(Based on trips to Brno in August
2005, Prague and Teplice in June 1999 and again to Prague in Novermber
2001, January 2004, Jan 2005 and Jan 2006)
was once an Eastern European paradise of stunningly beautiful women
and stunningly cheap beer is now rapidly heading towards full Westernisation
following EU integration, and all the watering down of culture that
entails, not to mention it’s status as the “new Dublin”
amongst stag parties. Nonetheless, if you accept the Czech Republic,
and particularly Prague, for what it is now rather than what it
once was, you should still have a great time.
The Czech people are very friendly, although many locals not employed
in the tourist industry (i.e. your fellow drinkers) can seem very
weary of endless tourists in Prague city centre. One thing I cannot
emphasise enough is a “little language goes a long way”
– learn the words for “hello”, “two beers
please”, “thank you” and “goodbye”
and you will be treated much more warmly in many bars. Prague has
become a real tourist trap, and has continued on this path over
the course of my five visits (between 1999 and 2006), with a lot
of touts and drug-dealers clogging up otherwise beautiful streets
between Na Prikope, the Old Town Square and the Charles Bridge.
Though not as cheap as it once was, there are still plenty of bargains
to be had in the food and drink arena. We ate mostly in local pubs
(not the themed ones that are multiplying in the tourist hot-spots),
where fried cheese in breadcrumbs is a vegetarian life-saver (although
not best for the arteries!) – Helen was still able to enjoy
fillet steak and other such meaty morsels at a fraction of the price
you’d pay at home. One safe and reliable way to get something
to eat, besides the all-pervading pizzerias, is Irish Pubs: much
as I shudder to recommend anyone should go to an Irish Pub (unless,
of course, you’re actually in Ireland – if you’re
in the Czech Republic, why not go to a CZECH pub?), at least you
can trust the menu to provide you with some shreds of recognisable
meals, albeit at a premium compared to the locals’ pubs –
and this can be invaluable for those days when your bowels are in
Although the infrastructure is improving, if you’re planning
on catching a train – turn up early! You may be expected to
queue at several different windows before eventually getting hold
of a ticket, and even then you’ll need a degree of orienteering
knowledge to get the right platform. Prague has a very efficient
Metro and tram network – if you arrive by air, get a map and
buy your tickets at the little stall just to the right as you come
out of Arrivals (in Terminal 1 North, at least)! Unfortunately,
one area where underworld corruption is still rife is with taxis
– take extreme care not to be ripped off – try and avoid
using them if you can (we’ve managed to never take a taxi
in all of the five visits we’ve made!). Getting into town
from the airport can be done in a number of ways: taxi (don’t!);
Cedaz minibus – book at the wee stall opposite the Arrivals
door, at around a tenner for up to 4 people going to the same address,
and slightly cheaper to come back; or the most adventurous way –
100 bus to Zlicin (yellow line) or 119 to Dejvicka (green line)
metro stations, the whole journey is done on one ticket (approx
50p per person) – just stamp it once when you get on the bus.
Sustained alcohol intake is the name of the game here – as
well some top notch beers, expect to get your chops round some glasses
of pretty vile liqueurs as well:
Pilsner Urquell –
a fine beer from the home of pilsner (Plzen). Far better on draught
than the bottled version, which often tastes like you’re
trying to drink it through a beer mat, although foreign “investment”
has changed the brewing process for the worst. A reliable everyday
favourite beer when in Prague. U Zlateho Tygra and U Pinkasu are
both historic places in Prague to try a glass or several.
Velkopopovicky Kozel –
a great beer, in both its dark and light variants. You’ll
know it by the goat – if you see it, try it. Best sampled
in U Cerneho Vola near Prague Castle.
another great beer (which Helen prefers hands down over Urquell),
this time brewed in Prague (in Smichov – another working
class area slightly more gritty and less colourful than Zizkov).
Budvar - aka "real
Budweiser" - nice, but not as great as everyone seems to
think. U Medvidku and U Kochura are both excellent places to try
this in Prague.
