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One-room hotel opens in communist-era TV tower with great view of Czech capital

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PRAGUE - It's a room with a view.

A tall television tower in the Czech capital of Prague that has been called one of the world's ugliest buildings has a new and unique attraction: A one-room hotel looking out on the city from 70 metres (230 feet) above ground.

But some might argue the best thing about the view is that you don't have to look at the tower itself. The tower, which stands 216 metres (709 feet) tall, is a dominant but controversial landmark of the city skyline.

Prague is sometimes called the city of 100 spires, but the tower stands out amid the picturesque cityscape of centuries-old churches and other historic sites. It's the city's tallest building, at the equivalent of about 70 stories high, and it was a despised symbol of the communist regime that started building it in 1985. Locals have gradually come to accept it since its completion in 1992, but a 2009 international survey placed it second among the ugliest buildings in the world.

The tower already features a restaurant and observation deck offering a breathtaking view of the city, but a recent, thorough renovation of the spire added the hotel room, cementing the tower's status as an attraction for both locals and tourists

The room is considered so luxurious that it's being advertised as six stars. It opened Feb. 13 and is available for 1,000 euros (about $1,300). Guests also get a limousine and driver, but really, it's all about the view. One wall facing east consists almost entirely of a giant window, and you can enjoy that view from a spacious bed. There's also a bathtub in the bathroom behind a glass wall, with a floor higher than the rest of the room, offering another comfortable place from which to look out.

With a view no other hotel room in the city can beat, demand is growing, said Lucie Cerna, sales manager for the project known as the Tower Park Prague. Cerna said the room is now booked for about two nights a week with a number of reservations in the near future. On Valentine's Day, six people wanted to book it, and "a man has booked the room to propose to his fiancee."

"I think it will be used for special occasions," said Cerna. "It won't be a common hotel. It's an exclusive space with an exclusive view of Prague."

Just a few steps down a spiral staircase from the room is the restaurant, which together with a cafe and a bar opened in October. It's become a popular spot, where visitors are advised to book reservations at least a week in advance. Former President Vaclav Klaus was among those who've dined there.

Chef Ondrej Soukup offers a wide range of cuisines, including Asian and French, but he recommends Czech meals, including his specialty, a neck of lamb. But due to limited space in the tower, the kitchen is located slightly above the restaurant, and the staff must use a small lift to deliver meals. "That's the only weak spot here," Soukup said, placing a plate of food on the lift for the 12-second delivery.

For a small entry fee, visitors can also look out from the observation deck at the mostly medieval spires that give Prague its charm. In contrast, the TV tower, located in the Zizkov neighbourhood, has always been controversial.

The tower, constructed to provide television and radio transmissions, was built on the site of what was once a 17th century Jewish cemetery. The project was ridiculed by many Czechs at the time, who called it a "space rocket," ''Bilak's needle" and "Jakes' finger," named for notorious hard-line communist leaders Milous Jakes and Vasil Bilak.

After the 1989 Velvet Revolution that replaced the communist regime with a democracy, some locals demanded the tower's removal. But protests gradually died out after the level of radiation from transmitters was declared safe. Despite the later survey declaring its ugliness, in a 2003 survey, the TV tower even beat in popularity the well-known tower of Old Town City Hall.

The tower is also famous for one other thing: Giant three-dimensional babies, 2 metres (6 feet) long, appear to be crawling on the exterior. The babies, created by artist David Cerny, were originally installed as a temporary work in 2000, but they proved so popular that they were made a permanent feature, adding a humorous element to the tower Czechs love to hate.

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If You Go...

TOWER PARK: Located in Prague, http://www.towerpark.cz/en . Restaurant, observatory and hotel room. Admission to the observation deck is 150 Czech koruna (6 euros, $7.60) for adults. Discounts for seniors, family groups, children and students.

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