Prague Districts: Nusle – part I.

Prague Districts: Nusle – part I.

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Even if you haven’t visited the next district in this series, you’re sure to have passed over it by bridge, which certainly makes it unique among Prague’s neighborhoods. The district is Nusle, and it’s not just the fact that you can commute over it that makes it stand out. It’s location and proximity to the center give Nusle a particular character, as does the self-contained feel of this neighborhood.

Location
Nusle lies in the valley of the Botič stream and is sandwiched between the southern edges of Vinohrady/Vršovice to the north, the outcrop of Vyšehrad to the southwest and Pankrác to the southwest. The River Vltava and Vršovice form the rough western and eastern boundaries, respectively. Directly above the district are main highway to Brno and metro line C, which run along the Nuselský most, the viaduct referred to above, linking Vinohrady and Vyšehrad.

History
The story of Nusle has much in common with all the other inner neighborhoods in this series, involving the transformation from urban to rural landscapes in the 19th century.

The inevitable catalyst was the industrial revolution, which resulted in the development of industries such as brewing, together with construction of the railroad to south Bohemia. Nusle also took on a residential character as Vinohrady spilled down the hill into the Botič valley, and rows of tenement blocks were constructed as part of the expansion.

Nusle officially became part of Prague in 1922, and through much of the twentieth century the neighborhood continued to develop as a residential area. It also acquired significance among Praguers as the location of the notorious Pankrác prison, where political prisoners were executed during World War Two and the notorious show trials in the early 1950s.

In the later decades of the Communist period, the highway to Brno and a link with the suburbs was constructed, which prompted construction of the impressive Nusle Bridge.

Nusle Bridge (Nuselský most)
Nusle Bridge (Nuselský most)

The combination of the structure’s robust concrete pillars and old tenements is a bizarre sight when you’re passing through Nusle. With sad inevitability, the bridge has become a notorious suicide spot, although high fences have been erected along it in response. The bridge and the surrounding area made the news in the fall of 2000, when anti-capitalist demonstrators clashed at the World Bank/IMF summit, held at the Prague Conference Center (Kongresové centrum Praha).

Getting there and around
Given that it is situated south of Vinohrady, Nusle is very accessible; you can get to the city center from the northern fringes on foot if you’re prepared to walk a bit. You can also easily reach the western edges of Vinohrady and Vršovice from Nusle. Otherwise, tram is the most useful mode of public transportation. Several tram routes pass through the neighbourhood, notably number 11, which connects Nusle with Wenceslas Square just behind Muzeum metro station (line C). The route continues south and then follows the busy arterial route of Nuselská. The other tram routes run from different locations in the city and head east through Nusle, along Jaromírova and under the Nusle Bridge to Vršovice and beyond.

Nusle has its own metro station – Vyšehrad (line C) – the only snag is the location, high above the neighborhood, but if you decide to make the ascent to the metro, you’ll be rewarded by a faster journey to the center than by tram. Buses also run through Nusle, although they link suburban routes rather than connecting it with the city center.

Nusle
Nusle

Environment
Nusle has never been ranked among the cleanest and greenest quarters in Prague, not least because of its valley location. As with the rest of Prague, pollution has been reduced significantly, but the air in Nusle still feels unhealthy sometimes, and on some occasions, when other areas of Prague are enjoying sunshine , Nusle can still be languishing under cloud. Noise and fumes from traffic whizzing along the Nusle Bridge cause problems. Other issues are the same as elsewhere, such as dog fouling, a perennial nuisance in Prague, and uncleared snow in winter.

Green space
As with Smíchov, green space is not a phrase that is readily associated with Nusle, but you don’t have to look too hard to find it. The most obvious draw is Vyšehrad, one of Prague’s most underrated attractions and surprisingly tourist-free. The easiest way to get there is by metro, otherwise you’ll have to expend some energy approaching it on foot. Two green other spaces lie on the other side of the valley, at Folimanka, opposite the Prague Congress Center, and Havlíčkovy sady. The latter (see part 1 of the Vršovice article)  is not strictly speaking in Nusle, but is close by.

Housing
Housing in Nusle is quite diverse for a relatively small neighborhood. Although apartment blocks, from the 19th and early 20th centuries and newer flats predominate, Nusle also has a fair number of villas. The neighborhood is worth considering if you’re looking for somewhere fairly central to live and with good transport connections, but less expensive than Vinohrady.

In the older, lower part of Nusle, i.e. immediately south of Vinohrady, under the Nusle Bridge, and the streets around Náměstí bratří Synků, you’ll find typical four-storey Prague tenements of fairly good quality, although some are still rather shabby and in need of repair.

As you move further south and gain height, the housing stock becomes more diverse, a mixture of older tenements as well as family homes. The sub-district between Pankrác prison and Pankrác proper, is largely quiet and secluded, away from the bustle of Nuselská or Jaromírova, below. The interwar tenements in this area, e.g. around the Palouček tram stop, are less spacious than the older apartments and in less peaceful surroundings but are worth considering.

SUMMARY
Strengths

•    Excellent location close to the center
•    Improved housing stock and villa quarter
•    Excellent public transport links
•    Attractive green spaces
•    Good for couples without children

Weaknesses
•    Pollution can be a problem
•    Noise and traffic fumes is an issue on main roads
•    Lack of off-street parking
•    Relative lack of properties with gardens so less good for families with children

Click here to see part II. of this article


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