Letna Park is a large leafy green space sitting on top of a hill overlooking the city of Prague. A main draw for the locals in summer and winter alike, the park sits on the west bank of the Vltava river with the sprawl of the Old Town seemingly just a stone's throw across the water.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the park is a place to walk, run, cycle and do a spot of people watching sat on a bench. A picnic in the summer is one of the best ways of spending an afternoon, escaping the heat of Prague's cobbles. The walk over and climb up make it all the more deserved once you have set up underneath one of the towering trees.
If eating off the ground doesn't tickle your fancy, there are two other key contenders for lunch - the Hanavsky Pavilon Beer Garden probably getting the nod for its location. The Czechs know that the best use for a neo-Baroque 19th century building is to serve wheat beer and nibbles. Built for the Jubilee World Fair in 1891, this is surely the best way to check out a bit of history while sampling the delights of local craft breweries. There is a larger summer beer garden on the East side of the park, next to the Stefanikuv Most. You are unlikely to fail in your quest to find the Czechs' favourite drink.
If your palette is one of more refined taste and you prefer to have your lunch in a fancy part of the park, then head inside the pavillion where you can enjoy the view of Prague's bridges with a glass of white wine. The location and atmosphere is what you are here for so don't expect too much from the food - head back across the river for access to Prague's culinary delights.
Having been here for hundreds of years, the design and feel of Letna Park has changed dramatically. With its central location, amazing views and a uniquely large open space many of the city's historic events took place in the park. The 19th century saw the park become a symbol of Czechoslovakia's drive for independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire. Great science and trade fairs would be cited across the park's 25 hectares and summer evenings would attract many of the city dwellers to meet up with friends and family.
The oldest carousel in Europe built in 1892 and on its current site in the park since 1894 is a major attraction, although don't expect to take a ride. It has been under reconstruction for almost 30 years. Last we heard the Director of Prague's National Technical Museum that owns the carousel promised to reopen it in the summer of 2018. We'll keep those fingers firmly crossed.
During the 20th century, Hungarians used the park as a focal point of revolution and changes of regime. A giant statue of Stalin was built shortly after his death and completed by 1955. Despite its prominence and huge amounts of money spent by the city to erect it, the statue did not last long. Fast changing attitudes and growing unrest meant that the statue was destroyed in 1962 using explosives. After a few decades of the plinth below the statue being used as a rock music club and pirate radio station, the authorities eventually built a giant Metronome. With the best views of the city, this is the spot where locals arrange to meet and the climb of 240 steps is most definitely worth it!
Fittingly, Letna Park was the location where Hungary's Velvet Revolution started. 750,000 people turned out for a protest in November 1989 which kicked off Hungary's change of direction from its Communist past. Today, the park attracts large crowds for concerts and sporting events with the Sparta stadium next door. Large outdoor events can gather over 100,000 people. The Letni Letna festival in the second half of August is a guaranteed hit. Try the ice cream from one of the dozens of stalls lining the park's paths - you'll be very glad you did!
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