Kampa Island is considered to be the oldest island in the river Vltava. It was mentioned in early medieval sources, however its present appearance is due to the great fire of 1541.
It broke out in one of the houses on the Lesser Town Square and quickly spread all over the town. Debris from the damaged houses was moved here – leadig to the ground level of the island being elevated so much that it was possible to built the first burgess houses here.
Kampa Island is separated from the Lesser Town riverbank by a small stream. It acquired many names in the past but since the end of the 19th century it has been known as Čertovka – the Devil’s Stream, which was probably man-made in the 12th century as a millrace. Although, strictly speaking, this makes Kampa an artificial island, it's as beautiful as any other 'natural' island.
The Devil’s Stream acquired its name thanks to a ceratin “lovely” lady living nearby in the Seven Devils House. The woman had such a wicked tongue and temper that she did the house name credit and her nickname gradually became associated with Vltava’s innocent branch.
The use of the Devil’s Stream as a millrace suggests that first buildings that appeared in the area were mills. Three of them have been preserved here up to the present dayand two of them have retained their mill-wheels. The most famous one is the Grand Prior’s Mill with its recently and successfully renovated large mill-wheel measuring an impressive eight metres. It is the one which is often portrayed on most of the romantic pictures you see in art galleries. In case you want to compare the paintings with reality, you can take in the artists’ view from Charles Bridge.
This picturesque corner of Prague might be sometimes known as the „Prague Venice“. Well, you won't seee any gondolas, but the atmosphere is just as lovely.
In the Middle Ages, you would have only found gardens spreading out over the entire island. The first burgess houses were built in the second half of the 16th century, as well as palace gardens built on the Lesser Town riverbank and mills. Gardens, orginally separate, were converted into one large park designed in the English style as late as the mid-20th century.
The very first buildings appearing here were the houses of bricklayers, carpenters and stonemasons who wanted to comfortably keep an eye on the Charles Bridge, and maintain it in a perfect state. At the end of the 16th century, a pottery market was moved to the central square of the Island – and this tradition has been kept up to the present day.