Strolling through Prague’s Botanic Gardens (Botanicka zahrada) is a balsam for the nerves, and since the scenery changes with each new season, there is always something new to look at and admire. My friend and I came here with our 2 under 4-year-olds in early spring, just when everything was starting to bloom, and it was just amazing to be able to see literally thousands of butterflies come to life in the ‘Fata Morgana’ Greenhouse too. Most kids will just run around and enjoy the wide open spaces eventhough there is no designated playarea for them as such.
The gardens are not massive but there is still a lot to explore. They are divided into several sections starting with the large outdoor area which you enter just after buying your ticket. By following the footpath, you will see many species of flowers, trees and shrubs all around you (meticulously labeled). An outdoor cafe is located in the open area and looks like a great spot to sit back, enjoy a drink, the views and sunshine. Close by is the Japanese Gardens which flow down to the Mediterranean Section and then back up the hill to the Vineyard and Chapel of St. Claire (vinice Sv. Klary). By now you will have come full circle. To pay a visit to the tropical green house (Fata Morgana) you simply follow the signs posted throughout the gardens. Another way to get there is by walking for about 200m up a small hill to the left of the main garden entrance.
Here is a bit more information about each section for you:
The Japanese Garden is the highlight of the open air exhibitions. It invites all visitors to quieten down and relax. The garden contains evergreen shrubs, conifers and deciduous trees. At its centre, is a lake with a turtle-shaped islet (the turtle being the symbol of longevity). In early spring, the first ‘sakura’trees in the Japanese cherry tree grove start blooming - 26 cultivars of Japanese cherry trees (Prunus) are planted here. According to the Shinto symbolism of plants, these trees represent the perfection of spring. Japanese irises come into bloom between June and July and a variety of Japanese maples offer a spectacular splash of colour during autumn.
During the summer, over 300 species of plants are on display in the main open section of the gardens. Near the lookout next to the St. Claire’s Vineyard there is a collection of plants with medicinal properties including heaths, lings and bearberries. Azaleas and rhododendrons together with tiny conifers and bearberries are in blossom all year round forming a multicoloured mosaic on the ground.
The Mediterranean Collection is spread out over the sunny slope directly under the Japanese Garden. On display here, there are rock steppes, semi-deserts and pastures of the central regions of Asia Minor as well as mountain species of Mediterranean flora. Some examples of this include: cushion shaped sweet woodruffs, sandworts, pinks, fescues and blue moor grasses.
In the Iris section, you can observe these plants as they come into full bloom between the end of May until the end of June. In the hollow, where rainwater is collected, hygrophilous Siberian and Kaempfer’s irises, together with new cultivars of Iris spuria are exhibited. In total 500 taxons are displayed, which means about 5 000 plants.
St. Claire’s Vineyard is ‘National Heritage’ listed, and together with the other four vineyards surrounding it, resembles the past glory of Prague’s viticulture. Originally, this vineyard was connected to the Chateau of Troja, its enormous cellars serving as the place of grape processing for centuries. During the 1920s the vineyard was almost completely destroyed following its converstion into an orchard, but luckily it was brought back to life during the 1950s. Due to the steepness of Troja Hill, all vines have to be completely cultivated by hand. Spread out over 3.5 hectares, St. Claire is Pragues’s largerst vineyard. The grapes grown here include: Rhein Riezling, Muller Thurgau, Blue Portugal and Red Traminer. The old vineyard house, built in the 18th century containis a famed cellar with a choice of local and Moravian wines. During the summer, a nice view of Prague together with a wine degustation can be relished from here. The St. Claire Chapel holds regular Sunday Services from 10.15am (except July-August).
The Fata Morgana Tropical Greenhouseis located on the southern sunny side of the Trojan hill and is really worth the walk uphill. It is a modern construction with an unusual “S” shaped ground plan, all embedded into rocky terrain. The kids really enjoyed it here, they were fascinated by the exotic rainforest sounds (monkeys, frogs and crickets etc.) that are piped throughout the area plus they could observe fish, butterflies, a gorgeous waterfall and a small river that runs into a large pond.
The interior of the greenhouse is divided into 3 sections all with varying temperature and humidity levels. The first is the Succulents Section showing many types of cactii from Australia, Mexico, Africa and Madagascar. You then move into an underground tunnel where you can view a large fishpond from below, this is full of large fish and also a variety of exotic waterplants, at the other side you emerge into the Rainforest Section with flora species form Central and South America followed by Asia and a sprinkling of Africa, Australia and the Pacific Islands. This area makes up for the largest part of the greenhouse and includes a tropical lake as well as a waterfall. The temperature hovers around 30 degrees Celsius and it feels really humid. The final Mountainous Section has a Venezuelan, Asian and African display and also houses the butterflies. All accesses and paths within the greenhouse are suitable for wheelchairs as well as baby strollers.
The gardens are a constant hive of activity with many exhibitions, workshops and public events organized all-year-round. Also of note are the annual open-air classical music concerts which will take place from 17.5 - 23.9.2009. On each scheduled day the same concert is performed at 3 separate times and locations:
13.00 – Prague Zoo - (information and educational centre)
15.00 – Troja Castle courtyard
17.00 – Botanic Gardens (outdoor exhibition grounds)
For more detailed information of the concert dates and program go to Hudebni toulky. In Czech only.
The Troja Card (Trojská karta) is also worth purchasing over summer. Valid from 1st April until 4th of October, this card allows you to visit the Botanic Gardens, the Zoo as well as Chateau Troja, all with the same ticket (one price). The cost is 250 CZK for an Adult and 130 CZK for a Child (6 to 15 years). A Family Pass (2 adults + 2 children above the age of 6) will set you back 650 CZK. This card allows 1 entry into each of these 3 attractions (but does not need to be done in one day). The card also entitles the owner to take part in special bonus events and can be easily purchased at each venue. See link for further details (in Czech only).
OPEN: Tue-Sun all year round (closed Mondays). April: 9am-6pm; May-September: 9am-7pm; October: 9am -5pm; November-February: 9am-4pm and March: 9am-5pm.
ADDRESS: Nadvorni 134, Prague 7
COST: Outdoor Botanic Gardens & Fata Morgana; Adults 120 CZK, Children (5-15 years) 60 CZK, Children under 5 are free. Family Pass is 300 CZK (2 adults + 2 children aged 6-15 years) and
Dogs are 20 CZK (leash is essential and dogs are not permitted inside the Fata Morgana Greenhouse). Annual passes are also available as are group discounts.
DIRECTIONS:By Metro: Take the red line C to Nadrazi Holesovice, then catch bus no: 112 to the Zoologicka zahrada or Botanicka zahrada bus stops in Troja – follow the signs up the hill to the Botanic Gardens (5 minute walk). By Car: Parking is available at the Zoo but not at the Botanic Gardens (only rarely on a working week-day, will you be able to park around the residential houses near the entry to the Botanic Gardens. By Ferry Podbaba-Podhori (link in Czech only: this operates daily (cancelled only in cases of high-water) for the price of your regular public transport ticket and transports you from one side of the river to the other side. From the Podhori stop the walk to the Botanic Gardens takes about 10-15 minutes.
FURTHER INFORMATION: http://www.botgarden.cz/generate_page.php?page_id=1186