Lesser Town, in English meaning Little Side or Lesser Quarter. takes its name from its location on the west or Left bank of the river Vltava, on the hills beneath the Prague Castle. It is opposite to the major towns of Prague, which are on the right bank of the river. The Charles Bridge links the two sides.
Mala Strana, known as the Lesser Town of Prague, was established in the middle Ages in 1257, when several hamlets in the area of Prague Castle were united into one governing body under the rule of King Otakar II. Most of the inhabitants were German artisans invited into the area. While the district was under the monarchy, the King did not control the entire city.
The city became Mala Strana by the middle of the 13th century. The city developed its neighborhoods with the market place being the center of the town. At first, St. Nicholas Church separated the market place into higher and lower sections. The reign of Charles IV influenced the design of the city including the Hunger Wall. Most of Mala Strana was obliterated by a fire and war. After the destruction, the city was rebuilt in Baroque style of architecture.
The Wallenstein Palace, constructed under the orders of military General-in-Chief of Emperor Ferdinand II, was one of many homes and gates built during the Baroque period. The massive set of buildings encompasses many courtyards and a garden known as French Park.
Mala Strana is famous for its multitude of churches. The most outstanding is St. Nicholas, designed by the Dientzenhofer family. The church holds a commanding place on Malostranske Square. The church can be easily identified by its green copper roof. Within the church is the painting in the dome, which is the depiction of St Nicholas, the saint who protects seamen, children and travelers. The Church of Our Lady Victorious displays the sculpture of the Holy Infant of Jesus of Prague. The Lesser City draws thousands of pilgrims of the Roman Catholic Church.
Nerudova Street, at one time a main entrance to Prague Castle, was named for the imminent Czech writer Jan Neruda who resided in the home called the Two Suns. Visitors will come across souvenir and craft shops, embassies and hotels, plus ornate architecture of homes and palaces including the Kinsky palace.
The Bridge Tower of Charles Bridge is noted for the two asymmetrical towers on the Mala Strana side of the bridge. The newer tower was constructed of Gothic design in the 1400s.
Kampa is an old-fashioned island near the Charles Bridge. The small streets hide little restaurants and squares. Visitors will find Certovka or Devil’s Stream, a tributary of the Vltava, an early location of watermills. Kampa is cut off from Mala Strana by this stream. Lennon’s Wall, at one time containing a large portrait of John Lennon, was a symbol of liberty during the Communist period.
Lesser Prague is a unique part of Prague with its Baroque architecture, Malostranske square, and its stunning views of Prague from the higher elevations of the city.