The fourteenth century was known as “Prague’s Golden Age”. King Charles IV (1346-1378) ruled with a firm but fair hand. Due in no small part to his foresight and vision, he established Prague as one of the most culturally renowned and prosperous cities in all of Europe.
Fast forward several centuries later. I’m walking the streets of Prague’s Old Town. It’s after 8pm. A light snow is falling. There are hundreds of people milling around, and Old Town’s many street lamps create a cascade of dancing shadows on the building-facades to my right and left. Like the other visitors here, I’m searching for something: a meal, a beer and a little music perhaps. I’m in luck, because comfortably nestled in the alleys and gothic cellars lives Prague’s nightlife. Paris may be called the “City of Light” and Rome may be known as the “City of Wonders”. But Prague – the “City of One Hundred Spires” thanks to its many churches, is unlike any city I’ve ever seen. Seven hundred years of history seamlessly rest side-by-side the sights and sounds of modern society.
The real Prague nightlife I’m looking for doesn’t jump out at you. Prague at night speaks a different language with exotic and entertaining experience. It’s there as you run your hand over the stone blocks that support the buildings found in Old Town. It’s seduces you as you walk over the old cobblestone streets of Mala’ Strana (the Lesser Quarter) below the Prague Castle. It’s the shadows cast by age old statues and monuments that echo back to tough times and even tougher people.
My first stop on this particularly chilly evening was Pivnice U Rudolfina, located at Krizovnicka 10, and not far from Old Town Square. This is so typical of the Czech pubs I was mentioning earlier. This is where the locals go, but no one will kick you out for being a tourist. Simple décor, loud atmosphere, half-liter glasses of beer, traditional Czech cuisine and lots of smoke. Don’t bother asking for a non-smoking section because there isn’t one. Like most Czech pubs – at least the ones I visited – Pivnice U Rudolfina closes around 11pm. But don’t worry. The night is still young. Consider this a warm-up.
If bar/pub hopping is your plan you need to start early. My motives were to go where the locals go. Travel time (on foot) included, you’ll be hard-pressed to see more than a handful of pubs in one night, especially if you start after 8pm. I may have started out alone, but it’s so easy to make friends with the locals. Sure, they stare. You’re on their turf! But a smile and a round of beers will break down even the hardest exterior.
U Medvídkuo, located at Perstyne 7 and not far from Wenceslas Square. Nearest Metro Stop: Národní Trída on the B-line. Remember what I said about Prague’s “Golden Age?” Well, this pub’s been around since 1466. They serve Budvar lager and traditional Czech cuisine (surprise – menu in English!). Casual to a fault. You come, you eat, you soak in the atmosphere. Full of old photographs and other knick-knacks from a by-gone age. They close at midnight.
This night I’m a man on mission. Next is Jachymka. Located at Jachymova 4. Basic directions from some folks at my hotel. Nearest Metro: Staromestská on the A-line Just a street or two from Old Town Square. Used to be an industrial beer factory interior. Relaxed no-nonsense setting for a meal and a beer. Standard Czech cuisine. As close to a “family place” as I can think of. Menu in English but prices are for the locals. Closes around midnight.