Parks and gardens are an inherent part of the picture of our capital city. If we went further back in history we would find that the oldest garden maintained to this day once belonged to the Bishop’s courtyard established inMalá Stranain 1248. The remaining part of this garden, altered several times, is nowadays known asVojanovy sady.
In the Old Town there were, mostly, only the small gardens of the town burghers, the monastery gardens being much more significant, but overall, gardens played only a minor role in the picture of a medieval town. The situation changed during the reign of Emperor Charles IV. When establishing the New Town of Prague this, in many ways enlightened, monarch of course did not forget about green space, and in 1358 an order was given for the establishment of vineyards and orchards. A twelve year exemption from paying taxes was granted to anyone establishing a vineyard … “on every hill within a three mile radius of the city”.
The name of the Emperor comes up in another way relating to gardens. The first self-contained medicinal garden, covering an area of one hectare, came into existence in the second half of the 14th Century. Approximately located where the main post-office now stands on Jindřišská street, it was named Andělská after the apothecary, Angel, to whom Charles IV gave his personal patronage in 1360. Gardens were also established in six monasteries in the New Town at that time, as well as many other locations. In this respect it is interesting that the Royal garden with Belveder folly only came into existence in 1535. The Royal Game Reserve at Bílá Hora, established in connection with the building of Hvězda Folly, is also from the renaissance period.
The Valdštejnská garden dates from the turn of the renaissance and baroque periods and is among our most significant gardens due to its proximity to the historical centre. The garden of the chateaux in Trója is purely baroque, as is Vrtbovská garden, which is commonly regarded to be the most beautiful garden in Prague.
Another stage of development was the tendency towards nature which led to the emergence of the so called “English Park”, represented in Prague in the form of Kinsky Garden, for instance, and also to a style known as the “Decorative Estate”, in which Cibulka park in Košíře was established. At that time the status of the burghers as a significant, economically powerful element was increasing, and so public parks and gardens began to appear. The oldest facility of this kind in Prague is Chotkovy sady, which was established in 1833 on the site of a former wood yard and opened to the public in 1841.
The second half of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century represent the brightest period in the history of the establishment of Prague’s parks. During this time the older parks and gardens were renovated and new parks emerged, often of very grandiose composition. An example of this is Riegrovy Sady on the outskirts of Vinohrady, which was established between 1904 and 1908.
Since the time of our country’s independence the establishment of new parks and gardens has rather occurred only exceptionally and in the form of less expansive areas. One notable exception is the Zoo Park and, more recently, Prague Botanical Garden.