The Sand Gate
Prague was a fortified city up until the 1880s. On my Walking Tours I can point out where the various city wall gates used to be, what they were called and who might have used them. I can even show you what they looked like, describe the dimensions and generally paint a picture for you. But wouldn’t you just like to see one and walk through it like it was 200 years ago. You can do that!
300 years ago Prague Castle was still defended largely by it’s own walls and a big ditch. On this side of the river high on the hill the larger Hradcany area was protected by a fortified wall which had a single fortified entry gate at Pohorolec Square and was known as the Imperial Gate. This gate had to take all the traffic from the hill above the Castle regardless of whether that traffic was for the Castle or for the Lesser Town.
The Sand Gate
As what was called the Baroque Fortifications were made in the early 18th Century a decision was made to take the load off the Imperial Gate and build another fortified city gate 2km away at the top of the hill almost opposite the Imperial Gardens between the two existing bastions of ST George and ST Ludmila (they had saints names for all the bastions on this side).
On various maps you mostly see the name Bruska Brana (Brusnice Gate) because it lead to the Brusnice stream which was part of the Castle defences or Pisecka Brana (Sand Gate) because at the bottom of the hill and within the protection of the fortification was the village of Písek on the riverside where the business was sand dredged from the river.
This was the heyday of the Sand Gate. The precarious rough track that had led down to Pisek was replaced by what you see today i.e. the winding road albeit without the tram so for 50 years that made the Sand Gate the best option for traffic heading into the east of the Lesser Town, the area that we call Klarov.
Why is the Sand Gate Still Here?
More luck than judgment. The Imperial Gate was demolished before World War One to allow for a main road and tram line. The Sand Gate is simply in a position that was not required for any roads or junctions or grand houses.
The first picture above is from 1820 showing the still active Sand Gate although on this map it’s marked as Bruska Thor and the complete fortifications (the red box bottom-centre is the Queen Annes Summer Palace or what we also call the Belvedere). The second picture is from 2021, 200 years later but you can still see how the gate (red star) fitted into the defences and I’ve outlined the roads in the area so you see the shape of the bastions can still be seen. Gradually the surrounding fortifications were demolished and land redeveloped until only the Sand Gate was left and by then the city had placed a protection order on it.
A major renovation was finished in 2014 so you can enjoy it today. It has a nice cafe and is even used as a venue for wedding receptions.
Where is the Sand Gate?
If you are travelling by tram 22 then the stop you want is called Kralovstvi Letohradek (Royal Summer Palace, it’s the one before Prazsky Hrad) and from there just head 50 metres further in towards the houses and turn right onto U Pisecke Brany. Or if you are in the Imperial Gardens, exit via the rear entry, turn right, walk until you reach the end of the path and cross the road there.