For many Czechs, the best way to spend an evening is at the neighborhood pub, enjoying world-class beer and some boisterous conversation. These types of evenings are always open to visitors, of course, though the language may occasionally be an issue (at least at the start of the night before the beer kicks in).
If raucous beer nights are not your thing, Prague offers plenty of other diversions. The contemporary music scene is alive and kicking, and clubs all across town offer live acts or DJs playing rock, indie, techno, hip-hop, or whatever trend is popular at the moment. Prague has also developed into a popular stop for visiting international acts, both large and small. One recent summer night saw British new waver Morrissey, B. B. King, and U.S. rocker Joe Jackson all play separate gigs at venues across town. Visit the ticket agencies for shows that might be in town during your visit.
Jazz, too, has enjoyed a long tradition in the Czech lands from the early decades of the 20th century when American jazzmen were played on gramophones on imported vinyl. You'll find no fewer than six decent jazz clubs in the city center (listed later) and the quality of the playing is high.
Czechs are avid theatergoers and Prague for decades has enjoyed a vibrant drama scene (though with nearly all of the output in Czech, much of this sadly is inaccessible to visitors). Occasionally the National Theater will subtitle in English important works aimed at an international audiences, and theaters like Svandovo divadlo in Smíchov and Divadlo Archa in Nové Mesto sometimes stage English and American productions in their original language.
Opera is more accessible and Prague has at least two premier venues: the State Opera at the top of Wenceslas Square (Václavské nám.) and the National Theater. The former's repertoire is made up largely of Italian classics, while the latter frequently holds performances of works by national composers like Bedrich Smetana and Leos Janácek. Both theaters are good value and tickets are often available at short notice, though the quality will vary from show to show.
Prague's longest-running entertainment tradition, of course, is classical music. Serious music lovers are best advised to take in a performance of the Czech Philharmonic at the Rudolfinum in Staré Mesto or the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Obecní dum, near Námestí Republiky. Another option is to see one of the many chamber concerts offered at churches and palaces around town. These can be very good, though ticket prices are often higher than for the Philharmonic and the quality may not be nearly as good.
If you're getting tired just reading about all of these entertainment possibilities, there's always the option of a good dinner followed by a quiet stroll over the Charles Bridge and through Malá Strana over ancient cobblestones and lit by mellow gas lamps.
Tickets -- Cultural events are surprisingly affordable and accessible, and except for a few high-profile performances at the National Theater or the Prague Spring Music Festival, they rarely sell out. To check on schedules and secure tickets before arriving, surf the websites of the various venues you might want to visit. That will at least give you an idea of what's happening while you're here. Many venues now allow you to purchase tickets directly online with a credit card and pick them up at the box office once you get here.
You can also buy tickets ahead of your visit through the websites of major ticketing agencies, all of which have English-language pages and are geared up to serve incoming visitors. The major local agencies include Ticketpro (www.ticketpro.cz), Bohemia Ticket (www.bohemiaticket.cz), Ticket Stream (http://web.ticketstream.cz), and Ticket Portal (www.ticketportal.cz). These sites have the advantage of aggregating all of the events and highlighting the biggest shows that will be on during your visit. They also offer services that the individual box offices usually do not provide, such as delivering the tickets to your hotel room on arrival -- though they levy a surcharge for the service.
Once in town, you have several options for sourcing tickets. The simplest and often cheapest option is to go directly to the venue box office. Most box offices hold normal working hours on weekdays and usually open again an hour or so before performances in the evenings. If you're intimidated by the language issue at the box office, simply write down what you want to see and the dates and number of tickets you need; the person behind the window will sort it out from there.
Another easy way to get tickets once you're in Prague is to visit one of the local ticket agency offices and buy the tickets in person. The man or woman behind the counter is likely to have a good idea of the biggest events happening on that day or in the coming days and provide good advice. Pay in cash or with a credit card. Ticketpro has several offices around town, including at Prague Information Services (tel. 221-714-444; www.pis.cz) offices at the Old Town Hall and at Rytírská 31. Ticketpro also sells tickets at Václavské nám. 38, Prague 1 (tel. 296-329-999), and through the helpful Prague Tourist Center, near the Mustek metro stop at Rytírská 12, Prague 1 (tel. 296-333-333), open daily from 9am to 8pm. Bohemia Ticket has offices at Na Príkope 16, Prague 1 (tel. 224-215-031; www.bohemiaticket.cz) and is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm, Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from 10am to 3pm.
The Czech Republic has an active domestic film industry and Czechs are avid moviegoers. The good news for visitors is that most Czech cinemas don't usually dub foreign films, meaning that American and English films are nearly always shown in their original language. The only exceptions generally are children's movies, where the kids are not expected to be able to read the subtitles.
The best places for first-run Hollywood blockbusters and the like are the multiplex cinemas at shopping centers around town. The best of these is arguably the Palace Cinemas complex at centrally located Slovanský dum, Na Príkope 9/11, Prague 1 (tel. 840-200-240; www.palacecinemas.cz), where around a dozen screens regularly show the best releases from Hollywood just as those movies are being released in the United States. Other good multiplexes with good transport connections to the center include Palác Flóra, Vinohradská 151, Prague 3 (tel. 255-741-002; www.cinemacity.cz), near the Flora metro station, which has around 10 screens plus the city's only IMAX cinema, and the Palace Cinemas multiplex at the Nový Smíchov shopping center, Plzenská 8, Prague 5 (tel. 840-200-240; www.palacecinemas.cz), near the Ande1 metro station.
Czech films are more problematic since they're usually screened exclusively in Czech, though some cinemas, including Slovanský dum, occasionally show Czech films with English subtitles. Kino Svetozor at Vodickova 41, Prague 1 (tel. 224-946-824; www.kinosvetozor.cz), across from the Lucerna Shopping Passage, is a classic art-house cinema showing a wide range of independent films from around the world, as well as Czech films subtitled in English. Another cinema gem, Kino Aero, at Biskupcová 31, Prague 3, in Zizkov (tel. 271-771-349; www.kinoaero.cz), shows a similar collection of golden oldies, indies, and Czech movies, usually with English subtitles.
Prague is also home to a number of very interesting film festivals, including one of the largest urban international film festivals of its kind, Febiofest (www.febiofest.cz), in March and the ever-popular One World human rights film festival (www.jedensvet.cz) in March or April, which usually brings dozens of blockbuster documentaries to town. Most years in spring see the arrival of the Days of European Film festival (www.eurofilmfest.cz), bringing the continent's best movies from the previous year to the city for a 2-week run. Visit the festival websites for dates and details.
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.