A Walk Through Post-Industrial Holešovice
Welcome to Holešovice!
Welcome! My name is Christoph, and I would like to take you on a tour through Holešovice. This neighbourhood is well off the beaten track, despite how close it is to Prague's centre. It emerged as an industrial zone towards the end of the 19th century, and this still gives it a particular style.
But let me first tell you what makes this place special. If you looked at the map, you may have noticed that Holešovice is surrounded on three sides by the river. No other quarter of Prague can claim that. Water has always determined the character of Holešovice - in both a positive and a negative way.
You can see one of the main consequences of being so close to the water on the fence next to the road. If you look behind the metal railing, there are steel plates held in place by small brackets. They're on the sides of the short columns. You would hardly notice them unless you're looking. In a matter of hours, the entire neighbourhood can be sealed off from the river by installing aluminium panels on these walls. These steel panels are installed on walls all around Holešovice, and serve as a reminder of the huge impact that water has had on the area.
The flood protection system is one of the consequences of the devastating floods of 2002. Holešovice was among the three neighborhoods of Prague that were most affected. After the water subsided, new investors, developers, and residents discovered this area. During our walk, I will point out many places where you can see the neighbourhood's industrial heritage alongside new offices and residential buildings.
So let's get going. If you're on the side of the road closest to the river, cross over to the other side. Then turn so that the river is on your right and start walking down the road.
VoiceMap uses GPS to pinpoint your location and trigger the relevant audio. This means you can put your phone away now and relax. I will tell you where to go. For now, just keep walking. I'll catch up with you in a minute.
Into The Prague Market
Stop here and have a quick look at the statue next to the road in front of you. It depicts a man with a staff next to a cow - I'll tell you why it's here in a minute.
For now, turn left and walk through the gate into the market.
The Prague Market 2
You are now in one of the largest marketplaces in Prague. Walk straight down the avenue of stalls ahead, with the gate directly behind you.
Historically, this was the town's slaughterhouse, built just over 100 years ago. Now you probably understand why they chose a cow for the statue in front of the gate.
About 90 years later, the place was transformed into the marketplace that you see today. Here you find supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses, but the market is dominated by Vietnamese stalls. Vietnamese citizens form one of the largest immigrant groups in the Czech Republic. For a long time, they were mainly known for their market stalls, selling vegetables, clothes and all kinds of knick-knacks. Regrettably, the Vietnamese have often been disrespected for doing this kind of work. But the situation has slowly changed. Now Vietnamese residents have all sorts of jobs and careers, and their children are even said to speak better Czech then their native Czech classmates.
You may want to browse the market - but don't get lost! Stick to this avenue of stalls. In your own time, make your way down the lane. I'll meet you further along.
Market Hall #22
Stop here for a second. In the hall on your left is the largest vegetable market in Prague. You don't need to be a vegetarian to enjoy the unique atmosphere - just enter the hall and see for yourself!
This is one of my favorite places. You will find the most vivid atmosphere from morning to noon during working days. Farmers, butchers, florists and others offer a huge variety of goods. I will leave you alone for a while so you can explore the hall and enjoy the sounds and colors.
When you are done, come back to this avenue of shops. Then continue in the same direction to the end of the lane. I'll meet you just before you reach the end.
Exit the Market
Now leave the market through the gate ahead, to get to the road.
Turn Right And Walk to the Tram Tracks
Stop here for a bit. OK, so you made it through the market. Maybe this is a good place for a general word of caution: The driving style in Prague can be intimidating. Please take care while listening and walking!
It is also good to know that Czech tramways have the right of way, even on pedestrian crossings.
Now cross to the other side of the street and turn right. Then walk along the road with the market on your right.
History Comes to Life
Keep walking straight.
While we are walking, try to visualise this place 100 years ago: smoking chimneys, the streets bustling with activity, goods being loaded and unloaded...
Here you would have found lines of storehouses, tiny workshops and huge production sites. From almost every building you would have heard the noise of machines. The things that were made here included ceramic tiles, iron furniture, paint, gloves and tinned fish - not to mention the famous Prague ham that became one of the Czech's biggest export hits.
