The weather has turned fantastic in the last couple of weeks, it’s almost summer, and this is no time to stay indoors. The last month before the June solstice is my favorite season in Prague. The trees and bushes are all in bloom, and the green is getting on towards its full summer glory. The days are warm and bright, but not too warm yet, and the air smells amazing. This is the perfect time for a trip to the Prague Botanical Garden (Botanická zahrada Praha).
The Botanical Garden is located right next door to Zoo Praha and the Troja Palace on the north side of the city (click here for map), and is easily accessible by public transportation (take bus 112 from metro station Nádraží Holešovice). In addition to the outdoor exhibits and an extensive tropical greenhouse, the garden’s green hillsides and vineyards offer splendid city views towards the south, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. I think my average trips there have lasted 4 or 5 hours, but of course if you want to bring a book and/or a picnic lunch, you could easily pass an entire day. And though it might be tempting to try and combine the garden with a trip to the zoo given their close proximity to each other, I would recommend making those two separate trips as the zoo can easily eat up 10 hours of your time.
The Botanical Garden is divided into a number of interesting areas with different themes and specialties covering over 30 hectares. The Southern Grounds are host to a huge assortment of irises and other bulbs, a collection of Mediterranean and Turkish plant life of the semi-deserts and steppes of Central Asia, and heather and conifers and deciduous trees and shrubs of every description. The centerpiece of the Southern Grounds is its extensive Japanese garden which is split into two sub-sections, one representing a traditional Eastern landscape of mountains, lake and stream, and the other containing a variety of woody species from Japan and China including a beautiful collection of Japanese maples. There is also St. Claire’s vineyard which is thought to have been cultivated since probably sometime in the 13th century and is a protected heritage site which is a monument to the history of Prague viticulture. They produce a variety of different wines there which can only be purchased onsite in the vineyard shop.
As you climb the slope towards the top of the hill, the expanse of the view gets better and better as you pass by the strangely sculpted creatures which appear to be grazing in a meadow on the edge of the woods. Follow the path into the trees and if you look around a bit you’ll discover a cluster of interactive musical sculptures made of natural wood and stone, a trumpet, xylophones, and a couple of instruments which are harder to put a name to. And then coming out the other side of the woods you’ll walk directly into a rocky exhibition area of cactus and prairie flora.
And then if you go back down the hill and out the main gate and take a right up Trojská street, a couple of hundred meters’ walk will bring you to the Fata Morgana, a 1500-meter greenhouse filled with a variety of tropical landscapes built into the natural rock of the hillside it sits on. Small footpaths and streams wind through the various jungle climates therein, and many species of tropical fish can be viewed through the glass walls of an aquarium tunnel which the path passes through. And throughout the year, the Fata Morgana is also host to a number of different temporary exhibitions such as orchids and butterflies. It’s a little bit of South America in the center of Central Europe.
- Photos by Mélanie Rada