The first article in this series explored Karlín, one of Prague´s most distinctive and easily defined quarters. But Karlín is not the only Prague district with an intriguingly schizophrenic mix of old Prague tenements, factories and bold new-build projects. Holešovice, its neighbor across the river, is also morphing into a vibrant new quarter, and both districts share many other similarities.
Holešovice is very easy to find on the map – it occupies the the stubby peninsula formed by the expansive meander of the Vltava in the north of Prague. The neighborhood starts immediately east of the Letná district and follows the curve of the river Vltava as far as the Exhibition Grounds (Výstaviště). The western boundary roughly follows the Dukelských hrdinů thoroughfare.
Holešovice, like Karlín, experienced the dramatic change from pastoral peace to powerhouse. Today, it´s a dense, built-up neighborhood, but for centuries it was an area of fields and meadows. Rapid change in the second half of the 19th century through industrialization transformed it into one of the most important industrial quarters of Prague, which officially swallowed the district in 1884. The combination of geographical isolation and industrial concentration gave Holešovice a unique character that survives even today.
Relatively little changed in the neighborhood in the first half of the 20th century, and, as in Karlin, the communist years preserved Holešovice through passive neglect, although construction of the the northern section of the Magistrála highway had a considerable impact in the 1980s. The traffic may have been eased, but it made Holešovice noisier and dirtier.
Further and more profound changes swept through the neighborhood in the last two decades, as the role of Holešovice has been transformed. As part of a regeneration strategy and to ease pressure on the city center, urban planners chose a number of inner neighborhood districts for redevelopment, including Holešovice. Companies have been encouraged to locate there, and a cluster of new multi-storey landmarks such as the Light House office block have been built, dramatically changing the city skyline. Over the last few years, the harbour has been redeveloped as a prestigious residential waterfront project, and the new apartments contrast strikingly with the austere and brilliant monochrome photographs of the harbour taken by Jan Reich. The former Holešovice brewery has been converted into mixed-use development including apartments, offices and shops, and the recently established Centre for Contemporary Art (DOX) is another stage in the transformation of Holešovice.
Parts of Holešovice have suffered from neglect for decades, most notably, Bubny station (Nádraží Bubny) and the adjacent railroad yard. Developer Orco intends to turn this into a mixed use “city within a city“, becoming one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Central Europe. The proposal for the 27-hectare site, has been halted due to the finance issues, although the Prague 7 borough approved Orco´s change to the district master plan. The project is expected to take off later this decade.
Getting there and around
Holešovice is quite centrally located and a convenient location for commuters traveling to both the center and the office quarter just over the river in Karlín. The main route to Dresden and Berlin passes starts in the district (later the D8) at busy Argentinská. It runs north and connects with the suburb of Troja at most Barikádníků. Parallel with Argentinská are the equally traffic-choked thoroughfares of Bubenská and Dukelských hrdinů, both running on a north-south axis in the western side of the neighborhood. The former connects with Karlín at Hlavkův most (bridge). On the east-west axis, U Výstaviště/Vrbenského/U Uranie is the main arterial route, which crosses the river at Libeňský most, linking Holešovice with the Prague 8 district of Libeň. Dělnická links Argentinská with Libeňský most.
For pedestrians, the center is just within reach from Holešovice, especially from the area around Vltavská metro station, although they will have to contend with traffic, fumes and noise. Journey times between the downtown and Karlín by metro and tram should take no more than 10 minutes.
Vltavská and Nádraží Holešovice metro stations, both on Line C (Letňany to Háje) serve the district and both are major tram interchanges. As they are on Line C, they are directly connected to Prague´s main train station (Praha hlavní nádraží) and Florenc bus station.
Holešovice is well served by trams: numbers 1,3, 5, 12, 14, 17 and 25 pass through the district and all operate at some point along part of the circuit formed by Dukelských hrdinů/U Výstaviště/Plynární/Komunárdu and Bubenské nabřeží. Tram number 5 starts in Holešovice, at Výstavište, and runs to Olšanské hrbitovy. With regard to night services, numbers 53 and 54 run through Holešovice.
In terms of local bus services, a number of services from the northern suburbs start or terminate at Nádraží Holešovice, from where there are metro and tram connections. Otherwise, the only other bus routes passing through the district are night bus numbers 505 and 511.
Nádraží Holešovice is one of Prague´s principal railway stations, and suburban (Esko), national services, mainly to north and northwest Bohemia, pass through it. International services to Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Vienna and Budapest also operate from Nádraží Holešovice.
Adjacent to Nádraží Holešovice is a bus station (Autobusové nádraží Holešovice), which serves towns in Central Bohemia such as Mělník, and North Bohemia.
The distribution of green space in Holešovice is very asymmetrical: there is very little in the area east of Bubenská but an abundance on the western fringe of the district, at Stromovka, one of Prague´s largest and best loved parks. A whole range of activities can be enjoyed there (see article “Prague´s open spaces”). Although not strictly speaking in Holešovice, the park at Letná (see “Prague´s open spaces”) is also deservedly popular. As both parks are located west of Bubny station, tram is the best way to reach them.
Holešovice has become much cleaner in the last 20 years, but environmental conditions still leave much room for improvement. Traffic fumes and noise are a huge problem, particularly on Bubenská, Argentinska and Veletržní streets, but the new Blanka tunnel being dug as part of the city ring road project is expected to do little to resolve this problem. The issue is compounded by the behaviour of drivers, many of whom don´t respect the speed limits, and residents find crossing the above streets very risky.
Holešovice is still blighted by dust, as well very some very scruffy public spaces, such as the area around Holešovice zástavka railroad station. Billboards are especially ubiquitous in Holešovice and in most parts are an eyesore.
The housing market in Holešovice is very similar to that of Karlín. It‘s a tenement district, and the housing stock dates from a number of periods, from late 19th century to the interwar blocks around Tusarova. Generally the housing quality is good, although many apartments are in need of repair.
As in Karlín, new build projects are concentrated in the upper range of the market. Prices for new build flats range from CZK 43,000 per square meter to CZK 58,000 per meter.
- Excellent location near the center
- Excellent public transport links
- Good access to Stromovka, Výstaviště and Letná
- Good location for professionals and couples without children
- Pollution/noise pollution is a problem
- Heavy traffic
- Lack of off-street parking
- Eastern part of Holešovice is cut off from western part by busy roads
In the second half of this article, we will concentrate on other aspects of life in Holešovice: shopping and services, restaurants, cultural opportunities, sports and leisure and facilities for families. We will also summarize the pros and cons of the area.