, featuring two cheeky men relieving themselves into a pool shaped like none other than the Czech Republic itself.

To truly immerse yourself in the Kafkaesque experience, it's advisable to secure a guided tour in advance. These tours are typically available in Czech, English, German, French, and Russian.
Wallenstein Palace & Gardens

3) Wallenstein Palace & Gardens

Behold the grandeur of this 17th-century palace, Prague's very first foray into Baroque architecture. Its high-walled gardens and opulent vaulted Renaissance 'sala terrena' (room opening onto a garden) simply scream elegance. As you wander through the meticulously manicured paths, you'll encounter a plethora of fountains and statues, each depicting classical mythological figures or valiant warriors triumphing over various beasts. Further along, prepare to have your mind blown by the "Grotto," a colossal dripstone wall adorned with an array of imaginative rock formations, including whimsical faces and hidden animals nestled within the charcoal-colored landscape. And let's not forget the tantalizing promise of "illusory hints of secret corridors" – because who doesn't love a good optical illusion?

Albrecht von Wallenstein, the one-time owner of this palace and gardens, catapulted into military stardom in 1622 when Emperor Ferdinand II of Austria decided he needed saving from the pesky Swedes and Protestants during the Thirty Years' War. Wallenstein, fueled by his marriage-induced riches, generously offered to raise and personally lead an army of 20,000 men – at his own expense, of course. In return, the Emperor showered him with confiscated lands and titles, including this vast area upon which our magnificent palace now stands. After razing two dozen houses, a brick factory, and three gardens, Wallenstein set to work on constructing something that would rival even the mighty Prague Castle. Nowadays, much of this regal abode serves as the Czech Senate's meeting chamber and offices. Inside, the Knight's Hall is adorned with a fresco featuring Wallenstein himself as the formidable Roman God of War, Mars, riding triumphantly in his chariot. And let's not overlook the palace's former riding school, now transformed into a spot for art exhibitions.

Just remember, you can only enter the palace on weekends, while the gardens are open daily. Keep your eyes peeled for those discreetly marked entrances - wouldn't want to miss out on the grandeur enclosed within those towering walls. And if you happen to swing by in the summer, be sure to catch one of the garden's lively concerts or theatrical performances.
Lesser Town Square

4) Lesser Town Square

Ever since the 10th century, this arcaded square has been an important marketplace and epicenter of activity on the left bank of the river. Today, it remains lively with restaurants, pubs, and shops, inviting visitors to linger and admire its array of remarkable buildings.

One notable structure is the 14th-century Old Town Hall (now transformed into the Malostranská Beseda nightclub and bar), where non-Catholic nobles penned the Czech Confession ("České Konfese") in 1575, a pioneering plea for religious tolerance directed at the Habsburg emperor, later enshrined into Czech law. However, the true gem of the square is the magnificent 18th-century Baroque Saint Nicholas Church. Erected atop the remnants of a Gothic chapel, it showcases truly wonderful frescoes, including a sprawling 1,500-square meter masterpiece on its ceiling, alongside a collection of exquisite statues.

If you happen to relax over a Starbucks coffee here, take note that you're seated in the former Grömling Palace, a prime example of Prague Rococo architecture. Across the square at No. 18, distinguished by its twin turrets and striking pistachio and vanilla-colored facade, stands the Smiřických Palace. In 1618, this palace witnessed the gathering of Protestant leaders who deliberated over plans to confront Emperor Ferdinand’s Catholic governors, sparking the Thirty Years' War with the infamous Defenestration of Prague. Nearby, the High Baroque Sternberg Palace now houses masterpieces of the National Gallery.

Presently, the Czech Parliament stands as the foremost edifice in this vicinity, commanding a significant portion of the square's northern side. Hence, it's not uncommon to encounter smartly attired officials traversing the area from time to time.

