Pedestrian-friendly makeover underway for Prague riverside avenue

The bustling Smetana's Embankment area will undergo what the city calls "central Prague's biggest transformation in decades" this spring.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 10.04.2022 15:28:00 (updated on 11.04.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Three separate projects will transform the area around Prague riverside avenue Smetanovo nábřeží (Smetana's Embankment) over the coming months in what the city calls "the biggest transformation in the center of Prague over the past decades."

The changes include widening the sidewalk by the building-facing side of the street, planting a new row of trees on the same side of the street, and updates to tram lines in the area that include two new stops. In the works for the past couple years, the three projects will each be finished by June 30, 2022.

Smetana's Embankment, named after Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, runs next to the Vltava river in central Prague from Charles Bridge to the National Theatre. Despite its prominent location in the city center, the street has long catered to automotive traffic over pedestrians, and a stroll down it may not be as picturesque as other central Prague avenues for tourists.

Visualization of changes to Smetanovo nábřeží. Photo: City of Prague
Visualization of changes to Smetanovo nábřeží. Photo: City of Prague

City officials hope that will change with the new alterations to the street and surrounding area, all of which will be finished just in time for summer.

"The center of Prague is facing its biggest change over the last few decades. The area from Klementinum through Křižovnické náměstí to the National Theater will be completely transformed," says Prague's Deputy Mayor for Transport Adam Scheinherr.

"Praguers can look forward to new tram stops, a row of trees on Smetana's Embankment, a wide pedestrian promenade lined with trees thanks to extended sidewalks, benches, and a separate cycle path through a section where it is missing today."

Prague's Institute of Planning and Development prepared changes to the street itself, which emphasized additional space and better conditions for both pedestrians and cyclists. And despite fundamental changes to accommodate additional sidewalk space, nothing will change for drivers. 

Křižovnické náměstí connects Charles Bridge and the riverfront area with Prague's Royal Route, which is visited by up to 100,000 tourists per day in the summer months. Despite the central location, accessing this area is often problematic on cramped surrounding sidewalks, which the new changes hope to address.

The new row of trees on the building-facing side of the street will complement an existing row on the river-facing side, doubling the amount of greenery in the area. Also on the river-facing side, a new bicycle path will be established for cyclists.

"We are working hard to prepare and implement projects in the center of Prague that significantly transform and improve the quality of public spaces," says Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček.

Visualization of changes to Smetanovo nábřeží. Photo: City of Prague
Visualization of changes to Smetanovo nábřeží. Photo: City of Prague

"One of them is the section [of Smetana's Embankment] where we work towards a vision of public space, especially for people who live here, walk or ride bikes, but also for those who need to drive here. I am pleased that a new tree line will be planted in the waterfront area and that an additional 17 trees will be added."

Changes in the tram line in the area will include the addition of a new stop at Karlovy Lázně in the direction of Charles Bridge into the city center, and renovations of the existing stop at the location heading out of the center. Both stops will also contain barrier-free access.

The tram stops at Národní divadlo (National Theatre) on Smetana's Embankment will be removed, with stops around the corner providing access; currently, trams 2 and 18 have multiple Národní divadlo stops, which will be condensed into one as of this summer.

Meanwhile, another new stop will be established further past the National Theatre on Smetana's Embankment by Žofín. The adjustments and new tram stops will also result in new pedestrian crossings in the area.

Smetana's Embankment serves pedestrians, cyclists, automobiles, and public transport passengers, and the new changes aim to cater to each of their needs equally while preserving the aesthetic integrity of the central Prague location.

"Smetana's Embankment and Malá Strana are among the most beautiful and valuable places in the world," says Scheinherr. "We have to approach them in this way."

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