Prague’s first suburb, Karlín, was founded two hundred years ago, in 1817. The original German name, “Karolinenthal”, means Carolina Valley, a poetic reference to the wife of Emperor Franz I, to whom the new town was symbolically dedicated. Although Karlín developed on essentially virgin land, we can find older monuments there. In the vicinity stands the Baroque Invalidovna building, from the first half of the 18th century. Naturally, its inspiration mostly came from the famous Les Invalides hospital in Paris, but the design, by outstanding architect Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer, was unique and astonishingly monumental. Only one ninth of the originally planned complex, which would have surpassed its Parisian archetype, was built.
The new suburb’s streets were laid out in chessboard fashion, perfectly reflecting the rational Enlightenment spirit of the era. Prague’s first port was established between Karlín and the River Vltava, and connected the city with the River Elbe and thus the North Sea. At the heart of the quarter, a large square was created, dominated by the historicist Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius. During the 19th and 20th centuries, several factories were constructed in Karlín, some of which have been transformed into offices or entertainment venues. At the beginning of the 20th century Karlín was extended by a network of streets notable for the remarkable artistic unity of their magnificent Art Nouveau tenements. In the 1960s, beside the Baroque Invalidovna building, a housing estate bearing the same name was erected, one of the finest examples of postwar urban planning in Prague.
Most important monuments:
The oldest surviving structure is the vast Invalidovna, merely the core of the expansive edifice originally planned. In Karlín itself, the preserved Classicist structures (such as the U Města Hamburku building on Karlínské Square, are worth a look; their deliberate simplicity reflects the enlightenment ideas at the end of the 18th century. The neo-Romanesque Church of Sts Cyril and Methodius is very significant, and preserved features include impressive interiors. The Art Nouveau extended area also definitely merits a visit. On Lyčkovo Square, the school, inspired by 16th-century architecture, forms the centrepiece.