Open House Praha offering guided tours in English to help people discover the city’s architectural gems

Fair Trade Palace

The concept of Open House, founded by Victoria Thornton in London in 1992, was intended to help citizens start perceiving their surroundings in terms of design and architecture. Thanks to the festival’s success, it expanded to 50 cities all over the world. And one of the cities where it is particularly meaningful is Prague, a city packed with architectural gems, legends and historic sites.

Open House Praha, is a non-governmental, non-profit organization which provides this service, bringing the city’s architectural gems to the attention of the broad public and giving them access to places that are not normally open to visitors. I spoke to Michal Šedivý, a guide at Open House Praha, about some of the walks around Prague that they are planning in the coming months.

Open House Praha 2021 | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“For eight years now, we have been organizing a weekend festival of open houses in May. It is true that we have focused primarily on Prague citizens, but that does not mean that it is exclusively a Czech festival, because expats are also very important inhabitants of the city. We have received very positive feedback regarding the events and many people return every year for more. Part of the magic is that we open buildings that are not usually accessible to the public during the year. And since we want to make the tours accessible to as many people as possible we are now offering them in English and Russian as well.”

How long are the tours and how did you pick the sites?

“Each tour takes around 90 minutes and we are trying not to focus just on the center of Prague but to show districts such as Bubeneč, Žižkov or Letná. We are even now preparing new tours and we always take into account tips that we get from visitors in this respect. We try to cover the most important and most interesting parts of Prague.”

Do these guided tours focus exclusively on architecture or will people get a bit of history and culture thrown in as well?

“They get a bit of everything. Architecture is my passion, my hobby, but as a guide I find that people are always interested in stories above all, bits of history, but most of all about the fates of the people who lived in these buildings. For example the story of the Petschek family, the richest Jewish family in interwar Czechoslovakia. Lots of people are interested in that tour.”

So you take people into the selected buildings and tell them about the people that inhabited them?

“That would be amazing, but it is not always possible to gain access to the interiors. For instance, the Petschek family houses are now usually residences of ambassadors, so in such cases gaining access is difficult. On the other hand, we give them access to many interesting buildings on our Brutalist architecture tour. People can visit the amazing palace of the Prague Transport Company and we visit a gem of Neo-Classicist architecture –Desfours Palace, very close to Florentinum and the Masaryk train station. This is also a place that will be open for guided tours in English.”

What are some of the highlights that you are especially proud of?

Desfours Palace | Photo: Monika Švarcová,  Tomáš Sysel,  Leona Telínová,  Open House Praha

“Personally, I really like the Bubeneč district tour which tells the stories of the people who established the economy of the new Czechoslovak republic. But it is hard to say what the highlight is, because the Brutalist architecture is very fancy and my colleague Marketa is an amazing expert so it is very difficult to recommend one particular tour.”

Do you visit the Lesser Quarter as well?

“Yes, of course. We show people buildings from various epochs in our history and the aim of this tour is not just to present architectural gems, but to introduce Czech history to people who do not know anything about it.”

When do these tours take place?

“In the coming months, but we also want to organize them in the summer and autumn. Of course the main event for us is the Open House festival in May.”

Can people ask questions during the tours?

“Of course they can! And I have to say that it is amazing to have expats on these guided tours. They are so enthusiastic and always have a lot of questions – especially in comparison with Czechs who tend to be shy to speak out. So I love taking these walks with expats.”

How many people can join one tour, how can they register, what is the price and so on?

“The maximum number of people on one tour is 25 and the price is 200 to 300 crowns.”

So people can start registering already for the tours in February, March, April?

“Oh yes, people will find the details of these tours on our website and register for them well in advance. I am sure there are still vacancies.”

Are these tours suitable for parents with children or are they tailored to adults?

“Well, they are intended for adults mainly – not because of the terrain but because of the stories, that may not be lively enough for children. On the other hand, I think that children and teenagers would probably enjoy the walk through Strahov Stadium.”

The 8th Open House Prague festival is set to take place on May 16–22, 2022. Held under the motto “Architecture for everyone” it will offer guided tours, lectures, and debates on urban architecture. For more information on the individual guided tours or the festival go to: