The historical Lennon Wall is an ever-changing tourist attraction: “But John Lennon stays”

Most eye catching of Prague’s sites is the vibrant wall dubbed the Lennon Wall. A symbol of resistance and freedom, the wall is a key piece of Prague history. However, with growing numbers of tourists flowing to Prague, the wall is being filled up with several signatures, texts and pictures being painted on top of old ones. The owner of the wall is currently trying to limit people’s access to add their own art to the mix.

For many visitors, the Lennon Wall is a place to get the perfect picture for social media. A wall with lots colours, lyrics and other elements looks great on one’s Instagram feed but there’s a much deeper meaning behind the Lennon Wall. 

Clarisse and Marie are visiting Prague from France. They’re going to post the pictures they took at the Lennon Wall to Instagram.

Story behind the wall

A typical afternoon at the Lennon Wall. Tourists rushing in front of the wall trying to get the best picture for their photo albums and social media. A guitarist is playing music by the Beatles. A group of men are writing their names on the concrete wall, taking pictures and laughing. A big painting of John Lennon’s face is looking down at the tourists.

So what has John Lennon, a British musician, to do with the history of Prague? In 1980 when Lennon died, a painting of his face appeared on a wall in the Grand Priory Square. This irritated the Czech officials but even though the picture was covered with white paint, the face of Lennon and some of his song lyrics popped up again on the same wall.

Lennon, who was a spokesperson of freedom, was a source of inspiration to young people in Czechoslovakia. Later in the 1980s, young Czechs used the wall to express their opinions and thoughts about politics. Eventually, the communist regime ceased to be but the Lennon wall stayed as the symbol of silent but powerful resistance.

Some tourists visiting the place today are aware of its historical nature. Aleta is visiting Prague from Brazil. “Everybody told me that it’s a wonderful, beautiful city.” She first learned about the Lennon Wall from a Brazilian TV show and knows that the wall symbolizes revolution and freedom of speech.

Two sides of the same wall

By the wall, two young women are taking pictures for Instagram. Marie, a French tourist on a road trip through Central Europe, found the place from a blog. “I thought it was really pretty and wanted to see it myself.” She says that in her opinion it’s strange to write your name on a historical wall. Marie’s friend Clarisse, also a tourist from France, thinks that it is okay that the wall is filled with new texts and pictures. “But John Lennon stay[s]”, she emphasises.

Sergew is originally from Russia but has lived in Prague for seven years. During the tourist season he takes polaroid pictures of tourists in front of the Lennon Wall for money. He knows about the wall’s history with communism but he feels that is a good thing that people add new things to the wall.

The concrete wall is constantly getting new texts – some have deep messages, some are simply the names of the people who’ve visited the place.

The future of the Lennon Wall

This colourful open-air gallery is ever-changing, with people painting over the old pictures every day. Some go as far as painting other nearby walls and even trees which has angered some locals. The Sovereign Order of Malta, an organization which owns the wall, is planning to limit people’s access to paint by guards and security cameras, according to an article by The Guardian published in August 2019.

Next to the Lennon wall is a small sign stating that drawing “on the protected historical monument” is a criminal offense. The sign itself is smudged with graffiti.

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