Look away from The Metamorphosis and come stretch your legs, you certainly don’t want to end up like Gregor Samsa! Whether you prefer Kafka or Werich, or if you’d rather spend your time reciting verses by Erben, on this route, you can briefly enter the lives of each of them. The literary route will take you past the homes of famous writers who sought refuge in Prague at least for a part of their lives. Put down the book and put on your shoes – it’s time to take a walk!
Info about road
Duration: 54 minut
Number of stops: 6 + 2
Lenght: 4,4 km
MHD start: Malostranské náměstí
MHD end: Vodičkova
Jan Neruda’s house
The Renaissance building known as the House U Dvou slunců (At the Two Suns) has undergone several transformations since its construction. The most notable transformation occurred in the second half of the 17th century when it was redesigned in the Baroque style. As a result, the house acquired a pair of volute-shaped gables, which became an integral part of the stylistically unified appearance of Nerudova Street. It was in this very house that Jan Neruda, a famous Czech poet and writer, lived for several years. The Lesser Town (Malá Strana) influenced his work and left its mark, for example, in his Tales of the Little Quarter. His residence here is commemorated by an extensive memorial plaque on the left side of the facade. Directly below it, above the preserved Renaissance portal, is a house sign featuring two suns. These are meant to symbolize that the current building is actually a combination of two older structures.
This late Renaissance building, located in the Nostic Garden in Prague’s Kampa, originally served as a tannery. It underwent a significant transformation in the early 19th century according to the design by architect Palliardi, who added another wing with three arches and covered the structure with a mansard roof. Shortly before this modification, the house was inhabited by Josef Dobrovský, the founder of Slavic and Bohemian studies. Over the years, it has been home to a number of other prominent figures, commemorated by a memorial plaque. Notable residents include Czech poet and translator Vladimír Holan, actor Jiří Voskovec, and Zdeněk Wirth, the founder of heritage conservation in our country. However, the most famous resident undoubtedly was actor and writer Jan Werich, who, along with Voskovec, was responsible for the renowned play Vest Pocket Revue at the Liberated Theater (Osvobozené divadlo). The exhibition in the villa, which has been open to the public since 2017, is primarily dedicated to Werich.
The House of Franz Kafka
The history of Franz Kafka’s birthplace began in the mid-18th century when a new building was constructed after the demolition of older structures, according to the plans of the Baroque architect František Maxmilián Kaňka. Originally, the house was intended to serve as a convent for monks from the neighboring Benedictine monastery, which oversaw the nearby Church of St. Nicholas. However, after the dissolution of the monastery by Joseph II, the building was purchased by the city. Franz Kafka was born in this house in 1883 and lived here with his family for two years. At the end of the 19th century, the house was demolished following a devastating fire, and a new building was erected in accordance with the ongoing urban renewal of the Josefov district. Only the stone entrance from the original structure was preserved, which architect Osvald Polívka incorporated into the new Neo-Baroque building. As a tribute to the world-renowned author, a bronze bust by sculptor Karel Hladík was unveiled on the facade of the house in 1965. Franz Kafka was a German-language writer, best known for his works such as the novel The Trial and the novella The Metamorphosis.
The House of Karolína Světlá
The small three-story house associated with the name of the prominent Czech writer Karolina Světlá can also be found under the names U Tří králů (At the Three Kings) or U Bílého preclíku (At the White Pretzel). It is originally a Renaissance row house that was reconstructed in the first quarter of the 18th century in the Baroque style. After World War II, it was adorned with a memorial plaque by the sculptor Marta Jirásková. Karolina Světlá was born here and spent her youth in this house. For most of her adult life, she lived on Ve Smečkách Street or in the house U Kamenného stolu (At the Stone Table) on Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square), where she eventually passed away. In her works, she extensively explored social issues, moral values, and the position of women in society. She wrote several works set in Prague’s middle-class environment, but her greatest success came from works set in rural settings, where she emphasized the rural people and strong, morally upright female characters
The House of K.J. Erben
Karel Jaromír Erben was born in Miletín, but he spent most of his life in Prague, where he eventually passed away in a house called U Tří tykví (At the Three Pumpkins) in the Old Town. The first mentions of the building date back to the second half of the 14th century, but its appearance is attributed to a Baroque reconstruction in 1705. The current structure is an unconventional replica of the original house, which was demolished in 1932 and replaced a few years later with a new building faithfully imitating the original facade. The house is adorned with a late Baroque statue of St. Hubert with a deer, which has led to the nickname “House U Jelena” (At the Deer). The facade also features a memorial plaque honoring the national revivalist and writer Karel Jaromír Erben, who is known for his famous poetry collection Kytice (The Bouquet). He resided here during the last three years of his life until 1870.
The House of Jaroslav Hašek
The birthplace of the author of The Good Soldier Švejk, Jaroslav Hašek, was built according to the plans of Johann Nowotný in 1842. This resulted in a three-story, four-winged late Neoclassical building, of which only the wing facing Školská Street has survived to this day. The other three wings facing Štěpánská Street had to make way in 1927 for the functionalist Habich Department Store by J. Havlíček and J. Polívka. The aim of the design was to introduce rational development of enclosed residential blocks with large open courtyards into the medieval structure of the city, ensuring sufficient light and better ventilation. The result was a solid, modest building with an inner courtyard and a regular grid of windows, complemented on the facade by an entrance with two-winged Neo-Renaissance doors. Directly above the portal entrance, a memorial plaque is placed to commemorate the famous native who was born in the house 41 years after its construction.
Stops out of the road
The Double House of the Čapek Brothers
The Villa, also known as the Double House of the Čapek Brothers, was built as part of a colony for writers, officials, journalists, and artists. The house is divided into two parts with identical mirrored layouts, each belonging to one of the brothers. Karel Čapek and his father lived in the right part, while the left part was occupied by the painter Josef Čapek, who had his studio in the attic. The entire colony was built based on the concept of a “garden city,” and the villa itself, designed by Ladislav Machoně, reflects simplicity and moderation. An important part was the shared garden, which both brothers took care of and where famous Friday gatherings took place, as well as where Dášenka, the beloved canine protagonist of a famous children’s book, used to run around. A memorial plaque can be found on the facade, and a virtual tour provides a glimpse into the interiors. Although the brothers did not always see eye to eye, they collaborated on works such as “The Insect Play” (Ze života hmyzu).
The House of Jaroslav Seifert
The birthplace of Jaroslav Seifert, one of the most significant Czech poets, fits into the typical architecture of Žižkov. This distinctive Prague district, where Seifert spent his childhood, inspired him in many of his works. During Seifert’s upbringing, Žižkov was still an independent city. In the second half of the 19th century, there was a construction boom, and the four-story Neoclassical tenement building where Seifert was born in 1901 dates back to this period. In honor of the great poet and Nobel laureate in Literature, a bronze memorial plaque by sculptor Stanislav Hanzík was attached to the facade in 2001. Seifert was forced to publish many of his works in the so-called samizdat due to censorship, as their official publication was not possible. Among his most famous works are the collection “Město v slzách” (City in Tears) and the memoir “Všecky krásy světa” (All the Beauties of the World).