New-look Máj shakes-up Prague’s downtown entertainment scene

Published: 20. 06. 2024

Amadeus Real Estate may have bought the Máj building in central Prague in 2019, but it took quite a while to answer the question: what do you do with a former department store? It’s a question that most investors would probably prefer to have figured out before agreeing to a price for an asset as big as the Máj building. But not the Klán family (owner of Amadeus Real Estate), which came up with a series of concepts for the building. Just how did it hit upon the idea of creating nine floors of games, entertainment and F&B?

“The original idea was just to put some apartments on the upper floors and a department store down below,” says Martin Klán. Eventually, they discarded this somewhat odd vision for the protected building in favor of the usual approach: offices upstairs, retail below. But either this didn’t feel right, or gaining traction with potential tenants was too tough. “We kept thinking it was a pity to build offices in a location like Národní třída, where around 100,000 people go by every day,” Klán told a crowd of journalists today.

At a private opening attended by hundreds of guests, he explained that this re-imagining of the building had begun at the very top, where an outdoor viewing terrace is now perched on top of Fly Vista, a restaurant and champagne bar on the 8th floor. Below the restaurant is an entire floor devoted to superheroes from both the Marvel and the DC Comics universes, such as Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Aquaman, Thor and The Hulk.

Then there’s an entire floor devoted to young children called Lvičkov. It’s essentially an enormous play area, and includes a surprisingly large outdoor terrace with jungle gyms and kiddie go-carts. Both the indoor and outdoor sections provide lots of tables where parents can relax as they watch their offspring run riot.

What’s new however is Levels, the 5,000 sqm space on floors 3 and 4 that’s devoted to a staggering variety of game and machines: 125 arcade games, six dart boards, 3 pool tables, shuffleboard, and F1 simulator, GT simulators, 18 holes of mini-golf and karaoke zones. (The single weirdest statistic is the building’s 251 chandeliers.) It’s not subtle, high-brow stuff. This is an all-out effort to cater to every possible taste in entertainment. Judging by its numerous cocktail bars, Levels is intended primarily as a party zone for adults. But the enthusiasm of opening-day guests trying out games had the same energy as the little kids playing two floors below. Imagine groups of friends going out on the town for a few hours of fun. Can the concept fail?

Crucially, everything in the building from Lvičkov up to the champagne bar on the 8th floor is operated by Infinite Experience Prague, a company that was also founded by the Klán family. Since there’s nothing like the new Máj in the country, there are no experienced operators to choose from. For the project as a whole, the decision removed the burden of identifying and doing deals with dozens of tenants – a process that’s highly time and resource-intensive. But it also means the new concept has to begin to generate footfall and revenues quickly if it’s going to make a return on the CZK 4.5 billion investment.

Vacláv Klán Jr. is confident the Infinite Experience model will be successful. In fact, he makes no secret of his ambition to export the idea. “We’d like to expand to other European cities, like London or Berlin. It doesn’t have to be nine full floors of entertainment, as we have in Prague. But we’d like to have a couple of floors in other foreign cities.”

The more standard bits of Máj are the basement (Tesco), the ground floor (retail) and the mezzanine where a chandelier-heavy food court awaits fans of Popeye’s, Five Guys and other favorites.

Naturally, the question of David Černý’s Spitfire butterflies came up at the opening press conference. Asked if they’d be taken down after a year, Martin Klán said he hoped they’d stay up as long as possible. If no extension to the 12-month period is agreed upon, he said, they will naturally be removed.

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