Prague Zizkov District
Zizkov occupies a hill of the same name, overlooking Prague’s historical centre in the east. Therefore it offers wonderful views of the city, and also an atmosphere that is quite different from the main tourist areas.
Unlike the neighbouring Vinohrady, traditionally an upscale district and good address, Zizkov used to be a working class quarter – a bit darker at the first glance, rough, but also proud and bohemian. In the last decades, like other parts of Prague, Zizkov has seen dramatic changes in both its population and looks, with entire blocks being redeveloped with new business and residential complexes. However, some part of its proud and bohemian spirit remains.
Locals claim that Zizkov has the highest number of pubs per capita in all of Europe (there are more than 300 of them – and the beer is much cheaper than in the Old Town). But it is not just the pubs which make this part of Prague worth visiting.
Hussite Wars, Jan Zizka and Vitkov Hill
The district is named after Jan Zizka, a military leader of the Hussites, a strong rebel movement that arose in the Czech lands following the death of Jan Hus, a church reformer and one of the predecessors of protestantism, who was burned at stake for heresy in 1415 (he is the man whose huge memorial stands in the centre of Old Town Square). In the aftermath of Hus’s death, the Hussites became so popular and powerful that virtually all of Europe feared them. The Pope sent as many as five crusades against them, all defeated by the Hussites.
The first of the five crusades was defeated in the Battle of Vitkov Hill in 1420. This is the hill overlooking Prague city centre right next to the Zizkov Hill with the huge horse statue at the top. There is of course Jan Zizka himself on top of that horse, which is reportedly the third biggest bronze horse statue in the world. You can notice Zizka only has one eye, which is his best known characteristic (he lost one, and later also the other eye in battle).
The work is part of the so called National Memorial, where veterans and military officials gather on some national holidays and important anniversaries. A visit to the Vitkov Hill offers a nice view of the city – and it is a perfect place to watch sunset over Prague.
You can get to Vitkov Hill from several place along Husitska (which of course means Hussite Street) – a short bus ride or walk from Florenc metro station.
Major Streets and Places in Zizkov
You will find many other reminiscences of the Hussite era throughout Zizkov. Many of the district’s streets have Hussite-inspired names.
That is not the case of Seifertova Street, the main street with trams arriving from the city centre. This one is named after Jaroslav Seifert, a Zizkov-born Czechoslovak writer and 1984 Nobel Prize winner. Various writers and artists are another important part of Zizkov heritage.
Close to the western (city centre) end of Zizkov Seifertova Street passes Winston Churchill Square, dominated by the large functionalist building of the former General Pension Establishment (now the seat of Trade Unions Confederation) and the University of Economics. There is also a statue of Winston Churchill in front of the university entrance – a replica of the one from Parliament Square in London.
As Seifertova Street continues to climb the hill further into Zizkov, it passes the stadium of Viktoria Zizkov football club and soon after, near the highest point of the street, the neo-gothic Church of St. Procopius with its 73 metres tall tower.
Zizkov TV Tower
The highest structure of Zizkov and all of Prague is just a few more blocks away. You will certainly have seen the Zizkov Television Tower long before you actually arrive to Zizkov, as it is well visible from most parts of the city, thanks to its 216 metres of height and characteristic modern design (both loved and hated by large crowds of people).
The tower includes a restaurant and observation deck which you can visit, and even a one-room hotel, where you can enjoy the views of Prague directly from your bed, 68 metres above ground (admittedly the price is also sky high).