Petřín Tower marks 130 years since construction began

Petřín tower, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

Tuesday marks exactly 130 years since construction began on the Petřín Lookout Tower, one of the most prominent Prague landmarks. The 64 metre high steel construction, built on the occasion of the Jubilee Exhibition in 1891, was inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and offers one of the best views of the city.

The construction of the Petřín Lookout Tower was initiated in 1889 by members of the Czech Tourist Club, who visited the World Exhibition in Paris and were so impressed by the view from the famous Eiffel Tower, that they decided to create a similar dominant in Prague, says art historian Zdeněk Lukeš:

Photo: archive of City of Prague Museum

“Among the people who attended the World Exhibition was Czech architect Vratislav Pasovský, one of the co-chairmen of the Czech Tourist Club.

“Immediately upon his return to Prague he campaigned among his friends for the construction of a similar structure for the Prague Jubilee Exhibition in 1891. And he succeeded in pushing through his idea.”

The construction, which was launched on March 16, 1891, only took around four months. On August 20, 1891, the Petřín Lookout Tower was ceremoniously opened and became one of the highlights of the Prague Jubilee Exhibition.

The steel construction was built using 175 tons of iron. It is exactly 63.5 metres high, and there are 299 steps leading all the way to the observation cabin.

Petřín tower,  photo: Kristýna Maková

Prior to the opening of the Petřín Tower, the city of Prague also launched a cable car leading to the top of the hill to make the tower more accessible to the public.

While the Prague imitation of the Eiffel Tower is approximately five times smaller, its peak is actually at the same altitude, since it stands on top of Petřín Hill. On clear days, it offers stunning views not only of the city, but nearly of all of Bohemia.

Petřín tower,  photo: Tiia Monto,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Despite its popularity, the Petřín Tower has been threatened with demolition several times throughout its history, says Zdeněk Lukeš:

“It is a well-known fact that Adolf Hitler didn’t like the tower and wanted to see it demolished, claiming that it didn’t fit in with the architecture of Prague.

“Then in the 1970s it was threatened again, because there were plans to build a TV transmitter in its place. In the end the authorities decided to build the transmitter in Žižkov, and the Petřín Tower was saved.”

In the years before the Žižkov Tower was built, the Petřín lookout Tower did accommodate a TV transmitter, which was put into operation in 1953.

Photo: Martina Schneibergová

At that time, the elevator, which previously used to carry visitors to the observation cabin, was abolished and the interior was filled with cables and feeders.

At the turn of the millennium, the lookout tower on Petřín Hill went through a major reconstruction, and was fitted with new staircases and a lift.

In recent years, the Petřín Tower has been regularly lit in different colours to mark important anniversaries or world events. This coming Wednesday, it will turn green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Tomáš Vojtěch
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