For more than 20 years the Prague skyline has been dominated by the Žižkov Television Tower (now officially, Tower Park Praha). A first look at the tower yields more than a few questions. Is it a megalomaniac’s project intended to commemorate some personage or moment from the history of the Communist movement? Is it a spaceship? Those were the very thoughts of yours truly – confusion at first sight. Curiosity at second. Several years ago, one painter indeed made a science-fiction poster with a spaceship looking exactly like the Žižkov Television Tower.
From the beginning, the high tower roused many emotions. Perhaps its fate will be similar to that of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which had been mostly regarded as an abomination but eventually became one of the iconic symbols of the French capital. The difference is that the Eiffel Tower only later became a large radio transmitter, whereas Žižkov Tower was purposely built as one.
The tower holds several records:
- It has the highest observation platform in the Czech Republic.
- It is the highest building in Prague (216 meters).
- It was voted as the second ugliest building in the world (losing to the Baltimore theatre).
Opinions differ. I do not consider the Žižkov Tower ugly. Both technically and aesthetically, it was a daring project, especially given the usual conservatism of Communist leadership in the 1980s. The goal was to have a transmitter capable of covering all of Prague. The construction took place between 1985 and 1992. Architects Václav Aulický and experts on statics Jiří Kozák and Alex Bém, used numerous innovative solutions and received several patents during the process.
Nowadays, apart from good television, radio and cell phone signals, the Žižkov Television Tower has more to offer to you, especially after refurbishment of the interior in recent years. You can visit the observation deck (93 meters above ground) to have a look at the city. If you are lucky, you can see up to 100 km. If you want to have a lunch or a dinner in a good restaurant, why not in one that is more than 60 meters above the ground? You can also sit down in the café or bar to have a drink. For wealthier visitors, there is an exclusive hotel – which has only one room! Think you’re in shape? Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator! The number of steps is 736.
Under the tower, you will find a park and a garden restaurant. There are further plans underway to offer more – such as miniature golf or mobile stage for theater productions. Near – and according to some of the critics also under – the tower is an old Jewish cemetery, which was established for victims of the plagues in the 17th century.
On the tower, there are 10 sculptures of crawling “Babies” which were placed there in 2000. The sculptures were created by artist David Černý, whom you may know as the sculptor of Entropa, which was revealed at the start of the Czech EU Presidency in 2009 and was based on the stereotypical perception of the EU Member States. Entropa was also a great mystery because it was thought to be a joint project of 27 artists from each country of the European Union. However Černý made Entropa only with two friends. Černý is also the author of the “London Booster” – a double-decker “bus” with large mechanical arms doing push-ups during the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. Three more “Babies” by Černý are also placed in Kampa. Černý himself is rather critical of the Žižkov Television Tower. You can find more about Entropa, London Booster and other works of Černý at his official website at www.davidcerny.cz.
How to get there
As concerns public transport, there are several options which all mean at least a 5-minute walk. For example metro A station Jiřího z Poděbrad, or trams No. 5, 9, 26 Olšanské náměstí and Lipanská. Trams No. 11 and 13 stop at Radhošťská as well as Jiřího z Poděbrad.