Prague – party town

An unmissable, beautiful city

Charles Bridge, PraguePrague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is well worth visiting. In fact, I would say that it is a must-see city for anyone. It is thoroughly beautiful in many ways – the large river Vltava bisecting it, the gorgeous architecture all over the city centre, the major buildings such as the Prague Castle, the churches, Charles Bridge and much more – they all make it an incredibly beautiful city that can be enjoyed throughout the year. There are some bad sides to Prague though – it can be clogged with tourists, it is sleazy at nighttime and it has succumbed to the disease that English has to be used everywhere. Grrr!!

A beautiful city

As you walk around Prague, you would have to have a heart of stone or be blind not to notice how beautiful the city is. The architecture and the layout of the streets are stunning. Even small streets have lots to show and make you pause and look up. It leaves you feeling depressed at how plain most towns and cities are compared to Prague.

A view across the river towards Prague Castle on the hill.
The picturesque and colourful rooftops of Prague.
A veiw of the river Vltava and the colourful buildings and roofs in Prague city centre.

Wonderful decoration and ornamentation on a building in the Old Town of Prague.

This has to be the most colourful synagogue or religious building in the world.
Gorgeous buildings in the Old Town Square in Prague. The Old Town Hall tower is on the right hand side.

Just open your eyes, lap it up and have your mobile phone ready to take lots of selfies and pictures. Like I did 🙂

A big cheesy grin for a selfie on the Charles Bridge.

Places to see and visit

Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) – This is ground zero for your visit to Prague. The Old Town Square is one of two main squares in Prague, the other being Wencelas Square which is close by.

Old Town Hall Tower and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. God, they do love their towers with turrets in Prague.

It is difficult to express in words how beautiful this place is. The square has a range of buildings with different architectural styles which together give it a delightful and enchanting feel. There are two tall buildings beside the square which are the Old Town Hall and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn. Both are equally impressive in their own way.

The most eye-catching are the towers of the church which are around 80m high. But standing in the Old Town Square, it becomes evident they are not symmetrical. One, Adam, is larger than the other, Eve. It looks like the builders of the church had a competition to see how many turrets they could add onto a steeple. And then put golden balls on top of them! It gives the church an enchanting and very distinctive appearance (in fact, a little dark and sinister looking). Oddly, the church is hidden behind a row of buildings so you cannot enter the church directly from the square. You have to walk down side streets to get to the front door.

The tower on the other side of the square is the tower of the Old Town Hall. It has a fantastic and enormous clock, the Astronomical Clock, on its southern wall. The clock has many moving parts and has figures from the Bible and Czech history that move when the clock strikes on the hour. It is extremely popular so expect the street below it to be jammed with tourists poised with their cameras and phones ready to record the moving of the clock.

(Just for information, a brother-in-law of mine popped the question to one of my sisters in front of the Old Town Hall. He could not have chosen a more romantic city to do it in.)

It is possible to enter the tower and go up to the top and get wonderful views of the square below as well as all over the city centre.

The Old Town Hall tower with its famous astronomical clock at the bottom and normal clock on top.

Karlův most (Charles Bridge)this is the main bridge of Prague across the river Vltava. It is a pedestrian bridge high above the river. You will definitely be crossing this at some point during your time in Prague. It has many statues on both sides along the walls of the bridge. You can see Prague Castle up on the hill as you cross. There are towers at either end of the bridge which have a Cinderella’s Palace look about them (see the photograph of me above in front of one of the towers). It is possible to enter the tower on the city centre side and climb up to the top. To be honest it is not very interesting inside but you can access the roof and get to take photographs from a great vantage point.

A view down onto the Charles Bridge, Praha
A view from the tower on Charles Bridge looking down on the bridge.

Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) – Prague Castle dominates the skyline of Prague. You can see a fine church with high steeples pointing out high on the summit of the hill on which the castle is located. The church is actually the Cathedral of Saint Vitus. It lies at the core of Prague Castle and is the standout feature of the complex of buildings that make up the castle. The castle dominates Prague and the cathedral is an icon of the city. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the world’s largest castle complex.

