Lesser Town Walking Tour, Prague

Lesser Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Prague

Malá Strana ("Lesser Town") is a district of Prague, one of the most historically significant in the Czech capital. Back in the Middle Ages, it was predominantly populated by ethnic Germans and, in later years, largely retained its Germanic vibe despite prevalence of the Baroque style in architecture.

The most prominent landmark of Malá Strana is the Wallenstein Palace. There are also a number of interesting churches, such as St. Nicholas's Cathedral, to behold. Other local attractions include the Franz Kafka Museum, the Petřín Tower – renowned for its resemblance with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and more. To check them all out at your own 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
  • St. Nicholas Church (Lesser Town)
  • Bridge Street (Mostecká)
  • Lennon Wall
  • Church of Our Lady Victorious and of the Prague Infant Jesus
  • Mirror Maze
  • Petrin Tower
Charles Bridge

1) Charles Bridge (must see)

The Charles Bridge (Karlův most) is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river in Prague. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and was completed 45 years later in 1402. A legend has it that the construction began precisely at 5:31am on 9 July 1357 with the first stone being laid by Charles IV himself. This exact time was very important to the Holy Roman Emperor as he was a strong believer in numerology and felt that this specific time, which formed a palindrome (1357 9, 7 5:31), was a numerical bridge, and would imbue Charles Bridge with additional strength.

As the only means of crossing the Vltava, standing 516 meters long, nearly 10 meters wide, and resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards, the Charles Bridge had been the most important connection between the Old Town, Prague Castle and the adjacent areas until 1841.

The bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been known as "Charles Bridge" ever since 1870.

In the early 20th century, the bridge saw a steep rise in heavy traffic. On 15 May 1905, the horse line on the bridge was replaced with an electric tram and later, in 1908, with buses. All vehicular traffic has been excluded from the Charles Bridge since 1978, making it pedestrian-only.

The avenue of 30 mostly baroque statues and statuaries situated on the balustrade forms a unique connection of artistic styles with the underlying Gothic bridge. Most sculptures here, depicting various saints and patron saints venerated at the time, were erected between 1683 and 1714. As of 1965, all of the statues have been systematically replaced with replicas, while the originals have been exhibited in the Lapidarium of the National Museum.

Why You Should Visit:
For a picturesque panorama of the Prague riverside.
A chance to step back in time, into the 15th century.

Come early in the morning or late in the evening if you need more space, as this place is usually packed with tourists!
If you decide to walk across the bridge, take the time to also visit the nearby John Lennon wall.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Franz Kafka Museum

2) Franz Kafka Museum

Franz Kafka, one of the key personalities of the 20th century literature, was born in Prague on 3 July 1883. His short life ended in a sanatorium in Kierling on 3 June 1924. 81 years later, in the summer of 2005, the Franz Kafka Museum opened in the remarkable Herget Brickworks building on the Lesser-Town bank of the Vltava River.

The museum's permanent exhibition consists of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. The former offers insight into Kafka’s world by way of showing how Prague had shaped his life, left mark on his personality, guided the author’s views and ultimately transformed him. Among the exhibits are Kafka's diaries and extensive correspondence with family members, friends, lovers and publishers, bearing witness to the conflicts in Franz Kafka’s life, the influence of Prague on him and more.

The latter section is dedicated to Kafka's depiction of the city – one of the most enigmatic approaches in modern literature. With only occasional exceptions, Kafka does not name the places he describes in his novels and stories.

In addition to manuscripts, diaries and correspondence, visitors can find here each of the writer's books first editions, as well as his drawings and photographs previously not shown anywhere else in Prague. In keeping with modern technologies, the museum has 3D installations, audiovisual multimedia and music specially created set to help visitors better understand the writer's “reality.”

Guests are recommended to book a guided tour at least 7 days in advance. The tours are available in Czech, English, German, French, and Russian.
Wallenstein Palace & Gardens

3) Wallenstein Palace & Gardens

The first Baroque building in Prague, the Wallenstein Palace was commissioned by the 1st Count Wallenstein in the 17th century. The count was a vain man and wanted his palace to rival the Prague Castle, for which purpose he had razed over 20 houses to clear space for his nascent complex and adjacent gardens. The latter were built alongside the palace, from 1623 to 1629, designed strictly geometrical, in early Baroque style, replete with formal flower beds, bronze statues of Greek gods and heroes from the Greek mythology.

The immediate eye-catcher here is the massive sala pavilion, unprecedented for the time of its construction, and an artificial limestone grotto with stalactites, known as the 'Grotesquery' or Dripstone wall. There is also an aviary full of owls and peacocks, some of which also walk the garden pathways, plus the well-designed ornamental ponds with carp and water plants. In summer, the garden is open to concerts and theatrical performances.

