Smíchov – Postindustrial, Surprising, and Diverse
More than ever, the Smichov of today is a perfect reflection of its name – there’s nothing at all funny about it (“smich” means laughter), but rather it’s a place where people, architectural styles, and landscape features mingle (“smichat” in Czech). This sprawling, lively district on the left bank of the Vltava now only offers the occasional glimpse back to its industrial roots. Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Neo-Renaissance exist here in symbiosis with modern buildings; office buildings are interspersed with beautiful parks with views; long-time residents go about their daily business amongst shopaholic visitors and employees of multinational companies with their headquarters here.
Begin your walk through Smichov at the former Count Kinský Gardens, one of the most beautiful, yet lesser known Prague´s parks. Its hilly terrain is criss-crossed with winding paths leading across the Petřin Hill all the way to the Prague Castle. You’ll find a number of romantic niches here – ponds with artificial waterfalls and a plethora of views of the Old and New Towns and of Smichov itself. The park’s dominant feature is the charming Musaion summer palace featuring an exposition dedicated to Czech folklore and traditions. Higher up the slope stands the timber Church of the Archangel Michael, brought here in 1929 by train from Ruthenia as a gift for the newly-opened ethnographic museum. The interior is open only during Orthodox services, held every Sunday at 10 a.m. The Kinsky Garden is a favourite destination for families with children. There are two playgrounds here – one, with slides, can be found on the hill near the Orthodox church, and the other lies near the entrance gate at the Kinsky Square (Kinskeho naměsti).
Somewhat smaller is the nearby Park Sacre Coeur. It’s worth a trip if you’d like to view Prague from above, have a picnic, or work out in the outdoor fitness area. Kids will enjoy the ingenious clibing structures and long slides.
Office buildings, entertainment, and shopping can all be found around the Anděl metro station. The area gets its name from the building called At the Golden Angel (U Zlateho Anděla), which corner was adorned by frescoes. The Ringhoffer family built an extensive industrial complex here and was the largest manufacturer of trains and trams in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. At the end of the 20th century, these factory buildings were torn down and replaced with the Novy Smichov shopping centre and multiplex and the Zlaty Anděl (Golden Angel) corner building, designed by Frenchman Jean Nouvel. The building’s glass facade is decorated with figures of angels and excerpts of works by authors who worked in Prague – Franz Kafka, Rainer Marie Rilke, Gustav Meyrink, and Guillaume Apollinaire.
A couple hundred meters away lies the unassuming Bertramka homestead, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s residence during his visits to Prague. It was here he wrote his most famous opera Don Giovanni, which premiered under his baton at the today’s Estates Theatre in 1787. Mozart’s hosts, the Dušeks, were buried in the nearby Lesser Town Cemetery (Malostransky hřbitov), along with other personalities of the 18th and 19th century music life in Prague. The cemetery is considered to be one of the loveliest in Prague.
Another significant structure in Smichov was the Portheimka summer palace. The building, once the residence of architect Kilian Ignac Dientzenhofer, designer of some of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Prague, now houses a glass museum. Nearby, the majestic towers of the 19th century Neo- Renaissance Basilica of St Wenceslas (Bazilika sv. Vaclava) rise to the heavens. A bit farther upstream along the Vltava sprawls the largest industrial brewery in Prague, named for the local lager, Staropramen. Beer has been brewed here since 1869 and its history and taste are best experienced in the brewery’s visitor centre. The Smichov Embankment is also worthy of attention – with spring comes a new season of regular food festivals. And from here, you can plan your excursions to other parts of Prague.
COFFEE AND A LITTLE SOMETHING
Kavarna co hleda jmeno (Stroupežnickeho 10)
A group of enthusiasts have breathed new life into an old carpentry workshop, transforming it into a busy cafe with a gallery focusing on young artists. Homemade goodies are complemented by the offerings of pop-up bistros.
Kofarna Cafe (Zborovska 60)
Embark on a journey through the world of coffee with beans from a local roaster. Their tempting selections of cakes and fresh sandwiches are also hard to resist.
Českavárna Portheimka ((Štefanikova 12)
A cosy cafe with its own roaster in the Portheimka Summer Palace invites you to sit on its outdoor terrace.
LUNCH OR DINNER (OR EVEN A BEER)
Bejzment (Lesnicka 8)
If you’d like to get a taste of America, you’ve come to the right place. Its original burgers come highly recommended by Jack Daniels himself as well as bikers from the Harley Davidson Prague.
Modry zub (Stroupežnickeho 14)
Take a gastronomic excursion to sunny Thailand. Popular Modry Zub (“Bluetooth”) bills itself as the best place in Prague to get “real, authentic Thai food”.
Wine Food Market (Strakonicka 1)
You’ll not only eat well, but also buy well at this specialized Italian marketplace with a fishmonger. In the evenings, it’s usually busy, in a pleasant Italian way.
An informal bar where you can try Czech and foreign wines along with small bites. After 5 p.m., it’s a popular destination for employees of the many local multinational companies.
Home Kitchen (Radlicka 3185/ 1B)
You’ll feel right at home in this casual bistro. The lunch menu offers traditional Czech dishes, including sweet ones, as well as popular open-faced sandwiches and salads. Great coffee.
Manu Risto & Lounge (Dětsky ostrov 25)
Luxury restaurant on the Vltava riverbank that will dazzle you with its Mediterranean cuisine. Equally dazzling is the view of the Vltava, the Dancing House, and the waterfront.
SHOPPING AND OTHER TIPS
Railway Kingdom (Stroupežnickeho 23)
Children and adults alike will be thrilled by the two floors of model railways, including an ever-growing model of the¨Czech Republic with replicas of historical cities, castles, and other monuments.
Novy Smichov Shopping Center (Plzeňska 8)
Here you can buy almost anything – food, clothes and accessories, books, and electronics. On the top floor, you’ll find a Cinema City multiplex.
Lanovka NH Hotel Prague City (Mozartova 1)
One of the lesser known attractions of Smichov is its funicular, which will take you free of charge from the hotel lobby up to the top of Mrazovka Park.
Prague City Tourism (Arbesovo naměsti 4)
Stop by Prague City Tourism’s headquarters for free city maps and thematic brochures. At the reception, you can buy souvenirs.
WHERE TO GO: CULTURE
FUTURA (Holečkova 49)
FUTURA Gallery focuses on works by domestic and international contemporary artists. In its courtyard, you’ll find a permanent installation of David Černy’s Brownnosing.
Jazz Dock (Janačkovo nabřeži 2)
A club tuned to the rhythms of jazz and blues sitting virtually on the surface of the Vltava River. Not only will the music put you in a good mood, but so will the drinks from the bar.
HOW TO GET THERE
Metro B – Anděl or Smíchovské nádraží
Trams 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 20, 21 (night lines 54, 58 and 59)