There are many ways to get to the castle, including by narrow, picturesque streets with nice gift shops, restaurants and bars. The fastest way is to take Tram 22 but I preferred going by foot as you can see more on the way in the streets in the area from the river to the hill.

There are enormous and ferocious statues on the pillars of the gate leading into the castle, the Matthias Gate. The one on the right is of a giant of a man with a huge cudgel about to beat a man lying below him to death. The sculptor made it so that the giant is just about to batter the fallen man. The man’s head being split open or his rib cage being pulverised are only seconds away. It is very realistic and scary. On the left side is an equally frightening statue of another man poised to ram a sharp knife into a man he has pinned down under him. You are left in no doubt that you are entering a place where bad shit could happen.

Inside in the courtyards of the castle, you can see many beautiful buildings and enter the cathedral and musea. Another fun thing to observe is the changing of the guard in the castle. Three Czech soldiers march cheerfully across the castle yards to take over from their comrades. You can also visit some gardens around the castle.

Learn more about Prague Castle here.

Václavské náměstí (Wenceslas Square)  – this is the main street in the city, actually the main street of the Czech Republic. It is not even a square, it is a long sloping street with an impressive building at the top of the slope. That is the National Museum in case you were wondering. There is a large statue of someone on a horse in front of the museum. That is King Václav but in English he is known as Wenceslas (I wonder how did Václav become Wenceslas?). The old name for this street was Koňský trh (Horse Market), as horse markets used to be held here so it makes sense for there to be a statue showing the king on a horse as a nod to the history of the area.

A view up towards the Czech National Museum. The bottom of the square/street is pedestrianised and is popular for tours – including on Segways.

It was here that the protests against the communist government, with hundreds of thousands of people, that brought an end to that regime in 1989 were held. Even further back, on 16 January 1969, student Jan Palach set himself on fire here to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the USSR in 1968. There is a Metro station named in his honour under the street.

Nowadays the street has many shops, hotels, bars, cafés, restaurants and offices. At night, the strip clubs on the street open. It is a very popular area.

Some of the streets off of Václavské náměstí are very attractive with beautiful buildings with more hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés and boutiques. Have a look at the small mall, Pasáž Lucerna, built in an Art Nouveau style which connects  Vodickova and Štěpánská streets. This place has a bizarre statue of a man in chain mail sitting on the belly of a horse turned upside down – all of which is hanging from the ceiling! I guess it is a tongue in cheek representation of the statue out on the square of King Václav on his horse.

Awash with history

If you are a lover of history like I am, then you will find lots of it in Prague. Even though it is a Czech city, for most of its history, Prague was a mainly German city. The city has many historical links with Germany and Austria. Dramatic events happened here during the Thirty Year War in the 1600s, as well as more recently in the mid and late 20th century including the Nazi occupation, the Prague Spring in 1968 and the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This city has lots to tell and it is well worth taking time to see some of it and learn about it.

One of the places to can be easily visited to imagine the terrifying reality of Prague’s history is to walk along the riverside to reach the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Cyril and Methodius. There is a rectangular hole in the wall of the church with bullet marks all around it. This was the entrance to the crypts of the church where two Czech patriots hid having assassinated the third most important Nazi, Heinrich Heydrich. When the Germans discovered where the men were, they raked the church with gun fire to force the Czech fighters out. The men inside committed suicide instead of being captured. The church is now a national monument. Even though Prague is a town for fun and parties, during the Nazi occupation, it was a brutal and dangerous place.

The bullet marks as reminders of the horrifying and brutal Nazi repression.

A plaque dedicated to Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš who assassinated Heinrich Heydrich in Prague. They hid in this church and committed suicide when they were just about to be captured by the Germans.
A plaque dedicated to Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš who assassinated Heinrich Heydrich in Prague. They hid in this church and committed suicide when they were just about to be captured by the Germans.

The film Anthropoid was made about this operation.

Dancing House aka Fred and Ginger

While you are in the neighbourhood of the Czech Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius, head towards the river Vltava and spot the eye-catching building at the corner. It is the Dancing House also called the Fred and Ginger Building, named after the dancing duo, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The different styles represent the feminine and the masculine and give movement and character to the building. The glassed, curved part with pillars at the bottom looks like a woman in a dress. There is no other building like it in the world.

