A battle for tourists has erupted among Czech cities. While foreign visitors are still coming in lower numbers than before the pandemic, Czech citizens travel more within their own country. Prague wants to attract visitors with a new attraction, the Prague Underground.
Last year, the number of domestic tourists in the capital surpassed that of foreign visitors for the first time in a long time. Prague councilor Jiří Pospíšil (TOP 09) informed us about it several weeks ago, and PrahaIN.cz reported on it in detail.
According to Pospíšil, the Prague Underground could become another major tourist attraction, and it is within its power to attract even more visitors to the capital. We asked František Cipro, chairman of the board of Prague City Tourism, whether the situation regarding Prague’s underground spaces has advanced:
“There aren’t many underground spaces in Prague that could be accessible to the public. However, the underground of the Old Town Hall falls into this category. However, its renovation still requires huge investments, either from the city or, for example, our municipal organization Prague City Tourism,” said František Cipro.
The underground below the Old Town Hall contains both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Today, it is partially accessible, but a much larger part is still waiting to be “discovered.” Romanesque houses were typically located two to eight meters below the level of today’s streets and houses.
The frequent flooding of the Vltava River was responsible for the inhabitants building higher houses. During the 13th century, the halls and chambers of Romanesque houses were transformed into Romanesque cellars.
According to František Cipro, finding out what we can afford to do is crucial so as not to jeopardize the historical monument. “We plan to prepare an initial study first. It will tell us whether a strong visitor flow is possible in these spaces, whether the unique and very valuable historical Romanesque and Gothic masonry can withstand it, and whether changes in humidity and temperature caused by an increased number of people will not cause any problems. And we hope that someday we will be able to open the underground of the Old Town Hall for visitors.”
However, according to Cipro, there can be no talk of completely accurate deadlines. “We are talking about a horizon of three to five years. However, preserving the immense historical value of the masonry there is, of course, the most important thing. Nevertheless, at Prague City Tourism, we believe that one day we will be able to happily open the Old Town Hall’s underground spaces and adjacent buildings,” says František Cipro.
So far, the only historical underground object we can visit in Prague is the casemates of Vyšehrad. However, the most significant underground spaces under historic buildings are still waiting to be discovered.