Clamping down on cramped quarters: Prague's Old Town and Royal Route to get a new look

The city of Prague has published a manual regulating the appearance and layout of outdoor spaces for businesses in the city center. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 02.10.2021 18:00:00 (updated on 14.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Anyone who lives in Prague will be familiar with the “visual smog” which can mar the extraordinary beauty of the city center. Outdoor seating areas for the city's many restaurants and bars can distract from the surroundings, while contributing to a sense of overcrowding which especially pervasive before the pandemic.

Now, Prague City Hall has introduced a set of instructions for businesses operating in the historic center to limit the impact of their operations on the city’s visual appeal and livability.

The manual, Cultivating Prague, includes illustrated guidance on the types of structures which restaurants can put up in front seating areas, the furniture they can use, the implementation of utilities such as gas, and the use of signage. Plexiglass and plastic structures will not be allowed, while the illuminated advertisements, which jar so oddly with the centuries-old streets, will be gone.

“Restaurant gardens are a welcome revival of public space. It is pleasant to sit in the fresh air, drink your coffee and watch the hustle and bustle of the city. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that streets and squares are, first and foremost, places for people to move and meet. For this reason, we need to find a balance,” said Adam Scheinherr, Deputy Mayor of Prague, who presented the manual.

By issuing clear guidance for how restaurant outdoor seating should look, the new manual from City Hall follows another issued last year which summarized and illustrated new rules for shop frontage and advertising in the city center.

Steps by the authorities to control the appearance of businesses are a response to a proliferation of commercial services in the city center which are feared to be undermining Prague’s historical significance and beauty. The rules will now form part of lease agreements concluded between front garden business operators and the city.

“Restaurant gardens should complement and enhance public areas, not create obstacles. They must also be implemented sensitively and with taste. The ideal is a combination of parasols, tables, chairs and a minimum of other equipment,” said Deputy Mayor Scheinherr.

In drawing up the new regulations, the authorities took inspiration from other capital cities with similar historical significance.

“We learned about the rules which apply in foreign metropolises comparable to Prague’s history and significance. Based on this research, we have, for example, extended the minimum clear width which must be maintained on the sidewalk," said Kristýna Drápalová, the creator of the manual.

Almost everywhere else it is 2 meters or at least 1.8 meters, but in our country, it is only 1.5 meters. For this reason, we have now expanded this minimum width to 1.8 meters,” said Drápalová.

This year City Hall also approved regulations on the location of restaurant gardens on the famous Royal Route and Castle Promenade. The document aimed to free up space in Malé Náměstí, around the astronomical clock in the Old Town Square, and at other important historic spots in the city center.

Now, as tourists return to Prague and with companies fully resuming their operations, regulations on the appearance of outdoor business areas are a timely move to ensure the beauty of Prague remains undimmed for current and future residents and visitors.

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