Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden

For fans of alcohol, sports, pork, and people-watching, this Vinohrady park is the place for summer socializing

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

Prague is full of beer gardens, great and small.

In the great category, there are two that divide the loyalties of Praguers and expats who love outdoor drinking, hot summer socializing, watching internationally televised sporting events, and observing lightly clad men and women partaking in all of the above.

First, there is Letenský zámeček, which was written up in an earlier post. And then there is the Riergrovy sady beer garden.

The park (sady) is not far from Wenceslas Square. I went through the entrance on Italská and passed the statue of Mr. František Ladislav Rieger, a 19th century Czech politician. The park was completed in 1908.

From this entrance, there is a bit of a hill to walk up, but as you get to the top, there are some great views of the city, including the back of the National Museum and, off in the distance, Prague Castle.

There are some nice gardens, and benches line the paths through the park. These often fill up later in the evening with people who want a break from the beer garden to chill out or make out.

The entrance to the beer garden itself doesn't really have any big, clear sign saying "Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden." You enter under a sign, written in Czech, saying dogs must be on a leash. The sign is sponsored by Coke.

Inside, you dive into a veritable sea of humanity, a few hundred people, sitting at long tables with benches. The prime activity is beer drinking. It is self-service only, though they do have people who come around and pick up the empties.

I was shocked -- shocked! -- to discover the strong and pungent smell of marijuana wafting through the air. This is a common feature of large Prague beer gardens.

For smokers and nonsmokers alike, the most popular beer choice here appears to be Gambrinus, which is 25 CZK for a half-liter. People line up at the shack devoted to dispensing only this beverage. The line waxes and wanes, but it can grow quite long. If you buy multiple beers, they'll often give you a tray for carrying the beers back to your table.

They do serve half-liters of Pilsner Urquell at a different shack for 36 CZK. It is the one with the big Heineken sign, which comes in bottles, and a much smaller Pilsner sign. For some reason, the line here was short for most of the night. It did get long around 10pm, though.

At this window, it is possible you will get the topless server with the enormous chest. You may find this titillating if you like men who spend a lot of time lifting weights.

This shack also serves cocktails that start at 80 CZK, served in a plastic cup. They have a Long Island Ice Tea for 160 CZK. I once tasted one that someone else ordered. My verdict: Strong, but not recommended if taste and drinkability are important to you. You can also get soft drinks here.

But alcohol is not the only form of entertainment. There is also a large screen and projector television for showing sporting events. If there is a big football match on, this is when you will see the garden at its most crowded. They also have a couple of foosball tables.

There are a few kinds of food available on a self-service basis. The main choice is sausage (klobasa), which sell for 35 CZK. They have the white kind or the red/black kind. My friend, Crazy A, got both. He said the dark one was very fatty. He said the white one was undercooked. He also told me that he felt pretty bad the next morning, but it's hard to know for sure if his dinner was the cause.

The shack that sells the sausage also has light snacks like nuts and potato chips (crisps).

If the alcohol, sporting events, lightly seared pork, and fine conversation with your friends aren't entertaining enough for you, there is always just people watching.

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