Across the spectrum, from ballet to blues, jazz to rock and theatre to film, there’s a bewildering range of entertainment on offer in this eclectic city. Prague is now as much a European centre for jazz, rock and hip-hop as it is for classical music. The biggest draw, however, is still the Prague Spring festival of classical music and opera.
First held in 1946, the Prague Spring international music festival is the Czech Republic’s best-known annual cultural event. It begins on 12 May, the anniversary of composer Bedřich Smetana’s death, with a procession from his grave at Vyšehrad to the Municipal House, and a performance there of his patriotic song cycle Má vlast (My Homeland). The festival runs until 3 June, and the beautiful concert venues are as big a drawcard as the music.
If you want a guaranteed seat at a Prague Spring concert, book it by mid-March at the latest, though a few seats may still be available as late as the end of May.
There are half a dozen concerts of one kind or another in Prague almost every day during the summer, making a fine soundtrack to accompany the city’s visual delights. Many of these are chamber concerts performed by aspiring musicians in the city’s churches – gorgeous but chilly (take an extra layer, even on a summer day), and not always with the finest of acoustics. However, a good number of concerts, especially those promoted by people handing out flyers in the street, are second-rate, despite the premium prices that foreigners pay. If you want to be sure of quality, go for a performance by one of the city’s professional orchestras.
Box offices are open from 30 minutes to one hour before the start of a performance. For classical music, opera and ballet listings, check out www.czechopera.cz and www.pragueeventscalendar.com.
Prague has a high-energy live-music scene, with rock, metal, punk, electro, industrial, hip-hop and newer sounds at a score of DJ and live music venues; most have a cover charge of around 50Kč to 200Kč and stay open until at least 2am or 3am; some keep going until 6am. Clubs such as Palác Akropolis and Roxy also host live rock bands. Keep an eye open for flyers that are posted around town.
Prague has lots of good jazz clubs, many of which have been around for decades. Most have a cover charge of 100Kč to 300Kč.
Prague has more than 30 cinemas, some showing first-run Western films, some showing Czech films, and several excellent art-house cinemas, including Kino Aero. For cinema listings check www.prague.tv.
Most films are screened in their original language with Czech subtitles (české titulky), but Hollywood blockbusters are often dubbed into Czech (dabing); look for the labels ‘tit’ or ‘dab’ on cinema listings. Czech-language films with English subtitles are listed as having anglický titulky.
Movies are normally screened twice in the evening, at around 7pm and 9pm, though multiplexes show films all day. Most cinemas screen matinees on weekends.
Most Czech drama is, not surprisingly, performed in Czech. However, there are some English-language productions, as well as many predominantly visual shows where language is not a barrier. There’s also the Prague Fringe Festival, which takes place in early June and offers plenty of English-language theatre.
Prague is famous for its black-light theatre – occasionally called just ‘black theatre’ – a hybrid of mime, drama, dance and special effects in which actors wearing fluorescent costumes do their thing in front of a black backdrop lit only by ultraviolet light. It’s a growth industry in Prague, with at least half a dozen venues; Ta Fantastika and Image Theatre are two of the longest-running. An even older Czech tradition is puppetry, and the city has several marionette shows on offer.
Need to Know
For online entertainment listings, check out:
The ‘wholesalers’ with the largest agency networks are Ticketpro; the others probably get their tickets from them.
- FOK Box Office Prague Symphony Orchestra box office, for classical concert tickets; also open for one hour before performances begin.
- Ticketpro Tickets are available here for all kinds of events. There are branches in Prague City Tourism offices and many other places.
- Ticketstream (www.ticketstream.cz) Internet-based booking agency that covers events in Prague and all over the Czech Republic.