Prague Spring Box Office
Only in Prague… A graffiti-covered steel door in the hillside at the west end of Parukářka park leads to a vast circular staircase that descends into a 1950s nuclear bunker where a makeshift bar serves cheap beer in plastic glasses.
Like many of the drinking dens that are popular among expats, Bukowski’s is more a cocktail dive than a cocktail bar.
First opened in 1914, and given a complete facelift in 2007, the Imperial is a tour de force of art nouveau tiling – the walls and ceiling are covered in original ceramic tiles, mosaics, sculptured panels and bas-reliefs, with period light fittings and bronzes scattered about.
AghaRTA has been staging top-notch modern jazz, blues, funk and fusion since 1991, but moved into this central Old Town venue only in 2004. A typical jazz cellar with red-brick vaults, the centre also has a music shop (open 7pm to midnight), which sells CDs, T-shirts and coffee mugs.
Futurum is a cross-fertilisation of alternative and mainstream, with a bizarre decor that looks like an art-deco ballroom collided with Flash Gordon’s spaceship. On midweek nights there's occasional live performances of jazz and soul, indie bands and record launches, but what really pulls in the crowds is the regular Friday and Saturday night '80s and '90s dance party.
The ‘Little Goat’ is a buzzing, red-brick basement bar decorated with cute steel goat sculptures, serving Krušovice on tap at 45Kč for 0.5L (though watch out – the bartenders will occasionally sling you a 1L tuplák if they think you’re a tourist). It fills up later in the evening with a mostly Czech crowd, and makes a civilised setting for a late-night session.
Klub 007 is one of several grungy student clubs in the basements of the big college dormitory blocks in Strahov. The legendary 007 has been around since 1987, when it was a focus for underground music, and is now famed for its devotion to hardcore, punk, ska, ragga, jungle, ambient and other alternative sounds. On Saturday nights it hosts a regular hip-hop party.
Many religious people make a pilgrimage to the Loreta, but just across the road, the 'Black Ox' is a shrine that pulls in pilgrims of a different kind. This surprisingly inexpensive beer hall is visited by real-ale aficionados for its authentic atmosphere and lip-smackingly delicious draught beer, Velkopopovický Kozel, brewed in a small town southeast of Prague.
Barely five minutes’ walk from Charles Bridge but half a world away in atmosphere, this cute little bar is the opposite of touristy – a bohemian drinking den that pulls in an arty, mixed-age crowd of locals. Here you can enjoy a drink while casting an eye over the fascinating photos and quirky art that cover the wall, or listen to live guitar or violin.
Though not quite as trendy as it once was, slick and shiny Radost is still capable of pulling in the crowds, especially for its Thursday hip hop and R & B night, FXbounce (www.fxbounce.com; women enter free). The place has a chilled-out, bohemian atmosphere, with an excellent lounge and vegetarian restaurant that keeps serving into the small hours.
The Archa (Ark) has been described as Prague’s alternative National Theatre, a multifunctional venue for the avant garde and the experimental. As well as contemporary drama (occasionally in English) – Václav Havel’s Leaving has been performed here – dance and performance art, the theatre also stages live music, from Indian classical to industrial noise.
The ‘Golden Tiger’ is one of the few Old Town drinking holes that has hung on to its soul – and its low prices (38Kč per 0.5L of Pilsner Urquell), considering its location. It was novelist Bohumil Hrabal’s favourite hostelry – there are photos of him on the walls – and the place that Václav Havel took Bill Clinton in 1994 to show him a real Czech pub.
This cool cafe – the name translates as something like ‘beautiful destruction’ – doubles as an art gallery and occasional music venue, and is hugely popular with students from nearby Charles University. There are Czech newspapers and books to leaf through, chilled tunes on the sound system, and a menu of gourmet teas and coffees to choose from.
Ryba Na Ruby is something different for Vinohrady: an eco-friendly teashop on the ground floor with a laid-back bar/club downstairs. This is a great place to stock up on things like fair-trade teas and coffees, plus organic foodstuffs such as nuts, spices, cocoa, jams and oils. The below-ground club is a relaxed space for a beer or a coffee.
‘Little Glen’s’ is a lively American-owned bar and restaurant where hard-swinging local jazz or blues bands play every night in the cramped and steamy stone-vaulted cellar. There are Sunday-night jam sessions where amateurs are welcome (as long as you’re good!) – it’s a small venue, so get here early if you want to see, as well as hear, the band.