The Royal Garden was created in the sixteenth century for the exclusive use of the royals living at the Prague Castle. The landscaped garden, featuring several historic buildings, only opened to the public in 2002.
The site of the royal garden was a vineyard when Emperor Ferdinand I purchased it to create a garden exclusively for the royal court. The garden was designed in Italian Renaissance style by an architectural duo: the German Bonifác Wohlmut and the Genoese Paolo della Stella.
The Royal Garden was not just used by the royal court for relaxation, they also cultivated exotic plants here and there was even a lion courtyard housing exotic animals. One of the exotic plants cultivated here were the first tulips in Europe, imported from Turkey in 1554.
History of the Garden
Over the years, the Royal Garden has undergone significant changes. During the Thirty Years’ War, the garden was severely damaged. It was rebuilt soon after the war in the original Renaissance style, but in the eighteenth century the garden was recreated in a Baroque style.
The Royal Garden was ruined again during another war at the end of the eighteenth century; a theatre building was destroyed in the process. In the nineteenth century, much of the garden was remodeled and laid out in English style with open grass areas and less formal flowerbeds, which is how the garden still looks today.
The garden was closed to the public for centuries until 2002, when after an extensive renovation, the garden became accessible to visitors.
The royal garden houses a number of important buildings. The most significant one is the Belvedere, also known as the Queen Anne’s Residence or Royal Summer Residence (Královsky letohrádek).
The beautiful Renaissance style structure was built as an entertainment hall for Queen Anne, the spouse of Ferdinand I. It was constructed between 1535 and 1563 to a design by Paolo della Stella. After della Stella’s death in 1552, Hans Tirol and Bonifác Wohlmut completed the building.
In front of the building is an Italianate garden with a fountain at its center. The fountain, built in 1568, is known as the Singing Fountain because the falling drops seem to make a ‘singing sound’, at least when you are located right under the bowl.
There are a couple more fountains in the garden: one, located on the west side near the former presidential residence, is a simple round basin with a central spout. In the middle of the park, on an open plaza, is a more interesting fountain: the Hercules Fountain, which features a sandstone statue of Hercules set in a niche. It shows the mythical hero holding a club while restraining Cerberus, the three-headed monster. Water gushes out of the mouths of the monster. The niche is decorated with reliefs and is crowned by a Baroque broken pediment.
Ball Game Hall
Another interesting building in the Royal Garden is the Ball Game Hall (Míčovna). It was built in 1569 for Ferdinand I’s successor, Emperor Maximilian II, and created after a design by Bonifác Wohlmut. The building’s exterior is decorated with beautiful sgraffito.
The hall was originally built to hold indoor sports events, but during the eighteenth century it was used as a stable and later as an army depot.
During the Second World War, the building burned to the ground after Nazis set it on fire. It was restored in the 1950s and is now used as a music and conference hall.
Some other notable buildings in the Royal Garden are the orangery and the former Presidential Residence, built in the mid-twentieth century. Across the street from the Royal Garden is the Riding School (Jízdárna), a Baroque building designed by Jean-Baptiste Mathey and completed in 1694.