An attractive Renaissance building has stood on the northern edge of the Prague Castle grounds, near Powder Bridge since 1581. It was built by Ulrico Avortalis in 1581-1583 on the site of a wooden court established by Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg. The court was surrounded by a gallery for spectators and had heated pens to keep lions, as well as three leopards received as a gift from Russian Tsar Fyodor I, a tiger from Florentine High Duke Ferdinand Medici, an orangutan and other exotic animals. Colourful parrots also sat in the branches of fruit trees in the grove outside the court, tied to their perches with golden chains so they could not fly away.
The massive walls of beautiful Lion’s Court could tell many a tale. For example, how Emperor Rudolf II ordered special care to be taken of the lion Mohamed, which he had received from the Turkish Sultan and which, according to Kepler’s horoscope prepared by astronomer Tycho de Brahe on the day of its birth, had the same stellar constellations as the Emperor himself. The fact remains that the Emperor died only a few days after the death of his beloved lion.
Animal breeding at Lion’s Court slowly declined at the end of the 17th century and a written document from 1740 writes of the departure of the last bear. German poet, Friedrich Schiller later immortalised the story of a lady who dropped her glove into the lions’ cage and the cavalier who brought it back to her in verse.
Gardener, Adam Utz opened a tavern here at the end of the 18th century. In 1967 – 1972, the fundamentally Renaissance building was converted and a restaurant and garden was opened in the spot wild beasts once ran.
The plan to open Prague Castle to the public, which started to take shape at the Castle with the arrival of President Václav Havel, also had an impact on Lion’s Court. The building, which was in disastrous technical condition, was superbly restored according to architectural plans based on a study by Ing. Arch. Josef Pleskot’s studio. The year was 1993 and three years later, in the spring of 1996, the Lion’s Court Restaurant complex was opened.
The final adaptation of Lion’s Court – by Pražští Labužníci s.r.o., based on a design by Ing. Arch. Jan Špaček – to its current form, dates to 1999. The grand opening in November of that year was attended by President Václav Havel himself.
Lion’s Court chroniclers» back to top
Rudolfine Prague in the 16th century was full of cosmopolitan influences from all over cultural Europe. Sensational foreign discoveries, adventures, fabulous wealth, breathtaking experiences and curiosities influenced the lifestyles of Prague residents with a certain decadence and mystique when looking for new gastronomic indulgences, tournaments, banquets and a hedonistic lifestyle. In this context, the personal contribution of Rudolf II (1552-1612), the King of Bohemia and Hungary and the Holy Roman Emperor, was totally unique.
With some exaggeration it could be said he was the true founder of the magical tastes of Renaissance Prague, to which he brought new gastronomic elements with a passion all his own. Roast suckling piglet undoubtedly deserves first mention. The recipe originated in the Kingdom of Portugal, where, in just a very short time, it became the pride of all social events, not just at court, but in numerous burgher residences.
In 1600, chronicler Pierre Bergeron mentions the existence of roast piglet at the imperial court in his book of travels, Voyage d´ Allemagne et Italie 1600, in which we learn of the experiences of a French delegation in Prague, including banquets and entertainment, describing beyond doubt a visit to Lion’s Court.
It was apparently an amazing feast at which small pigs, prepared in an unusual manner, were served. This manner of preparation, apparently originating in Portugal, is characterised by its remarkable delectability.
This Renaissance recipe has now been rediscovered and presented to the Czech and international gourmet public in the spirit of the Rudolfine period as an extremely delicious, yet dietary dish of royal quality and taste, combining a crispy crust and juicy meat with fresh salads, homemade loaves of fresh, crisp bread, fresh fried potato chips, accompanied by a glass of cold beer or light, sparkling wine.
Pražští labužníci, spol. s r.o.
Savour the history of Lví dvůr restaurant at Prague castle. Besides impeccable international and Czech cusine you can indulge in the unique view of St. Vitus Cathedral, enjoy our distinctive Renaissance speciality Prague piglet and sample our delicious wine offering selected by our own sommelier Jiří Kačerovský.