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Do you ever wonder what lies beneath your feet? Today I did a tour of Prague’s Underground and discovered what lies beneath the cobbled streets…
I love my city. Everyone that’s visited tell me how they loved walking the streets of the old town and admiring it’s beautiful architecture, hand painted frescoes on buildings and it’s fairy tale feel. But not all of Prague’s treasures are visible from the streets. Prague has an amazing secret gem, you can’t see it unless you go underground. Below your feet lies an entire city, buried for hundreds of years.
My tour started in the famous Old Town Square. Most visitors to Prague will visit it at some point during their trip, and most will stand in front of the astronomical clock and climb the famous clock tower. But how many know what lies underneath?
Let me start by telling you how this underground city came about. If you have visited Prague you will know that the city is sat on the corner of the great Vltava river. In the 13th century the city level was several meters lower than today’s level. When Prague’s New Town was developed all the dirt they excavated from the area was brought into Old Town to artificially increase the level of the street to prevent it flooding. Therefore the city’s old ground floors now became basements and over the years they have been closed off and hidden beneath the city we see now. These days only a handful of places have been preserved, featuring buildings as early as the 12th Century. Ever since I moved here I was aware these underground places existed but I had never visited them until today.
I enter the old town hall and I am shown to the mosaic room, decorated over 1 million mosaic and glass tiles. Now days it is used as the exit for weddings held in the town hall.
As we walk through a small locked door we enter the beginning of Prague’s Underground City. The first thing I notice is how damp is smells and just by passing through a door it is considerably colder. Descending down some steep steps we enter the first room which I was told was the room where people would of been tortured and sometimes executed although most of the executions took place on a high, large wooden platform that would of been on the other side of the wall. If you go to the right of the clock tower you will see 27 crosses on the floor. This is where the beheading and execution platform was, and on the wall next to the crosses on the eastern side is a plaque that lists the 27 Protestant nobles who were beheaded here in 1621 after the Battle of Bílá Hora.
Through to another room and I am shown were the prison would of been and on the arch way you can still see some engravings from the prisoners. You can see names, what looks like something written in German and also a game of tick tack toe!
I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits but this place definitely had an eerie feel to it. My guide said many people would of died and been tortured here and many people report of seeing ghosts frequently. The only thing I saw was plenty of rat traps!
The whole underground complex lies beneath the clock tower and the town hall, with 13th century houses of bakers, merchants and even a pub. You can see arch ways from both the Gothic era and Romanesque. There are also many wells down there, most with no water in them although my guide said when it rains a lot they sometimes fill up because of sewage pipes and the wells. She also pointed out lines on the walls where the floods of 2002 completely flooded the underground and some of the water lines are over 2 meters high.
Our second underground location was near Charles Bridge so as we walked back through the houses and prison we came up to the sunshine and walked 5 minutes to our next location.
It’s strange because our second location called U Kunstatu was a restaurant I walk past frequently, but until today it was just that, a restaurant. We stood in the courtyard and my guide explained that this restaurant was actually once a Romanesque Palace back in 1100 owned by the Lords of Kunstat and Podebrady.
This quite little restaurant on the back streets of the old town actually houses the best preserved Romanesque architecture in the whole of Prague in its basement (the current ground floor would of been their first floor). You can still see the original columns, floor and the remnants of what probably was two stoves. The ground floor would of been used by the servants and also as a place to keep the animals at night. They bought them in as the heat from the animals acted as a heater for the rest of the house, keeping the servants and the noblemen above a little warmer a night.
While the first location of my tour is kept behind lock and key the second location is available for all visitors to go and see at anytime during restaurant open hours. As the palace/restaurant is now government owned there are also frequent exhibitions and events that happen in the basement too!
If you would like to take the same tour as I did you can find details here. It is 400Kc per person and there are various times throughout the day for guides conducted in English. My only tip would be to wear good shoes as the worn cobbles can be a bit skiddy sometimes and soft plimsoll shoes hurt your feet on some of the stoney terrain underground 🙂