Prague’s hotel once held Cold War spies who eavesdropped on VIP guests

The walls have ears: One of the rooms inside a Cold War bunker in Prague where secret police would eavesdrop on foreign diplomats and businessmen staying at the hotel above
A bunker underneath the Jalta Hotel in Prague once served as a room for spies to eavesdrop on highly important guests such as foreign diplomats and businessmen during the Cold War.

There is more than what meets the eye. At first glance, a grand old hotel in Prague seems like an innocent building. Yet, underneath the structure hides an inconspicuous bunker where spies once holed to eavesdrop on foreign diplomats and guests.

The Jalta Hotel in Prague revealed the bunker as its new attraction. Tourists from around the globe will, however, get more than just a conventional hotel sightseeing.

Tourists can now get a brief glimpse of the bunker in the hotel in the Czech Republic capital that was once used to snoop on foreign diplomats and businessmen staying at the Jalta.

Many of the guest rooms in the hotel were reportedly bugged by surveillance devices that served as ears of the secret agents hidden in the bunker. The spies could hear the recorded conversations and going-ons from 60 feet below the hotel.

The hotel staff were instructed not to go into the bunker nor utter a word about the secret room underneath the building in Wenceslas Square.

The Daily Mail reports that the bunker remained a secret even after the fall of Communism in 1989. In 1998, the Ministry of Defense handed over the possession of the bunker to the hotel. The hotel decided to open the room to public viewing offering the world a glimpse of the dark secret that it held. 

The room was not only intended for spies. It could also hold around 120 top officials and 30 support staff including doctors for safety in the event of a war.

Tourists can now get a glimpse of the clandestine room on guided tours and the dark history it holds.

“It’s a nice curiosity, a five-star boutique hotel with a bunker. It was the VIP hotel during the communist era… most foreigners were put here,” said Sandra Zouzalova, the hotel’s PR manager.

Zouzalova went on to say that all of the guests would not have been spared from the ears of the secret police. The spies would eavesdrop on everyone on every part of the hotel for 24/7.

“We had a manager of the hotel here in the 1980s. He said in that time, nobody [from the hotel] was allowed to go downstairs, but people… from outside were going downstairs and he didn’t know what they were doing,” Zouzalova further explained.

Glimpses into a dark past: The bunker has now been opened up as a tourist attraction 15 years after it was declassified by the Czech Republic Ministry of Defence
The bunker, designed with thick concrete walls, could serve as a military HQ that could house 120 top officials and 30 staff in the event of a war. The bunker is now a museum of Cold War-era relics opened for public viewing.

The bunker is also designed with thick concrete walls to protect the individuals inside in the event of a war. It was also intended to be a military headquarters during conflicts.

The bunker is also built with a power and water supply for those who have used the room.

The three rooms of the bunker was refurbished maintaining its original state during the Cold War and was opened as a museum of the communist-era of the country.

The museum also retained the switchboard which was used by the spies to listen to the guests of the hotel. The switchboard was connected by cables from the rooms to a listening post behind the device.

The board was coded according to ranks on how closely the guests were listened in on. The switches coded red signaled the most closely scrutinized guests while the switches coded yellow and green were the ones listened to less frequently.

The location where the hotel was built is an old World War II bomb site. It was built between 1954 and 1958.

The bunker can be accessed by tourists by an elevator to the basement of the hotel. The tourists then descend on concrete steps to get to the room.

Tourists pass through a shower which was said to once been used to decontaminate the individuals before entering the room.

The hotel is also planning to make the filtration system of the bunker operational again. The filtration system was designed to keep out poison gas. It will also serve as one of the displays that trace back to the Cold War.

To get a tour on the bunker, tourists must book in advance. Only a maximum of seven people at a time for a maximum of 30 minutes are allowed during the tours.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE