The Karlín Story: From Rags to Riches
An excursion to Karlín is ideal for those who are happy to leave the fairy-tale charm of the historical centre behind and get to know a completely different, constantly changing face of Prague. The route is largely flat, with the exception of the climb to the Vítkov Memorial. At the end of the 20th century, Karlín was still a shabby industrial district of no particular interest to visitors. After the catastrophic floods of 2002, Karlín underwent a rebirth. In place of damaged buildings, new, ambitious, high-quality structures went up, bringing with them new life. Today, it’s a fashionable (yet not over-gentrified) district with an atmosphere that many say resembles that of Berlin. You will find wide boulevards, renovated Art Nouveau houses, trendy restaurants and cafés, green parks, and sensitively restored industrial buildings. Looming over Karlín is Vítkov Hill with the National Memorial, which offers sweeping views of the entire city.
Route Lenght: 5 km / 3 miles
Sokolovská St. Tram and metro line B stop “Invalidovna” – Za Invalidovnou St. – Kaizlovy sady/Gardens – Invalidovna
This popular park surrounds the Baroque Invalidovna building, a massive structure that formerly served veterans of the Habsburg army; today it’s still the property of the Ministry of Defence. The most famous Czech photographer, Josef Sudek, began his career here. There’s a playground in the park as well as a pétanque pitch.
– Křižíkova St. – Lyčkovo náměstí /Square – Křižíkova St. – Šaldova St.
Lyčkovo Square features an imposing Art Nouveau primary school building and a lovely park with benches – in nice weather it’s a delightful place to sit and relax. At first glance, Šaldova St. seems to be an average Prague street, but you’ll find here a former granary converted into loft apartments.
– Pernerova St.
Many industrial buildings in Karlín were demolished, but on Pernerova St. you’ll find blocks of Prague’s former industrial suburb, including the famous engineering concern ČKD. The area was largely converted to office space, either by renovating existing buildings or by building new ones.
– Karlín Industrial: Boiler Room (Kotelna) and Machine House, Forum Karlín
These modern office buildings boast preserved factory exteriors including an imposing chimney; they were originally part of the ČKD factory. Another example of a modern melding of a 19th century industrial building and contemporary architecture is Forum Karlín, a new social and community centre. The project is the work of renowned Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill and includes the historical spaces of a steam boiler factory – today the modern newsroom of a Czech media empire.
– Thámova St. – Žižkov Tunnel
This 300m long pedestrian tunnel connects Thámova St. in Karlín with Tachovské náměstí/Square in Žižkov.
–Tachovské náměstí/Square – Husitská St. – Pod Vítkovem St. – Vítkov Hill – National Memorial on Vítkov Hill
Vítkov Hill itself is densely interwoven with walking and bike paths; take any of them up the hill to the memorial. The memorial, with its remarkable Art Deco interior, was originally built to honour the Czechoslovak Legionnaires who fought abroad during WWI and as a mausoleum in which the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was to be entombed. Today the National Museum’s military history exhibit is on display here. Together with one of the largest equestrian statues in the world (depicting the legendary Hussite leader Jan Žižka, after whom the surrounding district is named), the Vítkov Memorial is one of the visual dominants of the city. The roof, accessible for a fee, offers a 360° view of the city.
– Žižkov Tunnel – Thámova St. – Křižíkova St. – Karlínské náměstí/Square and the Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius
Karlínské Square is the most important public space in Karlín, dominated by the massive neo-Romanesque Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, whose two 78-metre towers are visible from many places in the city. The square underwent a complete revitalisation recently and is a venue for events ranging from street festivals to farmers’ markets. There’s even a playground and a sports pitch with fitness equipment. You will find many popular restaurants and cafés in the vicinity.