Czech name: Tančící Dům
A controversial symbol of the post-communist Czech Republic, Tančící dům — aka the Dancing House in Prague — is one of the world’s most celebrated buildings and a popular Prague landmark. Also known as Fred and Ginger, the ultra-modern, nine-story structure is a surrealist painting come to life that was bankrolled by finance conglomerate Nationale-Nederlanden, designed by the superstar architectural team of Milunić-Gehry, and widely considered the best example of modern architecture in Prague.
Location & How to Get There
A standout gem of Prague’s New Town district, the Dancing House sits on the Rašín Embankment (Rašínovo nábřeží) in Jirásek Square (Jiráskovo náměstí).
What public transportation options drop you near the Dancing House? By metro, take the B line to Karlovo Náměstí Station; Fred and Ginger is about a three-minute walk from there. By tram, hop on the 17 and get off at Jiráskovo náměstí; the building is about 290 feet away from the stop. Alternatively, you can take a 907 city bus and alight at the Karlovo náměstí terminal, which is about four minutes away from the destination. Want to sneak in some exercise? It’s a lovely 20-minute walk from Old Town, Prague to the Dancing House.
Opening Hours & Entry
The building is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and it’s free to enter. Ginger & Fred, the 7th-floor restaurant, is open from 11 a.m. to midnight every day. The Glass Bar, on the 8th floor, is open Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.
What to Do & What to See
The Dancing House — designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry — is one of the world’s most famous buildings. The deconstructivist marvel has won several prestigious awards and the inside, designed by renowned British architect Eva Jiřičná, is as mind-bending as the outside. Ninety-nine differently-sized concrete panels give the building its wavy, bendy shape, affecting the interior rooms and hallways. Walking around the Dancing House is like walking into an M.C. Escher painting!
In addition to offices, the Dancing House holds an art gallery, 21-room boutique hotel, restaurant, and bar. Are you on a strict budget? Head straight to the observation deck and enjoy a free-but-breathtaking view of Prague.
What makes the Dancing House exciting is its perspective-warping shape. Its two towers — one glass and the other rock — look like giant sculptures. Symbolically, the two sections represent both static and dynamic energy meant to honor Czechoslovakia’s transition from a communist state to parliamentary democracy.
Like many postmodern buildings planted around the globe, the Dancing House is a hotbed of controversy. Detractors feel its attention-grabbing style has no place sitting aside the Baroque, Gothic, and Art Nouveau buildings that otherwise line the city’s streets. Proponents, on the other hand, appreciate its modern flair.
The 1945 U.S. bombing of Prague destroyed a building where the Dancing House now stands. The lot laid vacant for decades until dissident-turned-president Václav Havel and architect Vlado Milunić revived an idea the pair first contemplated in the 1980s: refreshing the bombed-out space with a modern building that served as a culture center.
Government officials and professional luminaries knocked around the proposal for years. Finally, a European finance firm, Nationale-Nederlanden, agreed to finance the project so long as an international team of designers and architects worked on the project. Moreover, plans for the cultural center were scrapped and replaced with commercial concerns. Ultimately, Vlado Milunić recruited Frank Gehry to co-lead the endeavor — and the rest, as they say, is history. Plans started in 1992, and it was completed in 1996.
Gehry originally called the building “Fred and Ginger,” after the famous American dance duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The glass portion was meant to represent Ginger and the concrete part Fred. But after some consideration, Gehry abandoned the idea, realizing it was distasteful to “import American Hollywood kitsch to Prague.”