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PETŘÍN HILL

Covered with forests and orchards and dotted with strolling lovers, Petřín Hill is a soft counterpoint to the spires of Hradčany on the Vltava’s left bank. Rising more than 300 m (1,000 ft) above sea level, the area began life as a vineyard in the 15th century, but has been a public park since 1825. Early chronicles say it was the site of pagan rituals to the god Perun, and believers still practise ancient rites here on 1 May each year. Above all, however, it is the perfect escape from the bustling city crowds.

NEED TO KNOW

prac_info Malá Strana

prac_info Funicular: open 9am– 11:30pm daily; adm; www.dpp.cz

prac_info Observation Tower & Mirror Maze: open Apr–Sep: 10am–10pm; Mar & Oct: 10am–8pm; Nov–Feb: 10am–6pm, adm; en.muzeumprahy.cz/prague-towers

prac_info Strahov Monastery: open 9am–noon & 1–5pm daily; adm; www.strahovskyklaster.cz

prac_info Church of St Michael, Church of St Lawrence: Closed to the public except during Masses (Sun, Mon or Fri)

prac_info Štefánik’s Observatory: opening hours vary throughout the year; adm

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  • Nebozízek restaurant (Petřínské sady 411) offers spectacular views.
  • There is also a café in the entrance hall of the Observation Tower.

1. Observation Tower

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Modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Petřín Hill’s 63.5-m (210-ft) Eiffelovka stands only one-quarter as high as its inspiration. The tower was created for the Jubilee Exposition of 1891. A climb of 299 stairs leads to the viewing platform.

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The observation tower, Eiffelovka

2. Strahov Stadium

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It may be ugly, but Strahov Stadium is the largest arena of its kind in the world. It was built for Sokol, a physical exercise organization, and used for gymnastic rallies. Today it is a rock concert venue.

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Strahov Stadium

3. Strahov Monastery

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Founded in 1140, Strahov houses the nation’s oldest books in the Strahov Library while still functioning as a monastery. The Theological Hall, with its frescoes and statue of St John, is a must-see.

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Strahov Library

4. Hunger Wall

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The 14th-century wall was once part of the city’s southern fortifications. Charles IV is said to have ordered its construction as a project to feed the poor during a famine.

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The 14th-century Hunger Wall

5. Mirror Maze

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After laughing at the distorting mirrors in the labyrinth, take in a bit of history with a diorama depicting the final battle of the Thirty Years’ War on Charles Bridge.

6. Karel Hynek Mácha Statue

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Mácha is a national poet, best loved for his Romantic poem “May”. On 1 May, admirers lay flowers at his statue.

7. Church of St Michael

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Still used for services, this lovely little 17th-century wooden church was moved to Prague when the Ukraine valley it stood in was flooded by a dammed up river.

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Wooden exterior of the Church of St Michael

8. Štefánik’s Observatory

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Operating since 1928, the observatory was named after M R Štefánik, a Slovak diplomat and co-founder of the Czechoslovak Republic, as well as a scientist and astronomer.

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Exterior of Štefánik’s Observatory

9. Church of St Lawrence

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Facing the mirror maze is this onion-domed church, built on a pagan shrine in the 10th century and rebuilt in Baroque style in the 18th century.

10. Funicular

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If you want to save your breath, do as visitors have done since 1890 and take the funicular railway to the top of the hill and walk down. The cable car offers outstanding views of the castle to the north.

STRAHOV MONASTERY EXHIBITS

Strahov has suffered pillaging armies, fires and totalitarian regimes. Josef II dissolved most local monasteries in 1783, sparing Strahov on the condition that the monks conduct research at their library. Today the majority of the research involves paper preservation. On display are old books, pictures, ornate gospels and miniature Bibles.

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