Why You Should Visit:
To immerse yourself in the heart of historic Prague, replete with an array of historical palaces, monuments, charming shops, and opportunities to savor traditional Czech cuisine. There are weekend markets, too.
Church of St. Nicholas (Lesser Town)

5) Church of St. Nicholas (Lesser Town) (must see)

Commanding the skyline of Lesser Town ("Malá Strana") is this Baroque masterpiece distinguished by its colossal green dome and tower, serving as one of Prague's most recognizable landmarks along the left bank of the Vltava River. Constructed by the Jesuits in the early 18th century, it represented their most ambitious endeavor in Bohemia, symbolizing their significant influence over the region. The juxtaposition of the broad, robust dome with the slender bell tower adds to the architectural allure that defines Prague's skyline.

Upon entering, the vast pink-and-green interior overwhelms the senses. Every corner bursts with vitality, drawing attention to the dramatic statues, vibrant frescoes, and gleaming faux-marble pillars. The impressive fresco in the nave portrays various miraculous acts attributed to Saint Nicholas, highlighting the grandeur of the Baroque era. However, it is the dome at the church's eastern end that truly captivates, owing to its remarkable height. Gazing upward, one encounters four imposing Church Fathers, depicted with stern expressions, with one wielding a gilded thunderbolt, leaving no doubt about the gravity of the Jesuit message.

Ascending the tower (admission fee required) in summer offers a fine perspective overlooking Lesser Town and the iconic Charles Bridge.
Bridge Street (Mostecka)

6) Bridge Street (Mostecka)

Passing through the arch connecting the Lesser Town Bridge Towers, you'll step into Mostecká ("Bridge") Street. Flanked by vibrant, gabled Renaissance, Baroque, and sometimes Rococo facades, dating from the 14th to 18th centuries, this narrow cobblestone lane has stood for 750 years, seamlessly linking Charles Bridge to The Lesser Town Square. Some of the facades still carry original decorations, including a chained bear at No. 4, the bust of cellist Zelenka, a striking bronze door at No. 17, three goats at No. 18, and more. With all its curious beauty, it's no wonder that this street once served as a route for royal processions during coronations.

Standing on the Lesser Town ("Malá Strana") side, just beyond the towers, you'll notice a house painted with three ostriches on the right. This Renaissance-style building, now a hotel, was once the residence of Jan Fux, a feather merchant and fashion purveyor who specialized in ostrich plumes and other prized bird feathers—highly fashionable accessories of the era used for decorating ladies' hats, courtiers' and officers' headwear, horse trappings, fans, and various garments. In 1606, Fux commissioned an artists to paint the bold ostrich advertisement on the facade, promoting his extravagant feather business.

Continuing your leisurely stroll along the street, be sure to admire the Gothic tower tucked within the courtyard of "At the Three Golden Bells", the opulent sculptural embellishments of the "At the Black Eagle" house, complete with its magnificent Baroque wrought-iron grille, and marvel at the ornate pink and yellow Rococo facade of the Kounic Palace.

Pro Tip:
Explore the boutique shops, restaurants, and bars lining the lower part of the street, all catering to the stream of passersby. For a delightful refueling break, indulge in craft beer and cake at the charming, family-run ROESEL café housed in a historic building. Don't miss the mini-exhibition on your way in, and be sure to explore the lovely courtyard. They also offer daily lunch and dinner specials.
John Lennon Wall

7) John Lennon Wall

Despite never setting foot in Czechoslovakia, John Lennon's messages of peace managed to penetrate the iron curtain and stir the souls of its residents. Enter the John Lennon Wall, a posthumous shrine born from the ashes of Lennon's untimely demise in 1980. An anonymous artist boldly defied Communist rule by adorning the wall with Beatles lyrics and the iconic image of the singer himself. Naturally, such subversive acts were deemed criminal by the powers that be.

The wall became a perpetual battleground, as authorities futilely attempted to erase the messages of dissent only to find them springing back to life like weeds in a concrete garden. Czech students took to the wall in 1988 to air their grievances, inciting clashes with the very security forces tasked with silencing their voices. Ironically, that movement was labeled "Lennonism," only to disparage its members as drunken lunatics and pawns of Western propaganda.

Fast forward to 2014, when a group of local art students whitewashed the wall, proclaiming the "Wall Is Over" and inviting the current generation to fill the void with their own musings. Prague's artistic community eagerly rose to the challenge, transforming the wall into a canvas of expression once more. The Beatles imagery was restored in 2019, a nod to the Velvet Revolution's anniversary.

