From Vinohrady to Žižkov and Back Again: Searching for Bohemian Prague
Žižkov is one of the most iconic Prague neighbourhoods outside of the historical centre. In the past, its mostly working-class population, lively pubs and cabarets, and hilly terrain under Vítkov Hill together cast an irresistible spell under which many an aspiring artist fell. Žižkov was home to two famous Jaroslavs – Hašek, author of the world-famous humorous novel The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War, and Seifert, a poet who is the sole Czech Nobel laureate for literature. Today Zižkov is undergoing rapid changes, but its heart remains purely bohemian. The walk will take you first to the Vinohrady district, which gets its name from real vineyards that were laid out on the hillsides here during the Middle Ages. Today you’ll find beautifully decorated buildings alongside severe Modernism in surprising colours and shapes, and in Žižkov interesting sculptures. This winding route takes you through the streets of Žižkov leading to the TV transmission tower. Rest and refresh yourself at one of the many local pubs that the district is known for.
Route Length: 4,5 km / 2 miles
Download: Five Prague Walks 2
- Náměstí Míru (metro/ tram stiop) - Church of St. Ludmila - Vinohrady Theatre
There’s no doubt that náměstí Míru (Peace Square) is the heart of Vinohrady.
Church of St. Ludmila
At its centre stands the Church of St. Ludmila, whose 60m high towers dominate the area.
In stark contrast to its severe Neo-Gothic lines, the Vinohrady Theatre, to the left of the church, catches the eye with its swirling Art Nouveau lines.
- Anglická St. - Balbínova St. - Český rozhlas (Czech Radio Building) - Na Smetance St. - Na Smetance School
Český rozhlas (Czech Radio Building)
The Functionalist Czech Radio building plays an irreplaceable role in Prague’s history. Broadcasting began here in 1933. Inside the building is a unique paternoster lift, installed in 1929, the oldest functional open compartment lift in the Czech Republic.
Curiosity: On May 5, 1945, a call to protect Prague from Nazis was heard on the radio’s airwaves, kicking off the Prague Uprising.
Na Smetance School
At the entrance to Balbínova Street stands one of the most beautiful (and, at the time it was built in the late 19th century, one of the most modern) school buildings in Prague. The Na Smetance school operated for nearly 130 years and was admired even by Emperor Franz Josef I.
- Na Smetance St. - Riegrovy sady/Gardens
Climb the stairs to the statue of 19th century Czech politician František Ladislav Rieger, after whom this popular park at the border between Vinohrady and Žižkov is named. It was created by one of the most renowned Czech sculptors – Josef Václav Myslbek, creator of, among others, the statue of St. Wenceslas on Wenceslas Square. This park, over 100 years old, offers intimate nooks, open meadows, and unusual views of Prague’s skyline. A large garden restaurant is open here during the summer. From the top of the meadow at the west end of the park, you’ll find a gorgeous view of Old Town and Prague Castle; in the summer, it’s an ideal place for a picnic.
- Italská St. – náměstí Winstona Churchilla (Winston Churchill Square)
At first glance, this not-particularly interesting square appears to be a busy Žižkov space, thanks primarily to the students streaming through from the nearby Economics University. Along its right side stands the Functionalist General Pension Institute. In the upper part of the park stands a larger-than-life-sized monument to the celebrated British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an exact replica of the London original by British sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones.
Curiosity: The statue of Churchill was dedicated on Nov. 17, 1999 on the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution with Margaret Thatcher in attendance.
- Seifertova St. - Husinecká St. – Kostnické náměstí/Square
Seifertova St. is the main artery of Prague’s Žižkov district. It is named after Jaroslav Seifert, outstanding Czech poet and Nobel laureate. He not only lived here, but also studied at the nearby grammar school.
Husinecká St. along with its surroundings is a memorable, yet slightly dark place in Žižkov. During the Middle Ages, it was here on Gallows Hill, just a short distance from the city walls, that the gal-lows were erected and executions took place.
Kostnické náměstí/Square is probably the most picturesque square in Žižkov. It gets its name from the German city of Kostnice (Konstanz), where the church council met in 1415 and sentenced Czech church reformer Jan Hus to death by burning. The name is a reminder of the connection between the Žižkov district and the Hussite events of the 15th century.
