When exploring Old Prague, you could be tempted to keep to the most famous streets, such as Karlova in the Old Town or Nerudova in the Lesser Quarter. But if you did, you‘d miss some of Prague’s most atmospheric corners. One of the best hidden gems is the cluster of picturesque lanes around Nový svět. They’re just a short hop away from the Castle, yet remarkably, few visitors notice them.
To get there, walk from Hradčanské náměstí, with the gates of Prague Castle behind you, to the Archbishop’s Palace, the large gleaming white Baroque palace immediately to the right of the Castle. Continue along this side of the square, and at the end of the row you’ll see the striking Martinický palác, decorated with sgraffito. If you’re a film buff and have a very good memory, you may recognise the building: it was Mozart’s house in Amadeus. Here, turn into Kanovnická, where you’ll immediately notice the change of pace and atmosphere, as the bustle of Hradčany soon fades behind you. Ahead is the church of St John of Nepomuk. Turn right and then, a couple of steps on, left into Nový svět, the heart of this picturesque little quarter.
As it name suggests, Nový svět was once a new district, although poor, run down, and inhabited by artisans. It’s hard to believe this today, because the cobbled, curving lane is surely one of the most picturesque corners of Prague thanks to its intimate atmosphere, brightly painted Baroque dwellings, and location tucked away at the back of Hradčany. Time seems to have passed Nový svět by, and it has a special magic at any time: under a dusting of snow on a brilliantly clear winter’s day, or in midsummer twilight.
As you walk along, you’ll notice many little details that make Nový Svět very special, such as the old street lamps, and the street sign in German on the corner of Nový svět and Černínská. Another reminder of times past is the požární automat, an old-fashioned fire alarm, next to the front door of no 25. Just a few steps on, where Nový svět curves enticingly round the corner into Černinská, is a scene that you’ll recognise from many postcards. The small cottages resemble Golden Lane at Prague Castle, and this part of Hradčany is as picturesque as the more famous street, but much less busy.
Continue up steep Černínská, past the famous Gambra surrealist art gallery, and into Loretánské náměstí. On your left is the simple yellow Capuchin monastery, which contrasts sharply with the vast bulk of the Černín Palace, Prague’s largest. The florid church directly opposite the palace is the Loreta, a famous Baroque place of pilgrimage, whose bell chimes ring out over Hradčany every hour. Our tour ends here, back amidst of the bustling route to the Castle. But whenever you want to avoid the crowds and noise, you can always escape to the secret, magical world of Nový Svět.