English Drinker in Prague
Helen Armitage's guide to the best bars and pubs for an English drinker in Prague
If you’re like me, more than two pints of the lager you find it most British pubs (I won’t name names for fear of being sued) leaves you wanting to recline on a sofa, undo the top button of your jeans and slowly vomit on yourself. Or, if you go for the ‘classier’ route of wine or cocktails, you spend the rest of the evening mouth agape thinking ‘Did I seriously just spend THAT much money on this glorified glass of urine?’
But in Prague – or ‘Magical Land of Delicious and Cheap Alcohol’ as I have come to call it – the beer is so nice, and the cocktails so not a rip-off, that you’ll be drinking until your eyes bulge. I’ve only been here six weeks and already I’ve consumed about an ocean full more than I normally would … and I’m from Newcastle.
So let this slightly inebriated English lass, down a kidney or two since moving here, inform you of some of the best bars and pubs for an English drinker in Prague.
Okay, not really a place for the dedicated beer drinker but I have to give you an alternative to beer lest I get blamed for the humongous beer belly you’ll inevitably develop while here (seriously, I look like I’m five months pregnant), and I keep name-dropping this place to anyone who will listen. Black Angel’s is a cocktail bar that, despite its location just off the Old Town Square, manages to not be too tourist-ridden. Inside it’s dripping with beautiful chandeliers with cosy nooks and crannies and a smoky speakeasy atmosphere that has you feeling like a gangster’s moll. The drinks aren’t that cheap, at least compared to some of the beer here, but for what I pay around £7 for in my homeland of Newcastle-upon-Tyne you will get a huge and expertly made delicious cocktail for the equivalent of about £4. I’ve become – alongside my slightly worrying beer drinking habit – a massive margarita monster lately and can vouch that their margaritas are amazing. Plus, its classy atmosphere makes you feel all special and luxurious like a true lady or gent.
Jama American Bar
It might have the word ‘American’ in its name but owner Max Munson – a native of Chicago – has been here so long he might as well be a native, and words like ‘American’ and ‘Irish’ are always somewhat comforting to us Westerners when abroad. Open since 1994 – a good testament to its popularity with natives, expats and visitors alike – Jama American Bar is tucked down a little street off-off Wenceslas Square and despite its pretty central location it isn’t too swarming with tourists (or British stag parties … sorry lads). One of Jama’s main selling points is its lovely beers, one of which is Zemské Pivo made by a brewery that Max is co-owner and co-founder of. It’s a delicious full-flavoured bitter beer that, though dark in colour, is not evil-tasting like some of the darker beers in the UK – it’s very tasty, in fact so tasty that even dainty lady folk like me (ha!) can enjoy it. And for when that beer-induced hunger hits you, Jama has plenty of familiar food to fill you up like burgers, steaks and nachos.
A cosy, little bar close to the riverside and named after one of the literary world’s most notorious lovers of booze, Ernest Hemingway, known for a partaking in a bevvy or two (or three, maybe even four), the Hemingway Bar is known throughout Prague for its wide selection of the most infamous of all alcoholic beverages – absinthe. In fact, the bar devotes much of its extensive drinks menu to Hemingway’s favourite tipples of choice – absinthe, rum and champagne. Go there, take a seat, maybe do a Hemingway yourself and start penning your lost generation’s definitive novel – before hitting the absinthe and forgetting all the good ideas you came up with. And if you don’t fancy hitting the hard stuff, the bar has plenty of fancy cocktails to try instead like its Becher Butter Sour, made with the native Czech liqueur Becherovka, or a classic Bloody Mary.
Head on over to the other side of the Vltava away from the Old Town and Wenceslas Square – I dare you! One reason being because here you will find Zlatá Kovadlina which is a pub, a restaurant and … drum roll, please … a bowling alley all rolled into one fun ball of Czech joy. The beer here is, as we say in Britain, cheap as chips. I’m not actually kidding, - the majority of the beer at Zlatá Kovadlina, barring only one type, is actually cheaper than the chips on the menu, that is French fries or ‘chips’ (what us English folk call crisps). And what is more fun than downing a few beers and showing off your sporting prowess by pretending you actually know how to bowl? Plus the food here is great if you’re up for sampling a bit of native Bohemian Czech fare, like some fried Olomoucké cheese or, if you can banish all thoughts of Bambi from your Western mind, a bit of venison goulash with bacon dumplings.
Letná Beer Garden
What is better than drinking inside a lovely pub or bar? Drinking outside, that’s what! Unlike Britain where unless you’re strictly within the confines of a pub beer garden or at a festival where the cheapest beer will cost you more than a new kidney on the black market, in Prague it is actually acceptable – socially and legally – to have an al fresco drink in a park. I haven’t consumed alcohol in a park since the heady days of being a teenage whippersnapper so you can imagine my joy at discovering Prague’s plentiful beer gardens with one of the best being Letná Park’s Beer Garden. There’s only one kind of beer on tap, but choices are difficult under the influence, so that’s not exactly a bad thing. Obviously best enjoyed during the summer months, Letná Beer Garden has some gorgeous views over the city so not only can you drink in the beer but your slightly glazed eyes can also drink in the beautiful scenery.
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