Fred and Ginger Building, Prague, Czech Republic

A very romantic city – more than Paris

Even though Prague has a reputation as a place to party, particularly for stag parties, it is such a beautiful city that it is very suitable for a romantic trip. The architecture and the scenery creates an ambiance that is very romantic and dreamy. Walking hand in hand across the Charles Bridge or in the gardens around Prague Castle make it very special. The shape of the towers on the bridge and churches and town hall make it seem like a fairy tale. I have been to Paris and Prague and if I had to select a city to go to for a romantic break, I would select Prague over Paris. Both are fantastic cities but there is something special about Prague that makes it more romantic. Perhaps Paris is too big or something.

Things to do

You are going to be spoiled for choices as to what to do and see in Prague. Besides walking around the city centre and taking photographs and partying at night, there are many fun things to do in Prague. Here are some of them:

Bobsleighing

Bobsleighing in PragueThere is a bobsleigh park built on the side of a hill in Prague. It is a metal track on which you can shoot down the hill while sitting on a bobsleigh which is basically a seat with wheels. There is also a handle to control the speed.

The track has twists and dips so that the journey down is fast and fun. There is a speed trap along the track to show you what speed you are going. If you feel that you are about to fly off the track and crash horribly somewhere, you can pull on the handle to slow down. One of the fellas in the group that I was with shot down the track so fast that he derailed at one point near the end and had to put the bobsleigh back onto the track. Trust me, you can really pick up some speed on this thing! Did I mention that there are no seat belts on the bobsleighs?

The bobsleigh park has a bar and restaurant so you can have a few drinks and eat something as you take turns to go down the track.

There can be long queues to go on the track which can be a bit of a bitch but it’s worth it in the end. The nice thing about it is that you don’t have to walk back up the hill dragging a bobsleigh after you. There is a chair lift that hooks up to your bobsleigh and pulls you up the hill so you just have to sit back and enjoy the pleasant slow ride back to the top. See the photograph above to see me while I was being pulled back to the top of the hill.

Just for shits and giggles and to see what the fast ride down the track is like, look at this video and watch as the man derails at the end.

Prague Bobsleigh Park

Segway Tours

Euro Segway Praha
A group on a Euro Segway tour in Prague.

There is so much to see in Prague that it can be difficult to find enough time to go from one place to another. One of the nicer ways to do a tour of the city is on a Segway. The advantages of doing a Segway tour is that you can see many places up close, you can move quickly from place to place without being exhausted from walking, and you get to be all sci-fi cool trying out a device that moves you on two wheels without falling over. It’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. 😉 There are many companies doing these Segway trips and you can select which type of tour that you would like to do such as going around the Old Town or going towards the castle etc.

That said, there was an attempt by the mayor of Prague last year to ban Segway tours in the city as he thought that they were making the city unsafe. It is a shame if that were true as they are a great way to see the city.

Have a look at Euro Segway to see the tours they offer.

Food and drink

Czech food is like the cuisine found all over Central and Eastern Europe. This means loads of hearty, meaty, filling stuff such as sausages, cut meat, fowl such as chicken and duck, boiled meat, goulash, soups, potatoes, vegetables and gravy. It’s wholesome and heavy. You can eat finer food as well of course but when in Prague, why not sample the local stuff?

There are many bars and restaurants that offer these dishes. They usually offer many local beers which I found, in the main, to be pretty tasty. It all depends on your own preferences. Some bars are microbreweries so you might like to imbibe their house special beers.

Absinthe

There is one drink that is typical of the Czech Republic. Absinthe. This stuff is illegal in most countries – and for good reason too! This stuff is deadly. It has a very high alcohol percentage. It is green coloured from the herbs it is made of. The first time that I tried it I felt like my tongue melted! It was so potent and hot if you know what I mean. A few shots of this stuff will have you floored and dying the next day. Give it a try but don’t go crazy as you will regret it later.

Prague does not do tack

One of the really nice things that I noticed about Prague was that it does not have many shops selling tacky shit to tourists. There is a whole industry of tacky touristy “gifts” in Ireland which makes me sick, but Prague has avoided that. The streets are clean and the tourist gift shops have quality gifts. One of the best type of products they sell are glass crystal gifts. These are simply stunning! I bought a box of six wine glasses which I think have only been used once since I bought them. That is how precious they are.