Radegast – very
popular locally (a Czech football fan insisted on replacing my
Staropramen with a glass of this stuff!), and very nice, if a
little on the acidic side. Can be tricky to find – Osveznovna,
by the Vltava in Prague, sells it on draught.
Branik – a rarer
beer from a small Prague brewery, but worth searching out. Best
sampled at the down-to-earth stand-up Branika Formanka on Prague’s
Vodickova, or the slightly posher restaurant next door.
Bernard – unpasturised
and unfiltered – snap it up if you see it, but its quite
Stare Brno – Not held in the highest regard, “Old
Brno” beer is best sampled at the brewery tap in its namesake
Microbrewery beers –
there are an increasing number of microbreweries to be found in
the Czech Republic. Always worth checking out, their beers are
often unfiltered and give a new perspective to Czech beer. Not
all are Johnny-come-latelies; U Fleku’s been knocking out
it’s dark lager since 1499.
Becherova – nicer
than it sounds, this Drambuie-esque liquer is often pressure-sold
(at vastly over-the-odds prices) by the waiters in U Fleku. Sample
it in a local bar if you get the chance – goes exceptionally
well with Coke for some reason!
Slivovice – the
quintessential plum brandy enjoyed all over Eastern Europe –
still popular here.
Moravian wines –
surprisingly drinkable, and served by the glass in almost every
pub (even in Prague). Frankovka is a nice red, and very similar
to the Austrian Blaufrankisch.
Bohemian Champagne –
not recommended unless you’re a big an of fizzy vinegar.
A Teplice speciality (see below).
Absinthe – now
you’re talking. Well, you won’t be for long. Some
say this stuff is great, some say nothing at all – personally,
I cannot stand the stuff, and would put it on a par with 4* Lead
Replacement Petrol for a smooth and satisfying drink. Hardcore
local drinkers have been known to water it down… with Smirnoff
blue label vodka!
Prague is a pretty big city, in that there are areas outside the
centre well worth seeing, so I’ve broken them down here. A
few things to be aware of: beer is usually tallied up and paid for
at the end (certainly in traditional pubs); in some busier beer
halls, it is common to keep replacing empty glasses with full ones
– when you’re ready to leave, place your beer mat on
top of your glass; many traditional places have keys to the ladies
restroom (and the gents’ cubicles) behind the bar –
you may have to ask for these.
This is certainly not an exhaustive guide to Prague’s pubs,
just a selection of my favourites. Places change and close, so keep
an open mind and try to track down a copy of “Prague In Your
Pocket” (the Tourist Information office on Celetna usually
Finally, the British theme pubs are often overrun with large groups
of stag parties, and an entire industry of seedy clubs has sprung
up to jostle for the valuable stag koruna, so bear this in mind
too. Obviously, not all stag parties conform to the negative stereotype,
and many are interested in the culture (and may even be reading
this guide!), but remember many of the pubs listed below are small,
local places and large groups of dress-wearing beer monsters would
not be welcomed!
Stare Mesto and Josefov – This
is the oldest quarter, and is at the apex of the bend in the Vltava
River. When in town for the Scotland match in June 1999, it seemed
that the whole city revolved around the Old Town Square –
the fact of the matter is that not much, apart from touristy stuff,
goes on here. The buildings are very pretty – particularly
the Gotham City-style twin-spired Tyn Church – and there is
a famous clock (although, were it not for the crowds of tourists,
you could easily walk straight past it), but not somewhere to spend
all your days here. Josefov is the old Jewish quarter, and actually
formed the ghetto during Nazi occupation.
this area is tourist central, so expect to pay through the nose
for it. There are plenty of decent places worth searching out, and
the following places may be worth a look:
Radegast Beer Hall, Templova- an authentic down-to-earth beer hall serving Radegast
and cheap food. It's to the south-east of the Old Town Square
in Templova [Update: this was closed in both Jan 2005 and Jan
2006, but unconfirmed reports suggest it may open in the high
Molly Malones, U Obecniho dvora
- My favourite of the Irish pubs in Prague, far better than the
tourist haunt of Caffreys on the square. To get to Molly's, take
the north-east exit from the Old Town square (i.e. top right on
a map), bear left past the Czech FA HQ and then cross over and
bear right. Easier than it sounds, and some very nice Rarebit
(cheese and mustard on french bread) awaits.
