Right behind the center of Prague, which is highly sought after by tourists, is the popular Vinohrady district. Although today we perceive this part of the capital as hidden in the center of the city, historically it only became part of it with the creation of the so-called Great Prague at the beginning of the existence of Czechoslovakia.
Before the annexation itself, there was an independent town of Královská Vinohrady, and it may surprise someone that Žižkov was also one of them, the fourth largest Czech city after Prague, Brno and Ostrava. Today, however, they are an integral part of the Czech metropolis, which is not located on its outskirts, but right in the very core of the city. The location of Vinohrady thus documents the stormy development Prague has undergone over the past 100 years, when it once again became the capital of the entire state. In the times of Austria-Hungary, the city was just a provincial center completely overshadowed by Vienna.
Vineyards in the middle of Great Prague
“Exactly 100 years ago, Great Prague was created! On January 1, 1922, the Act on the Creation of Great Prague came into effect, and the towns of Břevnov, Karlín, Smíchov, Vinohrady or Žižkov became part of Prague. A total of 37 municipalities and settlements merged into one unit. After the merger, it had Prague 676,000 inhabitants,”
reported the account on the X network (then still Twitter) in 2022, the anniversary of the biggest change in the city’s territorial development.
However, the change does not take away from the charm of Vinohrady in any way. The city district crammed with historical gems is certainly not an art-historical open-air museum, but a sought-after place to live. Those who don’t mind city traffic want to live here and at the same time like to be surrounded by architecture, the picturesqueness of which has replaced the austerity of contemporary buildings.
Today, Vinohrady can be viewed through the lens of two fundamental architectural styles of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: neo-romantic renaissance and art nouveau. While at the time of their creation both styles were defined in relation to each other, today’s layman’s eye can only distinguish them with a microscope. Art Nouveau was supposed to be different from the historicizing elements of Romanticism, but today they complement each other beautifully in the architectural panopticon of Vinohrady.
By the glass straight from the vineyard in the middle of the city
Not only locals go to Vinohrady’s Havlíčkové sady to relax, for which the name Gröbovka was adopted, after Gröb’s villa. The luxurious house is an important monument of Neo-Renaissance architecture, which was inspired in the times of the greatest industrial boom in the 19th century, inspired by the magic of the works of Italian Renaissance masters.
However, the park is not a magical place of pseudo-historical buildings (let’s recall a gazebo or an artificial cave), but thanks to its vineyards it is a memory of an important historical stage of the whole of Prague. Today, a vineyard literally in the middle of the city seems bizarre, but in the Middle Ages, vineyards were typical for the whole of Prague and completely surrounded the city. Over time, the slopes with the wine had to give way to the town, but a small piece was preserved in Gröbovce.
However, wine is not the only attraction of the park. Visitors will be happy to throw away everyday stress while looking at the magical fountain.
“The fountain with Triton can be found a little further down, hidden in dense vegetation. It is located in front of an artificial grotto (cave) designed by Josef Vorlíček, and in its center is a statue of Triton by Bohuslav Schnirch. Since World War II, when it was destroyed by bombing the main entrance gate, the area of the orchards remained freely accessible even at night and very soon began to deteriorate and was heavily damaged by vandals. The grotto with the fountain was probably the most affected. In the years 1973-75, an expensive reconstruction of the grotto, fountain, pond, children’s playground and local parts of the park. Unfortunately, already in 1979, the grotto was heavily damaged again,”
The Prague fountain and fountain website describes the eventful history of the fountain, and the work was reconstructed to its present form in 2010.
Art Nouveau and Žižkov Tower
Art Nouveau houses built in Vinohrady at the beginning of the 20th century were meant to contrast with the Neo-Renaissance architecture in Gröbovky Park. Today, many of them have been renovated and are a popular destination for those interested in living in a special part of Prague. Typical Vinohrady apartment buildings were often built in the art nouveau style.
The style first of all wanted to detach itself from the efforts of romanticism to turn its gaze back to history and thus offers a certain form of conception of the then spirit of modern times. Art Nouveau, however, also focused on ornamentation and narrative, ornamentation, play with lines and colors were popular. Today, these buildings have a slightly exotic effect on us, in some cases even a touch of orientalism.
Although at one time it was a manifestation of the spirit of modern human civilization, Art Nouveau houses contrast greatly with today’s architecture. We can also see this phenomenon well in Vinohrady. It is enough to find a street with art nouveau tenements, which can be seen on the Žižkov Tower, we will hardly look for a greater contrast elsewhere. However, the coexistence of Vinohrady and the peculiar Žižkov is part of the genia loci of this place.
Sources: twitter.com, kudyznudy.cz, prahaneznama.cz, prazskekasny.cz, wikipedia.org, author’s work