Prague Streets – Na Prikope
As you can see in the picture below there are several special Czech characters so in it’s simple phonetic form it’s like saying “na pri-copy-yay”. Currently Na Příkopě is one of the most expensive streets for renting commercial property but historically there are a number of interesting points. I cover some of the buildings in this street on my Prague Architecture Walking Tour.
Over the Ditch
My first questions to Czechs about what “Na Příkopě” meant were met with the answer “over the ditch” and when I pushed for a little more information I was always met with blank faces. You see this “over the ditch” or “over the moat” translation only makes sense when you understand that there used to be a 14th Century fortified wall running along the street roughly where the buildings are now on the Old Town side of the street. This wall ran to the river on both sides and surrounded the Old Town. In front of the wall was a deep ditch which served both to increase the height of the wall but which could also be flooded if required. When I say “ditch”, by all accounts this was something like 10 metres wide and 8 metres deep so it could be flooded directly from the river. This part of the wall was demolished in the middle of the 18th Century and the ditch filled in to create building land and a new street which linked Wenceslas Square with Republic Square.
The first name that the street was given around 1760 was the “Old Alleys” which linked the Old Town with the New Town. Within a year of the new Emperor Franz Josef taking office in 1849 and from 1850 it was renamed Kolowratska after a famous Imperial and Catholic-supporting family. In 1871 it seems the Kolowrat star was falling at the same time as the Czech National Revival was growing, the street was being redeveloped and acquired it’s current name of Na Příkopě, a literal translation that means “over the ditch”.
After 1850 Na Příkopě had more banks than any other street in the city.
Na Příkopě was on the first horse-drawn tram line installed in 1875 and electrified in 1899.
The yellow “B” metro line opened stations at both ends of Na Příkopě in 1978. The tram line stayed in service until 1985 when the street was made one-way and part-pedestrianised.
The Savarin Palace in Na Příkopě was the original location of the Bohemian Royal Collection which moved to the National Museum and will one day host Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic.
The junction of Na Příkopě and Mustek (Wenceslas Square) got so busy by 1919 it became the first place in the city that required a traffic policeman. It was the second junction in the city to have “traffic lights” (1927).
In 2019 Na Příkopě was 18th on a list of the world’s most expensive streets to go shopping.
The junction of Na Příkopě and Nekazanka was one of the original Tom Cruise Mission Impossible filming locations.
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