Due to its long history of getting bombed by European and international aggressors, Prague equipped itself with hundreds of concrete bunkers that are fully functioning with electricity, water, and ventilation. Many of these bomb shelters were built in the 50’s during the Cold War and are designed to accommodate a large percentage of the people in Prague for up to 72 hours. You can visit one of them yourself on a guided tour of Folimanka Bunker.
The Folimanka Bunker was finished in 1962 and was run by the Czechoslovak army as a secret shelter. In 1994 after being inaccessible for years, it was passed to the city of Prague for administration. It’s been open to the public for monthly tours since 2014, as part functional shelter and part exhibition space.
Tours of the shelter
Tours of the Folimanka bomb shelter are held by the city of Prague once a month, opening at 9 am and closing at 3 pm. The tours are completely free and self-guided. At the entrance of the bunker, there are maps that guide you around the massive underground labyrinth of tunnels and rooms. Each are numbered so you can identify the individual rooms and landmarks, which include ventilation rooms, bathrooms, and storage areas.
There is a lot of information inside Folimanka about the shelter and the history of war in Prague, and it’s all in Czech. So it’s definitely a good idea to bring a local friend. Nonetheless, there are some great photos showing present day-Prague compared to how bombing raids left it years ago. You can also see photos of other shelters around town. There is even some art down there in what is considered the common area of the bunker.
As they’re only held once a month, it can get crowded down in the bunker, which is probably a good thing because otherwise it would be creepy as fuck. People bring their kids, their pets. In fact, there are activities around the shelter designed for children that includes trivia (these are also in Czech). You can find the tour schedule on the Folimanka Bunker website here.
What you’ll find in the bomb shelter
The tour of the bomb shelter in Prague will take you through long concrete corridors safe from potentially toxic air above ground. Inside, you’ll find several storage rooms, air filtration chambers, which keeps the air inside the bunker safe to breathe, and a power station that keeps the lights on in the place. It’s even comfortably heated. There are two locker-style bathrooms but with no doors, one for men and one for women. You’ll also find two mini-morgues to hold anybody that managed to get underground but ultimately didn’t survive.
Some things are a bit run down. For instance, the communications room is no longer in commission as the former cable switchboard has been replaced by walkie talkies. Some areas aren’t accessible to the public. And the whole thing looks worn, precisely like something built in the 50s and mostly left unused and unrenovated for decades.
You’ll also find links underground to certain landmarks outside. There are entrances and emergency exits at several points around Folimanka Park which sits above the bomb shelter. You’ll also find the ventilation shaft that leads out to a domed vent that a street artist turned into a giant R2D2 a couple of years ago.
When the shelter is open, there are city employees stationed at the entrance and at several points inside the shelter to count everyone moving around and ensure that everyone gets out before they shut the doors for a month. Trust me, after checking out the digs in the bomb shelter, you’ll want to stay above ground.