Today, there is still a multitude of chimneys, many of which are invisible from the streets. And in many places you can still find the remains of railway tracks in the cobbled roads.
Continue down the street. I'll catch up with you in a moment.
Keep Walking Straight
You're on the right track. Keep walking straight. I'll meet you just before the next big intersection.
Former Factory of Water Meters
On your left hand side is a building made of red bricks, with a chimney towering over it. Keep going past it.
This factory was built in 1884 to make plumbing supplies. In 1910, it became the country's first producer of water meters. The building was renovated in 1999, and became one of the first industrial structures in Holešovice that could be saved from demolition and decay.
Keep walking straight.
Cross the Road and Go Straight
Now cross the street via the pedestrian crossing, watching out for trams as you go. I'll meet you on the other side.
Walk Straight with the Verge on Your Right
Now walk straight down the road ahead, staying on the left.
Today, Holešovice is full of startups and people with crazy ideas. A few blocks from here is a café where you can only use Bitcoins to pay for your coffee. Not far from the café is a small zoo with live crocodiles. And don’t be surprised if you meet Hector. Hector is a full-grown wild boar. His owner walks him around these streets - on a leash, of course.
Stay on the left hand side of the road. I'll catch up with you at the next intersection.
Turn left here and walk along this tree-lined road. Stay on the left sidewalk.
New Residents Change the Face of Holešovice
Keep walking straight.
You are now entering an area that is characterized by a jumble of old industrial structures mixed with modern flats and offices. Increasingly, people with more money are moving into this area, mingling with the older, less wealthy residents.
This has resulted in a boom of restaurants and cafés, many of which are jam-packed during lunch hours and before weekends.
I used to come here in the 90s. Back then, apart from workshops and deserted factories, all you could find here were the infamous Czech gambling clubs - and that's it. People had to travel all the way to the city center for a decent cup of coffee. Now, however, many of these streets are lined with restaurants and cafés.
Carry on walking down the road. I'll meet you at the end of the block.
Cross Tusarova Road
Now cross the road via the pedestrian crossing in front of you, and then continue straight.
Former Multi-Story Parking Garage
Stop here, and look at the big grey six story building on the corner on your right. It has a big steel door and large rectangular windows.
[PAUSE IN AUDIO]
This is a former parking garage. Could you imagine? It was put into operation in 1928, during the First Czechoslovak Republic. It was the first multi-story garage in Prague, and was built with reinforced concrete. It offered space for 120 cars, with two stories underground and six above ground, as well as the roof. The garage was equipped with elevators for cars, its own petrol station, steam heating, a wastewater cleaner and fire protection.
It was converted into an office building between 1997 and 1998.
When you're ready to move on, continue walking down the road in the same direction as before. Stay on the right sidewalk this time.
Cross the Road Ahead
Cross the road ahead and keep walking straight.
Prague's Communist Past
Now stop here and look to your right. Can you see the building with the square columns? Walk just to the left of the columns and look for a grey marble plaque embedded in the wall.
Every now and then, you find reminders of Prague's Communist past. This plaque reminds us that on February 23rd, 1929, the Communist party had its historical 5th convention. Klement Gottwald was elected the new party leader, and he led the working people of Prague to their glorious victory.
Now continue down the road to the next intersection. I'll tell you a little more about Gottwald when we get there.
Please turn right here. Then walk straight down the road, towards that huge building with the glass façade at the end of the street.
Who on earth is Klement Gottwald, you ask? After the Communists assumed power in 1948, Gottwald took office as Czechoslovak president. He ruled with an iron fist and was responsible for the deaths of many of the Communist regime's opponents.
After his death in 1953, Gottwald's mummified body was on display for 9 years. It was exhibited in the foundations of a monument that was inspired by Lenin's Mausoleum. If you believe the gleeful rumours, his corpse was embalmed badly, which caused his rapid decay. In reality, however, the body was simply mummified too late after his death. Some body parts like the nose and hands were replaced by props made by the Barrandov Film Studios. But eventually, in 1962, the body had to be cremated.
Carry on walking straight down the road.
Supreme Audit Office
Keep walking straight.
The massive glass building in front of you is the Czech Supreme Audit Office. Every time I look at it, I wonder what might be inside. Endless corridors full of cardboard boxes? A myriad of office clerks crammed into cube farms? You hardly see anyone entering or leaving that huge building.
