Insider's Guide to Prague
Prague, Czech Republic -- As summer approaches, the streets of Prague are quickly filling with clueless visitors. Here are some tips to navigate the city so you're not one of them.
via Hemingway Bar
Czechs take their drink seriously, and in the capital, the ol’ “beer is cheaper than water” adage tends to hold true. Pivo is easy to find. It’s also reliable. Whether you order a Pilsner Urquell, Krušovice, Staropramen, Budvar, Kozel, or any other sort, it’s going to be delicious. Bars in Prague usually have a weathered look, a lot of wooden surfaces, and a rather anonymous atmosphere, so if beer is the main agenda, there is no need to seek out any bar in particular. Cocktails are another story. In traditional bars and pubs, requesting anything more involved than a Cuba Libre may garner a look of confusion from the bartender, or just a poorly made drink. For dedicated cocktail bars, Tretter’s (V Kolkovně 3, Praha 1) and Hemingway Bar (Karoliny Světlé 26, Praha 1) are among the best. Both boast creative menus and well-executed drinks. Hemingway is a bit classier, and it’s worth calling ahead to make a reservation. For another solid, and somewhat thriftier option, the special drink menu at Al Capone’s (Bartolomějská 3, Praha 1) is quite nice.
Pro-tip: Locals don’t actually drink absinthe... or absinthe slushies... or absinthe ice cream... or any absinthe derivative. You definitely shouldn't either.
There is indeed a bustling nightlife scene for those uninterested in tacky five-story clubs and trashy stag party favorites. That said, this isn’t a Berlin, a London, or even an Amsterdam. A lot of the clubs in Prague end up seeming a bit laughable, but if you come with low or no expectations, there are still some interesting spots. Thursday night means hip hop and R&B at Radost FX (Bělehradská 234/120, Praha 2), which can be quite fun if you’re prepared for cheesy music (and fun fact: it’s where the video for Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop the Music” was filmed). Mecca (U průhonu 3, Praha 7) underwent some serious renovations a few years back, but recently reopened and plays primarily electronic music of the commercial flavor (i.e., EDM), and sometimes 80s / 90s, rap, and hip hop. For a venue with a more unique calendar, and usually a hipper crowd, check out Final Club in Žižkov (Přibenicka 8, Praha 3). Located on the outskirts of the city but definitely a trip worth making, the nonprofit contemporary art space MeetFactory (Ke sklárně 15, Praha 5) comes complete with gallery and artist studios and regularly holds events that appeal to fans of indie rock and electronic music, in addition to very interesting programming for art lovers.
Pro tip: SaSaZu in Holešovice is one of the nicest venues of its type in the city with a décor reminiscent of high-end, NYC Meatpacking District-type night clubs. Unfortunately, the clientele reaches Meatpacking levels of overall stylelessness and whatever the Czech equivalent of B&T might be called. Not worth going to on any given weekend, but occasionally the club hosts the likes of Disclosure, Ellie Goulding, and commercially successful progressive house/trance DJs, all for way less than it would cost to see them play stateside.
Prague is hardly the prime destination in Europe for contemporary art enthusiasts, but the city is home to a number of fine institutions. The quality of art being made in the Czech Republic right now is actually a bit astonishing if you know where to look. Galerie Jiří Švestka (Biskupský dvůr 1147/6, Praha 1) occupies an impressive industrial space and regularly hosts some of the more intriguing exhibitions I have come across in the last few years. Located in the Holešovice district, the large and well-organized DOX (Poupětova 1, Praha 7) contemporary art museum is perfectly suited to a few hours of exploring; the nearby Chemistry Gallery (Bubenská 1477/1, Praha 7) features up-and-coming Czech and international artists, often with wonderfully bizarre exhibitions. Leica Gallery (Školská 28, Praha 1) is an excellent photography gallery with a charming cafe. Finally, get acquainted with at least one, but ideally several, of the works by David Černý, a politically-engaged and ever outré Czech artist who has numerous pieces scattered throughout the city. Go ahead, make mum proud and your friends jealous by sticking your head inside of a giant bumhole.
Pro-tip: Though part of the overwhelmingly “meh” city gallery system is located in the tourist trap minefield of Old Town Square, Galerie hlavního města Prahy has a space on the second floor of the municipal library (Mariánské náměstí 1, Praha 1), which often features very good exhibitions, like Krištof Kintera’s incredible solo show in 2012. The current exhibition is a Jan Kubíček retrospective.
via Botas 66
In addition to the staggering presence of commercial shopping staples, Prague has a number of smaller, very worthwhile stores. Scandal/Phono.cz (Opatovická 156/24, Praha 1) in the New Town district contains a reasonably priced boutique, with unique clothing and accessories (don’t miss the adorably kitschy jewelry!) by local and international designers; in the back, there is a modestly sized but gem-filled record section, which is particularly worth a dig for anyone curious about Czech music. Just down the street is the unassuming Knihkupectví Torst (Ostrovní 132/17, Praha 1), a largely Czech language bookstore/paradise for bibliophiles, because wares from the Torst publishing house and its fantastic Fototorst division can be purchased here (I highly recommend the Bohdan Holomíček and Karel Cudlín books). For the design-oriented crowd, Papelote (Vojtěšská 9, Praha 1) proves that paper, notebooks, and binders have never been more exciting. Women who are into retro, 50s era-styled dresses and clothing will love the limited-run designs at Lazy Eye (Ibsenova 3, Praha 2). Another local treasure can be found at the Botas 66 concept store (Křížkovského 18, Praha 3), where the decades-old company sells their exceptionally well-made and comfortable sneakers, as well as clever t-shirts and chic, minimalist watches.
Pro-tip: I get compliments on my Botas nearly every time I wear them. As shipping to the US and even to elsewhere in the EU can be quite expensive, it’s worth buying two pairs if your suitcase can handle ‘em.
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