What did the grey communist era bring to the people of Prague?

Today, it is no problem to buy premium food and clothes or to verify information from different sources. However, the situation in the country was very different during the communist era from 1948 to 1989. The truth is that when something is readily available, you do not appreciate it as much as the under-the-counter stuff. On the one hand, we will never experience what our parents felt when they bought the Beatles’ Long Play Album, watched their first movie in the cinema or when they bought their first jeans in TUZEX, which was a chain of stores that sold luxury goods manufactured in the West, otherwise unavailable to Czech customers. On the other hand, luckily enough we will also never know the feeling of being rejected to study at university on the basis of our family’s political opinions. 

Moreover, we also do not need to be close friends with the nearby butcher just to get fresh meat for Saturday lunch. We can set up our own businesses and travel, without having to get permission from the state officials. Thirty years ago, life in Czechoslovakia was completely different. Prague, as the capital city, was the seat of the Communist party, whose political decisions were dictated by the Soviet Union. Freedom would be the last word you could use to describe the then situation. Employment would be much more fitting. Everyone had to have a job. The resulting construction boom left us a number of industrial buildings, factories, and monuments from this period in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic. Some of them have been reconstructed, other remain as they were.


Architect Petr Kučera describes the famous Wenceslas Square as a “monument to communism” and for the last five years, he has been working on its revitalization. He thinks that square is a good reflection of today’s Czech society and that change is necessary in order to transform Prague into a West European metropolis. Well, we just have to wait to see what happens.

An example of a successful reconstruction of Soviet architecture and art would be the controversial statue of a big metronome in the park Letenské sady. It replaced Stalin’s statue, for which the place used to be called “meat queue“, referring to the lack of fresh food being brought to local stores.


003kletna-metronome-prague_54_990x660_201404232224One of the most important venues during the Communist era was the Strahov Stadium. In its time, it was the largest stadium ever built, with the capacity of 220,000 people. Its main purpose was to host the mass synchronized gymnastics shows called Spartakiáda. It now serves as a concert venue and is in desperate need of reconstruction.


Although the country has gone through massive changes since Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent countries in 1993, you can still see that it is only recovering from the dark totalitarian period. Brutal political trials, prosecution by the secret police and large-scale media censorship are just a few examples of what Czech people will never forget. Despite all of this, members of the Communist party are still represented in the government. Many socialist buildings can also be found in Prague.

With our new guided tour called Retro ŠKODA Cars, you get a chance to discover the most significant monuments of the Soviet times in Prague. As authenticity is the most important element when trying to experience the atmosphere of times long gone, you will sit behind the wheel of a retro ŠKODA automobile, one of the symbols of life under the communist regime. Since this was the most popular Czech car in the 70s, you could hardly look for a better time machine that would take you behind the Iron Curtain and allowed you to make up your own mind about it.


Want to go Into the Wild right now? Just take the bus.

From 2001 to 2013, the population of Prague’s suburbs increased more doubled. The reason for that is quite obvious: who wouldn’t like to live with their family in nice natural environment while staying close to the city centre, where you have a well-paid job? However, this urban sprawl is not only about building family houses. It is necessary to take into account all the related services, such as water and electricity networks, infrastructure or waste management. Then you also need schools, healthcare facilities, shops and restaurants. Moreover, lower taxes in the suburbs compared to the city centre attract companies and businessmen. As a result, more and more industrial warehouses of all kinds, new factories and large shopping centres are being built on places, which used to be green…

According to the Prague Institute of Planning and Development, the city will not continue to expand in the following years. The goal is rather to renovate existing unused areas also called brownfields. A perfect example of this is the DOX Centre of Contemporary Art situated in the Prague district Holešovice. The abandoned factory was reconstructed into a multi-functional building, where contemporary art, architecture and design are exhibited. The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture ranked it among the best architectural projects in the world. Instead of destroying the original landscape by building another new complex, an old one was cleverly reconstructed. How cool is that?

Image credits: http://coolczechguide.com/cs-CZ/Place-3915/DOX

If you live in the centre of Prague, you are happy to have at least a balcony with flowers or a park nearby to compensate for the lack of greenery around. But nothing is black-and-white and there are undoubtedly pros and cons when it comes to living in the Czech capital. All the amazing social events, fun activities and breath-taking architecture are in sharp contrast with the hectic lifestyle, busy traffic and grey urban environment.

