The Villas of Prague takes a stroll round some of Prague's lesser known architectural treasures

Ryan Scott

Written by Ryan Scott Published on 08.04.2010 17:27:37 (updated on 08.04.2010) Reading time: 6 minutes

The city of a hundred spires has some attractions closer to street level. The villas of Prague represent the cities ever-changing face and provide a glimpse of its history at a more intimate level.

Open to the Public
The villas below are open to public viewing regularly or at special times during the year.

Michna’s Summer Palace (Michnův letohrádek)
Ke Karlovu 20, Prague 2
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Michna’s Summer Palace, also known as Villa Amerika, is a baroque villa designed by Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer and built from 1717 – 1720. The villa has gone through some changes in its time. In 1793 the garden was redesigned in an English style and in the 19th century it became a garden restaurant, “Amerika.” Today, the villa houses the Antonín Dvořák Museum and contains items from the composer’s life. The most impressive feature is the fresco on the ceiling on the top floor. It can get a little cramped in there if there are large groups, so go early and avoid them. Check here for opening hours and further information.

Villa Gröbe
Havličkovy sady, Prague 2
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This Neo-Renaissance villa is located on the grounds of Havličkovy sady. The palatial home was designed by Antonín Viktor Barvitius and the interior done by Josef Schulz for the Prague businessman Moritz Gröbe. The building’s rich ornamentation hides a dark history. During the Nazi occupation, it was the headquarters of the Hitler Youth in Prague, a bitter fact given that Gröbe was Jewish. The villa is open once a month for concerts, usually on Wednesdays at 7pm and once a year for a wine festival. Private group viewings can also be organized by contacting Simona Trazníková on 222 520 100. Tours are free. There is also a vineyard and winery in the park and a pavilion nearby which serves Panini, coffee and treats.

Villa Trmal
Vilová 11, Prague 10
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Built on the ideal of and ‘English home,’ this little piece of England in the Czech Republic is located in Prague’s suburb Strašnice. It was built for František Trmal, a noted educator at the beginning of the 20th century. The architect was Jan Kotěra, who designed a number of buildings in the Czech Republic, including the Museum in Hradec Králové. As far as great architecture goes, this place is quite rustic and homely. It’s no surprise that chickens were once kept here by the original owners. Today, the villa holds cultural events in the former barn. To book tours and check out their events, visit their webpage. The interior has examples of furniture and design from the period, including pieces by Kotěra. None of them are the original furnishings, which were thrown out when the villa was used as a music and art school.

Villa Bílek
Mickiewiczova 1, Prague 6
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Building plot for sale, 9181m<sup>2</sup>

Building plot for sale, 9181m2

Statenice - Černý Vůl

Villa for sale, 598m<sup>2</sup>, 5313m<sup>2</sup> of land

Villa for sale, 598m2, 5313m2 of land

Statenice - Černý Vůl

Villa for sale, 598m<sup>2</sup>, 14494m<sup>2</sup> of land

Villa for sale, 598m2, 14494m2 of land

Statenice - Černý Vůl

Apartment for rent, 3+1 - 2 bedrooms, 73m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+1 - 2 bedrooms, 73m2

Werichova, Praha 5 - Hlubočepy

Nestled in the Hradčany district, this unusual house was designed by the sculptor and architect František Bílek. Bilek’s work was steeped in his religious beliefs and even his home reflects this in the symbolism that it is shaped like a scythe blade. Currently the villa is being renovated with plans to reopen it. Watch here for more information (in Czech).

Villa Kramár
Gogolova 1, Prague 1
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Villa Muller
Nad hradním vodojemem 14, Prague 6
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This large imposing home is something of an antidote to all the spires and gargoyles rising up over Prague. Built between 1928 and 1930 and designed by Adolf Loos and Karel Lhota, Villa Muller is one of the country’s impressive examples of functionalism along with the Villa Tugendhat in Brno. Whereas many of the other buildings dazzle you with their ornamentation, here what hits you is the space. The 12 meter long living area and adjacent raised dining room open up with a view of the city. Despite Loos views on ornamentation, which he considered a ‘crime,’ there is some. In fact, the villa is blend of old and new. Visits are by appointment and are possible in English and Czech. Check the website for further information and a virtual tour. One interesting fact about the place, after the Mullers’ daughters left, the house was used as an archive of Marxism and Leninism – a historical irony for a businessman who had buzzers for servants in almost every room.

Much of Prague’s beauty, architecturally-speaking anyway, is on the outside. Many of the villas are privately owned, either still residential or converted into business premises. Here is a quick survey of some I found interesting for stylistic or historical reasons. Please remember, these are people’s homes, so if you visit please show respect.

Duplex of the Brothers Čapek
Bratří Čapků 28, Prague 10 (Vinohrady)
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It’s hard to think that this house on a quiet suburban street was once the seat of heated intellectual discussion. Karel and Josef Čapek held their famous Friday meetings of the minds here. These ‘Fridayers” as they were known included guests like T. J. Masaryk. The house is a little worn and Karel Čapek’s beloved garden looks in need of some TLC. However, it is a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in Czech literary history.

The Cubist Villa under Vyšehrad and the Art Nouveau Villa
Libušina 3, Prague 2
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During a visit to Prague, American journalist Emily Yoffe commented how surprised she was with the examples of Prague’s Cubist architecture. Surely, the most impressive of these is the Cubist Villa under Vyšehrad, designed by Josef Chodol. If you aren’t aware of this gem it’s worth a stroll, or a tram ride, to see this perfect realization of angular beauty. Unfortunately, at the moment it is used as office space, so you will have to be content with a view from the outside. There are a few other examples of Chodol’s work in the vicinity: the apartment complex at 30 Nekanová and the triplex at 6-10 Rašínovo nábřeží.

Next door to the Cubist Villa is a large Art Nouveau villa which has seen better days. The facade which faces the river has been restored but the walls on the street behind are in need of repair. As with the Cubist Villa it is a commercial residence – but is worth a look for another face of Prague.

Villa Dvořák (Kaplický’s Last House)

Na Dobešce 1, Prague 4
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To get to this villa is a bit of a climb. But it’s worth it to see the house the late Jan Kaplický designed before he immigrated to Britain. Those who know Kaplický because of his controversial plans for the National Library will be surprised. Instead of organic curves, this villa is modest and square, built more to blend in with its surroundings, tucked as it is on the slope; then to make a bold statement. It is not possible to go inside as it is a private residence. However, unless his library is built, this will remain Kaplický’s most enduring mark on his home town.

If you are interested in reading about these and many more villas in more detail, Foibos Art Agency and the National Technical Museum have published a book called Famous Prague Villas. It is available from bookstores and on-line.

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