Known as the city of a hundred spires, Prague, the home of Staropramen, is Europe’s most picturesque capital city, with inexpensive bars, a laid-back vibe and history at every turn
[Luckily I’d recently been to a stag do in Prague, so when the Staropramen brief dropped on my desk with orders for a quick turn-around, it wasn’t such a problem. And Star is my favourite drop of dizzyade.]
GQ promo, 2013
If you’ve worked your way through the existential mind-warp of Franz Kafka, your impression of Prague may be tainted. But far from being a grey city ruled by officialdom, the Czech capital is a living fairy tale. With its gothic spires, baroque domes and rococo twirls, Prague is like walking through the backdrop of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without the inherent dangers of suddenly being imprisoned by the Child Catcher.
Despite its compact size, Prague – population: 1.2 million – is the sixth most-visited city in Europe. The reasons for this are simple. It’s spectacularly attractive, spotlessly clean, inexpensive, friendly and its female inhabitants are seemingly lifted from a Vogue fashion shoot. In fact, when were told by a hotelier: “When Vogue runs out of models, it travels to Prague to hand-pick its future faces.” This seemed hard to believe, so on our return to London we visited Vogue’s picture editor to find out if this were true. Although he was quick to dispel the myth, he admitted towering Czechs regularly featured in his pages. Perhaps there’s something in the water.
There’s a sense of cheating the system, sipping a late-afternoon Staropramen – Czech for “old spring” – just off the town square, marvelling at how tall the locals are. The old spring to which the lager alludes is in Prague’s Smichov district, where the Staropramen brewery has stood since 1871. With its visitor centre, the brewery itself has become a must-see attraction. Once your knowledge of Saaz hops and Moravian barley is complete, relocate to one of the many Staropramen-owned Potrefena Husa (“Wounded Goose”) gastro pubs in Prague and fill up on boar, deer, veal or the superb buffalo wings.
They love a good defenestration in Prague, but the days of throwing council officials through windows has been since 1618. Nevertheless, history tumbles towards you at every turn: the medieval urbanism of central Prague has been a World Heritage Site for 20 years. It’s a city you won’t mind getting lost in.
Backdoors, Na Belidle 30/310, Smichov, Prague
Intriguingly titled (hetero) club, bar and restaurant. backdoors.cz
Techtie Mechtie, Vinohradska 47, Prague
The city’s largest cocktail bar; DJs in each room at the weekend. techtie-mechtie.cz
Where to eat:
Hotel U Prince, Old Town Square 29, Prague
Choose between Gothic alcoves or the terrace overlooking the square, then relax in the New York Cocktail Bar. hoteluprince.com
Praha Platnerska, Platnerska 88/9, Prague
Czech cuisine with a twist, thick soups and great burgers, with a constantly changing menu. potrefenahusa.cz
Frank Gehry-designed “dancing house”.
View the city from this 1:5 scale Eiffel Tower, built from old railway track in 1891.
Praha Na Verandach, Nadrazni 84, Smichov, Prague
In the Thirties, the brewery bar would serve as much beer in a single afternoon as an affluent pub today pours in a month. staropramen.cz