But, you know, Prague is the city of Franz Kafka. So there is nothing that could possibly surprise me.
To me, the Supreme Audit Office is an example of how a building can entirely ignore its surroundings. Historical streets are confronted with that huge wall of glass. It doesn't really harmonize with either the river or its floodplains.
Continue straight until you reach the next intersection. I'll meet you there.
Left Towards the Circle
Turn left here and walk towards the roundabout you can see at the end of the road.
Use the Right Side of the Street
Cross over to the right hand side of the street. Then continue around the roundabout on the right.
Into the Harbor
Now turn into the complex on your right, walking between the poles. Go under the building on stilts in front of you and carry on straight until you reach the river. I'll meet you there.
The Former Harbor
To your right is the old harbour. Have a look at it, and then start walking to your left along the river while I tell you about it. Keep the river on your right hand side.
The harbor was built end of the 19th century - first as a parking site for ships in the winter, then as a full-fledged commercial harbor. In the 1990s, the harbor stopped operating, and in 2005 the railway tracks were removed.
I am glad that despite new construction projects, the developers have left the bollards and - so far - a dockside crane. There is no other place in Prague where you can feel a harbor atmosphere like here. That is particularly important in a landlocked country like the Czech Republic. To me, a harbor symbolizes openness towards other countries, other cultures and other views.
By the way: The historical harbor building next to the pier houses a craft brewery. We will get back to breweries later on.
Keep walking with the river on your right. We're going to return to the street just ahead.
Passage Through to the Street
Now turn left and walk along the paved pathway back to the street. I'll meet you there.
Return to the Roundabout
Now cross over the street to the other side. Then turn left and walk back to the roundabout.
Go Around the Roundabout on the Right
Now follow the roundabout around the right hand side. We're going to take the second exit, but I'll tell you when we get there.
Yes, Turn Here!
Here we go: Please, turn right!
Keep walking straight down the road. In a few minutes we're going to explore one of the courtyards that lie behind these tall houses.
Stop here for a second.
I assume you are not familiar with what the courtyards look like in Prague. Here is a great opportunity to take a look. However, if you're doing this tour at night, the courtyard will be closed. If that's the case, just keep walking straight along the road while I tell you about it.
On your left is a huge red building. Next to it is a section with a very low roof. In that section there's an iron door with a pointed arch above it. Go through that door and into the courtyard on the other side.
The big building has a gymnasium, a restaurant and a martial arts club. This area in the back is a public playground. Places like these used to be neglected. People kept their rubbish and bulky waste here, or it was used as a parking lot. Increasingly, these places have been revitalized, and gardens have been planted and maintained. Many cafés and restaurants have gardens in the backyard.
When you're ready, return to the street. Then continue walking in the same direction as before. I'll catch up with you at the end of the next block.
Gate of the Former Municipal Brewery
Go through the gates on your right, which are decorated with a little castle on top of each side. This is the compound of the former Municipal Brewery. Walk straight through this area to the small lane on the other side.
Former Municipal Brewery of Holešovice
Now turn left and walk to the end of the lane. We're going to rejoin the street on the other side.
The brewery was built in the late 1800s and produced beer from 1897 until 1998 - that makes 101 years!
The brewery was then transformed into office buildings. There are news outlets, a restaurant, supermarkets and other businesses here.
I find it hard to believe that a brewery could close down in the Czech Republic, but in many cases that's just what happened. Currently, that trend is being reversed. The country is seeing a boom of little craft breweries. We have already met one at the harbor, and there's one in this complex as well.
Continue straight, and walk through the gates at the end of the lane.
Turn Right onto the Street
OK, now please turn right and follow the street.
While we are walking down the street, let me tell you a bit more about the past.
Just to your right, there used to be a theatre called the Uranie Theatre, which burned down in 1946. It was one of the most regrettable losses of architecture in Prague.
Yes, Holešovice was not just all factories and storehouses. They also had a theatre with a large beer garden.
It was first built on the city's exhibition ground, but was quickly moved to the garden. How can you move an entire building? It was made from wood, so it could be disassembled.
