The bustling district of Prague 10 has earned much appreciation within the last years. Declared the ‘hipster district’ of Prague, Vršovice attracts many visitors and anything-but-normal lovers. Hundreds of bars, bistros and a handful of beautiful parks make it easy to fall for the district that neighbours Vinohrady. But there is more than just a bar and food scene to discover.
The many bars and coffee shops in Prague 10 are in the public eye by now. Vršovice has reached the peak of glory in the past couple of years and a shock of bistros, restaurants, coffee houses and bars have popped up. Nowadays often visited, the district lying on the Southern slope of Vinohrady is popular – and righftully so. But how did Vrsovice become so popular and what history lies behind the modern face of the former village?
The name Vršovice is first mentioned in the history books in 1088, when the settlement was established and the first princely family took up residence in Vyšehrad. The origins of its name, however, have gone under in the shadows of the past.
Back then, the court, its vineyards as well as a fishery belonged to Pražan Štuka, who then proceeded to sell the whole village to the order of the German Knights. Main point of economic value was the fortress in Botič, which vanished from the map at the end of the 19th century.
It was under Karl IV’s reign that the hills of Bohdalka were turned into vineyards and Vršovice was pronounced the ‘viticultural valley’, because the grapes in the area grew so quickly. The growth of the vineyards were so significant, even the stream Botič was renamed as ‘vinny potok’ (wine stream). 1797 marked an interesting and prosperous year for the small village by the hill. They started modern agriculture, woodcutting, horticulture, built manufacturies and – of course – had hop plants.
Another trivial year for the district was 1866, when the city walls of Prague came down. From this point on, Vršovice started to blossom – which was vital for the villagers. Back in the day, water in the village was a rarity, the streets went pitchdark once the sun set and medicine could only be gotten over in Vyšehrad. Only 20 years later, Vršovice was officially pronounced a small city – and was lit up with marvellous lanterns. The village became part of the city through Emperor Franz Joseph I, who pronounced Vršovice the same in 1902, followed by them joining Prague in 1922.
The most magnificent sight in Vršovice used to be a medieval water fort, which later was turned into an outbuilding. Sadly, the water fort was torn down in 1988, with the unfulfilled promise to re-erect it again.
Throughout the years, Vršovice flourished and flourished and recently became the hippest district in Prague. What many visitors and expats forget, however, is its cultural and historical heritage, interesting buildings and ancient monuments. And so we decided to venture out and look for the history beneath the pretty bistros and bakeries.
Exploring Krymská and Beyond
Sadly, Vršovice is often only talked about as a ‘cool bar district’. Admittedly, there is a high density of them – however, the historical and cultural value of Prague 10 is often heavily underestimated. If you are visiting or living in Prague and want to discover a little more than guide books tell you, a day in Vršovice is a wonderful choice. And here is what awaits you.
We are starting our journey on Krymská street, where a shock of bistros such as ‘Conductor’ and coffee spots like the newly reopened ‘Coffee Source’ reside. Following the tram tracks down the hill, we are led to Ruská – the probably second busiest street in this area. Something green looming on the left hand side is beckoning us to come closer…
Heroldovy Sady must be one of the quietest city parks we’ve ever been to. People lounging, reading books and walking their dogs… This place feels like a sunny Saturday – no matter what day of the week it is. The crown pieces of the park are often overlooked: It is, for one, an Obelisk holding Vršovice’s Coat of Arms.
As we scatter along the path, we come across the ‘Tree of the Republic’ – a Linden tree that was planted in commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia.
Not far from the tree with a story, a piano standing underneath a wooden pergola invites musicians to sit down and play the park a song. How could we possibly not sit down and enjoy the tunes?
St. Wencelas Church
Leaving the park through the back, we follow Holandská street to the the functionalistic work of Josef Gočár. St. Wencelas Church is known for its constructivist style, but also, because it was the first church in Bohemia that was made from a ferroconcrete skeleton. Built between 1929 and 1930, the altars on the inside were built by sculptor Čeněk Vosmík.
Vršovice just knows how to relax and cosy spots are never far off. Right next to the church resides the coffee house Tvoje Mama, which spoils us with great coffee, a cosy interior and fingerlicking good Buchty.
Photo: V. Gautschi
Reinvigorated we continue our journey downhill. Right off the square that Svaty Vaclav is standing on, a piece of history hides behind brown and yellow walls. Koh-i-Noor factory is a well-known, Czech brand that produces buttons and rivets. Founded by two Jewish brothers – Jindřich and Sigmund Waldes – under the name Waldes, the successful business conquered the international market in no time, making its owners multi-millionaires almost overnight.
The turn of the brothers’ luck followed in 1939: The invasion of Czechoslovakia through Hitler. The two brothers lost everything they had worked so hard for. Their property was stolen, Sigmund sought safety in New York, while Jindrich stayed and was transferred to Buchenwald. The long lost brother made it out of the concentration camp in 1941, but died on his way to America, never reuniting with his family again.
The brand, however, still lives on and reminds of the two clever and talented businessmen that managed to start their own brand with huge success.
Sugar and Syrup Refinery
In order to get to our next stop, we decide to hop on a tram for 2 stops to ‘Vršovice Nádraží’ – however, the distance is perfectly walkable and lots of little nooks and crannies can be discovered on the way to the next historical spot. We even come across a family-owned bakery called ‘Nas Chleb’. We can’t help but step in, when we see their breads alluringly placed in front of the shop.