Image credits: http://www.parkpruhonice.cz/index.php?site=en&p=zamek

The good news is that within spitting distance of the city centre, you will find the fairy-tale Průhonice Chateau surrounded by a picturesque park. The local fauna and flora invite all those who like to spend time outside for a nice walk along streams and meadows. All exotic and local plant species are dispersed over the area so that the walk is magical all year round. This Czech National Historical Landmark is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List, which inspired us to put this beautiful place on our list of ThinkPrague guided tours. It is a quick and easy way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and go into the wild.  In the second part of the tour, there will be time to visit the Prague Environmental Education Centre Toulcův Dvůr

Image credits: http://www.toulcuvdvur.cz

Just at the imaginary border of the city, you may explore a farm with cows, sheep, horses, goats and chickens. It also includes listed buildings, such as the old stable, where both children and adults can get into closer contact with the farm animals. It is a perfect opportunity to enjoy the surrounding countryside. You can also buy fresh herbs and other local products. No car noise, no rush, no crowds. Instead of impersonal industrial zones, only forests and meadows as if you weren’t even in Prague. So despite of being in a capital city with more than a million inhabitants, countryside and beautiful views are within your reach. Thumbs up for all similar projects preventing Prague from looking like a successfully completed SimCity!

Things to do in Prague if you hate tourist traps

In the last three months of the year 2015, the Prague accommodation facilities signed 1, 385, 210 of incoming non-residents. That is more than a tenth of the entire population of the Czech Republic. And the number does not even include couchsurfers and people staying at their friends, so the actual number is even higher!

Wenceslas Square, unique Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, National Theatre… it is mainly these historical monuments that make Prague one of most popular European destinations. But if you live, study or work in the centre of the Czech capital, the list of your favourite places usually includes something else than the Old Town Square. Let us take a closer look at where a Prague local would go….

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the country embraced the new opportunities, and creative people began coming up with new art and business ideas. As a result, nearly 30 years later, there are countless restaurants offering different cuisines, alternative cafés, design clothes shops, galleries of fine art (our personal favourite) or graffiti walls all around Prague.

This is why we created a new tour called Street Vibes. We want to show you around the city we call home from our own perspective and tell you what it is like to live in Prague today. We are glad that we can present to you David Černý’s statues. This artist is probably the first Czech person that we think of when it comes to “controversial artists”. He is either loved or hated for his extraordinary works of art. His first project that caught the attention of the public was when he painted an old Soviet tank pink.

Image credits: freeyork.org
Image credits: freeyork.org

The tank was exhibited in Smíchov since 1945 as a memorial of the liberation of Prague by the Soviet Red Army. On the night of 28 April 1991, the art student David Černý painted the military green tank in pink. His sassy night action provoked a huge response, both positive and negative. His opponents considered it an act of vandalism, while his supporters said it had been a cool expression of art. Černý was later charged with a small fine, which was paid by his supporters in the end. The pink tank was then transported to various museums and today, it is exhibited in the Prague Meet Factory Art Centre.

This is how David’s career of a controversial sculptor started. Today, all Czech people know his giant babies crawling up the Žižkov TV Tower, as well as his Entropa. The sculpture depicts European countries in a slightly racial way, therefore it has been criticised by many European politicians.

Whether you belong to the camp of his admirers or his critics, we would love to discuss your view on contemporary art in Prague with you. And there is no better place to do that than in our favourite stylish Café Neustadt, run by Ondřej Kobza. This urban entrepreneur says that his goal is to encourage spontaneity – that is why he installed pianos and chess tables in many different places in Prague. You can just sit down and play on the street, how cool is that?

So if you want to enjoy Prague, explore the real Prague of today, do not waste your opportunity to meet young local people and see it all for yourself with Street Vibes!

6 Great Activities You Can Enjoy in Prague

On our blog, we have already described many different activities that tourists can enjoy in Prague. The lively nightlife, famous museums, majestic theatres or renowned restaurants are not the only things that the city has in store for you. So today, ThinkPrague would like to show some other attractions that might be great fun in our opinion.
Currently ranked the fourth best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor, it is an adventure like no other. It is divided thematically: each pavilion represents a particular region that the animals come from. The zoo began to be built in 1881 and has been expanding ever since. Every time you go back, you will probably discover something new and exciting.
Petřín Hill
One of the Prague’s greenest areas is easily accessible on foot from many different places, including Prague Castle. You may also reach it by the funicular railway from Ujezd. It is a 300 m high hill with a miniature version of the Eiffel Tower on the top. Upon climbing up, you will be awarded by the most impressive view of Prague. While the rose gardens in the park are probably the most sought-after romantic sites for lovers, the local mirror maze is great fun especially for families with children.

