Karlín: From Rags to Riches
The once drab Karlín district, squeezed between the River Vltava and Vítkov Hill, paradoxically acquired a new lease on life from the devastating flood of 2002. Today it is a vibrant part of the metropolis, attracting especially the young and hip. Locals and visitors head here for the trendy cafés and bistros, but also for the cultural venues in former factory halls.
Some liken it to London’s Soho, others find the spacious streets lined with trees reminiscent of the hipster districts of Berlin. Karlín today represents its own blend of an industrial past, Art Nouveau elegance and modern architecture springing up within reach of the river. A few years ago you’d be hard pressed to find a place to eat or grab a coffee. Now the options for gourmet exploration are many.
Where the port once used to be, Karlín now shows its futuristic face. The extensive River City project has remarkable office buildings, designed by American, French and Danish architects. You pass buildings bearing the names of the world’s major rivers – Danube House, Amazon Court and Nile House – to arrive at ‘Port 18600’, named after the local zip code. This charming spot is the work of a group of locals who wanted to turn a neglected Vltava waterside into a place that entices you to relax, socialize and enjoy some culture. Here, you can play volleyball, the kids can enjoy themselves on a submarine-shaped climbing frame, there’s a seasonal bar, and for 250 crowns you can rent your own barbecue grill.
The Negrelli viaduct, which forms the imaginary border between Karlín and the New Town, is now under repair. This railway bridge first enabled trains to cross the Vltava River in 1850 and with its 1110 metres was the longest bridge in Europe until the early 20th century. Nearby this technical monument, pay a visit to the Karlín Barracks a multi-functional centre, where you will find a stylish café, a music club, and a great gallery. In winter months, there is an outdoor ice-skating rink; in summer months head there to watch cool movies.
A few steps further, Karlínské Square with its Church of Sts. Cyril and Methodius is the site of Saturday farmers’ markets offering seasonal fruit, vegetables, homemade pastries, cheese, and cold cuts. The loveliest among Karlín squares is a couple blocks away: nearby Lyčkovo Square with its park and stately school building.
Fans of industrial architecture mustn’t miss Pernerova street, once the site of the engineering conglomerate ČKD. These days you’ll find Forum Karlín here, one of the best concert halls in the city; a popular restaurant/bakery operates in the same complex. Once the birthplace of steam engine boilers, the complex received its current look courtesy of the famed Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. Just as good is the refurbishment of the adjacent boiler and machine room with its unmissable 150-foot chimney. We suggest you round off your visit to Karlín with a peek at the majestic panorama of the city from the top of Vítkov Hill, or, better still, from the rooftop of the local Memorial. The shortest way there is through the Hill itself – via the pedestrian Žižkov tunnel, which connects Karlín to the neighbouring district of Žižkov.
For coffee and something sweet
Můj šálek kávy (Křižíkova 105)
This café was a pioneer of quality coffee in Karlín, and is still a local favourite.
Kafe Karlín (Sokolovská 51)
This espresso bar serves a selection of fine coffees by roasters from home and abroad.
For Lunch and Dinner (and Beer)
Nejen Bistro (Křižíkova 24)
Tasty dishes from (not only) the Josper Grill and a stylish interior with an open kitchen make this a fine choice for a midday meal or relaxed dinner.
Lokál Hamburk (Sokolovská 55)
Great Pilsner beer flows in cascades here, but don’t forget to taste their homey Czech cooking.
Bistro Roh 21 (Pobřežní 21)
This bistro on the corner of the Main Point building tempts diners with global flavors and décor by Czech graffiti guru Pasta Oner.
Premier Mercato (Pobřežní 42)
In addition to great food, you can also take away delicacies from small farms across Europe.
Krystal Bistro (Sokolovská 101)
The chefs here specialize in French country cuisine, served without unnecessary pomp.
Proti proudu (Březinova 22)
Head here for some fine sandwiches, imaginative desserts or just a glass of Prosecco.
Eska (Pernerova 49)
The flavours of seasonal dishes from this restaurant will take you to the Czech countryside, via Scandinavia. The interior design matches the cuisine.
Garage (Křižíkova 58)
The only place in Prague to treat yourself to poutine, the Canadian specialty.
Veltlin (Křižíkova 115)
A wine bar specializing in wines of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire makes a great place for a sundowner.
Tea Mountain (Křižíkova 115)
This is the place for all things tea. They import it to Prague from personally approved growers.
HOW TO GET THERE
- Metro B – Križíkova or Invalidovna – from Invalidovna take a stroll to Karlín via Kaizlovy Sady park
- Tram – 3, 8, 24 (night line 52)
- Přívoz/Ferryboat P7 (March-October) on the Pražská tržnice – Rohanský ostrov/island route