August 22, 2003

Open Source Prague Travel T...

Open Source Prague Trous food (out of my supplied list of personality categories that included "gutter-punk, architecture nut, backpacker, ... lover of commie kitsch"). I will of course give my biased recommendations, and flip through some old Prognosis visitor's guides, but I have very little idea about good restaurants anymore (if I ever did ... paging Scotty Mac!), and I will certainly forget some classic tips. Thanks, and Prague up!

Posted by at August 22, 2003 02:16 PM

Been a while, but I'd hate to imagine that the pub Na Slamniku isn't still worth the slight detour out to the Bubenec neighborhood. Serving up pul litr after pul litr of that most undersung of all Czech piv, Krusovice--light, dark or "rezane" (half and half).

Ach, kde domov muj indeed.

Posted by: Z at August 22, 2003 05:00 PM

On the pub front, I recommended whatever's going on Letna, whatever's going (if anything) on the islands (eets hot!), plus Klamovka, and the U Cerny Whateverhu up in the castle district. And Havel's old joint, which I guessed was called U Rybarna, though that probably ain't grammatical.

But man -- remember when that one island, not the Divadlo Ostrov but the one near Narodni with the palace on it, remember when that was all a big outdoor summer beer garden with ratty looking country bands and the sweet-ass klobasa? Anyone with me here?

I also recommended taking a day or two through Southern Bohemia, renting a car if possible, and hopefully sleeping in Krumlov. Then I stressed the creepy stuff -- bone church, infant of Prague, Golem, Golden Street, Rudolf II, twisty streets, that hand-skeleton deal in that one church near Old Town square ...

Posted by: Matt Welch at August 22, 2003 05:14 PM

Speaking of open source travel info: Matt, have you seen WikiTravel yet? I can tell you the Prague article that's up now isn't perfect, partially because I contributed to it using research from my last visit in '99, but the site itself is shaping up to be something very cool. Fully collaborative, anything can be edited by anyone... worth a look even if it doesn't end up helping your friends in this instance:


As for Prague food, I used to live near Pohorelec, on the infamous #22 tram line. There's a restaurant up there called U Dragounu which serves the best svickova in town. Yum. And you can see practically the entire city from up there on the hill, especially as you walk down into Mala Strana or to the castle. It's extra-pretty at night.

I would give my left hand for some smazeny syr and a bottle of Gambrinus right now.

Posted by: shannon at August 22, 2003 08:51 PM

Ahhhh, don't tempt me. With the lufthansa/united Munich/LA R/T going for threetwonine right now direct I'm definitely lining up a SoCal presence at Oktoberfest. The short throw to Prague looks like a double play.

Posted by: DavidD at August 23, 2003 01:07 AM

What's good about Prague tourism is that for whatever reasons, it's still concentrated on a few streets and neighborhoods, leaving the rest of the city to those who live there, kind of like how Fisherman's Wharf ends really abruptly.

For real old-school pub flavor, I'd recommend Na vlachovce in Kobylisy. Partly because of the outstanding gulas, but mostly because of the polka music and dancing they have there on weekend nights. As Alex Z. once pointed out on a trip there, it's straight out of the movie "Hoři ma panenko."

The good four-fingered-one-eyed pubs are still around. Walking on ätěpanskŠ street just off Wenceslas Square last week I saw an excellent sign: "Tepla jidla po cely rok." That's my kind of joint.

For pure beer goodness, the Pivovarsky dům on Ječna (or is it éitna? The one the trams go down) is pretty good and centrally located.

As for nightlife, I guess a lot depends on what you want to do. I'd recommend hitting a couple of metal bars myself. Can't really go wrong at the Rock Cafe, or the Futurum in Smichov.

Did I mention I'm DJing at the Akropolis on Thursday, Sept. 18? Oh, good.

Have 'em mail me and I'll pass on contact info.

