Tourist interest in historic Prague paternoster leads to temporary shutdown

An elevator that usually never stops is being shut down for repairs due to damage from tourists; when it reopens, new rules will be in place.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 13.04.2023 15:20:00 (updated on 13.04.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Its popularity was its downfall. Prague City Hall has stopped the operation of its paternoster, a doorless elevator that runs in an endless loop without stopping at individual floors.

City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman said that in recent years the paternoster had become a popular destination for tourists who do not respect the instructions.

The interior of the municipal administrative building on Mariánské náměstí used to be of little interest to tourists. That changed several years ago when the paternoster was featured in a YouTube video of hidden attractions by the Honest Guide. Currently, it is not unusual for dozens of people to gather on the ground floor near the elevator during the day. The paternoster is not designed to handle that many people.

The large groups of tourists also prevent city employees who need to get from one floor to another from using it.

“The elevator will be checked and adjusted as part of the shutdown, and new rules will have to be adopted for its safe operation,” Hofman told ČTK. The relaunch date has not been announced.

Tourists ignore the rules and leave graffiti

The biggest problem is that people don’t get off at the upper and lower levels. The mechanism is not designed to bear the weight of passengers as the cabins transition from one side to another, Hofman said. Safety mechanisms cause the paternoster to stop several times a day.

The Prague City Hall (iStock - Milan_Jovic)
)Prague City Hall. Photo via iStock, Milan_Jovic

Tourists also write graffiti and leave stickers in the cabins, and sometimes wander in the halls on floors where they have no business being. City Hall has recently started to lock doors in hallways to prevent this.

The paternoster was completely renovated in 2017 for CZK 3.6 million, replacing equipment from the 1970s.

There are a number of other paternosters in Prague, for example in the Prague 1 City Hall building on Vodičková Street, in several ministry buildings, university buildings, in the headquarters of the Czech Radio in Vinohradská Street, Lucerna Palace on Wenceslas Square, and the city administrative building on Jungmannova Street.

This is not the only site in Prague to suffer from its popularity. Long lines can now be found at the Municipal Library, also at Mariánské náměstí, with people waiting to take their photos in a tower of books. The tower, which gives the impression of being endless due to an optical illusion, has been in place for decades, but its newfound popularity came after it went viral on social media.  

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