- Possibly the only Cuban-Irish theme bar in the world. Not too
bad, but a stag party favourite.
U Zlateho Tygra, Husova
– A real gem of a pub, serving Pilsener Urquell drawn from
tanks below the bar. Justifiably famous, but has become a bit
of a tourist magnet due to it’s not inconsiderable fame
and handy location. Only opens at 3pm, but can be difficult to
get a seat even then! Look out for the NATA pennant in the alcove
as you head to the toilets, and make sure you try the Pivni Syr
(marinated beer cheese).
U Budevce, Tynska –
small café opposite the north wall of Tyn church.
U Medividku, Na Perstyne
– The Little Bears pub is actually on the boundary of Old
and New Towns (just off Narodni Trida). There’s a small,
dark and inviting looking bar on the left hand side, or a large
beer hall on the right. Budvar is the drink of choice, but the
pub also boasts Prague’s smallest microbrewery and knocks
out bottled of unpasturised beer (at a price!). There’s
a brewery exhibit and beer shop at the very back of the beer hall,
which are both worth a look.
Mala Strana –This is the “little quarter” directly below the
castle, and best accessed via the Charles Bridge. Quaint narrow
streets and some great hotels (we can recommend The Blue Key) in
a peaceful area, yet still easily accessible for the city centre.
There are several bars well worth searching out here:
U Klicu, Prokopska –
a tiny (as in 2 tables) wine bar in a small lane off Karmelitska.
Head over the Charles Bridge, turn left as you reach the square
and turn right down a narrow street after about 50 yards (opposite
Maleho Glena). Although wine is the tipple of choice, there is
Budvar beer on offer, and very friendly clientele (we were bought
a Chivas Regal in here by a Slavia fan impressed by my kilt!).
U Kochura, Nerudova –
Traditional hospoda, reputedly owned by The Beer Party, and knocking
out excellently kept Budvar. Look out for the pennants behind
the bar – there was only 1 St Pauli one there when we left
a NATA pennant in early 2004.
U Brabantskeho Krale, Thunovska
– Literally up and around the corner from Kochura, this
cosy pub is also known for it’s food. At the bottom of the
castle steps that feature in oh-so-many films.
Baracnicka Rychta, Trziste
– Excellent (and reasonably priced!) Czech pub and restaurant
hidden off Nerudova. This is very tricky to find – the easiest
way is to head up Trziste past the US embassay and keep going
along the right hand wall; when it looks as though the road bears
left, keep going uphill to the right and it will appear ahead
of you. Turn right once in the door for the restaurant, or head
downstairs for the bar (which I’ve not been in).
U Maleho Glena, Karmelitska
– famous jazz cellar in Male Strana, with a passable street
level bar knocking out Czech and Irish beer.
Strahov Monastery Brewpub,
Monastery courtyard – Often full or reserved, try
and get in to try the superb homebrew if you get the chance.
U Cerneho Vola, Loretanska
Nam – “At The Black Ox” is probably my
favourite Prague beer hall, and is only a few minutes walk from
the castle at the top of the hill. You will see tourists, but
you’ll almost certainly end up sharing your table with locals.
Beer Hall, Letenska (next to
Blue Key Hotel) - Can't remember the name I'm afraid (was
last there in 2004), but this large subterranean beer hall is
still well worth a visit.
Nove Mesto –
The “New Town” is still pretty old. It stretches from
the top end of Wenscelas Square downwards for quite a way, and contains
the usual city centre shops. A great football shop is at Myslikova,
just around the corner from U Fleku, a German style beer hall that
brews it’s own dark beer.
