My time in Prague can be split into two very different nights.
The first saw myself and a few friends arrive in the early evening and head straight to a local bar for the first of a fair few local beers. Our next stop came via the unavoidable Christmas market, where half of our cohort opted for the safe bet of mulled wine while myself and another attempted to mix it up with a cup of ‘grog’ (to be avoided if you don’t like the sound of a double shot of rum topped up with hot water).
Our night failed to get off the ground from there, as we struggled to find local bars that seemed lively and/or interesting on this quiet midweek night. Our search took us through neighbourhoods reminiscent of Paris, with narrow but sheer walls surrounded miniature parks and cobbled streets.
The crowds peaked at Wenceslas Square, a thriving road strikingly alike Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, but one that offered us only typical high street shops and far too many offers of ‘free titties’, which is perhaps a consequence of the city’s popularity with stag dos.
Fortunately, things picked up considerably the next morning. For travellers easily intimidated by huge cities with endless attractions, Prague offers the perfect balance of enough things to do without requiring complicated plans or rushing around.
We took the underground – just try and memorise the station names, north of the river, from where we climbed uphill, through old streets where the trams would occasionally have you hopping out of the way, to the refreshingly simple-named Prague Castle.
The castle itself is surrounded by the Old Royal Palace, providing you with an extra attraction on your trip, while its location at the summit of the city provides sensational views of the sprawling city below.
From here it is an easy stroll/roll down the hill to the river and Charles Bridge, packed full of curious tourists and local merchants. The Dancing House is well worth a Google and being nearby provides a nice spot for a drink while once again overlooking the river and the city.
Next came one of the main purposes of our trip – Slavia Praha vs. FC Astana of Kazakhstan in the Europa League. As four big football fans, we were keen to sample a taste of the atmosphere for which such central/eastern European clubs are famous. And while the football itself was not of great quality, with Slavia suffering an underwhelming 0-1 defeat, the atmosphere certainly was.
We were greeted on the terrace by a particularly enthusiastic drummer, before realising soon after that our seat numbers meant nothing and it was very much a free-for-all. With one fan leading the chants from atop a mini stage, we soaked up and joined in with as many Czechian chants as we could.
The match ended with an onslaught of smoke-spewing flares, proving all too much for our sensitive English eyes and throats, as we choked our way through an early exit. It was certainly a memorable experience.
Having learnt our lesson from the previous night, we had each taken to Tinder for some local advice on where to head in the evening. One such match proved fruitful (nice one, Robin), and we soon found ourselves queuing outside the mysterious Vzorkovna (no name on the door – thank you, Google maps).
Once inside we were introduced to a bar like no other. Billed as a ruins bar, it felt like a post-apocalyptic nuclear bunker which had gradually blossomed into a thriving underground village. But, in a good way, I promise. There were people sat by the walls, on the floor, hanging off beams above the bar, everywhere you looked. Up and down the rooms took you, leading to the main stage, where shortly after midnight a variety of acts appeared to entertain the crowds.
The main attraction, however, was provided by a ridiculously sized Irish wolfhound. I honestly did not know dogs this big existed – on its hind legs it would have comfortably dwarfed my six foot frame. The bar possessed a handful of other dogs as well, but the big guy stole the show, and the attention.
As the final act left the stage at 3am we took our leave, heading back to our apartment satisfied we’d finally found a bar that truly did Prague justice. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.
Words by Tom Webb
Words by HQ