Posted by: Doug Arellanes at August 23, 2003 12:58 PM

As a Central European resident and infrequent tourist to Praha, my general advice is avoid like the plague any and all establishments that cater to or substantially depend on Western tourists.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, Czechs are significantly more brazen about charging according to perceived ability to pay than Poles or Hungarians are and the main difference between eating at a very upscale restuarant specializing in Czech fare and a seedy (I mean that in the best possible way) local establishment catering to locals is price, the same (often very delicious) food will cost you seven or more times as much at an establishment catering to outsiders than the local hospoda which are all over the city if you know what to look for.

One good thing about Czech and Hungarian establishements (unfortunately not true in Poland) is that the menu is posted outside the door. Don't settle for anything except the ridiculously cheap. If the prices seem reasonable, then pass it by.

Another hint: Stand up for your rights, Central Europeans don't respect people who do what they're told or who let themselves be taken advantage of, if you think you're being overcharged, make a loud (but polite) stink and don't back down.

Posted by: Michael Farris at August 23, 2003 03:08 PM

Last time I was in P town, like a year and a half ago, practically everywhere we went the food sucked. Half cold, unfresh, and I'm no complainer when it comes to food. So we ended up at the KFC on Parizka, which is better than the KFC's stateside. Conversely, if you want good Czech food, you have to come to the U.S.

Posted by: Brodicek at August 23, 2003 03:09 PM

There's a great little restaurant on Ujezd called La Bastille (it's near the Mala Strana Bohemia Bagel). There's also a really good crepe restaurant about 1/2 km. down towards the castle, but I can't remember the name. My favorite indian food restaurant is Haveli at Hradcsanska, but it's pricey for Prague.

Of course, you have to mention beers at Letna. The restaurant there is decent but the people watching is what it's all about.

Posted by: Christopher at August 23, 2003 10:10 PM

Oh yeah, Orange Moon is a fantastic Thai place right downtown.

Posted by: Christopher at August 23, 2003 10:13 PM

Anyone remember Red, Hot and Blues? If it's still around, I'd stop there. The atmosphere, food and music were all top-rate, althouhg it was almost exclusively a westrn crowd.

It's been too long since I've been to Prague. Time for a refresher.

Oh yeah, Orange Moon is a fantastic Thai place right downtown.

Posted by: Christopher at August 23, 2003 10:13 PM

Anyone remember Red, Hot and Blues? If it's still around, I'd stop there. The atmosphere, food and music were all top-rate, althouhg it was almost exclusively a westrn crowd.

It's been too long since I've been to Prague. Time for a refresher.

Posted by: michael at August 24, 2003 09:11 AM

The name of that island, Matt, is Strelecky ostrov. Still looking kind of a mess after being under several feet of rushing water for a few days last August. The restaurant there was basically hollowed out by the river. The outdoor place you mention is with us in memory only these days.

To echo Doug's and Michael's sentiments, I always tell people the little neighborhood places are still the best bet for the most reliable beer and pub grub. It's hit and miss. Take the presence of a healthy number of locals exhibiting some liveliness on any given evening as a good indication. And as for atmosphere, if buzzing overhead light tubes, smoke stained walls adorned with girly calendars, odoriferous toilets and the presence of a few people sleeping at their tables puts you off, there is no dishonor in keeping more closely to the center. In this case U Rudolfinum (near the Rudolfinum concert hall), U Hrochu (the Hippopotamus, just around the corner from Parliament) and U Pinkasu (just off Mustek at the bottom of Wenceslas square) are top notch. All are Pilsner houses, he said, betraying a certain preference. And whatever you do, do not miss the Tulip cafe!

Every time Prague is mentioned on this site several people chime in with "it's been so long - I miss Prague!" etc. Scratch that itch and just do it!

