War of words erupts over paternoster closure in Prague's City Hall building

One politician says the nonfunctioning doorless elevator is a symbol of broken administration, but City Hall says the lift's fate has not been decided yet.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 13.06.2023 11:00:00 (updated on 13.06.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

A dispute over the paternoster in Prague City Hall is heating up. Operation of the doorless hop-on hop-off elevator has been suspended, and it is unclear whether it will ever resume. One politician says the non-functioning lift is a symbol of the current city administration.

The paternoster in the municipal administrative building on Mariánské náměstí shut down for repairs in April. It became overburdened due to its increased popularity as a free tourist attraction that went viral on social media and was featured in some guidebooks.

Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda confirmed to the news site Novinky that the closure was due to the long-term tourist burden and incidents with emergency stops. Whether its operation will be resumed will depend on the decision of the municipal office, "which will provide the relevant information,” he said.

He added that rumors circulating that it has been permanently stopped are false, and are being spread by people who are either misinformed or deliberately lying. Svoboda was apparently referring to a tweet by Jan Čižinský, the leader of the party Praha Sobě and a member of the City Assembly. Praha Sobě was part of the City Hall ruling coalition in the previous administration but now is in opposition.

“We have a beautiful paternoster elevator at the Prague City Hall, and people came to look at it. And so the current coalition turned it off. It is not planned to be switched on. There's more turned off at the City Hall now, from the mayor to the councilors,” he tweeted, adding a text symbol for a frown.

The Prague branch of the Pirates, which is part of the current city administration, disputed this claim and backed up the mayor’s statement. They called Čižinský tweet “a bit of demagoguery.”

“How it is in reality: The Paternoster was so overloaded with tourists that it had to be temporarily shut down and undergo a technical inspection. Now it is awaiting possible repair, and the discussion about its future functioning is certainly not closed,” the Pirates tweeted.

Čižinský told Novinky that the elevators in public buildings should work in a functional city. “If it's fine, it should operate. If it is not in order, it should be repaired and then operated. And the city shouldn't prevent people from coming to see the paternoster,” he said.

The City Hall paternoster was completely renovated in 2017 for CZK 3.6 million, replacing equipment from the 1970s. But this didn’t prepare it for the heavy use and overloading that it had been experiencing recently.

There are several 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. Not all are accessible to the public.

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. The use of a cable car at a hotel in Prague’s Smíchov district also had to be restricted due to its fame in viral videos.

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