For Children: Stromovka and the Prague Zoo
Things to do in Prague with your kids - Part 2
Stromovka and the Prague Zoo
Take the time to find the tiny and very well-hidden Alchemist cafe behind the Sparta football stadium on Jana Zajíce ulice. With fantastic coffee and great ice cream and cakes, this quiet, smoke-free cafe is an excellent way to start your day.
From there make the short walk to the edge of Stromovka and begin your descent into the splendid old royal hunting grounds that now comprise Prague’s largest city park. (Note: For those with small children, the zoo might be a bit far to walk for little ones. You might want to check the map before starting out. The Bus 112 from Holešovice Nadraži will take you to the door of the zoo.)
Seriously flooded in 2002, with a loss of over 600 trees, the park has largely retained its magnificence. If you have roller blades or bikes, this is also a great way to spend a late summer or autumn day. (Personally, I think that autumn is the best time of year to visit Stromovka – it feels somehow older and more mysterious.)
On bikes or skates, the trip to the zoo will take about a half hour - on foot give yourselves about an hour. A good map of the city or, better yet, of the park itself isn’t a bad idea as the signs leading to the zoo are few and far between, though getting lost in Stromovka can be part of the fun.
Like Stromovka, the Zoo was seriously damaged during the floods, but a dramatic evacuation and well-planned reconstruction have restored it, and many feel that the disaster has provided a catalyst for vastly modernising and improving the 72-year-old gardens.
One year on from the floods, life had largely returned to normal, at least for the zoo's animals. Some of the effects of the devastation are still visible in the zoo's lower half: the gorilla house and the big cats' enclosure, for instance, were completely destroyed. But there is an essential difference: There’s now a positive air of renewal, and reconstruction is well underway.
Built against and on top of a rocky precipice, Prague Zoo features more than 10 kilometers of walks among animals, and rare plants and trees. The animal enclosures are generally large and similar to native habitats. The sylvan setting of the zoo is enhanced by lovely views of much of Prague from the upper areas.
The zoo also offers a children’s corner and a baby-changing facility.
Adjacent to the Zoo and perhaps of interest to older children - especially the garden maze - is Trojský Zámek (Troja Chateau). Built as a summer palace for Count Václav Vojtěch Šternberg to a design by the celebrated Burgundy architect Jean-Baptiste Mathey, the chateau is a grandiose 17th century affair, complete with French gardens, Baroque sculptures, splendid vaulted ceilings and a wonderfully detailed illusionist mural in its Grand Hall.
Today, the Troja Chateau serves principally as an extension to the Prague Municipal Museum, housing a collection of Baroque glass and a collection of 19th-century Czech paintings. It’s also a popular venue for corporate and social events. The Troja Botanical Gardens are a short walk away.
After leaving Troja, walk back across the river into Stromovka, but avoid a long hike through the park by heading to Výstaviště.
If it’s too cold for the zoo, Stromovka also offers Planetárium Praha which has a regular program for children all year round. The Planetarium website information on all their programs in Czech and English.
Finally, there are the surreal exhibition grounds of Výstaviště. I wouldn‘t recommend any of the more dangerous rides, but the bumper cars are fun and the old ferris wheel is worth a go. Even before the flood damage, this old fair ground had an otherly-worldy feel to it, as if a travelling fair had travelled to Prague and never left. Worth a short visit, if only for the cotton candy.
Part 1: Petřín Hill
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