A local’s guide to Holešovice, Prague

October 12, 2018
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Michaela Vaszi

No one knows local life like our guides. That’s why we’ve asked them take us around their favourite ‘hoods and offer their insider tips on seeing the city like a true local. If Holešovice sounds like your kind of place, local Prague city guides can show you around with a private tour.

Holešovice is rather a young part of town, born of humble beginnings, built upon rolling pastures and prairies. This area encompasses most of what lies within the horseshoe of Prague’s snaking Vltava river.

The first mention of the name Holešovice on record is from 1228. In those days it was a farming village, and the tiny Church of St. Clement – first mentioned in 1234, albeit much older – can still be seen, though it was rebuilt in 1603 due to a fire. In the first half of the 1800s, Prague’s historical centre had already exceeded 100,000 in population, practically bursting at the seams, causing the former agricultural area’s population to swell.

The growth of the area was centered around industrialisation and the number of factories grew quickly, influencing public transportation infrastructure. By 1884, Holešovice had merged with the ever-growing city of Prague, and the borough fell further into the sweeping industrialisation of the times. A massive slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility was built in 1895 that supplied the majority of meat to the city of Prague, and 90 years later, this would turn into Prague’s largest marketplace: Holešovická tržnice.

Lying on the western front of Holešovice, Letná Park provides refuge to the many citizens looking for some greenery in the midst of the concrete. Letná served its historical role time after time. During the early years of communism, a towering statue of Stalin was built atop a plinth in Letná, commandingly glaring down upon the city. It took over five years to finish and was built to immortalise the leader. As it goes, immortality lasted just short of eight years. In 1962, Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation, which started shortly after the statue’s unveiling in 1955, finally arrived at the world’s largest statue of the Comrade, which was ordered to be destroyed by dynamite. This spot is now home to Prague’s metronome.

Prague's metronome by night

Prague’s metronome, located where a statue of Stalin once stood | Photo by Prague Urban Adventures

Twenty-seven years later, Letná was again in the spotlight. On November 25 and 26, 1989, approximately 750,000 to 800,000 people gathered here during the Velvet Revolution. They were demanding the end of the regime, which finally came a short time later, effectively ending the 41-year grey period that gripped this district in an industrial smog.

Since the revolution, the district of Holešovice has found its footing, balancing its industrial past with a new way of living and breathing, and has quickly gained a new reputation as a thriving cultural hub.

Why you should visit Holešovice

Urban sprawl in the 19th century turned this bygone village into a hotbed of industrial activity. The area had plenty of factories, creating noise and pollution until rather recently. In contemporary times, this industrial district is peeling off its crust, revealing a new artistic layer of the borough; a layer that is quickly becoming one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in the city.

With Holešovice growing more intriguing by the year, it is a district brimming with treasures. Factories have changed into markets, the district has shed its industrial skin, and culture crept through the cracks, proving time and time again that culture and life can grow from the greyest of beginnings.

Top things to do in Holešovice

1. Explore Veverkova Street

Veverkova Street could win the “where-to-go-contest” in Holešovice with an amazing bookshop and publishing house, Page Five, which houses a small but well-orchestrated alternative selection of books and zines. On the same street, there is Bistro8 for those in need of a quick stop for tasty food. Or shop vinyl and sneakers at Garage or browse cool, upcycled vintage at Recycle with Love.

2. Visit the Trade Fair Palace

The Trade Fair Palace is a fascinating place with a depth of history. Part of Prague’s National Gallery, it now showcases Czech Modernism and contemporary art from the late 19th-century, as well as 20th- and 21st-century art. Throughout its seven storeys, the gallery also hosts Symbolist, Abstract and Art Deco displays featuring both local and international names, some relatively unknown and some of great renown, such as Monet, van Gogh and Picasso to name only a few.

Trade Fair Palace in Prague

Prague’s Trade Fair Gallery | Photo by Prague Urban Adventures

3. Check out DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

DOX Centre for Contemporary Art is not to be missed by any lover of art. The gallery explores the struggle between modern life and art. In an era where people’s thoughts are more convergent, or “dangerously alike,” DOX wants to use art to deviate and disperse, “to suspend, even for a moment, our habitual ways of seeing…” DOX opened after the revolution with the goal of bringing art back from the margins of society into people’s lives during the blossoming of the capitalistic age, the main focus of which was commercial gain. This was the first exclusively contemporary art gallery in Prague.

4. Shop Holešovická marketplace

Holešovická marketplace is not just a vast and wild assortment of food and goods, it is also used as a cultural space where they host a broad range of events and entertainment.

5. Hang out at Vnitroblock

Vnitroblock brings together industrial spaces with art and culture. If you are looking for fashion and relaxation, go to the Signature Store & Café, a gallery of sorts for both local and central European fashion brands and a super cool and stylish café. We’re not going to spoil it for you as there’s much for you to discover, so do yourself a favour and definitely put this place on your list!

Vnitroblock in Prague

Hanging out at Vnitroblock | Photo by Prague Urban Adventures

6. Visit the urban garden of Prazelenina

Prazelenina is an urban gardening space which offers brick-oven baked artisan breads made fresh in the garden’s cafe. Wash it down with microbrewed beer from a top-rated Bohemian brewery, Únětický pivovar. If beer isn’t for you, they have delicious Prager Cider, too.

7. Attend an event at Cross Club

Cross Club is another venue in the area, mixing young travellers in a special steampunk environment. It is a uniquely designed multicultural centre, which houses a real crossroads of cultures and a variety of styles and genres in the centre of Holešovice.

8. Fill up and drink up

Holešovice is filled with great places to eat and drink. Café Jedna, located within the Trade Fair Palace, supplies an alternative crowd with well-made food, coffee, wine and beer from a local Prague microbrewery, Vinohradský Pivovar. Bio Oko is a bar-cum-cinema, which always makes for a fun and interesting time. SaSaZu is an upscale Asian restaurant, which has received the Michelin guide’s Bib Gourmand award.