If you haven’t seen the Industrial Palace yet, you should definitely do so during your stay in Prague. The Uranie Theatre looked very similar. It was about four storeys tall and full of arcs and spires. People streamed here to watch the plays, listen to lectures and enjoy concerts.
In 1946, the theatre’s secretary was fired due to irregularities in the accountancy. The night before he had to hand over the books, he set the building on fire. The firefighters had no chance.
Keep walking straight.
Turn Left, Towards DOX
Now turn left and carry on walking. We're going to walk to the end of this street, on the right sidewalk.
You're on the right path. Just continue straight.
As you can imagine, Holešovice's new residents brought new ideas to the neighbourhood. Inspiration from other cities around the globe is always welcome - from Community Bike Sharing to Community Gardening.
A gardening project was launched in 2012. Not only do the founders prefer to eat their own crops - they also understand their project as a political statement about the use of urban spaces.
This is quite a shift away from how life in Prague was a few decades ago. When the building boom took off, everybody wanted to own a house outside of Prague. Every weekend, Czech residents used to escape to their cottages on the countryside. Recently, however, younger people have discovered the appeal of an urban lifestyle.
Keep going. I'll meet you just before the end of the road.
Continue walking straight.
On your right is an art gallery called DOX. This is one of the prime Czech galleries for modern art. It's not only praised for its exhibitions, but for it's architecture as well. This building is also a former factory.
Keep walking to the end of the road.
Turn Right, Away from DOX
Now turn right and walk up the street.
Big Red Skull
Stop here for a second. Look back to the DOX gallery rooftop. Can you see the big red skull rotating on the top of the building? If you don't see it straight away you might have to wait for it to swing round to this side. That skull is an artwork by the Czech artist David Černý who is known for his provocative concepts.
Once you've had a look at the skull, turn back to the road and keep walking in the same direction as before. I'll meet you at the end of the block.
Cross Towards the Park
Please cross the street and the tram tracks, towards the park on the corner.
Public Square - Ortenovo Náměstí
Stop on the corner here for a second.
The square with the park in front of you is the largest square in Holešovice. Local residents contributed their ideas to its design. It has totally changed from a scruffy "no man's land" to a showcase of urban development.
Now turn to your left and walk down the street with tram tracks in it. Stay on the right hand side of the road.
A Word From a Former Bike Enthusiast
You're on the right track. Just continue straight.
We will soon cross one of the main traffic arteries of Prague. The road ahead cuts through the centre of the city and leads to the northern districts. Prague's transport system is still very much in favour of cars, despite most of Europe moving towards public transport.
In other towns, I used to ride my bike when ever I could. But here... People used to say that you must be suicidal to ride a bike in Prague. However, over the past few years things have gradually improved. There are even some bike lanes here and there. The way the roads and the bike lanes are set out is often criticized as being poorly conceived and half-hearted. But it's a start.
Carry on walking straight. I'll meet you at the busy intersection ahead.
Cross the Busy Intersection
We're going to cross the intersection ahead, and continue walking straight on the other side. Follow the pavement and then cross both sets of pedestrian crossings to the other side.
Around the Corner
Now that you're safely across, turn left. Then go around the corner to your right and keep following the tram lines. We're almost at the end of our tour.
The Cross Club
On your right is a strange metal sculpture. Turn right into the parking lot area and stop for a while. This is the Cross Club, where our walk ends.
I have chosen to end our walk here, because whenever I visit this place, I am amazed by all those crazy machines: spinning, blinking, rattling, randomly turning left and right. Look closely and you will notice the incredible amount of gear wheels, rods, pistons, isolators and other mechanical parts that have been combined into one total work of art.
I think this is a good conclusion of the tour and its overall theme, which is the industrial past, and what people today make of it.
The Cross Club is open every day from 2pm to 2am, so if you'd like to stop for a bite to eat or something to drink, this is a great place to do it. You could also follow our route back and explore the side streets. If you'd like to go somewhere else, there is a tram stop and a metro station about 100 meters further down the street. To get back to our start point, simply return to the busy intersection behind you. Then turn right, and follow the road back to the river.
I hope that you have enjoyed this walk together. I have definitely enjoyed creating it! Thank you, and good bye.