Prague residents are tired of tourists, 30 years after the end of communism

PRAGUE (Reuters) – The view from Pavel Kacirek’s apartment overlooking Prague’s majestic Old Town Square should make it your dream home, but hordes of tourists and congested streets mean that’s no longer the case .

As Czechs prepare to mark 30 years since the Velvet Revolution ended communism – ushering in a tourism boom and considerable wealth with it – not all local residents see the change as a positive.

“People have moved, so cheaper services, shops, restaurants have gone with them,” said Kacirek, 72, a documentary filmmaker.

“The monuments are here, the towers, the Gothic and the Baroque – they stand. But it’s really a Disneyland decoration.

Nearly 8 million tourists visited Prague last year, making it one of the most visited cities in Europe and putting pressure on local services serving 1.3 million residents.

One of the most acute problems is the lack of affordable housing, as many apartments are converted into offices or short-term housing.

Airbnb listed nearly 12,000 properties in Prague last year, according to Prague development institute IPR. The district encompassing the city center lost almost half of its inhabitants. Registered voters totaled 21,556 in 2017 compared to 36,862 in 1990.

Tourists now throng the historic streets and often take advantage of the cheap beer to party late into the night.

“The number of tourists is certainly more than Prague can handle,” the city’s mayor, Zdenek Hrib, told Reuters, adding that Prague was trying to attract more spendthrift visitors, including those who came for meetings. business.

“We’re trying to solve the Disneyland that’s evolving here.”


When communism ended in 1989, Prague was an unpolished diamond, shrouded in air pollution and devoid of services. Decades of underuse meant buildings were collapsing.

Billions of dollars in tourism investment and spending have since poured in, making Prague the wealthiest region in Central and Eastern Europe with a gross domestic product per capita at 187% of the EU average, data shows. from Eurostat in 2018.

Now, the main tourist areas of the city, especially around the castle and the Charles Bridge, are lined with souvenir shops, exchange offices and massage parlours.

“It’s about how Prague positions itself. If we stay a cheap bar, there will be slops,” architect Kristof Hanzlik said in his 17th-century-built family home that hugs the walls of Prague Castle gardens.

“If that big overcharge goes down, maybe some apartments will free up and people will start moving out.”

The city has taken steps to address the issue, including appointing a “night mayor” to clamp down on noise made by revelers at night.

Authorities have also evicted a handful of money changers that charged double-digit commissions and plan to end rentals at tourist shops in favor of services for locals.

It banned people from earning money by posing for photos in giant panda costumes in the Old Town Square and cracked down on pseudo-historic cars.

Beer bikes – which provide beer on tap and are powered by pedal drinkers – will be banned next season.

And a law allowing an increase in accommodation costs in Prague to 2 euros a night instead of 0.8 euros has been passed by parliament, even though Mayor Hrib says the ceiling should be higher in the center.

For now, however, many Czechs are avoiding the city center except to visit one of the few places where only locals can reserve a place.

“It’s a place to meet friends, it’s part of history,” said Martin Hlavac, an accountant, who inherited a weekly booking at the traditional U Zlateho Tygra pub from his mother who had been a regular since. 1960.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka, editing by Michael Kahn and Mike Collett-White

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