U Fleku, Kremencova-
a very touristy beer hall on Kremencova that brews it's own dark
beer (which is very nice). Often packed out with German coach
parties, it's still well worth a visit. Give the over-priced Becherova
liqueur a miss and try it a local bar instead!
Branika Formanka, Vodickova
- Could this be the cheapest beer in central Prague, only 80m
from Wenscelas Square? The right hand door leads to a rough, ready
and very smoky bar popular with lunching labourers – the
beer is cheap (around 42p a pint at January 2006 rates) and plentiful,
but this is not the place to go in a large group, or if you’re
not confident in ordering in Czech (not a place for a tourist).
If you fall into either category, or just want somewhere to sit,
then try the Branika restauarant next door instead.
Novomestky Pivovar, Vodickova
– Cavernous and polished brewpub restaurant. More
foody than beery.
U Pinkasu, Jungmannovo Nam
– Boasts a plaque proclaiming that this was the first pub
in Prague to sell Pilsener Urquell. Several nooks and crannies
on several floors, and knocks out lots of meaty dishes.
Pivovarsky Dum, corner of Jecna
and Lipova – my favourite brewpub in Prague, knocking
out great unfiltered lager, plus beer in coffee, cherry, nettle
and banana flavours. Can get very busy with reservations (the
food is very good too), so you may want to ask your hotel to phone
and reserve you a table.
Zizkov – Now we’re talking.
Slightly run down, very eccentric and a reputation for a bohemian,
left-wing ambience, Zizkov is one my favourite parts of the town,
from the TV tower (with obligatory revolving restaurant) to the
crumbling football ground with it’s friendly, yet basic, bar…
this is the one part of town that cares not a jot that you may be
a tourist - a lively mix of workers, students and headcases abounds
in all corners of this district.
There are plenty of budget accommodation options in this part of
the city, and it’s only a 20 minute walk (or 5 minute tram
journey) past the Masarykovo station into the city centre proper.
Where I would live if I moved to Prague.
U Vystreleneho Oka, U Bozich
Boyovniku – The “The Shot Out Eye” is
one place you should track down if you find yourself out this
way is this eclectic pub – a quirky affair populated by
a broad clientele.
FK Viktoria Zizkov, Seifertova
- a very cheap, very salt-of-the-earth bar behind one goal - see
the Football Stadia section below.
Pivnice U Sadu, Skroupovo Nam
– due west of the TV Tower and only one block away (basically,
if walking up from Zizkov, turn right when you draw level with
the tower on Fibicova), this is definitely the place to come for
a beer or some food if visiting the tower. Cheap Urquell, plus
a choice of rare Primator beers. Admire the strange collections
of bric a brac covering every square inch of the main saloon (to
the right of the door).
A salty, down to earth area, similar to Zizkov with more grime and
less colour. Nonetheless, you may find yourself billeted out here
if staying in either of the “bo-tels” moored on the
Vlatava. It’s not all bad, and there are several local bars
dotted around, although when we went in they didn’t seem to
be particularly women-friendly (nothing dodgy, just full of chain-smoking
Mostly residential area north-west of the Centre, close to a mainline
railway station and a big park, and easy walking distance to the
Letna stadium and park. Holesovice may look grimy at times, but
in reality is a fine area, with enough local restaurants and bars
to keep you going, including a quirky, pennant filled Sparta beer
hall. Where I would move to after I grew out of Zizkov!
Beer Hall (no idea of the real
name!), Dukelsych – This great local hospoda can
be found halfway up Dukelskych opposite the National Gallery.
As well as a pennant-filled front bar, there is also a high-ceilinged
beer hall out the back to sit bck and enjoy the beer or the fine
cooking. We were plied with Becherova here back in 1999 by an
enthusiastic Sparta fan who wanted to learn Scottish football
Being the sad groundspotters we are, we seem to be drawn to these
grounds each time we visit. Prague is a happy hunting ground for
football fans, as almost every stadium has it's own pub (that is
invariably open!). Enjoy...
