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Slavonic Island (Slovanský ostrov)

This island, the only one on the Vltava River with significant landscaping, is dominated by the spectacular neo-Renaissance Žofín Palace - a traditional venue for balls and concerts, where Ferenc Liszt and Hector Berlioz played concerts, and in 1863 Richard Wagner conducted a concert here. There are several places to rent rowboats and pedal boats, a small train for children, which is a replica of the historic "parovoz" and a well-loved playground.

Slavonic Island (Slovanský ostrov), Slovanský ostrov, Praha 1 - Nové Město, 110 00
Web: http://www.praha1.cz

Opening hours

January – December

Whole week
06.00 – 23.00

Object history

The only island on the Vltava River with a significant park arrangement spreads on a surface area of 2.2 ha. It is three hundred and fifty metres long and measures 95 m in the widest point. The island was formed by gradual earth deposits behind the Šítka’s mills, which used to be located in place of today’s Mánes by the New Town Water Tower, and in the past, it used to be much smaller. The island grew to its current size during the 1784 great flood, after which the protecting walls were built. From 1817 on, it was owned by a leather colourman Josef Ignác Saenger. At that time, a settlement of colourmen grew here and the island was named Barvířský (Colourmen’s) Island. Sometimes it was also called Šítka’s Island, after the Šítka’s mills nearby. After 1801, we can also find the name Engl’s Island, transferred into Czech incorrectly as Andělský (Angel’s) Island. In 1830, the island was purchased by miller Václav Antonín Novotný. In the years 1836 - 37, he rebuilt an old inn, according to plans of architect Carl Pollak, to a restaurant with richly decorated dance and concert hall, he arranged a park in the vicinity, he built a wooden foot bridge instead of the ferry, and he made the island accessible for public. The new building was festively opened in May 1837 via a great ball. When the island was later visited by Archduke Franz Karel (father of Franz Joseph I), the miller Novotný asked him for permission to name the island after his wife Sophie (Žofie). The archduke gave his consent in 1841, and the name Žofín has been well known among Prague citizens until today. In the same year, the first railway engine manufactured in our country was demonstrated on the island. One evening before the Pentecost rebellions in 1848, a Slavic Convention was held here, which caused the renaming of the island in 1925 to Slovanský (Slavic) Island. Slovanský Island became very popular for its national association balls. These were balls that raised money to support Czech national institutions. In 1843, one of the association balls was attended by Božena Němcová. Apart from the balls, also the All-Slavic Bazaars were held here, as well as exhibitions, and in 1899, there was a convention against the destroying of Prague monuments during the sanitation, which was organized by Vilém Mrštík. The place was most popular as a place where concerts of classical music were held: there were concerts of Ferenc Liszt, Hector Berlioz, and in 1863, Richard Wagner conducted his concert here. He was supposedly the first person to conduct with his back turned to the audience. Excellent violin player Jan Kubelík had his first performance here, and also Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) was performed here for the first time as a whole. Very soon, the hall stopped being sufficient for the enormous number of people coming, and so the original building was extended in 1886 and rebuilt in new-Renaissance style according to a project of Prague Technical School’s professor ing. Jindřich Fialka (the author of the Old Town Market). A new large hall with a coffered, richly stuccoed ceiling and paintings by František Ludvík Duchoslav and Václav Oliva was built. In 1899, a spa that was located here ever since the 18th century was restored, and a bathing centre Slovanka was established on the bank of the Vltava River. Prague municipality, which owned the island from 1884 on, had the park areas rearranged according to a project of František Thomayer. In 1928, the spa was demolished and the building of Mánes was built in place of the Šítka’s mills. In 1948, the island was connected with the embankment via a new ferro-concrete bridge.

There is a monument of Božena Němcová by sculptor Karel Pokorný form 1955 situated on the grass in front of the main entrance to the building; Jaroslav Fragner was the architect. Memorial plaques are installed on the Eastern front of the restaurant, commemorating the appearances of important personalities (Ludovít Štúr in 1836, and a Ukrainian politician and writer Ivan Franko in 1891). There are other memorial plaques on the building as well, for example to Zdeněk Fibich and Julius and Eduard Grégr. In front of the Eastern wing, a statue named Czech song was installed in 1946, made by Ladislav Šaloun. In the first half of the 1990s, the building was restored according to architect Tomáš Šantavý and new park modifications were carried out. In the North, the park is concluded via a terrace with a two-flight staircase leading towards the river; in the South, there is a round terrace at the end of the supporting wall of the water sluice.

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