Examples of cut crystal glass objects from the Czech Republic.
Examples of cut crystal glass objects from the Czech Republic.

If you want to buy some fancy stuff for your home, I recommend forking out some money for a set of glasses or other items. It is worth it.

Extreme weather

The first time I visited Prague was in on the first weekend of December in 2001. It was painfully cold!! It was unbearable. You could not go out without every part of your body being wrapped up in order to face the freezing cold. This is not the kind of enjoyable crisp coolness that you can enjoy breathing in fresh, cool air to invigorate your lungs and knock the cobwebs off. It is the kind of cold that leaves you shivering and numb with the cold. Being from Ireland, I thought that I had experienced cold but I have never experienced it like that before. Ireland is a tad cool compared to the freezing winters Central Europe suffers.

In summer, the temperature can get quite hot – the late 20 degrees Celsius if not higher. If the summer is particularly hot, then it will be a hell as there is no marine wind to cool and freshen the area. That said, walking around Prague in shorts and flip flops is not the worst thing ever. It is much better than visiting it in the freezing cold.

English everywhere 🙁

One of the big differences that I really noticed on my second trip there was the amount of English that is now used in Prague. When I first visited in 2001 there was little or no English to be seen. To say that I was baffled looking at signs in Czech would be putting it mildly. I could not understand any of it but I eventually recognised the words for bank (banka), restaurant (restaurace) and toilet (toalety) which are all similar to the English words for the same. This was frustrating but at the same time exciting as it made the Czech Republic different, novel and exotic.

Now, unfortunately, English is used all over Prague. I think it really takes away from the novelty of Prague. I know, I know, it’s one of the main touristic cities in the world and they want to make it easy and enjoyable for foreigners but I think that they have lost something by using so much English.

It would be difficult to imagine Paris being Paris if English was used all over that city just to make life easier for tourists. Paris is special because it is so thoroughly French. If you were English or American, why go abroad if you just want to see the English language? It is already at home.

Here are some examples of English being used everywhere in Prague:

It’s even worse in Prague Airport. The main language used on the signs there is Cz… no it’s not, it’s English! It’s unbelievable. I know that they want to make it easy for tourists, but isn’t this taking it too far?

You can barely see Czech on those signs. I don’t mind when a number of languages are used on airport signs but when a foreign language is given a prominent position above the national language, surely something has gone wrong. What is wrong with Czech that it can’t be the main language on the signs? People visit the Czech Republic to visit the Czech Republic, not the USA or England. I would not expect airports in England to have signs with German or French as the main language and English to be smaller and less obvious. Hopefully this might be changed in the future with Czech used more prominently.

Very touristy

Prague has to be one of the most touristic cities on earth. It well deserves to be. Having visited Paris and Prague, I don’t know which city is more touristy. Prague is alive with tourists throughout the year. The hot summer months are, surprise, surprise, when it is particularly busy. It is black with visitors from all over the world. While this may initially make it exciting, the crowds can be overwhelming. It might be difficult to find accommodation, tables in restaurants or get served in bars. Queuing for ages to enter somewhere loses its appeal pretty quickly. It’s just the way it is. If you visit Prague, which you definitely should, then you have to expect a lot, and I mean A LOT, of other people from around the world to be doing the same.

Sleazy

Prague is charming by day with its beautiful streets and buildings and frenetic energy. It can be also charming and fun at night as well. I fondly remember walking across the Charles Bridge at night while a quartet played Frank Sinatra’s song “Strangers In The Night”. It was lovely and very fitting.

But let’s call a spade a spade, Prague is sleazier at night. The problem is that the city is awash with thousands of young people out to have a good time. There’s nothing wrong with that. I did it myself – twice. I came, I partied and I went home happy with great memories. As it has a reputation as a fun town, it attracts stag parties and young men. This means that strip clubs and prostitution are blatantly available to fellas who want that.

At nighttime on the streets, promoters from strip bars and clubs approach men offering them entry to certain venues. These places can be phrased as “gentlemens’ clubs”. It is pretty clear that they offer more than just hot girls dancing around. The offer of sex is not far under the surface. I don’t mind if men are encouraged to visit some bars and clubs or if they are invited to get a lap dance. What I found off-putting was the less than subtle hint that you could have sex with the women in some of the clubs. Why not do it like they do in Amsterdam? In the red light district there, it is clear what is being offered. The women in the windows are advertising themselves as prostitutes and men can approach them directly. There are no nudges and winks about it. It is all above board in Amsterdam. Not so in Prague.

From 0 to 60 in no time

When we were in some bars, the attractive female staff were very forward about what they could do if we desired it. They first mentioned that they dance on stage but very quickly they let us know that we could go somewhere private and get a special dance. These special dances came with happy endings and extras. In one bar, we were barely seated when a very attractive Russian waitress informed us that she was dying to dance for us and that she did really good special dances in private.

While all very exciting and flattering, it was clear that they were offering sex for money. God knows how many men they do it to every night but it wasn’t what we wanted as soon as we arrived in a bar. It was like they drove a car from 0 to 60 in four seconds. They had barely met us before they were hinting at what they could do.

Some men like this type of thing. It starts their tractor so to speak but I found it very sleazy. I don’t remember any other city I visited being like that. Some people want that but it might disturb others. In case you are surprised, I’ve warned you!

Goldfingers

Now that I have explained what the nightlife scene is like in Prague, I may as well tell you about the time we went to one of the most popular clubs for men on stag parties. This club goes by the very suggestive name of Goldfingers and is found smack bang in the main square – Wenceslas Square.

The hotel with cool architecture where Goldfingers is located.

The club is underground and has a large stage area with dancing poles on it. There are seats and tables around the stage so that customers men can get close to the stage. The shows are fun, lively and explicit! Hot women come out on the stage and dance around for a while. They dance with each other and with men who dare to come near them on the stage. They danced around the pole which brought roars of approval from the men in the club. Some men lay on the stage and stuck some notes of money in their mouths so that the women came to them and danced over them and took the money.

More than once, some unlucky fella was brought up on stage by the women and then teased and played with around the dancing pole. The women tied him gently to the pole so that he couldn’t escape. They danced around him and against him a bit more. He loved the attention and body contact that he got. Then without notice, the dancers yanked down his shorts in front of everyone. Poor guy! It had the audience breaking their sides laughing at him. One of my friends said “Look at the size of that guy’s dick! It’s tiny!” It was all in good fun though so the victim quickly pulled his shorts back up and shuffled off the stage.

I never saw a candle being used like that…

The most explicit show that I saw in Goldfingers was when three women came out and began to dance. They stripped their bras off and then later to my surprise, they took their underwear off too. The only thing they had on were their shoes. They danced around a bit for a while with all the men in the place paying keen notice to them. Then the real show began. The women lit long candles and began to twirl them about. Fire always makes a show more exciting. I didn’t expect what happened next. The naked women lay down on the stage, opened their legs wide and slid the candles into their “hoohas” as one of the men with us called them. Yeap, that’s right. They actually stuck burning candles into their vaginas. Then they spun around on their bums on the stage. It was impressive. I am not sure I would want candles near my nether regions but the women seemed calm about it all.

That is just a flavour of some of the things that happen in Goldfingers. It is located in the main square and is large inside unlike some of the other underground bars and clubs in Prague. They definitely put on better and more flamboyant shows than other titty bars so if this is what you want to see, Goldfingers is probably the best place in town.

No €uro

Unfortunately the Czech Republic decided not to adopt the euro as their currency. I understand why they did it for the own political and economic reasons but it is a bummer when coming from the euro zone. Just be ready to take a load of unusual looking notes out of the ATMs when you are in town.

You have to visit Prague

Having read all of the above, with my compliments and my moans, I hope that it has excited you about Prague. It is one of those cities that you have to visit – no really, YOU HAVE TO VISIT Prague. She is a wonderful treasure of a city that will thrill you. (You just might have to avoid been run over by all the other tourists and being propositioned by sex workers).

Useful links:

Prague City Tourism website

Prague Segway Tours

Prague Airport

Prague Experience – full of information about trips, events, places to eat, drink and party