The Letna (Sparta Prague &
the national team) – in Holesovice. Get a Metro to
Hradcanska and hop on a tram (or stroll down Milady Horakove for
10 minutes), or walk due north from the Old Town, climb the steps
by the metronome and walk across the park (I’d recommend getting
the tram there and walking back downhill). There is a bar (and a
small club shop) on the right-hand near corner as you look at the
ground from the park – it’s quite a trendy, tidy affair
and well worth a look.
The Strahov (Slavia Prague &
cup finals) – On top of Petrin Hill. Walk across the
Charles Bridge and turn left – after around 400 yards you
will come to a funicular stop on the right-hand side. Take this
up the hill and head due left across the park at the top of the
hill. The Strahov itself is a huge open space type stadium designed
for Communist rallies, but immediately behind this is a decent-sized
football ground currently used by Slavia Prague. The bar is at the
far side away from the Strahov, and has a great collection of pennants
and black-and-white photos. If you come out of the stadium complex
and turn right (i.e. away from the City), after about 300 yards,
and down a bleak-looking side-road, you’ll come to FC
Dragoun Brevnov’s ground – an otherwise unremarkable
non-league ground, save for the superb bar decorated with mannequins
sporting Czech league team shirts. I was there during a training
session, hence the bar was open, although I can’t promise
that you’ll be so lucky.
Viktoria Zizkov –
One of my all-time favourite football bars can be found behind the
goal here. It’s not always open, but has been whenever I’ve
been there, and on my last visit we had the cheapest beer of the
trip. They may be a wee bit unaccustomed to foreign visitors, but
they certainly make up for it with friendliness. Easiest way there
to is jump on a tram, although you can easily combine this with
a trip to the TV Tower or the Shot-Out Eye bar (we did both).
Bohemians – The kangaroos
may have been relegated at the end of the 2002-03 season amidst
scenes of rioting and pitch invasion, but the rather meccano-style
ground is still worth a visit, even if just for a photo of the big
green kangaroo badge. Unfortunately there is no stadium bar, however
the bar on the corner of the main road should suffice, and is decorated
with Bohemians’ pictures (and has great fried cheese).
“Eden” (Slavia Prague)
– On the same main road as Bohemians, but slightly
further out of town (allow 20 minutes if walking between the two),
the wonderfully nick-named Eden was in a bit of a state when I was
there, with weeds growing all over the terraces and the stand falling
apart. Thankfully, this didn’t stop them having the bar open,
and again, it is well worth a visit (this bar actually gave us the
inspiration to design our own pennants!). Out of the ground and
over the road is a rotunda-style building that has a bar on the
ground floor – this actually replaced the legendary “Eden”
bar (the one in the stadium is a VIP bar), but by all accounts doesn’t
live up to it’s predecessor. It did have Branik beer though,
which is a good thing!
Brno is the Czech Republic’s second city, but we found it
to be incredibly quiet. It also feels a lot smaller than it actually
is, and has certainly embraced capitalist western culture with less
fervour than it’s glamorous rival Prague. The Old Town is
easily navigated on foot, and if you need to head further afield
(to the football stadium or the Staro Brno brewery), the buses and
trams are relatively straightforward to work out.
One thing that needs to be pointed out here – Brno’s
nightlife is much lower key than most central/eastern European cities,
and this is certainly not a good destination for a stag party! Even
on a Saturday night in the middle of August, many bars had all the
ambience of a November Tuesday night in Weston-super-Mare!
There is plenty to do and see in and around Brno. We never ventured
out of the city, but if you’re there for a wee while, happy
to get up very early, and are so inclined, the tourist office sells
seats on bus trips to the vineyards of Moravia, the immensely popular
Moravian Karst cave system and old castle towns such as Telc.
