Covered Passages: Shortcuts and Alternative Routes
The covered passages of Prague are shortcuts through buildings to reach quickly another street. These walkways (pasáž in Czech) resemble a labyrinth and create shortcuts and alternative routes right through the Nove Mesto district. You can walk almost the entire length of Wenceslas Square through indoor passages and arcades. They became popular in the early twentieth century and were home to theatres, dance halls, cafes and cinemas. Over the years, many of these alternative routes were closed off or converted into independent shops and businesses. Now, in the twenty-first century, you can again walk through many of these renovated covered walkways.
photo: u Novaku Passage
Covered Passages: Convenient Shortcuts
It is not surprising that almost all covered passages are in Nove Mesto as this has traditionally been the business and trade district. A shorter route is convenient and efficient when goods need to be transported. Moreover, the passages were an opportunity to create even more retail space. To this day, there are shops in all of them.
Covered Passages: Nightlife and Entertainment
In the first half of the twentieth century, these passages were the centre of social life with musical halls, cinemas, department stores and shops. During Nazi occupation their popularity dwindled. When the Communists took over, the regime put an end to this kind of entertainment as it was too frivolous and out of line with the communist ideal. The result was that the passages fell into disrepair, were closed off and some disappeared altogether. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, they were renovated and flourished again. They are not only convenient shortcuts to go quickly from one street to the other; they are also pleasant for shopping, drinks and meals.
Covered Passages Wenceslas Square
Located between v Jame, Stepanska, Wenceslas Square and Vodickova.
1. Světozor Passage, Vodickova 39
This passage cuts through Ligna Palace and connects Vodickova Street with the Franciscan Garden and also joins up with the U Styblu and U Novaku passages. The glass roof provides an abundance of light. The eye-catcher is the colourful mosaic window, logo of the Czechoslovak company Tesla. Světozor Passage is best known for the Světozor patisserie and cinema which screens premieres of Czech and international films and blockbusters. Documentaries, experimental and animation films are usually shown in one of the two smaller cinemas. Almost all films are English subtitled.
2. Lucerna Passage, two entrances: Vodičkova 36 / Štěpánská 61
This passage connects Vodičkova Street with Štěpánská Street, and forms a network of corridors that also connect to Rokoko Passage and U Nováků Passage. Lucerna Passage is best-known for the horse dangling on the ceiling, a work of art by the Czech artist David Cerny. More about David Cerny
Built in 1921, Lucerna Passage shows traces of late Art Nouveau but is otherwise entirely in Art Deco style. Characteristic are the concrete pillars, the enormous window surfaces and the recurring lantern motifs. Entertainment and shopping come together here: Lucerna Passage was the first shopping mall in Prague.
Lucerna Kino was one of the first movie theaters to feature motion pictures. The large dance and meeting hall was a feat of engineering when built: a reinforced concrete structure anchored to a fourteen meters deep sunken concrete slab. The great hall of Lucerna was the scene of many musical legends before and after the war; Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. During the German occupation, Nazi music resounded here.
Lucerna Kavarna is a café that doubles as cinema foyer. When you sit in front of the window you not only see the entire length of the passage but you sit eye-to-eye with the upside down horse and St Wenceslas.
3. U Nováků Passage, Vodičkova 34
This passage in the U Novak House is connected to the Lucerna and Rokoko passages and forms one leg of the system of passage through the buildings adjacent to v Jame, Štěpánská, Wenceslas Square and Vodičkova. The U Novak House has elegant Art Nouveau decorations on the facade on Vodičkova Street. Built between 1901 and 1904, U Novak was originally a department store and its design was based on modern department stores and shopping arcades in Paris and Milan.
Covered Passages with entrances at Wenceslas Square
4. Koruna Passage, Wenceslas Square 1
This passage connects Wenceslas Square and Na Příkopě Street. In fact, this connection is not needed at all as it is not a quicker or shorter route. The eye-catcher of the building is the tower topped with a pearl crown and the Atlas statue. In 1911, the original fourteenth-century building was demolished to make way for the Koruna building, one of the first reinforced concrete buildings in Prague.
Until 1975, there was a bathhouse under the glass dome that not only served to let light through but also ventilated the space. Here was also the first self-service restaurant in Czechoslovakia that gained fame with Russian eggs.
In the middle of the passage under the glass dome, you will now find restaurant El Emir, with Lebanese cuisine, and in the basement is Bontonland, the largest music store in Prague.
5. U Stýblů Passage, Wenceslas Square 28
Stýblů Passage is a shortcut to the Franciscan Garden, a quiet passage characterized by an enormous skylight. The seven-storey building above the passage is a prime example of functionalist architecture and was built between 1928 and 1929. The original owner was Václav Stýblo. The Stýblů passage is connected to the Svetozor Passage.
6. Passage Rokoko, Wenceslas Square, 38
This passage built in Art Nouveau style, forms together with the Lucerna and the u Nováků passage, system of covered walkways through the housing blocks on Wenceslas Square, Vodičkova and Štěpánská Streets. It is a shopping arcade with fashion boutiques, sports shops and restaurants and the Rokoko theatre.
7. Fenix Passage, Wenceslas Square 56,
This passage leads through Blanik Palais built in the 1930s, and a good example of functionalist architecture. It is T-shaped and connects Wenceslas Square with Ve Smeckach Street and to the other side with Krakovska Street. Eye-catchers are mosaics and a remarkable clock. On the Wenceslas Square side is the entrance to Vytopna Restaurant where your drinks are brought to your table on a model train. More about Vytopna
8. Myslbek Passage, na Příkopě 19
Myslbek Shopping Arcade is a passageway between the new and the old town, connecting na Příkopě Street with Ovocný Trh. Striking is the enormous glass façade on na Příkopě, the largest in Europe.