In about ten minutes from now, by the way, I'll be sidling down the street in my Prague 6 neighborhood this Sunday evening for a quiet couple of glasses at the local. The crowd will be thinning out, the waiters will be looking a little frazzled, the tablecloths a little ash-blown. But the beer will be cool and nice and just as you all remember it. I'll try to give a thought to all you honorary Praguers currently on extended leave ;)

Posted by: Steve at August 24, 2003 12:55 PM

Oh my God, Prague is awful now. You can't even get good beer anymore (bars don't bother cleaning their pipes anymore). And I'm speaking as someone who lived through the glory days of '92 (even wrote a bit for Prognosis). My advice is to go to Brno. Or stay home and watch Jiri Menzel films.

By the way, anyone else notice the NYT piece on Vlastimil Brodsky today? I had no idea he'd killed himself...

Posted by: Emptypockets at August 24, 2003 02:31 PM

I don't know if "commie kitsch" is quite how I'd characterise it, but if they're interested in that sort of thing then your friends ought to visit the Museum of Communism.

As an aside, here's a trivia question for you: what do Red Hot and Blues, Bohemia Bagel and the Museum of Communism all have in common?

Answer: Glenn Spicker, Prague's one-man definition of entrepreneurship.

Posted by: Matt Ginn at August 24, 2003 09:25 PM

you might want to try the namesti miru area behind the muzeum in prague 2, specifically belgicka. lots of locals, good prices, and not too far from the center. zanzibar is a nice place for breakfast, and meduza is one of the best cafes in town if you're into the "faded decadence" look.

Posted by: Tim at August 25, 2003 05:30 AM

Doh! Looks like my beeper was turned off.

Naturally I recommend Tulip Cafť on Opatovicka 3.
Disclosure: Iím one of the owners. (Although I just noticed weíre still advertising the live jazz on Tuesdays and Thursday, which is on hold because everybody seems to want to hang out in the garden, rather than the basement, during the summer months.)

There are a number of good restaurants in the Tulip area south of Narodni. Itís become sort of a dining district starting about four years ago. But if you were going to recommend the legendary U Zpevacku, in the same neighborhood, I regret to inform you that it has closed.

For proper beer gardens, Letna goes without saying. Pragueís second big beer garden these days is probably Riegrovy Sady in Vinohrady. Both are well worth a visit. Letna now has the occasional DJ, and Riegrak sometimes has live music.

For pubs, they still abound, though theyíre few and far between in the center. In addition to those mentioned above, itís worth showing up at about 5pm to try and get a seat for the evening at U Zlateho Tygra, Hrabalís old hangout, which is right in Old Town on Husova. If they donít clean the pipes, itís only because the beer never stops coming out of the tap. U Provaznicke (on the street of the same name, Provaznicka) near Mustek is a newer place, but still Czech and still cheap, good for refueling in the center without getting ripped off. In the outskirts, see above, especially Steveís post. I prefer U Sadu near the TV tower in Zizkov on Skroupovo namesti, which combines serious Czech pubbiness with commie kitch (busts and portraits of Gustav Husak and friends in the back). Not to be confused with the labyrinthine wine cellar U Sudu on Vodickova, which is also worth a visit. Itís actually added even more side passages since Mattís day.

Scattershot responses to some of the posts above:

Krusovice is no longer unsung. In fact itís sung pretty loudly around here. Like Kylie Minogue.

Islands are not that active anymore in terms of grotty beering, but Zofin island is good for daytime rowboat rental on the Vltava, which is an incredibly pleasant activity if the weatherís nice. Bring along some cold wine, to be found at the potraviny (small grocery store) in that trashy passage near the foot of the Old Town side of Charles Bridge (next to the restaurant U Kamenneho Mostu) -- though youíll pay a wee premium for it there. (Zofin island is the more common name for Slovansky ostrov, which may or may not be the one you were referring to, Matt. As Steve points out, the beer garden is long gone, if there ever was one there. Perhaps it was on Strelecky ostrov, right next door, and come to think of it there is a run-down "palace" on that island. Anyway, when I think of eating and drinking at Zofin, I think of overpriced champagne.)

The name of the pub you were fishing around for on the Castle is U Cerneho Vola on Loretanske namesti. It hasnít changed a bit and itís still a must. It's easy to miss, though.