The interior of the palace is richly decorated with stuccowork depicting battle trophies, weapons and musical instruments. In the Audience Hall, a wonderful fresco depicts Vulcan at work over his forge; the walls of the Astrological Corridor are covered in astrological motifs. The most prominent room within the palace is the enormous Knight’s Hall, two storeys high, adorned with the ceiling fresco showing the count as Mars, the Roman God of War in his chariot.

Presently, the palace is the seat of the Czech Republic Senate.

You may visit the Palace only on weekends; the Gardens are open every day of the week.
The entrance is free to both. It's quite easy to pass by and miss the vast garden space, enclosed by high walls, unless you go to one of the smaller entrances, very discreetly marked.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Lesser Town Square

4) Lesser Town Square

Ever since the 10th century, Prague’s Lesser Town Square has been an important marketplace and epicenter of activity on the left side of the river. Today, it is still abuzz with restaurants, pubs and shops, and is well worth a long visit just to see the multitude of remarkable buildings lining it.

Among them is the 14th century Old Town Hall where non-catholic nobles once wrote “Ceste Konfese” demanding religious tolerance. The centerpiece of the square is the impressive 18th century Baroque St Nicholas Church. Built on the remains of a Gothic chapel, this church boasts some truly wonderful frescoes, including a 1,500-square meter one on the ceiling, and statues.

If you happen to relax over a drink at the renowned 'Malostranska kaverna', make sure to realize that you are sitting in what was once the Gromling Palace, the most important Rococo building in Prague. On the northern edge of the square you will find Smiricky House where the city nobles used to gather in 1618 to plot assassination of Imperial Catholic Governors. The latter were thrown out of window, but miraculously survived, thus sparkling the "30-year" war. The nearby Sternberg Palace today is used by the National Gallery for expositions.

On the façade of the 18th century Kaiserstein Palace you will see the bust of the famous Czech soprano, Emma Destinnova, who lived here in the early 20th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Historic Prague at its core, replete with unique historical palaces and monuments.

Stop by to browse the small shops, explore the churches or taste some traditional Czech cuisine.
St. Nicholas Church (Lesser Town)

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

The Church of Saint Nicholas, also known as St. Nicholas's Cathedral, is a Baroque church in Lesser Town, Prague. It was built between 1704 and 1755 on the site previously occupied by a Gothic church since the 13th century, also dedicated to St Nicholas. Constructed by Christoph Dientzenhofer and his son Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, the new temple has been described as "the most impressive example of Prague Baroque" and "without doubt the greatest Baroque church in Prague and the Dientzenhofers' supreme achievement".

The building excels not only in architecture but also in decoration. Its Baroque-style organ has over 4,000 pipes, up to six meters in length each, and is known to have been played by none other than Mozart himself in 1787. The 79-meter tall belfry is directly connected to the church’s massive dome and offers terrific panoramic views of the city.

Why You Should Visit:
Spectacular Baroque cathedral, with plenty of historical information.

Climb to the second floor for a closer look at the ceiling paintings.
You may also attend one-hour concerts daily at 6 PM (except Tuesday) from the end of March till early November. Advent and Christmas concerts start at 5 PM (on selected days only).
Bridge Street (Mostecká)

6) Bridge Street (Mostecká)

Passing through the arch shared by the Lesser Town Bridge Towers, you will find yourself in Mostecká (“The Bridge”) street. Flanked by colorful, gabled Renaissance, Baroque and sometimes Rococo facades, dating back to the 14th-18th centuries, this narrow cobblestone thoroughfare has been in existence for 750 years, linking Charles Bridge to The Lesser Town Square. Some of the facades still carry original decorations, such as a chained bear at No. 4, the cellist Zelenka bust, a beautiful door in bronze at No. 17, three goats at No. 18, and more. With all its curious beauty, it's no wonder that this street was used in the past by royal processions for coronations.

Being on the Malá Strana side, ahead of the towers, on the right you can see the house painted with three ostriches. This Renaissance-style edifice now houses a hotel, but before it was the home of Jan Fux, the feather merchant and fashion designer, who sold ostrich plumes and other precious bird feathers – quite fashionable at the time – for decorating ladies' hats, courtiers and officers' headgear, horse trappings, fans and other garments. In 1606, Fux invited Daniel Alexius from Květná to paint this bombastic advertisement, over the facade, to promote his business.

As you take a stroll along “the Bridge” further, make sure to check out also the Gothic tower in the courtyard of “At the Three Golden Bells”, the “At the Black Eagle” house for its lavish sculptural décor and magnificent Baroque wrought-iron grille, as well as the ornate Rococo façade of the Kaunic Palace.

The lower part of the street is lined with boutique shops, restaurants and bars, all catering to the passing tourists.
Lennon Wall

7) Lennon Wall

Located in a small, secluded square near the French Embassy is the wall filled with John Lennon-themed graffiti and pieces of lyrics from the Beatles songs. Once a normal wall, it had been initially decorated with messages against the Communist rule, back in the 1960s. The very first Lennon decoration, painted by an unknown artist, appeared in 1980, following the assassination of John Lennon in NYC, and included a single image of the singer-songwriter along with some of his lyrics, symbolizing freedom, western culture, and political struggle.

