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Dejvice, Letná, Holešovice and Troja

Dejvice lies to the north of Hradčany and Prague Castle itself. It was mentioned in references as early as in the year 1088 and for a long time it retained its rural character. The agricultural yards were replaced by a residential suburb. In the 1930s, the Baba residential colony came into being here. It was organised according to the regulatory project of Pavel Janák. The treasures of functionalist architecture come from a whole parade of the foremost architects of the First Republic (J. Gočár, J. Krejcar, A. Beneš, J. Gillar and others.).

Bubeneč adjoins Dejvice in the east. The Stromovka Royal Game Reserve extends from here. Jan Luxemburg used it as a game reserve in 1320. Rudolf II, at the beginning of the 17th century, had ponds and galleries built here. From 1804, the vice-regent count Chotek made it accessible to the public and the game hunting castle of Vladislav Jagiellon and Rudolf II was converted by Jiří Fischer into the neo-Gothic Vice-regent’s Summer Castle. After the year 1845, the game reserve began its transformation into an English park. Today, this romantic oasis is a protected natural monument.

The Prague Exhibition Grounds (Výstaviště Praha) adjoin Stromovka to the east. From the end of the 19th century, these grounds served not only as a location for exhibitions and fairs but also as an entertainment centre. The famous Matthew’s Fair was relocated here, but one can also find a covered pool, stadiums, theatres, cinemas, the National Museum’s Lapidarium and many other sport and entertainment attractions. The local structures that came into being for the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891 are noteworthy. The combination of the historical style of iron and glass is an interesting display of 19th century art. And, on the other hand, Křižík’s Fountain, which was renewed for the Jubilee Exhibition of 1991, is a contemporary creation. The Planetarium and small pavilion adjoin the Exhibition Grounds and harbour the astonishing Panorama of the Battle at Lipany, which was painted by Luděk Marold (1898). The tableau and props take the viewer right into the middle of the turmoil of war in 1434.

Stromovka is bordered by the Vltava River to the north, Holešovice to the east, and from the south by a narrow band of blocks of houses, which separate it from Letná Plain. On its outskirts stands the National Technical Museum, whose rich collections entice lovers of antique vehicles and technical achievements from all time periods. The Letná Gardens lie on Letná Plain, which directly connect to the Chotek Orchards under the Royal Gardens under Prague Castle. Today, they are connected by the Footbridge across the Chotek’s Road (Lávka nad Chotkovou silnicí), reconfigured in 1995 by the architect Bořek Šípek. So, Prague Castle actually retained a significant part of its original character. Besides the calming greenery, sports grounds and garden restaurants, one can find artistic works here, e.g. the Art Nouveau Hanavský Pavilion from the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891, which was moved here after 1898 or the beautiful Prague Lookout Restaurant (Vyhlídková restaurace Praha) from the famous Expo 1958 international exposition in Brussels. The restaurant, for its time a pre-eminent work (of J. Hrubý, Z. Pokorný and F. Cubr), underwent a recent reconstruction.

The communist regime had serious plans for Letná. In the 50s, the Letná Tunnel was built under Letná Plain, connecting Letná with the Old Town, and above it, a colossal statue of J. V. Stalin and his co-fighters. Soon after its completion, the no-easier task of demolition began, because time showed the contemptible practices of the acclaimed. Eventually, time even swept away the socialist era. During the Velvet Revolution, there was a general strike demonstration in which half a million people participated. That was the final straw that brought down the old regime. The Chronometer was placed where Stalin once stood – a symbol of new times.

The border dividing Letná and Holešovice runs between the exhibition grounds and the east end of Letná Gardens. Formerly a fishing settlement, Bubny grew together with royal Holešovice and from the 19th century changed into an industrial sector. Modern times saw it flourishing. The factories here receded to the other bank of the Vltava River and Holešovice became primarily a residential area. Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau structures complement functionalist gems, such as, for instance, the famous Veletržní palác (Trade Fair Palace) (built between the years of 1925-28).

Holešovice, Letná and Stromovka are encircled by the Vltava River, so they form a sort of peninsula. North of this peninsula lies Troja. Originally, this orchard was named Ovenec, but the magnificent Sternberg Castle of Troja meant these parts were renamed. Jean-Baptiste Mathey built this summer retreat for Václav Vojtěch of Sternberg between the years of 1679-85. Today, the Baroque interiors and gardens serve the Gallery of Prague. Below the castle lie the Botanical Gardens, founded in 1969 and, next to the castle, are the 45-hectare Zoological Gardens, which were opened to visitors in 1931. Their uniqueness lies not only in their copious utilisation of the richness and contours of the local countryside, but also in the successful keeping of Przewalski’s horses. This type of horse can no longer be found in the wild and is actually an animal from ancient times.