Iím surprised nobody but Doug mentioned Akropolis. Itís not quite as hip and cozy under its new management, but itís still THE place in Zizkov. Iím talking about the whole kit and kaboodle Ė the upstairs pub, the cafť in the back, and the multi-functional club downstairs. Go see Doug play, even if you donít think you like "club music."

Way down in Deep Zizkov beneath the statue of mighty Jan Zizka astride his steed thereís the Shot-Out Eye (U Vystreleneho Oka), where the menís urinals have cushions at eye level so you can rest your forehead as you empty out. I kid you not.

As mentioned, you should generally avoid places located on main tourist thoroughfares, although right smack dab in Old Town there are still a few pubs, bars and cafes that wonít rip you off completely. One is Ebel Coffee House, which I have an interest in promoting, since Iím a partner in that as well. Another, quite nearby, is Literarni kavarna. Both daytime places. The bar (a Western-style bar, not a pub) called From Dusk Till Dawn on Tynska is reasonable if youíre mainly interested in boozing it up all night in an Old Town location. Avoid the trendier clubs like M1, although to its credit theyíve posted a sign (a sign of the times, literally) that says "No Stag Parties."

I hate slagging other places, since anybody could do the same to my own, but at good old Red Hot & Blues youíll be shelling out real money mainly for the Western ambience and the central location, which, as people have mentioned, are not things you want to be paying extra for.

Hope that helps.

Posted by: Scott MacMillan at August 25, 2003 05:36 AM

All worthy points, I differ on only one: Kylie Minogue can at least carry a rudimentary tune after a fashion. Krusovice is to beer what a road crew tearing up a street is to music. It is yellow and wet, and there it's similarity to beer ends.

Posted by: Steve at August 25, 2003 07:26 AM

Is U Flecku still around? Lots of good, hazy memories from early '91...

Posted by: Will Collier at August 26, 2003 08:11 AM

Yes it is, although honestly in seven years I don't remember ever actually going there. I walk by it almost every day, since Tulip is just around the corner. Always filled with Germans and Italians, always an oompah band playing. It's basically a Munich-style beer hall in Prague.

Posted by: Scott MacMillan at August 27, 2003 05:27 AM


That matches what I can recall about the place. Met a bunch of "Ost-Deutsch" at one of the big tables there...

Posted by: Will Collier at August 28, 2003 06:27 AM

Krusovice was taken over by a German company, and now has one of the most widespread distribution systems in the country. But I believe that they have been futzing with the recipe.

I haven't been to Prague in a year (left just before the flood), although I still own a cabin outside of town. Czech-Wife and daughter went there this summer, but stayed most in Mnisek pod Brdy.

Most of the great old hospodas are gone, by now. I know that this is not going to sit well with Matt, but the Prague Post maintains the most up-to-date restaurant and pub reviews. I would to there -- -- and browse around.

Posted by: Rex-Pat at August 28, 2003 05:48 PM

Anyway, as far as travel tips would go, this is my standard recommendation:

- Spend no more than three days in Prague. See the major sites, catch an opera.

- Rent a car and head West to Karlovy Vary. Spend one night in Karlovy Vary. Avoid the Hotel Pupp at all costs. (Helpful hint: Learn a few phrases in Russian -- they've pretty much accomplished what Brezhnev couldn't.)

- Cross Sumava to the Southeast, spending one night along the way, and arrive in Cesky Krumlov. Spend two nights there in a family-owned pension.

- Now, if you're up for some more adventure, continue east to the Moravian wine country, where you should spend one night in a local inn, sampling the burcak (early fall is the time for tasting the new wine), and then work your way up to the Castle Pernstejn, which has been featured in commercials and films that you may have seen on television here, in the USA (including an Visa commercial with a groovy nun and Joan of Arc with Leelee Sobieski in the title role).

That is a little more than a week's itinerary. If I had to choose one trip outside of Prague, I would recommend Cesky Krumlov above all others.

Posted by: Rex-Pat at August 28, 2003 06:16 PM
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