Prague, the City of a Thousand Spires, boasting some of Europe’s best examples of stunning Gothic architecture, a plethora of world-class cultural and entertainment venues, and arguably, the best beer scene in the entire world, has long been a top tourist destination. Prague is popular among all manner of tourists from couples on a romantic break to culture junkies to backpackers to party animals. Whatever your reason for visiting the Czech capital, you will surely find plenty to your liking.
With more than a thousand years of history, this central European city has become one of the most visited spots on Earth, but in spite of being very well established on the tourist map, it is still one of Europe’s few remaining budget destinations. In a city where half a litre of delicious locally brewed beer will rarely set you back more than $2 and an excellent meal in a mid-range restaurant can cost as little as $7, it is hardly surprising that Prague has become particularly well known as a destination for party lovers and hedonists. The following guide introduces some of the top entertainment spots in the downtown and beyond.
1. Pre-Nightclub Fun
While expats in Prague often complain about the lack of diversity when it comes to nightclubs in Prague, few can argue that there is anything less than a practically never-ending choice when it comes to bars and restaurants in the city. However, tourists often make the mistake of going straight for the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square or any other tourist hotspot in the centre of town when it comes to seeking out their entertainment for the evening.
Prague is a city where you can easily spend three times more than average on food and drink if you end up going to the wrong places. With a little bit of research however, you will have the opportunity to truly enjoy what this fine city has to offer. Here is a look at some of the best drinking establishments for those warm summer evenings in a city renowned for its café culture.
- Letná Beer Garden does not offer much choice when it comes to beer, but if you are looking for fantastic views and a lively atmosphere, this sprawling outdoor venue just across the river from the Old Town in the district of Letná is hard to beat. Renovated in 2012, this self-service venue has many large tables and ample shade under horse chestnut trees. The place is most popular among expats and locals.
- Riegrovy Sady is another one of Prague’s most popular beer gardens. Located in the middle of a park in the famous nightlife and pub district of Žižkov, this venue is particularly popular among expats but relatively off the beaten track to tourists. With a better choice of beer options and food than Letná, Riegrovy Sady is also one of the few outdoor places in Prague which is often open beyond midnight.
- The Czech Beer Festival is held in the last two weeks of May, so if you are visiting the city during this time, be sure to take a look. With more than sixty local microbrewery beers on offer, plenty of food options and live music, the Czech Beer Festival has quickly become popular among tourists, locals and expats alike. Located in Výstaviště in the district on Holešovice, it is a little out of the way but well worth the trip.
- The River Side is not any particular venue, but an entire promenade of bars, boats and various other entertainment options spanning from Palackého Náměstí to Jiráskovo Náměstí on the west-facing banks of the river. The area is particularly popular among Prague’s numerous students and there is an extensive choice of bars. It does get very busy however, so you may have a problem getting a table in the more popular places.
- U Medvídku is a great option for those cold and rainy nights, particularly during the winter. Due to its location right in the heart of the Old Town, it is quite expensive although still not so much so that it can be classed as a tourist trap. This huge microbrewery offers various home-brewed and exotic beers as well as an extensive food menu.
- Krásný Ztráty is one of the most popular student-orientated bars in the centre of Prague. If you are visiting out of season, this is one of the best places to start off the night if you are looking for something lively yet with a very much local student flavour.
- Zlý Časy is Prague’s number one beer pub, offering up to forty different types of microbrewery beer at any given time. If you want to experience the real Czech beer (as opposed to the mass-produced ones that you can get all over the world), then this is not a place you should miss even if it is a fair way out of the centre. Zlý Časy is an ideal place to go off-season. It is located in the Nusle district right on the tram 18 route.
2. Nightlife in Prague
With a few exceptions, most of the pubs in Prague close before midnight at which time the nightclubs start to pick up. Nightclubs in Prague are usually open until four or five in the morning with a few being open until eight or even later. While expats often lament the lack of nightclub options in the city, there is plenty to keep even the most demanding of tourists busy. When it comes to prices, Prague’s nightlife varies greatly from the affordable places which are popular among the locals to the ridiculously overpriced places popular among the wealthy elite and foreign businessmen. In addition, there are some places which should be avoided outright unless you literally have more money than sense.
After around 10pm, groups of men often get hassled around the areas of Wenceslas Square and the Old Town Square by people looking for visitors to the strip clubs they are marketing. These places are usually notoriously expensive and are the type of venues where, if you complain after paying $15 for a glass of water, you might find yourself in serious trouble.
Another type of venue to be wary of is the infamous ‘Herna’ bar – the 24-hour casino bar. Prague is packed full of these places, even if you go to the outermost suburbs. Many Herna bars seems to be perpetually empty making one wonder if they are only used for money laundering and the like. However, the ones closer to the main nightlife spots can be quite lively and if you still want to go somewhere after the nightclub has closed, they are usually the only option. While some say that a night out in Prague is not complete until you have been to one of these places, it is important to be vigilant since some of them can be quite dangerous. Other than that, consider the following nightclub options for your party nights in Prague:
- Karlovy Lázně is perhaps Prague’s most famous nightclub. This five-story beast of a venue is located just at the end of the Charles Bridge on the Old Town side. Each floor has its own bar and plays a completely different type of music. There is one for R&B, Pop, Retro, Rock and a chill-out floor at the top for those who prefer something quieter. Karlovy Lázně is a popular finish point for many of the infamous Prague pub crawls and as such is packed full of tourists. It is also rather on the expensive side.
- Chapeau Rouge, located near Dlouha, the main party street, also boasts multiple floors playing different music styles but the program varies from day to day. This venue is open throughout the week as well. Chapeau Rouge is one of the most popular spots for expats and foreign students and is quite cheap as a result. There is no entry fee either.
- Harley’s, located on Dlouha, is the number one place for lovers of rock music as well as complete and utter debauchery. This infamous underground nightclub is absolutely packed on weekends so it is better to go during the early week. Drinks are quite expensive but the lack of an entry fee makes it very popular nonetheless.
- Lucerna Music Bar, near Wenceslas Square is Prague’s most popular venue for those who like the old-school classics. The DJ has had much the same playlist for the last ten years but people still haven’t got bored with it. All the music they play is accompanied by music videos displayed on a cinema-sized screen. There is a 100-crown ($5) entry fee but drinks are quite affordable. A cheaper alternative, and one which belongs to the same owners, is Futurum, located near the Anděl metro station.
- Retro Music Bar is the place to go if house and trance music is more your sort of thing. It is a bit out of the centre being located on Náměstí Miru just by a metro stop of the same name. Renovated recently, this huge place draws in many partygoers on Fridays and Saturdays thanks to its free entry and fairly affordable drinks. There is also a smaller music bar and cocktail bar right next to it which are both open throughout the week.
- Cross Club is situated in a former industrial building in the rather unpleasant surroundings of northern Holešovice. In spite of being quite far out of town, it is one of the oldest and most popular nightclubs in the city. It plays mostly electronic music, although it does vary as there multiple dance floors connected by maze-like halls and passageways.