Every year many tourists come to Prague to taste the local booze although the Czech capital is mostly considered to be a city of beer, more than anything else. But did you know there are several vineyards with their own wine production in Prague? Some of them are cunningly hidden, but for wine lovers, a bit of searching may prove well worth the effort.
Prague’s wine heritage
Prague has a surprisingly long vineyard tradition. In the middle ages, Prague had the largest wine production in the Czech kingdom. You might have heard about part of the city called “Vinohrady.” This means, not surprisingly, “Vineyards.” But let’s start from the beginning. Probably the oldest vineyard in Prague is inside Prague Castle and legend has it that St. Wenceslas himself seeded the plants with his hands.
However, the real golden age of wine came as late as the 1340s with the reign of Charles IV. He ordered the founding of vineyards on all the south-oriented hillsides within 3 miles of the Prague borders. Well, 3 miles was a bit different back then as the old Czech mile was 7.5 kilometers; or approximately 4.5 miles.
There are two versions of how vineyards came to be in Prague. The first one (boring one) says that Charles IV wanted to cultivate the country. The other one (difficult to believe, but funnier) tells the story that one day young Charles said something offensive about the mother of Luis I, the Hungarian king. In revenge he traveled to Prague and spread lots of Hungarian wine among Prague citizens. Of course they got loaded. In response to that, Charles IV ordered the planting of vineyards so as to strengthen the resistance against the Hungarian variety.
So it came to pass that Prague had 720 hectares of vineyards during the peak of Prague wine-fever. Nowadays, it is just 7 hectares, so current Prague vineyards are only remnants of lost fame. Currently, there are eight vineyards in Prague: Grébovka, Máchalka, Modřanská vinice, Vineyard of Prague Castle, St. Claire’s vineyard, Salabka in Troja, and Svatojánská in Lesser Town. Let’s have a look at a few of them.
St. Wenceslas Vineyard
On the southern slope of the hill is the vineyard with its landmark classicist Villa Richter, which was renovated over several years and finally opened to the public in 2008. You can enter it through the gate from Černá Věž (Black Tower) or through the gate at the lower lower part of the Old Castle gate (the side from Malostranská subway station). The legend says it is the oldest vineyard in Bohemia, cultivated by St. Wenceslas himself. Nowadays, many culinary, viticulture and cultural events are held there.
This vineyard is part of a popular park called Havlíčkovy sady. The vineyard is more than 700 years old, but it was literally devastated during the socialist era. The gazebo, which was completely renovated, is worth mentioning. It is beautiful and there is a restaurant inside. You can taste the local wines made only in Vinohrady. If want to try something from more distant regions, Moravian wines from Čejkovice or specialties from Austria will satisfy you for sure.
St. Claire’s vineyard in Troja
This beautiful and a bit scientific vineyard is close to the Zoo and the Botanical Garden (it’s actually part of it). It is first mentioned in 1228 as a property of the Monastery of St. George. Then it was a part of the Troja chateau premises. Nowadays, the Botanical Garden takes care of it. You can try the wine tour where you will learn about wine making process. Or, rent the cellar for your party, meeting or wedding.
At Prosek slope, just next to the popular bobsleigh track, another interesting vineyard can be found. Another interesting place nearby is the Church of St. Wenceslas, built – according to the legend – in 970. The vineyard was probably founded in the 12th century and was more or less prosperous. During 20th century industrialization it was replaced with an apricot orchard. The efforts to renew it began in 1996, and in 2000 the first glasses of local wine were again tasted. A traditional event is grape harvest on St. Wenceslas day (September 28th). If you miss it, you can still visit and buy some excellent wine – the “shop” is open from Wednesday to Friday, 15:00 to 18:00.