As we follow the street down to Petrohradská with our bread in our bag, we come across another lost and forgotten sight of the district: The Cukrář. Prague and Czech Republic in general were and are big players in producing sugar and syrup. The industry was quite essential for the country’s economic stability.
It was on Petrohradská street, where Cukrář Vršovice was founded in 1902. The factory produced mainly crystal sugar, flour sugar, cubes, edible syrup and artificial honey. Up to 90 tons of sugar per day were made here every single day, meeting the demand of the locals and of course, exporting their products.
1939 marked the end of the success of the refinery: The factory was destroyed and during the Second World War, the German company Rheostat moved into the building. In 1989, the government decided to reuse the building for living and work space – we wonder if the smell of sugar and syrup still lingers in the flats and offices above our heads.
On our way back from the former factory, we stumble across another coffee place that just newly opened: Kafe Petrohradska. Besides the cool mural on the outside, they serve cold drinks, little snacks and coffee.
A day in Vršovice is a real workout for the legs – and so we decide to take a tram up the hill where we came from, getting off at Svatopluka Cecha, St. Wencelas Church in front of us once more. We are now standing in front of Vrsovicke Namesti, the ‘center’ of Prague 10. As we pass by the bustling street full of butchers, restaurants and bakeries, we spot Antoninovo Pekarstvi selling Pistachio Ice Cream. We decide that we’ve earned a break and treat ourselves to a cold, sweet treat. Their patio is the perfect little spot to sit down and take the city in the city in.
A few steps down from Antoninovo, the a rather odd looking, red and yellow building to our left catches our eye.
The Hussite Church in Vršovice was erected as the first project using prestressed concrete in Prague. Within only 9 months, Karela Truksa and his team of builders erected the orange and yellow building in Moskevska street. The prismlike tower was designed by Pavel Janak, who wanted to make it look like a lantern.
The first stone in this project was a gift of the city of Tabor – whose associations with radical Hussitism date back to the 15th century. The block was brought in from Kozí Hrádek, where Jan Hus himself found refuge in 1414 before being burnt at the stake the following year in Konstanz. Today, the building is not only used as a stage for Divadlo Mana.
Saint Nicolas Church
Only a 2 minutes walk further up the street, we are greeted by another, smaller church. The originally gothic Church of St. Nicholas towers over the area. It was in 1704, that the church was rebuilt in Barock style. Out of what once was a romantic chapel devoted to Maria Magdalena became quite an impressive church.
For centuries, the Saint Nicholas Church was the only of its kind in the whole village. As the population of Vršovice grew, the church had to be enlarged and eventually, a new church needed to be built. And so, in 1929, St. Wencelas Church was erected.
The tower of St. Nicholas is home to one of the oldest bells in Prague. It was moulded in 1511 and is named St. Apostel Petrus. Though the interior of the church is strikingly simple, the painting showing St. Nicholas and the beautiful organ are worth a visit. Now, however, for the big building looming over the area…
Castle Vršovice: Rangherka
If you thought the district wouldn’t have any surprises ready for you, you were wrong. This nowadays Neo-Renaissance building – which is a state-protected monument – from the 18th century, is anything but a everyday castle. It was once a silk factory! The name Rangherka the building got from his former owner: Giuseppe Rangheri. The story of Vršovice’s castle finds its beginning in Italy. Salesman and mulberry farmer Giuseppe Rangheri, decided to take on the farming of the trees in Prague and so journeyed from his home to Czech Republic. Quickly, his son, Henry Rangheri, was burning for his father’s project and took over the re-establishment of silk production in Prague.
1842, he bought two buildings near St. Nicholas Church, which were solemnly used to breed the silkworms that would spin the precious threads that the company needed. After Henry’s death, however, the mulberry trees and silkworms disappeared. The heirs of Henry had no passion for the silk production their ancestors had created. Instead, they sold the area and Heroldovy Sady was laid out. The building had several uses throughout the years: a girl’s school, a guesthouse for citysick Praguees, government premises, ministry and even the office of the ONV during the communistic era.
Today, the former residence of Rangheri is used as a retirement home and nothing reminds of the glory silk days in Prague 10 – except a moth fluttering by here and there.
Filled up with historical and architectural food for thought, we decide to meander back up to Krymska through the small alleys leading away from Rangherka. Vršovice’s small neighbourhood shops are the perfect counterweight to our history-heavy tour. Little (or big), Czech-made earrings, decor, clothes & souvenirs are to be gotten from the newly opened store ‘Place Store‘.
A litte further up the hill, boardgame fans will get their fix at ‘Bohemia Boards and Brews‘ in Charkovska street. ‘Café Sladkovsky‘ serves wonderful drinks and tasty burgers or mezze to hungry wanderers. And if you just can not walk past by a well-baked bread, ‘Le Caveau‘ bakery up to the right is well worth a visit.
Beer lovers and those looking for some good live tunes might want to check Café V Lese‘s program.
Past and Present perfectly intertwined, at your feet, ready to be discovered. Haven’t been yet? Then you should definitely put a day in Prague 10 in your list!
Do you have favourite places, stories and sights about the district? We want to hear all about it in the comments!
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