Is there any better time to visit Europe’s cities than the fall? Short answer: no, no there is not. Christmas comes close, but autumn is still the clear winner, at least in my opinion. Crowds are fewer, trees are more colorful, and spending all day walking from sight to sight is a lot more pleasant when you’re not sweating buckets, or the reverse, risking frostbite on any body part not covered in at least three layers. Every October, which is the very best month of autumn (mostly because it is my birthday month, but also because it’s deep enough into the season for fall colors to be at their most vivid, but early enough still that they haven’t all fallen to the ground), we picked a new city to visit, which quickly became one of my favorite annual traditions. We started with Paris, then the following year headed to Berlin, before settling on Prague for our third autumn in Europe.
After falling completely head over heels for Berlin, I didn’t think another European city could wow me quite like that one had, but I was wrong. While Berlin’s sights and history are difficult to beat, the crown, without question, goes to Prague for beauty and charm. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many trees in a city before, and at the time of year we visited, they had just reached that perfect autumn sweet spot I love so much. To get the full effect of just how beautiful Prague looks this time of year, you need to head somewhere both heavily forested and high enough above the city that you can take everything in all at once. Allow me to introduce you to a couple places where you can do just that – Petrin Hill and Letna Park, two parks with great views in Prague.
Situated on the western side of the Vltava River just south of Prague Castle, Petrin Hill is a popular spot for both tourists and locals, and not just because of the amazing views. Also known as Petrin Park (or Petřínské Sady), Petrin Hill is a free public park with a hefty supply of beautiful gardens and quiet walking trails, making it the perfect spot to visit if your intention is to escape the crowds around the castle!
We took our time climbing to the top of Petrin Hill, meandering along the trails and going off-track anytime we saw an area that we thought might make for a pretty photo, which is about every 10 steps this time of year. There are many things to see on the way up the hill – the Hunger Wall (an old medieval defensive wall), Štefánik’s Observatory, and a couple of small churches – but the real attraction of Petrin Hill is simply its natural beauty.
From many parts of the main trail and certainly from the top of Petrin Hill itself, views over the city are decent, but to get the very best panoramic view over Prague, you’re going to want to get just a little bit higher by climbing to the top of Petrin Hill’s 64-meter tall observation tower.
Kind of hard to beat a view like that, isn’t it?
For the three of us to climb the 300 steps up Petrin Tower, we had to buy a family ticket for 300 CZK. (About $12 USD.) Being a frugal sort of traveler, I’m not usually willing to pay for a good view when, more often than not, you can find somewhere with an equally great view for free, but in this case I think it’s worth it. The observation tower on Petrin Hill is the highest point in the city, and on a clear day the views are magnificent. Both Prague Castle and Old Town Square are easy to spot from this vantage point, as well as plenty of other important monuments and landmarks throughout the city.
If you’re visiting on a foggy day, however, climbing Petrin Tower will only take you deeper into the clouds. In that case, it’s best to head to the following park, a little lower in elevation, but with equally as fantastic views.
Letna Park (or Letenské Sady) is located on the same side of the Vltava River as Petrin Hill, but further north. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Old Town, Letna Park, like Petrin, offers a welcome respite from the far more touristy areas across the river.
To reach the highest point in the park requires an intense climb up what feels like endless steps and inclines, but the unobstructed view over Prague from both the platform featuring Prague’s giant Metronome and various points along the walking trail nearby make the steep walk totally worth it.
Thanks to its close proximity to and location directly above the river, Letna Park is one of the best places to capture a photo of the many bridges that cross the Vltava River in Prague. There are a total of 17, and while you won’t be able to see them all from any one point in the park, a walk along the main walking trail at the perimeter of the park will provide a clear view of quite a few of them.
Like Petrin Hill, there is more than just a great view of Prague to enjoy at Letna Park. The Prague Metronome, which is so gigantic it can be seen from all over the city, sits in the center of the park on the same platform where the world’s largest statue of Joseph Stalin once stood. The Hanavský Pavilion, a unique restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor terrace, is a great place to grab a bite to eat with a view during the warmer months. Besides that, Letna Park offers numerous tree-lined trails for walkers and bikers. (And there are plenty of climbing trees if you’re weird like us and turn into over-sized children when you’re outdoors!)
In addition to Petrin Hill and Letna Park, if you’re looking for peaceful walking trails in a beautiful setting, but not necessarily a great view, check out the trails in the Upper and Lower Moat of Prague Castle. They are free, open to the public, and (quite possibly) the prettiest in Prague, especially in autumn!
For more ideas on how to fill your time in Prague, check out our full three-day Prague itinerary, perfect for slow(ish) travelers!
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