Photo by Lucas Vallecillos
On Národní Street, the historic avenue placed on the boundary of Prague’s New Town and Old Town, the atmosphere feels somewhat brash.
The National Theatre is majestic of course, built as a venue to showcase artistic creations in the Czech language. Donations were sought to make it happen, making it a true theater by and for the people.
The curious building next door, Nová Scéna, came into being in the 1980s. Originally built to house Laterna Magika, a black-light theater troupe, the hard-to-love building still produces black-light shows as well as contemporary dance pieces and other avant-garde programing. The Czech reputation for pushing the boundaries of the arts was only briefly suppressed under communist rule and contemporary art and design can be found in galleries across the city, local flair soon fighting back against the influx of international brands that flooded the market when capitalism arrived.
Turning the corner onto Spálená Street, the bustle continues. There’s a big change here and watching my fellow passengers on tram line 22 – the iconic tram line on which it takes just over an hour to cross the city, through business districts, neighborhoods and many of the city's famous sights – I get a lonely feeling. Young people are plugged into their music; people are standing and reading; others stare dully out the windows. There’s no talking (except for some chatty woman on a phone) and people seem to have formed cocoons around themselves in the midst of the crowd.
This is Nové Město, Prague’s New Town founded in 1348. Its most famed attraction is Wenceslas Square, but the 22 doesn’t go that way. We are still stuck in a commercialized zone, which doesn’t give a great impression of the quarter. It’s a bit grittier here compared to Malá Strana (Lesser Town), but walk even a couple of blocks off Spálená or Národní streets and you discover antique shops, tiny cafés, pubs and more.
Planning for Prague? New Town houses plenty of Truly Wonderful hotels. Here's one!