advertisement

Good pub brews and conversations are Prague's preferred late-evening entertainment. Unlike British, Irish, or German beer halls, a true Czech pub ignores accoutrements like cushy chairs and warm wooden paneling, and cuts straight to the chase -- beer. While some Czech pubs do serve a hearty plate of food alongside the suds, it's the brew, uncommonly cheap at usually less than 35Kc a pint, that keeps people sitting for hours.

Foreign-theme pubs are popping up all over Prague, offering tastes ranging from Irish to Mexican. Still, it feels a bit like trying to sell Indian tea in China.

Bar Scene -- Czechs still largely prefer the more intimate atmosphere of a pub to the colder, more businesslike mood of a typical bar, but nevertheless bars of all sorts, including honky-tonks, dives, and cocktail bars, continue to open up all over town. Some of the flashiest cocktail bars are located in Staré Mesto, near the Old Town Square.

Late-Night Bites -- Getting something to eat after normal restaurant hours is not that easy in Prague. Kitchen staffs seem to like to shut down early, especially on slow nights, meaning that at most places if you haven't put in a food order by 10pm, you might as well wait until breakfast. Most of the places mentioned above, including U Malého Glena and Rocky O'Reilly's, will serve food until at least midnight. Radost FX in Vinohrady is the top late-dining choice, offering its vegetarian dishes, cocktails, and coffee drinks until at least 3am. If you get stuck, you'll find a bunch of late-night fast-food windows selling gyros, pizzas, and snacks throughout the night at the Národní trída tram stop next to Tesco in Nové Mesto.

Gay & Lesbian Scene -- Prague's small gay and lesbian community is growing in its openness and choices for nightclubs and entertainment. Visit http://prague.gayguide.net for information.

The outlying residential district of Vinohrady has evolved into Prague's de facto gay district. While it's certainly no match for San Francisco's Castro or New York's West Village, the area does sport a number of clubs, cafes, and discos that are gay or gay friendly.

Není Pivo Jako Pivo: There's No Beer Like Beer

This seemingly absurd local proverb makes sense when you first taste the golden nectar (pivo) from its source and realize that you've never really had beer before. While Czechs on the whole aren't religious, beer still elicits a piety unseen in many orthodox countries. The golden Pilsner variety that accounts for most of the beer consumed around the world was born here and has inspired some of the country's most popular fiction, films, poetry, and prayers.

For many Czechs, the corner beer hall (hospoda or pivnice) is a social and cultural center. Regulars in these smoke-encrusted caves drink beer as lifeblood and seem ill at ease when a foreigner takes their favorite table or disrupts their daily routine. For those wanting to sample the rich, aromatic taste of Czech lagers without ingesting waves of nicotine, dozens of more ventilated pubs and restaurants have emerged since the Velvet Revolution. Alas, the suds in these often cost as much as five times more than those in the standard hospoda.

According to brewing industry studies, Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other people. The average Czech downs 320 pints of brew each year; the average American drinks about 190. Of course, a Czech hospoda regular will drink the year's average for a family of six. Pub regulars do not wonder why the Czech national anthem is a song that translates as "Where Is My Home?"

Several widely held Czech superstitions are connected with drinking beer. One says that you should never pour a different kind of beer in a mug holding the remnants of another brew. Bad luck is sure to follow. Some believe that the toast -- usually "Na zdraví!" ("To your health!") -- is negated if anyone fails to clink his or her mug with any of the others at your table and then fails to slam the mug on the table before taking the first chug. With beer such a cultural icon, it should come as no surprise that beer bellies, far from scorned or hidden, are actually a point of pride in many pubs. One popular Czech saying has it that "beer makes beautiful bodies" (well, it certainly makes for bigger ones).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.