Going Underground isn’t just the title of an 80s hit by The Jam, it’s also a great way to see first hand a part of Prague’s history that most people miss out on. I’ve lived in the city for over a decade and I’ve known there are plenty of cellar spaces and even been in them (many of them are restaurants and bars) in the Old Town but it wasn’t until I took the Prague Underground Tour that we’ve just started offering that I learnt the truth about why these spaces are there and what they were in the past.
We met our guide, Ivan, at the tour office and began our tour. Full of interesting facts about the city in general, not just the underground parts, Ivan’s guiding was excellent. During the course of the tour we learned that the current street level of Prague is much higher than it was centuries ago.
In order to reduce flooding risks, the course of the Vltava river and its embankments were changed and it was necessary to raise the street level considerably as well, but instead of filling in the gaps with earth and stone, hollow spaces were left, roofed over with brick and stone arches. Our expert guide told us the stories of the streets and the cellars of the various buildings we entered. The feeling of having a real insider’s look at parts of the city you don’t usually see was heightened by the way Ivan led us into bars, restaurants and galleries, said a cheery hello to the staff then took us into roped-off areas, flicking on the lights as we went.
If you’re looking to learn and see more of the city than you do on a regular city walking tour, going underground is definitely the way to do it. As a long-term Prague resident I was surprised how much I learnt but you don’t need to live here to appreciate this tour, my out-of-town guests enjoyed it too. I even found out what the lumps of stone that line the narrow roads of the Old Town are for. You’ll have to take the tour to find out for yourself though!