Mala Strana translates to "Lesser Quarter" in Czech, though this is something of a misnomer. Mala Strana has as many sights, restaurants, hotels, and shops as Old Town Prague and other Prague districts. There's nothing lesser about it, except, perhaps, for its location right underneath Castle Hill.
Mala Strana History
Mala Strana developed at the foot of Prague's Castle Hill, a cluster of noble homes and palaces that formed one of the city's administrative units.
Many of its once-private residences have been turned into shops, restaurants, hotels, and embassies. It's a charming neighborhood to walk through if you love looking at architecture, and the style of its buildings lends Mala Strana a gentile atmosphere left over from when it housed Prague's wealthy citizens. You'll walk through this section of Prague's Old Town on your way to Castle Hill from Old Town Square, and from there, you'll be able to look over Mala Strana and the rest of Prague's historic center.
Sights in Mala Strana
Mala Strana's sights include Malastranske Namesti, or Mala Strana Square, which used to be the district's market, delightful Nerudova Street up which you can walk to reach the castle district, the Church of St. Nicholas, Petrin Hill, and the Wallenstein Gardens. You'll notice that, though Mala Strana is unmistakably a part of historic Prague, its sloping streets and the decorated facades of its buildings create a different mood from Old Town or New Town.
Hotels in Mala Strana
Mala Strana's hotels are perfect for those who want to be within walking distance of Charles Bridge, Old Town, and other sights, but who don't have to be right in the heart of the tourist district. Additionally, street-facing rooms in Mala Strana may get less noise than street-facing rooms in busier districts at night, when shops and restaurants close and most tourists are either in bed or out on the town in other parts of Prague.
As elsewhere, however, booking well in advance will ensure that you get a room if you're traveling during the busy season, though prices will be cheaper in the off-season.
Restaurants in Mala Strana
Restaurants in Mala Strana range from typical Czech fare to upscale dining and ethnic cuisine. Mala Strana also has its share of coffee shops and bars. These fill up in the evening, and a quick peek in the windows will tell you if the establishment you're considering patronizing is popular.
Shops in Mala Strana
Mala Strana's shops sell typical tourist souvenirs like bottles of absinthe, amber and garnet jewelry, other Czech-made products, and t-shirts, but it's also possible to find shops with antique and vintage merchandise here. The best way to discover what's on offer is to wander Mala Strana on a sunny afternoon and pop into the shops that look interesting.
Getting Around Mala Strana
Mala Strana is easily walkable if a bit hilly. Wear comfortable shoes with tread, and always dress for the weather. Bridges that connect Mala Strana to Old Town can be reached by foot. Trams, buses, and a metro station are within a few minutes' walk from most parts of Mala Strana.