Prague’s Neighbourhoods: Žižkov
Some brief history
Formerly part of neighbouring Vinohrady, Žižkov, named after Hussite military leader, Jan Žižka, was declared an independent city in 1875 and incorporated into Prague, along with its neighbour, in 1922. Once known as the ‘Free Republic of Žižkov’ due to its rough nature, the cadastral district has long been home to artists and writers, and is said to have the most pubs per capita of any city district in Europe.
The what and where
Unlike neighbouring Vinohrady, Žižkov doesn’t really have any large central squares. In keeping with its more maize like lay out, you’ll find small openings nestled between narrow streets, staircases and alleyways – not dissimilar to the Parisian quarter of Montmartre.
Much like the rest of Prague, Žižkov is home to its fair share of green spaces too. Its main parks are Vítkov, a large spine of greenery rising up at the foot of the district (the one with the giant statue on top) and Parukářka, located in the centre of the neighbourhood. Small green enclaves also include Rajská Zahrada which borders Vinohrady, Mahlerovy sady, that sits at the foot of the Žižkov Television Tower and Náměstí Winstona Churchilla (Winston Churchill Sqr.), next to the University of Economics.
So, now that you know a little about Žižkov, let’s explore the neighbourhood.
A day in Žižkov
If you’re an early riser, or can convince yourself to skip the Saturday lie-in, head to Vítkov Hill, Žižkov’s largest park. The nearest tram stop is Husinecká. After making the hike up to the top of the park, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Czech capital, which you’ll likely share with a few runners, dog-walkers and maybe even a group of yoga enthusiasts. As well as a the impressive views, you’ll see The National Memorial, built in honour of the WW1 Czechoslovak legionaries, which includes the world’s third largest bronze equestrian statue. Jan Žižka, a Hussite military leader sits atop his horse. Now managed by the National Museum, The National Memorial, a fairy imposing building, houses both permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as a cafe (with a roof terrace and even better views).
After you’ve taken time to take in the views, and catch your breath, head back down the hill and stop by Bistro Střecha, on Milíčova street, for some breakfast and a coffee.
Sociální bistro Střecha
A vegan cafe with a difference. Bistro Střecha is a cooperative run cafe, employing previously homeless and rehabilitated ex-prisoners, helping to get them back into society. The cafe serves light breakfasts and lunches as well as a selection of drinks. Their philosophy is that of being able to offer vegan dishes without the usual high price tag found in other cafes and restaurants. When you’ve filled up on healthy eats, head up to the Žižkov Television Tower; a spaceship-esque transmission tower reaching up into the sky at the top of Žižkov. You have the choice of a 20 min walk, or a similar length bus ride (no. 175).
The TV Tower
Once you’ve made the trek, or taken the bus, up to Mahlerovy sady, the park that surrounds the Žižkovská televizní věž (Žižkov Television Tower), you’ll be able to see the full scale of Prague’s tallest structure.
The tower’s construction began in the late eighties, towards the end of the communist regime. Its purpose thought to have been intended to block radio signals from the west. Finished after the revolution, the tower was seen as an eyesore by many, and an unnecessary reminder of the past. However, over recent years the tower has become more popular, with the famous Czech artist David Černý commissioned to erect the collection of babies that you see scaling the tower (the babies have been recently re-installed after being removed for maintenance).
The best way to enjoy the tower is to head up to the restaurant, housed in one of the metallic pods. There you can enjoy a meal, or a drink, and see views of the entire city from high up. If you’re feeling really opulent, you can stay the night in the one room hotel, the price tag, only a mere 30,000 CZK.
After you’ve taken in yet more views (a bit of a theme so far) it’s time to head east to Kino Aero.
The quickest way to get there is via tram (no.9) from, Olšanské náměstí. One of Prague’s independent cinemas, Aero is a popular destination for local and foreign movie lovers alike. Not your usual multiplex, Aero is a much more intimate affair, with more character and less noisy school kids. On entering the building you’ll find a bar with some seating, for a pre-movie beverage, which you can take into the movie theatre with you. Aero has a good selection of more artsy or mainstream films, with daytime showings on the weekend. They always have at least one english friendly movie and the majority of movies are shown in their original language with Czech subtitles. Thus, if you understand the original language, you’re good to go. For more info check out our independent cinema guide).
Once you’ve emerged from the temporary world you were whisked away to (the movie), you’ll probably, by now, be feeling rather hungry. With that in mind, head back up towards the TV Tower and find Chvalova street. On the corner you’ll find a pub called U Kurelů.
Originally opening its doors in 1907 and cementing itself as a cornerstone of the local Žižkov community, U Kurelu has seen a few incarnations, possibly the most infamous; post-revolution Czechoslovakia’s first ‘topless waitress bar’, attracting hoards of men and tv crews on it’s opening night. Today, it is run by the owners of The Tavern, an award-winning burger bar a few blocks away in Vinohrady. Like its sister establishment, U Kurelů serves some of the best burgers in Prague (by clothed employees). With a selection of craft beers, from various breweries, as well as a menu of burgers and Tex-Mex dishes, U Kurelů is definitely worth the visit.
And here you have it, a day in one of Prague’s more alternative neighbourhoods.
Be sure to check out our other articles in the Prague’s Neighbourhoods series too.
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