Although you can find Czech art in countless museums and galleries around the world, the best place to see some the country’s most authentic pieces is on the streets of Prague.
The capital’s ever-evolving street art scene emerged in the late 1980s as the Communist Era was coming to a close. Because of the political change, the first pieces of Prague street art reflected messages of joy and optimism rather than negativity or angst. For the artists of the time, this new art form represented freedom and the future of expression — a means to cover the concrete walls that symbolized the city’s past.
Today, Prague’s street art scene is thriving, and this creative sense of optimism can still be felt in its side streets and walkways. For that reason, we encourage you to hunt for the sculptures, installations, and murals that make the city come alive.
Here are a few to get you started.
DAVID ČERNý’S “BABIES”
Located at the entrance of Museum Kampa in Kampa Park, these giant brass sculptures depict a gang of faceless babies. Quite the sight to behold, these crawling kiddos also have a sister installation on the Zizkov TV tower, situated some 300 feet above the city. This second group of sculptures scales the side of the tower in an act of symbolism, covering the infamous landmark of totalitarian rule. David Černý, the artist behind these quirky sculptures, is known for his controversial aesthetic, and you’re likely to come across more of his work around the city — so keep your eyes peeled! In fact, see if you can spot his “Embryo” installation near the Charles Bridge in Stare Mesto.
Painted by Spanish artist Escif, this half-portrait of Franz Kafka is located at the corner of Husitska and Prokopova (just 15 minutes from the author’s birthplace). The mural was inspired by Kafka’s heritage and features the word “pomoc” (“help”) above the man’s half-buried face. Nestled in Prague’s most alternative district, this piece of art represents the city’s working class. Many believe that if Kafka was alive today, he would write the story of the mural himself.
THE LENNON WALL
Although this famous mural has been wiped clean countless times, the John Lennon-inspired graffiti has never left the wall for more than a few hours since its creation in the 1980s. Located in the heart of Old Town, just steps from the Charles Bridge, the colorful wall is filled with inspirational quotes, Beatles’ lyrics, and personal notes, musings, and paintings. During the country’s communist rule, young Czechs used this site as a canvas on which they voiced their complaints and spread hope. The legacy they left behind is still reflected in this world-famous stretch of graffiti.
THE DANCING HOUSE
Designed by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry, the Dancing House is a symbol of the modern-day Czech Republic and a large-scale representation of Prague’s sculptural prowess. Inspired by the dancing figures of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this unmissable piece of architecture is located on Rašínovo nábřeží. The structure proudly stands out among the Baroque, Gothic, and Art Nouveau buildings that Prague is known for, so be sure to wander around and take it in from all angles.
THE YELLOW PENGUINS
Although the 34 bright yellow penguins designed by the Cracking Art Group are located at Museum Kampa, they can be seen from just about anywhere in Prague — most notably from the Charles Bridge. The six international artists who designed these critters came together to change the standard of the Prague art scene by using only recycled materials, and to encourage the city to minimize its environmental footprint. The installation is a bright statement that reflects in the waters beside it, reminding individuals that their polluting habits affect the lives of animals across the planet.
BOHUMIL HRABAL MURAL
Dedicated to one of the most important figures of Czech and international literature, this mural of Bohumil Hrabal is located at Palmovka Metro Station — the same stretch of land where his home once stood. The painting depicts the writer surrounded by his beloved cats and most memorable quotes. The easiest way to find this iconic piece of art is to exit the metro station at Yellow Line B. Once you’ve finished admiring the painting, be sure to explore the surrounding area in search of more street art!
PASTA ONER’S “CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY”
Inspired by Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Pasta Oner created his own rendition of the “divine touch” on Vitězné náměsti. This pop-art mural depicts the “hand of god” pointing toward the words “Choose to Be Happy.” The clever and positive piece of art was created in conjunction with Prague’s Stuck in the City project, which collected pieces from artists and creators around the globe. In addition to this famous mural, you can also check out Pasta Oner’s other work located at the Dejvicka metro station, at the corner of Narodni and Mikulandska, and at the DOX in Holesovice.
TESNOV GRAFFITI WALL
One of the few legal graffiti walls in Prague, Tesnov is open to anyone looking to show off their skills. So, if you’ve always dreamed of leaving your mark in Prague, this just might be the place to do so. The best time to add your artwork to Tesnov Street’s “Hall of Fame” is in the early morning or on weekends, when the parking lot adjacent to the wall is empty. Just a 15-minute walk from the city center, Tesnov is a great place to wrap up your street art tour and make a few memories while you’re at it.
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Header image by Anna Kirichenko.