Petrin Hill, Prague

Whilst much of what we did when we were in Prague was similar to what I did on my first visit, there was one place we went to that I definitely hadn't been before, Petřín Hill. The hill is one of Prague's largest green spaces and rises 318 metres high so gives good views across the city at various points on route to the top. The rocky hill (which is allegedly how it got its name from the Latin, Petra) was quarried from ancient times onwards for the stone that provided the building material for many of Prague's buildings, including its Romanesque and Gothic ones, there were once vineyards on the hill too. It also features prominently in one of Franz Kafka's early short stories as well, his 'Description of a Struggle'.

Our visit began with a walk from our hotel to the hill, much of this following the bank of the Vltava river passing yet more gorgeous buildings. Honestly does Prague have any buildings that aren't? We took a slightly longer route though to walk past a very different but actually just as lovely one, the unique Dancing House. The Dancing House or 'Fred and Ginger' as it's also known was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. It's quite the contrast in design to all the other buildings around it but it fits in with its more traditional neighbours surprisingly well I think.

The Dancing House

Despite our little detour we soon made it back to the base of Petřín hill ready to see more. One option for getting to the top is to take the funicular railway which goes from the bottom of the hill to the Petřín Lookout Tower, where we were heading. We had initially thought we would take this but when we arrived there was a long queue of people waiting to do the same. Our guide book confirmed that walking to the top was also an option and that it was not too strenuous a walk so we opted to do that instead. The hill is actually a bit steeper in places than that guide book suggested but there are plenty of places to stop along the way to take a break and admire the view, so take your time and enjoy. The day we went was the one day of our holiday when it rained but if the weather was good I imagine the hill would be a great place to take a picnic or alternatively if you'd rather there is a restaurant about half way up the hill.

At the top we were greeted by the Eiffel tower lookalike, the Petřín lookout tower, it's not identical but close enough especially from afar. The tower was built in 1891 and stands 63.5 metres tall. It was originally built as part of the General Land Centennial Exhibition, a world fair held in Prague that year. At that time Prague was in the Austria-Hungarian Empire but the exhibition was seen as a demonstration of what was to eventually become Czechoslovakia's desire for independence. Coincidentally it was held exactly one hundred years after a previous industrial exhibition had been held in Prague when the city had been part of the Habsburg Monarchy. Since being built it's been used as both an observation tower and a transmission tower but now it's simply a popular tourist attraction.

Despite the weather not being brilliant we decided it would be worth the climb to the top. Though I admit that as the weather got worse as we climbed and the wind blew and rain lashed down I did question our decision. The climb is open to the elements so not surprisingly we did get a bit damp and windswept. There is a lift to the top but this is only for the use of the elderly and disabled other wise it's one route up and another back down. It is quite a climb but there are a couple of viewing platforms on route to stop for a break if you need to. These are also sheltered which is handy if it's raining like it was when we climbed the tower. At the base of the tower there is the inevitable gift shop, a small exhibition and a cafe which also proved very handy whilst we waited out the rain. Two hundred and ninety nine steps later and despite the rain we got the views below, on a clear day you can apparently see the Central Bohemian forests but I'm pretty sure we didn't see those on the day we climbed. 

Views from the top above and below

Can you see the Charles bridge?

The Petřín hill area is lovely, a piece of wilderness in the city surrounded by those gorgeous buildings and somewhere I suspect is very popular with locals being so central. The funicular railway is clearly very popular though so if you can and you want to avoid the queues I'd recommend walking up to the top or at least back down again afterwards, take it slow and leisurely and enjoy the city unfolding around you as you go. When we first began our climb the weather was kind enough to give us some good views and whilst they may not have been quite so good once we got to the top they still weren't disappointing either, on a clear day they must be quite beautiful.


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