Ostrava was once known as the “Czech Republic’s Iron Heart,” largely because of this huge industrial plant that opened in 1830. The plant housed an ironworks, a coal colliery, and six coke furnaces. It was the only one in Europe that processed iron from start to finish in one location, and it was able to do so simply because the site was so massive. The plant operated until 1998, when it shut down production for good.
The plant was preserved as a site of industrial heritage and today visitors can walk amongst the hulking structures that once produced most of Czechia’s iron. Historical tours explain how the iron was produced, and what it was like to work here in the innards of furnaces that reached 2,700˚F. They can take an elevator to the very top of Furnace No. 6 to see the whole complex from above.
The setting is like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel, with industrial machinery rusting everywhere you look, and Lower Vítkovice has taken full advantage of its appearance. The Science and Technology Centre hosts exhibits on everything from mathematics to nanotechnology. The former power plant is now the Small World of Technology, a Jules Verne-themed industry museum, while the gas holder has been transformed into 1,500-seat auditorium.
Concerts and film screenings take place here, while other cavernous industrial buildings host art exhibitions and performances. Ski races have been staged using the rusted machinery as obstacles. Lower Vítkovice has become the cultural hub of Ostrava, evidenced by the dozens of people picnicking on the grassy grounds beneath the giant tanks and furnaces.