In Na Poříčí Street there were houses called U bílé labutě (At the white swan) as early as the 17th century. In the 1930s, Mr. Jaroslav Brouk and Josef Babka bought the houses and built the Bílá Labuť department store here, which still exists today. At the time of its construction, it was the largest and most modern department store in Central and Eastern Europe.


The White Swan, however, had another important first: from the ground floor to the first floor, people rode on the first interior escalator in the Czech Republic. (At 2:07 in the video)

However, the first escalator in Prague ran along the hill to Letná – the escalator was called a “moving staircase”. The individual stairs were wooden, and there was a roof with advertising boards above the escalator. People used the escalator mainly to visit the matches of two legendary Prague football clubs, Sparta and Slavia, which had their stadiums in Letná then.

(The video is from the movie Men in Offside (1931), based on the book by the important Czech writer Karel Poláček – 0:09)

This escalator was in operation between 1926 and 1935, but before that, a funicular was still running at the same place. It was powered by water, the so-called water superiority system. This technical term means that the funicular had two cars that were connected by a rope. At the top station, water was pumped into the car (5 m3, a volume equivalent to the weight of approximately 60 adults).

Thanks to this weight, the car went down to the lower station and at the same time pulled up the car from the lower station (the capacity of the cars was 40 people, therefore the upper car was heavier). At the bottom, the water was drained and the car in the lower station became lighter again. In this way, the funicular was powered since it was put into operation on May 31, 1891. It was then electrified in 1903.

The funicular ran on Letná until 1916. The lower station was destroyed during the construction of the Letná tunnel, the remains of the upper one can still be seen on Letná today. Today, the place is called Letenská vyhlídka (Letná viewpoint) – and the view of the city is really beautiful there.