Prague’s Petřín hill cable car undergoes makeover

The new design of the most-visited Czech attraction features innovative elements that emphasize the view.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 20.09.2022 14:24:00 (updated on 20.09.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

The new look of the cable car for Prague’s Petřín hill has been revealed, following a design contest. The winner was the Czech studio Anna Marešová Designers, which has also designed the T3 Coupé tram.

The Petřín cable car, also called the funicular, was the most-visited Czech attraction in 2021 according to data from CzechTourism. It has some 1,015,500 visits, which was even more than Prague Zoo. In normal years, it can have twice as many. But the current cars have been in service since the 1980s and are at the end of their lives.

The winning design was selected from 26 entries, including 10 from foreign countries. Originally the winner was supposed to be announced in February but due to a technicality the contest had to be held a second time, which caused the delay.

Designers were asked to create both the body and the interior of two similar cable cars with a capacity of up to 120 passengers each. The new look was also supposed to be timeless, modern, and innovative, while respecting 21st-century public transport trends and the specifics of the location. Some of the runners-up can be seen on the DPP website.

The Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) now plans to announce a tender by the end of the year to find a supplier who can use the designs to build the new cable cars. The first passengers could ride the modernized cable car to and from Petřín at the end of 2024.

The cable car on Petřín has been part of Prague's public transport for almost 130 years. The current cable car is the third generation of this vehicle since service was renewed in 1932. Each lasted in service for about 30 years before being replaced by more modern cars. The current one has been serving for 35 years.

Winning designer Anna Marešová said her slogan for the project was “exposed, airy, loved.” “We designed it with respect for its legacy and place, but so that it would be comfortable and technologically advanced,” Marešová said.

New look with foldable seats and an overhead window. Photo: DPP.
New look with foldable seats and an overhead window. Photo: DPP.

In addition to wide windows on the side of the cable car, the roof is also glazed so people can see the sky as part of the view.

She opted for sustainable and functional design rather than a sporty or flashy look. “We maximized the view and created an exposed and airy shape of the cable car for the best possible ride experience. We believe that it will serve people well and entertain them for at least the next 30 years," Marešová said.

View from the new cable car at night. Photo: DPP.
View from the new cable car at night. Photo: DPP.

The jury said it was impressed with the clean solution that enhances the riding experience. “Cleanliness and austerity provide a great background for passengers who will appreciate the panorama of Prague thanks to the generous cabin windows. The poetic nature, soft shapes and friendly look of the car invite you to take it for a ride,” the jury said.

They noted that all seats could be folded, as most passengers sit only before the car leaves the station. This makes it easier to stand to see the view. “The continuity and respect for the form of the existing cable car, which speaks the language of the present time, is also noticeable,” they added.

Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr, responsible for public transport issues, said each of the previous generations of the cable car shaped the image of Petřín as a “unique location of world importance.” He said the winning design was one of the entries that went beyond what the competition brief required.

One detail he noted was that one cable blinks its front light and the other shows a red light on its back when they pass each other. “The flashing of one light like the winking eye of the first vehicle and the blushing of the second car is a wonderful example of the humanization of technology,” he said.

Cable car in Petřín Hill. (photo: DPP)
Current look of the 1980s-era cable car in Petřín Hill. Photo: DPP.

The cable car ride to Petřín takes four minutes and its two cars reach a height of 130 meters. Since 1985, it has been used by almost 56.5 million people.

The Petřín cable car’s history can be divided into three life stages. From 1891 to 1920, it had a water-powered drive and could transport 50 people. Service was sporadic during World War I, and for economic and technical reasons, it shut down in 1920.

The system was rebuilt with an electric drive and operated from 1932 to 1965 but stopped due to poor geological conditions under the track. Service resumed in June 1985 with a new track and new cars. It has been running ever since, though it closes often for routine maintenance.

The Petřín cable car will soon have company. In August, the DPP announced the winning design for a cable car that crosses the Vltava river to link Prague 6 and 8. The winner of that competition, which had 23 entries from nine countries, was London studio William Matthews Associates.

The cable car will be able to carry up to 2,300 people per hour and will have stops in Podbaba, Troja, and Bohnice. Construction is planned to start in 2024.

“In just a few years, we will be able to ride this elegant means of transport, which can be boarded at three stations. At each terminal, people will be able to conveniently transfer to the subsequent transport connections,” Scheinherr said. From the intermediate station at Troja, people will be able to enter Prague Zoo, he added.  

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more