Above the old-world atmosphere of the square and the surrounding lanes looms Vítkov Hill and the monument there, dominated by a gigantic bronze equestrian statue of Hussite leader Jan Žižka of Trocnov. This colossus weights 16.5 tons.
- Štítného St. - Žižkov Theatre of Jára Cimrman
The Žižkov Theatre occupies an unassuming building at number 520. It has a varied past. The building has been used as a theatre, a chapel, and a renowned dance hall. For many seasons now, however, a theatre group performs here, dedicated to spreading the word of fictitious Czech Renaissance man and unrecognized genius Jára Cimrman.
- Cimburkova St. - Prokopovo náměstí/Square
This square, shaped like a small triangle, is the ideal spot for small markets. In the middle is a monument to Jaroslav Hašek, the brilliant Czech writer and author of the multi-volume novel The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War who lived part of his life in the vicinity. Sculptor Karel Nepraš conceived the work as an unusual equestrian bust.
- Prokopova St. - Betlémská kaple na Žižkově (Bethlehem Chapel in Žižkov)
Bethlehem Chapel in Žižkov is an unassuming, yet extremely interesting building hidden in the courtyard of a gallery apartment building. Its design, by Emil Králíček, was inspired by Cubist shapes.
- Prokopova St. - Havlíčkovo náměstí/Square
Havlíčkovo náměstí/Square, with its lovely park and flower beds, is graced in the middle with a statue of Karel Havlíček Borovský, Czech satirist, poet, and journalist.
The corner building, in fine Historicist style, is the district town hall. Serving as the local administrative centre, it features an exhibition space and small inner courtyard with sculptural decorations.
Curiosity: Václav Havel got married twice at the Žižkov Town Hall. The world-renowned Czech playwright, dissident, and later Czechoslovak and Czech president, married Olga Šplíchalová, who lived nearby, here. After he was widowed, he once again went to the Žižkov Town Hall to wed actress Dagmar Veškrnová.
- Lipanská St. - Bořivojova St. - Čajkovského St. - Sladkovského náměstí/Square
The Church of St. Prokop dominates this picturesque square at the foot of “upper Žižkov” and, along with the nearby Lipanská tram stop, forms one of a number of Žižkov’s focal points. The Neo-Gothic church was built at the turn of the 20th century.
- Vlkova St. - Víta Nejedlého St. - Fibichova St. - International Telephone Exchange Building
The international – originally intercity – telephone and telegraph exchange is one of the most interesting buildings in Žižkov; it was built just after 1921. Its two towers and other decorative elements are typical of Czech national Decorativism.
- Žižkov Television Transmitter and the Old Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov
Žižkov Television Transmitter
A triple tower resembling a spaceship ready for launch is an unmistakable dominant feature of the Prague skyline. In addition to technical equipment, the transmitter tower also houses a luxury single suite hotel, a restaurant with bar and café, and an observation deck with an amazing view of Prague. The transmitter’s columns are adorned with bizarre figures of babies by sculptor David Černý.
Old Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov
Directly under the tower, the Mahler Gardens hide their secrets. At one time, a Jewish cemetery was located here, parts of which are still clearly visible. The old Jewish cemetery in Žižkov was originally part of a plague burial ground of the Prague Ghetto, but over time it transformed into a proper cemetery which served the community for over a century.
- Pospíšilova St. - Škroupovo náměstí/Square
You might find it hard to believe, but this square measures 150 m (492 ft) in diameter. It entered the Prague history books as the site of the events of the first authorized dissident demonstration in December 1988. Václav Havel gave his first public political speech here, demanding the release of political prisoners.
- Zvonařova St. - Slavíkova St. - Švehlova kolej (Švehla Dormitory)
The imposing Švehla Dormitory building is evidence of Žižkov’s rich student life. The dormitory, built shortly after the founding of the republic in national Art Deco style with elements of Rondo-Cubism, was an important centre of cultural and social life. The dormitory now belongs to Charles University.
- Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad (King George of Poděbrady Square) (metro/ tram stop)
Arriving on the square, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the unusual monumental architecture of the Church of the Most Sacred Heart by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik, who was also the creative force behind the modern reconstruction of Prague Castle. The church, whose shape is meant to evoke that of Noah’s ark, is the most important modern religious building in Prague. The square is a frequent venue for a popular farmers’ market as well as other culinary and cultural events.