In 1988, the wall was a source of much irritation for the then communist regime of Gustav Husak. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall, which, reportedly, had led to clashes between students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. Ironically, that student movement was described as "Lennonism" whose members the Czech authorities disparaged as alcoholics, mentally deranged sociopaths, and agents of Western propaganda.

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under the new layers of paint. On 7 November 2019, the new face of the Lennon Wall – an open-air gallery – was unveiled to the public. Over 30 Czech and foreign professional artists, gathered by Czech designer Pavel Šťastný, contributed to the project. Under the new rules, no spraying on the Wall is allowed; people can leave their messages, if freedom- or love-related, only in the white free zones and in more sensitive materials than sprays, e.g. pencil, marker or chalk. Cameras and police will monitor the wall to ensure the artistic portion is not defaced.

The wall is owned by the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, quartered at Velkopřevorské náměstí (Grand Priory Square), Malá Strana.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Church of Our Lady Victorious and of the Prague Infant Jesus

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

The Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana is a Carmelite temple, also known as the Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague.

A chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity was first built on this site in 1584. With the Battle of White Mountain, 8 November 1620, the Counter-Reformation signaled the re-Catholicization of Prague. The church was given to the direction of the Carmelites in September 1624. The triumphalist altarpiece of Our Lady of Victory was sent from Rome by Pope Gregory XV. The Carmelites were ordered to hand over the church to Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, on 3 June 1784. On 26 September 2009, Pope Benedict XVI declared the church and the Infant Jesus the first station on the Apostolic Road in the Czech Republic.

Why You Should Visit:
Small, charming Baroque church, home to the famous Infant Jesus statue, also featuring the display of some of its many outfits. Replicas of the statue and other religious items are available at the gift shop.

Admission is free.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Mirror Maze

9) Mirror Maze

Whilst on Petrin Hill, you are bound to spot this curious building. A replica of the Spicka gateway of the 10th-century Vysehrad Castle, this is the home of the Mirror Maze which was introduced at the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891 and then moved to Petrin Hill in 1892.

If you care to spend a few hours in a really fun way, befitting not only the kids, this is it! First, you must make your way through a confusing labyrinth of the maze itself which comprises 31 ordinary mirrors. There were once 35 mirrors in place, but four of them have been broken over the years never to be replaced.

After the maze, you will come into a room with a wonderful diorama depicting the Battle of Charles Bridge of 1648, during which the invading Swedes were repulsed by the citizens of Prague. This magnificent painting, measuring 80 square meters, was executed by Adolf and Karel Liebscher in the course of just 50 days!

Another room, the Laughter Hall, has earned its name well. It features 14 convex and concave mirrors that distort one's reflection into a myriad of very funny shapes and sizes. The Mirror Maze is open daily, from April to October, and the entrance fee is quite reasonable.

Why You Should Visit:
A good way to have some fun and a laugh.

You can walk in as many times as you like.
Petrin Tower

10) Petrin Tower (must see)

Often described as a smaller version of the Eiffel Tower, the Petrin Tower on Petrin Hill is an excellent replica of the famous Parisian landmark. It stands only 60 meters high, but due to its hill location, appears rather tall from a distance. It nonetheless contrasts the French counterpart, as it has an octagonal, not square, cross-section. Furthermore, unlike the Eiffel Tower, it does not stand on the four columns of lattice steel and has the area beneath the legs as an entrance hall.

In 1889, members of the Club of Czech Tourists visited the World Exposition in Paris and fell in love with the then newly erected Eiffel creation. Upon their return, they had pooled a sufficient sum of money and within just four months built their own “Eiffel Tower”, in time for the World's Jubilee Exposition in 1891.

Affording an excellent view of the Prague skyline, the tower has long been used as a look-out point. Initially, it had a lift for six, operated first on a gas and then electric drive. In 1953, a television broadcasting antenna was fixed at the top of the tower, upon which the lift was removed. In 1999–2002, after yet another reconstruction, a new lift for the elderly and disabled was installed.

To get to Petrin Tower you'll have to endure a half-hour walk up the pretty steep hill and the tower itself is also quite an arduous climb. Its two observation platforms are accessible by 299 stairs, running around the inside of the structure, in sections of 13 per flight. There are two sets of stairs – one for going up and the other for coming down. Still, if you're lazy, you can take the frequent small funicular up the hill and then the tower elevator.

At the main level, there are a gift shop and small cafeteria, while the lowest level is reserved for a small exhibition area. From 21 January 2013, the tower has been operated by the City of Prague Museum.

Why You Should Visit:
Opportunity for a great walk through the parklands and, obviously, for some fantastic panoramas of Prague.

Wear comfortable shoes if you want to walk up to the tower, or else take the lift.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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