A historic 1940s steamboat will return to Prague for Vltava Day

This year's Vltava Day will be the first since 2019, and Prague residents and visitors are invited to take free boat rides on the city's river on Sunday.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 18.03.2023 12:40:00 (updated on 19.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague's annual Vltava Day celebrations are back for the first time since 2019 tomorrow, March 19, after cancellations over the past three years due to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions. The yearly event traditionally kicks off the spring tourism season in Prague's city center.

During the event, Prague residents and visitors are invited to visit attractions on both sides of the Vltava river, and take free rides on the city's many boats. And one of the boats participating in the Vltava Day celebrations is a very special one: the Steamboat Elbe, which is returning to the Czech capital for the first time in 25 years to participate in Vltava Day.

The Steamboat Elbe has a long history in Prague. It was originally built in the Czech capital in the 1940s, and ran on the city's Vltava river for nearly 40 years. Due to a damaged boiler and other issues, it was decommissioned in 1986, and anchored by the Smíchov Railway Bridge for another decade.

Elbe Steamboat in Minden, Germany. Photo: iStock / eurotravel
Elbe Steamboat in Minden, Germany. Photo: iStock / eurotravel

In 1997, the Steamboat Elbe sank due to its state of disrepair which included a rusted hull, seemingly spelling an end to the historic Prague vessel. But it was salvaged by a German company and found new life in Minden, where it sailed for 20 years on the Wesser River under the names Wappen von Minden and Weserstolz.

Last year, the boat was brought back to the Czech Republic by the Děčín-based Labská plavební (Elbe Sailing) company, which has completely refurbished the vessel and restored its original name.

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After 50 years on the Vltava and 20 on the Wesser, the Steamboat Elbe will now have a permanent route on its namesake waterway, the Elbe river, in North Bohemia. But before it launches there, it will make one final appearance tomorrow on the Vltava in Prague.

"The boat will have a permanent berth on the Elbe, so we are very happy that we and its new owner, Vševltavský Association member Martin Komrska, managed to arrange the return of the steamboat to the Vltava for at least one day," says Zdeněk Bergman of the Vševltavský Association, which organizes Vltava Day in Prague.

Vltava Day 2023 will take place in Prague on Sunday, March 19, with concerts, demonstrations from police and firefighting boats, games for children, beer tasting, and other events up and down both sides of the Vltava river in central Prague.

"It will be possible to have refreshments on board Loď Pivovar near the Štefánikov bridge, where there will also be guided tours and beer tasting. The (A)VOID Floating Gallery on Náplavka will be accessible free of charge," says Bergman. "It will also be possible to visit the Charles Bridge Museum or the exhibition of unique NAVALIS photos in Kobka 17 for free."

Other Vltava Day attractions include free boat rides on many of the city's larger cruise vessels, including the Steamboat Elbe. Due to high interest, reservations are recommended and can be made through the Vševltavský Association.

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