A former working class and artistic district with a high rate of criminality recently became a must-see for tourists – we are not talking about the Parisian Montmartre, but Prague´s Žižkov. What exactly to do and see in this old, picturesque part of the city?
Avoid Žižkov? Big mistake
An old Czech proverb advises any possible visitor to avoid Žižkov and keep distance. However, since the beginning of the 21st century this sentence has lost its validity. Today, our advice is the very opposite – if you stay in Prague, be sure to find at least a few hours to visit the lovely neighbourhood. We will give you many reasons why. But first, let us focus on the similarities shared with of the famous Parisian neighbourhood.
Žižkov (just as Montmartre) is located on a big hill which leads to a dominant that is visible from all around the city. Nevertheless, the dominant is not the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur, but modernist Television Tower with sculptures of huge babies, made by the famous Czech artist David Černý, climbing up the tower (not the artist, the babies…).
Moreover, Žižkov is a former a working class district built predominantly in the second half of the 19th century – just as Montmartre. At the time ongoing industrial revolution allowed the wealthy „bourgeoisie” to build beautiful artistic houses with huge rooms and high ceilings not just for themselves, but also for their employees. Therefore, we can find a whole lot of architecturally valuable houses in Žižkov. Art Nouveau, Renaissance Revival, Neoclassicism and other historicism-inspired styles of the “Belle Époque” will satisfy every architecture enthusiast.
Last, but definitely not least, Žižkov is well-known for its artistic heritage. Nobel Prize-winning author Jaroslav Seifert, the most translated Czech writer Jaroslav Hašek, or famous surrealist painter Toyen were all living there for most of their lives. As in the case of Montmartre, the mixture of working-class and artist environments makes Žižkov a very special place to visit or to live in.
The case of gentrification
Unfortunately, until recently the district used to be pretty wild. The Czechoslovak communist regime used to neglect Žizkov and its heritage for being too bourgeois and unsuitable for “modern” people. Therefore, only the poorest including ethnic minorities remained in the neighborhood during the 2nd half of the 20th century.
The communist regime later decided to tear down the whole district and replace its buildings by new houses in the style of “socialist modernism”. Luckily, except of few exceptions this never happened. On the other hand, the communist regime fell and Žižkov started to be appreciated, although little by little.
Its location close to the town centre, cultural and architectonic heritage and cheap rental prices attracted young families, students and other solvent people. Therefore, the process of gentrification slowly started, finishing in the early 2010s. In result, most of the old houses were sensitively renovated, criminality almost disappeared, new businesses opened and Žižkov became popular for tourists, who very often chose to stay there, at least for a few hours.
A few tips
If you like Mexican cuisine, try Las Adelitas in Lucemburska street. For Czech cuisine, visit U Kurelů or Želivárna. For great burgers, visit YES Burger. Or simply check the Tripadvisor web page ;). In general, the best food can be found around the Seifertova street.
The before-mentioned Žižkov TV tower is definitely worth visiting, but there are other sights. For example, the Vítkov Hill with its army museum and National Memorial. If you like churches, definitely visit the St. Procopius Church. If you like horror movies, you can visit the huge Olšany cemetery which also includes an old Jewish cemetery. In general, anywhere you go in Žižkov, you can se a building which is more than 100 years old.
Bars and clubs
There are a lot of “underground“ bars with great atmosphere including Bukowski bar or Chocobamba. If you like electronic music, you can visit Storm club. If you like more “fancy“ environment, try to visit Vlkova 26. In general, if you go to a bar anywhere around the Vlkova street, you will not be disappointed.
Author studies the branch Security Studies at Charles University in Prague. In his professional work, he is interested in media, specifically the work in daily journals and PR.