Prague is a nice example of the fact that “a large city” and “nature” do not have to be contradictory terms. Beside the large quantity of public parks and gardens there are three botanical gardens (or rather botanical parks) in Prague that might attract your attention. One is located in the very centre of the city, and two other ones lay on the edges of the agglomeration. And you do not have to be an ardent biologist to find a couple of reasons to visit at least one of them.
Plants and men
Botanical gardens are – as perceived by many – a sort of well organised natural places, where each plant has a name sign and most of them astonish us by size, smell, colour, shape, feature, origin, or whatever else could be the reason why they are present in the garden. No great civilisation of the world rose in an area poor in variety of plants – just in the contrary. A rich natural world implies a rich world of human beings – in the broadest cultural sense.
The beginnings of botanic science related to Prague and Czech countries
The modern botanic science looks back to the names of men, who laid the grounds of the branch. The Italian doctor and botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli is one of them – and worth a notion here, as he spent a long period of his active life in Prague. The Czech version of his Commentaries to the antique author Dioscoridis on herbs in medicine was published as early as 1562. In those days, the plants were studied exceptionally in relation to other fields, mostly medicine. Later on, the botanic developed into a large object of studies diverging into many subfields and boasting many significant scientists from all over the world. We shall perhaps mention another Czech (or Moravian) member of this exclusive group – Johann Gregor Mendel, the 19th century Augustinian priest, who laid the grounds of the modern genetics.
The oldest Botanical garden in the country
The botanical garden we start with is easy to reach and visit – it can be a nice break of your sightseeing day…
Located just a few metres off the Charles Square, it belongs to the Charles university and was founded as early as 1775. The garden is spread on the area of 3,5 hectares – it can be handily visited in 1,5-2 hours. It offers a pleasant milieu, several greenhouses and an impressive collection of the Central European plants. Founded in 1904, the largest assemblage of the endemic plants in the country is a rather admirable thing, loaded with information about what was grown in this area, what plants were used for what purpose etc.
The entrance fee is very low – 40 CZK (about 1,5 EUR) and the Botanical Garden of Charles University in Prague is never really crowded, so a combination of a calm afternoon off the beaten paths and the informative and restorative value of the visit is highly recommended.
The new botanical garden of Prague – over the Vltava slopes
The large area of the Prague new botanical garden – it was opened to public in 1992 and has been in progress since – stretches over sunny slopes of the river down the stream, close to Prague ZOO. The garden is divided into sections presenting different types of natural conditions – such as the Japanese garden, the Mediterranean gardens, or the Forest biotops of the North America. Fata Morgana is a large greenhouse consisting of three different vegetation types – dry tropical and subtropical zone, lowland rainforest and high tropical mountains zone. Here you can learn about all the different sorts of vegetation that is exotic in our latitudes.
The garden is opened every day all year through and the basic entrance fee is 100,- CZK (cca 4 EUR). For more information visit Botanicka.cz.
Průhonice park – the English park of the landscape style on the eastern side of Prague
Founded in 1885 by the Earl Emanuel Silva Tarouca in the style of late English parks and situated along the Botič stream, this park – garden needs all day to be properly researched. The Earl brought many exotic plants and trees from different countries, many of them being introduced here for the very first time. He succeeded to combine the endemic tree and plant world with the newcomers and create a unique natural oasis on the edge of the city. There is a beautiful castle in the middle of the park and the place is worth a visit from spring till late autumn.
The basic entrance fee is 100,- CZK (4 EUR). The Průhonice Park is opened everyday – with the exception of extreme weather conditions such as strong winds.
Our short introduction into the world of botanic ends up here – it can hopefully help you decide whether to spend a part of your sightseeing time in one of the mentioned institutions, or not. But even if you do not succeed to squeeze similar visit into your program, do not despair – there are so many green parts in Prague, that you can feel like being in the midst of the natural world in the city center itself!