In the town itself, the highlights include:
– not just any monastery. This has a cash-admission
crypt jammed full of mummified bodies, some in open coffins, and
some just stacked on the floor. Something about the airflow in
the crypt helps with natural mummification. Try not to go just
after lunch. It’s just around the corner from the McDonalds
SS Peter and Paul – at the top of Petrov Hill, which
can be reached on foot from Zelny trh (Cabbage Market) square.
The towers can be climbed, and the give a superb view across the
city in both directions. There’s also a crypt (no bodies
this time, just an exhibition), a museum of crowns and robes and
an ornate church interior. Each section has separate admission
(very cheap), but you can save money on this by buying a ticket
that covers everything.
Office – not many tourist offices constitute attractions
in their own right, but Brno’s boasts the two city mascots
in the covered courtyard – the “Brno Dragon”,
which is actually a large stuffed alligator, is suspended from
the ceiling, and the Brno Wheel is nailed to the wall. It’s
at the Radnicka side of the Nova Radice (New Town Hall)
(Main Square) – Quite empty, but chairs and tables do spill
out in good weather. The two things to look out are the ornate
Plague Column and the façade of the House of the Four Mamlases
(no 10), home to four carved comedy men struggling to maintain
over the city centre from Špilberk Hill, the castle boasts
a number of museums and a lookout tower. It’s closed on
Mondays, which explains why we never made up there.
Adria – corner of Josefska and Masaryjova, diagonally
opposite McDonalds. Good ice cream, relatively pricey bottled
beer. Nothing special as a drinking venue.
– Jakubska 4. Brewpub, restaurant and hotel, all rolled
into one, just a street behind Svabody Square. Very good beer,
and the most popular place in town. You may need to squeeze up
and share tables, but well worth it.
– Kounicova 23. An ornate tiled entrance to an apartment
block leads to a pool bar/internet café where the block
courtyard should be. There’s a downstairs as well, which
showed promised when we poked our heads down on the way out, but
we drank at ground level.
– Kounicova 48, just when you’ve given up all hope
of finding a bar! Billed as a “rock and punk” bar
by Lonely Planet, this was a bit of a disappointment. More empty
tables than you’ll ever need, all crammed in making simple
journeys from table to bar and back (no waitress service here!)
a Herculean task. Friendly enough, but the pop-lite music doesn’t
even come close to punk!
– Behounska. Look for the big blue lightbulb sign. Far more
punky than Alterna, this popular yet low-key bar near Svabody
had good service and good prices for a decent selection of beers.
May have done food as well.
Brewery Tap – catch a tram out towards Mendlovo Namesti,
where you can’t miss the smoke belching from the massive
brewery over the road. There’s a posh restaurant straight
ahead of you once you walk through the gate, but you want to bear
right for the pub. This was my favourite pub in Brno – cheap
(well, you are getting it at source!), excellent range of beers,
superb service, clean toilets, plenty of tables, plus bar stools
if you’d rather perch. If only all breweries could have
taps like this!
– a real rough and ready drinking hole, overlooking
1 FC Brno’s Mestský fotbalový stadion Srbská
and very handy for the stand turnstiles. Only worth a visit if
you’re going to a match – neither the stadium, up
in the north of the city, or the pub warrant a special visit.
– Joštova 2. One of a chain of disappointingly chrome-plated,
designer-lite bars sprining up across the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Fine if you want to dine on nachos and over-priced drinks whilst
mingling with self-obsessed yuppies. I didn’t.
2-3 hours north of Prague by train (we had to change at Usti nad
Lebum), Teplice is a large industrial city in the foreboding North
Bohemia region. We couldn’t find much in the way of anything,
save for a pizzeria on the main drag, a strange bar that felt like
someone’s sitting room, and a beer-shop one street from the
Not high-up on many people’s must-see lists, one thing Teplice
must be commended on, as well as it’s decent football stadium,
is the “Bohemian Champagne” on sale at the news kiosks
for a bargain £1.50 a large bottle – fizzy vinegar never
tasted so good!
TIP: If you come out of Usti
nad Ledum station, head up and to the right – you’ll
find a small bar with plush velvet seats (we did!).