Opened in 1996, the Myslbek Building named after the sculptor Josef Václav Myslbek was one of the first commercial buildings constructed after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 in the centre of Prague. There are about twenty shops and offices located on the upper floors. Two giant metal sliding doors that open every morning and shut after closing time are on the na Příkopě side of the passage. They symbolize the boundary between the New Town, Nove Mesto, and the Old Town, Stare Mesto.
Inside, hanging from the ceiling is a huge installation consisting of a spiral metal tube, with smaller tubes attached to it. This hand-blown artwork represents a whirlpool. More about Myslbek passage
9. Czech-design Passage, na Příkopě 24
This passage connects na Příkopě Street with Senovážné namesti and Jindřišská Street and passes through the building of the Czech National Bank. This passage is unique in that it is entirely devoted to the presentation of Czech design and functions as an exhibition space for art and design. It is also a place where artists meet the public and a venue for workshops. There are rotating exhibitions every three months. Drop by at Art-n-Coffee, a pleasant cafe displaying art that can also be bought. More about Art n Coffee
Passage on Národní Street
10. Platyz Passage, Národní 37
This passage is a shortcut from Národní Street to Rytirska Street. There are a number of shops and restaurants in the Platyz courtyard and in the centre is the bronze ‘girl’ by Czech sculptor Miloš Zeta (1920-1995). At the entrance on Národní Street, next to the large gate, sits a bronze owl on a rod. In the seventeenth century, the passage was a coming and going of horses and carriages. When the owl had its head up, there was ample parking space for carriages and horses. If it looked, all the places were taken. On either side of the rear entrance are cone-like bollards that prevented inbound carriages from damaging the gate.
11. Passage Drn, Národní 14
This passage connects Národní Street with Mikulandska Street and the Baroque Schönkirchovský Palace. It was built between 2012 and 2017 in a clearing that was used as a parking lot. It is a modern sustainable design that beautifully combines the brick houses and the glass and steel structure. The name drn, Czech for grass pollen, refers to all the greenery that grows on the galleries. It has four underground and eight above-ground floors, with a green roof above. At street level are shops and restaurants and coffee bars. The offices on the other floors are some of the most expensive in Prague.
Passage at Jungmannova Street corner Národní Street
12. Adria Passage, Jungmannova 31
This rather short passage in Palac Adria connects Národní street with Jungmannova street. On the Jungmannova side is theater Za Branou and on the first floor of the building is Kavarna Adria.
The Adria palazzo was originally built for the Italian insurance company Riunione Adriatica di Sicurta, whose name it bears to this day. The building is in Rondo-Cubism style and was built between 1923 and 1924.
The facade of the palazzo on Narodni Street is adorned with a statue of Adria, a symbol of seafaring. Inside, the walls are lined with pink marble and the mosaic floors are covered with motifs related to insurance: boats, locomotives and houses on fire. The atrium has a glass ceiling and on the wall is a large clock surrounded by bronze statues, representing the signs of the zodiac. There are no shops but there are apartments, offices, and also a theater and a restaurant.
Passage in Opletalova street
13. Passage ČTK, Opletalova 5
This passage connects Opletalova Street to Wenceslas Square and includes Jiri Grossman Passage. It is a relatively unknown passage built in 1932 for ČTK, Česká tisková kancelář, the Czechoslovak news agency. The cinemas have long disappeared here. The geometric-tiled floor is striking, to say the least.
Passages in Spálená Street near Národní Street
14. Quadrio Passage, Spálená street 22
Quadrio Passage connects Spálená street with Charvatova Square and in the middle of this square is the head of Franz Kafka, K on Sun, created by David Cerny. The passage is connected to Maj Department Store and Národní třída Metro Station. There are two underground floors and two above ground. In the passage there are about sixty shops and also catering. The rest of the building is a business centre with offices. It was built between 2012 and 2014.
These are just 14 of the many passage in Prague. Some are difficult to find because the entrances are concealed or look like front gates to private houses. There are also dead ends that lead to nowhere like Cerna Ruz and Slovansky Dum on Na prikope Street.
More covered passages in Nove Mesto
1. Pasáž Lindtova – Wenceslasplein 4 to Jungmannovo namesti 11
2. Pasáž Baťa – next to the Bata Shoe Shop on Wenceslas Square 6 leading to Jungmannovo namesti
3. Pasáž van Hotel Juliš – Wenceslas Square 22
4. Pasáž of Hotel Ambassador Zlatá Husa – Wenceslas Square 15 to Sylva Taroucca Palace (also known as Savarin Paleis) and continues to Na Prikope 10
5. Václavská pasáž – from Karlovo náměstí 6 to Václavská Street 14
6. Pasáž Spálená – from Opatovická Street 18 via the lower floors of several houses to Spálená Street 15
7. Pasáž Lazarská – fromVodičkova Street 7 to Lazarská Street 8
8. Pasáž Štěpánská – from Ve Smečkách street 27 to Štěpánská Street 36
9. Pasáž Archa – Na Poříčí 26 via pasáž U Rozvařilů to Na Florenci 5
10. Pasáž Florentinum – from Na Florenci 15 to Na Poříčí 30
photos covered passages: Marianne Crone