Czech name: Malá Strana
Lesser Quarter — also known as “Lesser Town,” “Lesser Side,” and in Czech “Malá Strana” — is a historic neighborhood, with a famous square and architectural marvels, in the Czech Republic. Located on Vltava River’s left bank, Lesser Quarter dates back to the 13th century. A photo-friendly Prague sightseeing destination, it’s one of the city’s districts that every visitor should see.
Location & How to Get There
Lesser Quarter — with its centerpiece square — is on the west side of the Vltava just below Prague Castle. Charles Bridge links it to the right bank. The views are postcard-perfect, so many people walk to the district. Typically, folks take the A or B metro line and disembark at the Old Town station, then walk across the Charles Bridge. You can also take the tram and get off at the Malostranské náměstí stop, or ride the metro all the way to Malostranská.
Opening Hours & Entry
Lesser Town is a district that’s always open for exploration. Several Prague sightseeing hotspots are in the area, including the famous Lesser Town Square, and their hours of operation can be found on their respective websites.
Note that many Czech landmarks only post hours a month at a time, so it’s best to check on each destination upon your arrival in the country.
What to Do & What to See
Lesser Quarter is a Baroque stronghold. Most area buildings are fashioned in the ornate style, and walking through the streets feels like a stroll through the vivid past.
The most famous landmarks in Lesser Town Prague are:
Wallenstein Palace (Valdštejnský palác)
A sprawling structure in Malá Strana, the expansive mansion was originally the residence of Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein — an aristocrat and military hero. Today, it’s home to the Czech Republic’s senate.
St. Nicholas Church (Kostel svatého Mikuláše)
An architectural masterpiece from the father-and-son team of Christoph and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer. Inside the church is a famous dome painting of the ascension of St. Nicholas, the defender of children, seamen, and way followers. The church sits right in the middle of Lesser Town Square.
Petřín Lookout Tower (Petřínská rozhledna)
Built in 1891 for the World’s Jubilee Exhibition, Petřín Lookout Tower was designed to look like Paris’s Eiffel Tower. Today, it’s operated by the City of Prague Museum.
Hunger Wall (Hladová zeď)
Originally built in the 14th century, sections of the Hunger Wall still stand. Lesser Town’s version of China’s Great Wall, it was meant to keep out intruders and demarcate the region.
Nerudova Street (Nerudova ulice)
Famous Czech novelist Jan Neruda was born in Lesser Town and lived there for most of his life. He died in 1891, and in 1895, as a posthumous honor, officials named a street in the area after him: Nerudova Street.
King Ottokar II. of Bohemia founded Lesser Quarter in 1257 as a royal enclave. But back then, it was called New Town. As was the medieval way, Ottokar’s men forcibly banished the original residents and invited German artisans and merchants to move in.
In 1348, when Charles IV founded New Town of Prague on the other side of the river, the old New Town became Lesser Town.
In 1360, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV ordered the construction of a defensive wall around Lesser Quarter, and workers completed what came to be known as the “Hunger Wall” in 1362. It stood 4.5 meters tall and featured eight bastions.
But the wall didn’t stop Hussites from invading in 1419. Ultimately, the Bohemian crusaders burned down the town. The residents rebuilt, but another fire ravaged the region in 1541. Not to be defeated, in the 1600s, Lesser Quarter once again set out to rebuild. At the time, Baroque everything was all the rage, and architects swaddled every new building in the style. Today, Lesser Quarter is a pristinely preserved example of the 17th-century design aesthetic.
For history and design buffs, Lesser Quarter is a can’t-miss destination while in Prague.