Letna Park, Beer Garden and Metronome
Letna Park sits on the top of a wooded hill overlooking the Vltava River and the historic centre of Prague. When in Prague, be sure to stroll through the Park and afterwards sit in the shade of ancient chestnut trees, with a refreshing beer and take in the views of the River and its bridges. Letna Park is located between the districts of Holesovice and Hradcany and lies in the curve of the Vltava River. In summer, this leafy park is home to walkers, joggers, cyclists and skaters. Swirling leaves and thick snowflakes make Letna Park also attractive in autumn and winter a perfect place to wrap up and stroll, and ideal for photography enthusiasts. The best time to visit is in springtime when the daffodils and tulips are blooming, to breathe in the heady scents of a new year beginning.
Letna Park for History
Letna Park is best reached from the Jewish Quarter, follow Pařížská Avenue cross Svatopluk Čech Bridge and climb the stairs. Letna used to be covered with vineyards because of its south-facing slopes. It was not until the nineteenth century that it became a park. Letna is a flat expanse on top of the hill. Until 1989, military parades and Moscow-style May Day parades took place in the vast expanse of Letna Park. Thousands of Czechs marched along the Sparta Stadium on the side of the Milady Horakova Street to honour their communist leaders to get to parade gounds. Letna used to be covered with vineyards because of its south-facing slopes. It was not until the nineteenth century that it became a park.
Stalin’s Absent Statue and the Metronome
A huge statue of Stalin stood on the top of Letna Hill until 1962. All that remains is the giant plinth now home to a huge metronome: the symbol of time. It took three years and six hundred workers to complete this 22m tall statue of Stalin with a procession of workers and scientists in his wake. The pedestal had a built-in, but never used, bomb shelter. Ironically enough, Stalin himself never saw the finished work. It was unveiled on 1 May 1955, two years after his death. Stalin fell in disgrace because of the brutality of his rule, and the statue became an embarrassment for the communist party of Czechoslovakia. In 1962, the monument was blown up with 800 kilos of explosives. Since 1991, the marble pedestal has been used as the base of a giant kinetic sculpture of a Metronome called The Time Machine.
The Park for a Work-out
Letna Park is the ideal spot for a work out there is a 1.5-mile loop around the park, great for running, cycling and roller skating. The park features a tennis court, a place to play ping-pong and petánque, a kind of lawn bowls. The grounds around the Metronome have attracted the enthusiasms of skaters and parts of the area became a natural skatepark. It was closed in 2019 because of concerns about the stability of the construction In the summer, the park is a venue for concerts, workshops, open-air theatre and cinema.
The Park for a Beer
Join the locals for a beer in the open-air ‘pivnice’, a popular beer garden where you drink Czech beer while sitting on wooden benches under shady trees overlooking the Vltava River. Go for a meal to Hanavský Pavilion, an ornate cast-iron Art Nouveau-style building built for the 1891 Jubilee Exhibition. The restaurant specializes in Czech cuisine. If you prefer international dishes, dine in style in Letensky Zamak, Letna Castle Restaurant, a favourite for Sunday lunch.
Letna Park for Expo 58 Pavilion
Expo 58 Pavilion was the eye catcher at the 1958 World Fair in Brussels and still amazing to see. Built of steel and glass, the Czechoslovak contribution to the fair was, and remains an architectural work of art. After the exhibition, the building was moved to Prague and used as a restaurant for some years. Today it houses fortunate office workers.
First Funicular and Electric Tram in Prague
The Letna funicular has long since gone. It ran from Stefnikuv Bridge and took people to Letna Castle next to the beer garden. It was the first funicular in Prague, opened in 1891 and operated until 1916. The remains of the upper landing have been restored and now function as a look-out platform.
Prague’s first electric tram linked Letna and Stromovka and operated from 1891 to 1900. The tram went back and forth on a single track and the route was very short. The speed was 10km/h and the trip took about five minutes. Until then, trams were pulled by horses and an electric tram was quite an innovation. Its inauguration coincided with the 1891 Centennial Exhibition. About a meter of the original tracks are still in the park. They are marked with cobbled stones and a plaque explains what they were
Tip from the editor: late autumn, winter and early spring are the best seasons for photographers when leafy trees do not obstruct the river view. The best spot to see a series of bridges is in front of the Hanavský Pavilion.
Photos: Marianne Crone and Wiki Commons