Petřín Hill 1

Petřín Hill 2


They are a very popular way of spending your leisure time during your visit in Prague. There are various types of cruises: boats with restaurants, party boats, commented sightseeing cruises and many others! There is nothing more relaxing on a beautiful sunny day than taking a nice boat trip up the stream of the Vltava River.

River Cruises 1

River Cruises 2


David Černý is probably our most famous contemporary sculptor but also definitely the most controversial. You might have heard of him in connection with his brilliant, gigantic piece called Entropa, mocking stereotypes of various European countries that offended a lot of people around the whole world back in 2009. Quite a few of his crazy sculptures are displayed in public throughout the city. If you look up the Žižkov Television Tower, you will see his Babies: large creepy statues of infants crawling up the top (some of them are also on display in Kampa Park). Another example of his work is called Piss: two boys “spelling” quotations from Czech literature by urinating into a fountain in the shape of the Czech Republic. Many other works of Černý’s art are located in different places in the city and ThinkPrague can help you find them all!

David Černý’s Art
Farmers’ markets have recently regained their popularity in Prague. They regularly take place on the square Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad and on Náplavka (the Riverside) and offer a wide range of products and meals from Czech farms. The markets attract large crowds by their friendly atmosphere and sellers in good mood. These traditional markets are a good opportunity to get to know all the tastes of our country.
Even though we already wrote an article dedicated to Prague’s nightlife, there is one special quarter that we left out: Žižkov. It used to be an industrial suburb known to be a little dangerous and vile. Even though those times are long gone, their spirit lives on. With more than 300 bars on 5 sq kilometres, it is probably the district with the highest per capita concentration of bars in all Europe. As mostly Czech and foreign students live there, it is a lively neighbourhood where the best drinking stories are made!

We hope that some of these activities caught your attention and perhaps helped to convince you that Prague is indeed a place worth visiting! Each person likes something different but we do think that almost everyone can pick something of interest in our beautiful city. And if not, let us know, so that we can expand our offer!

Prague getting open and creative

The Prague municipal authority has recently decided that the abandoned historical town hall building will be used as a centre of education, culture and creativity. The building is located on the Small Square in the very heart of the centre of Prague. The original plan had been to turn it into luxury apartments. The new decision was made by the Prague Municipal Authority, the Prague Institute for Planning and Development and the Charles University in Prague. They have also offered other important institutions to take part in the project, including the National Gallery, Municipal Library of Prague and the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague FAMU. The main idea is to create a platform for creative people like artists and scholars, which would allow them to cooperate on their projects and organize exhibitions and lectures for the general public. The ThinkPrague team is quite excited about this plan and we consider it an important step in the right direction in terms of making our beautiful city even better. We will now explain why we think this is a great idea.
Abandoned buildings in the centre of Prague
The town hall is just one of many similar buildings that have been abandoned and some of them are not under any maintenance whatsoever. Most of them are owned by private owners who do not have any use for them, do not want to invest any money into their reconstruction or simply do not care. Others, like the town hall, are owned by the municipal authority but the decision what to do with them is subject to protracted nightmarish bureaucratic processes, which often lead nowhere. ThinkPrague considers this situation – letting beautiful historical buildings fall apart, empty and without any purpose – as one of Prague’s most regretful failures to do something. Many people have recently expressed their disappointment in this trend and we believe that this project might be one of the first positive results of this “constructive criticism”.

Abandoned buildings in the centre of Prague
Image credits: profimedia
Similar projects in other European cities
The concept itself is nothing new: in other cities including Berlin, Vienna or Budapest, similar projects have been done for years. If you ask anyone involved in them, they will confirm how much they have benefited their cities and the local intellectual and creative public. Another great advantage is that the centres facilitate international cooperation between artists and scholars in these cities, bringing another added value. In this sense, it really is not about being innovative but more like catching up for Prague.

Similar projects in other European cities


Tourism versus authenticity
Being a travel agency, ThinkPrague can also see the value of the project from the tourists’ perspective. Despite all the beautiful monuments, Prague is still a kind of a theatre for tourists. Everywhere you go, there are countless souvenir shops, overpriced restaurants and various strategically placed attractions with intended only to make easy money. Although we cannot put all of them into the same bag, these “attractions” in such extreme numbers partially ruin what Prague could be: a more living, connected and authentic city, where your visit would not be reduced simply to sightseeing and going from one monument to another but visitors would take part in the city’s social life and get a chance to get under the surface. From this perspective, the project is a step in the right direction and we wholeheartedly hope that more will follow soon.