Bila Labut Prague’s Oldest Department Store
Department store Bílá Labuť was the first of its kind in Prague and stands for shopping in nostalgic surroundings. This store is very much a reminder of what shopping was like during the Cold War period. Bílá Labuť, the White Swan, opened its doors in 1939 and was an instant success. Nazi occupation hampered its growths, but the shop remained popular. When in 1975, the department stores Kotva, on Republiky Square, and Maj on Narodni Avenue opened, Bílá Labuť’s success did not diminish
Department Store Bila Labut: Back to the 1970s and 1980s
Visiting Bílá Labuť feels as if time stood still. You are back in the 1970s and 1980s when the shopping experience was so different from what it is today. The manikins have escaped from the twentieth century and window-dressing is an unknown profession. Be sure to have lunch in Restaurace U Rozvařilů the fifth floor. The menu features dishes that were also favourites in Socialist days. The portions are huge, so come with a good appetite.
Bílá Labuť Architecture
When department store Bílá Labuť opened, the store was a showpiece of Functionalist architectural style, both its exterior and interior. Steel and concrete are the main components. Pay special attention to the rounded shop windows, the doorknobs and hinges, all period pieces. The store front is five storeys high and consists of one single window of 30 x 18 m, covered with 180 plates of opaque silver-grey glass, heat and sound resistant.
In communist days, Bila Labut was the only store in town to sport elevators. Customers lined up for the two available lifts, which had live operators. The elevators only went up, and only to the top floor. There were no stops in between. Shoppers had to walk downstairs to the floor they actually wanted to be, even if it was the second.
The ultimate novelty was the escalator, the very first to be installed inside a building in Prague.The store also had the only escalator in the country, a narrow wooden-step affair to the mezzanine. It only worked for a short while, as no one was capable of maintaining or repairing it.
A pneumatic pipe system connected the cash registers in the different departments with the central cash register, a true innovation. On each floor there were several easy chairs where shoppers could rest. While the parents went shopping, care takers looked after children in the children’s corner brimful with toys. Special places were reserved for prams and pushchairs.
Bílá Labuť Today
Today Bílá Labuť consists of stores-within-a-store: Wall Street – fashion, handbags and shoes, Velikostí Poradna – lingerie, Gentleman – men’s fashion, Crystal Bijou – jewelry, Obuv Magdalena – shoes and many more mainly Czech stores. A Lidl Supermarket is in the basement. The showroom of Defo furniture is on the fourth floor. You may not want to buy a sofa and armchairs, simply wander about to see Czech people’s favourite furniture.
Na Poříčí 23
Prague 1, Nove Mesto
Monday to Friday: 09.00-20.00
Metro line B station Republiky Tram 3, 8, and 24 Bílá Labuť stop