Prague’s Smetanovo nábřeží will be closed to cars for the summer to create a pedestrian zone

The city wants to open up Smetanovo nábřeží to encourage visitors and help local restaurants

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 19.05.2020 14:37:46 (updated on 19.05.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague will create a new public space at Smetanovo nábřeží for the summer, and in the long term the passage from Charles Bridge to Novotného lávka should be transformed into a more inviting place.

City Hall says it is following the example of Barcelona, Paris, Brussels, New York, Berlin and dozens of other cities in responding to the coronavirus crisis by opening up streets and opening up public space for pedestrians. With the gradual relaxation of measures against coronavirus, it is necessary to look for ways to revive the city center and the economy.

The first will be a part of Smetanovo nábřeží, where car traffic towards Křížovnické náměstí near Charles Bridge will be diverted to Divadelní and Karolina Světlá streets. The pilot transport rules will apply from Saturday, May 23, at least until the end of the summer holidays, and cover 200 meters from Most Legií to Divadelní Street.

“The coronavirus crisis, like any other crisis, is an opportunity to think about what to do differently before things get back on track. Like many modern metropolises west of Prague, we will use the drop in traffic to make the city center more welcoming for Praguers, our fellow citizens from other cities who come to Prague in the summer for a trip, and especially for pedestrians in general. I want the new standard to be more space for people,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), responsible for transit, said.

Front gardens will be on the street for May 23 in response to the requests from businesses located on the Smetanovo nábřeží between Národní třída and Park Národního probuzení (National Awakening Park). Restaurants along the strip include Café Slavia, restaurant Parnas and bistro SmetanaQ.

“Where else to start waking up the city center than at the National Awakening Park? We are currently thinking about how to use this beautiful space with a view of Prague Castle. We want to attract Praguers here for culture, good food and drink, or just to sit with friends and family,” City Councilor Hana Třeštíková (Praha sobě), responsible for culture, said.

The City Council is counting on reducing car traffic outside Smetanovo nábřeží and Malá Strana, which is called for in the Sustainable Mobility Plan and other city resolutions and guidelines.

view smetanovo nabrezi
View of Prague Castle from Smetanovo nábřeží / via Raymond Johnston

“We didn’t accidentally stick our finger on the map and say we’d adjust the traffic here. On Smetanovo nábřeží, individual car traffic makes up a minority of 15 percent. There are 33 percent of people on trams and 52 percent of pedestrians, and they played the biggest role in our decision-making. Since 2009, their number has almost quintupled. The increase in pedestrians on the Royal Route cannot be overlooked either. The place is easy to get around and we do not anticipate major traffic complications. Of course, we will constantly monitor the traffic situation with mobile counters,” Scheinherr said.

But not everyone is so enthusiastic. District authorities in Prague 1 say they were not consulted before the traffic closure was announced. Prague 1 Councilor Jaroslava Janderová (ODS) said the closure showed a lack of understanding of how the city functions as a whole.

Separately, another change is coming to the area. The passage under dance club Karlovy lázně linking Křížovnické náměstí to Novotného lávka will be transformed. The city is working with the owners to make it into an attractive place.

“Do you know the passage from Novotného lávka to Charles Bridge? One of the most painful places in the center for a long time. A dark passage full of faded advertisements, stacking dolls and peeling stickers will soon be a thing of the past!” Praha sobě said on its Facebook page.

Smetanovo nábřeží
Smetanovo nábřeží / via Raymond Johnston

“The first part is already beginning to be renovated. We contacted the owners, helped them with the permit and today the city council, at the initiative of Hana Třeštíková, approved a grant that helps the owners of the monument to cover the costs of sensitive reconstruction.”

“We are also negotiating with the owners of the remaining three buildings through which the passage passes. We believe that another place will soon disappear from the map of Prague, for which we were all a little ashamed,” they added.

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