Under the watchful eye of new regulations, spray painting on the wall is strictly forbidden. Instead, individuals are encouraged to express their freedom and love using more delicate mediums like pencils, markers, or chalk.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and of the Infant Jesus of Prague

8) Church of Our Lady Victorious and of the Infant Jesus of Prague

In a curious turn of events, the Church of Our Lady Victorious, with its unassuming façade reminiscent of its humble beginnings as a German Protestant church, hosts an outrageously kitschy wax figure of the infant Jesus, depicted as a precocious 3-year-old perched regally in a glass case. Revered for its purported miraculous abilities, this divine doll, affectionately dubbed the Bambino di Praga (or Infant Jesus of Prague), has garnered worldwide pilgrimage status, drawing throngs of visitors—primarily devout Catholics hailing from the sunny shores of southern Europe and Poland. Talk about making a splash in the religious artifact scene!

Originally imported from Spain in the 16th century, the "bambino" boasts an extensive wardrobe that would put even the most fashion-forward diva to shame - with nearly a hundred lavish outfits to its name, meticulously curated and regularly changed by the industrious Carmelite nuns. For those intrigued by the miniature deity's sartorial splendor, a minuscule museum awaits atop a spiral staircase in the south aisle, offering a glimpse of his luxurious velvet and satin ensembles, generously gifted from every corner of the globe.

For devout disciples seeking a piece of the divine to call their own, fear not! Replicas of the illustrious statue and a myriad of other religious paraphernalia are conveniently available for purchase at the souvenir shop, discreetly tucked away behind the main altar.

And yes, admission is miraculously free.
Mirror Maze

9) Mirror Maze

While exploring Petřín Hill, it's hard to miss the charming mini neo-Gothic castle, complete with a mock drawbridge. Serving as a replica of the Špička gateway of the 10th-century Vyšehrad fortress, it houses the Mirror Maze, originally showcased at the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891 before being relocated in 1892. It now welcomes visitors daily from April to October, with a reasonable entrance fee.

For a delightfully entertaining experience suitable for all ages, especially kids, a visit to the Mirror Maze is a must! Begin by navigating through the perplexing labyrinth of 31 ordinary mirrors (formerly 35, with four lost to the passage of time), then proceed to a room featuring a captivating diorama depicting the Battle of Charles Bridge of 1648. This impressive 80-square-meter painting, completed by Adolf and Karel Liebscher in just 50 days, depicts the valiant defense of Prague against invading Swedes. Another highlight is the Laughter Hall, aptly named for its collection of 14 convex and concave mirrors that distort reflections into amusing shapes and sizes.

Why You Should Visit:
The distorted mirrors here provide endless amusement, perfect for making silly faces and sharing laughs. For older children intrigued by history with a touch of gore, the battle-scene diorama provides a captivating experience not to be missed.
Petrin Lookout Tower

10) Petrin Lookout Tower (must see)

Following the grand unveiling of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889, the Czech Tourist Club felt a void in the Prague skyline. In a remarkable feat of construction, the Petřín Lookout Tower was erected for the General Land Centennial Exhibition in 1891 in just four months, serving as a homage to its French counterpart. Although standing at a modest 60 meters in height, the tower is situated on a hilltop, surpassing the Eiffel Tower in elevation. Notably, it deviates from the French original with its octagonal, rather than square, cross-section.

Initially equipped with a lift for six, powered first by gas and later electricity, the tower underwent alterations in 1953 to accommodate a television broadcasting antenna, leading to the removal of the lift. Subsequent renovations from 1999 to 2002 saw the installation of a new lift designed for elderly and disabled visitors. For others, ascending the 299 steps to the observation deck offers one of the city's most spectacular viewpoints, with separate staircases designated for ascending and descending.

Why You Should Visit:
Excellent opportunity to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the picturesque parklands and to marvel at the panoramas of Prague's skyline.

The most convenient way to reach the tower is via an uphill funicular ride from the Petřín station nestled within the park, adjacent to the Újezd tram stop. Ensure compliance with the standard regulations for Prague's public transport—validating your ticket before boarding. Alternatively, a leisurely walk through the park from the hilltop offers a cost-effective alternative.

Walking Tours in Prague, Czech Republic

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