I hope that this article may be helpful in guiding readers to a number of fine pivnices/hostinecs/hospodas – words that equate to pub in Czech – in Prague and Brno and in providing some tips on travelling to and within the Czech Republic and in finding accommodation.
I first visited Prague in November 1996 armed with a copy of the excellent Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic written by Graham Lees, a founder member of Camra, and will never forget paying £1.60 for eight half litres of Gambrinus in a pub that is now unfortunately closed.
There have been a lot of changes in Prague, and the Czech Republic, over the last 10 years but the “Golden City “ it is still a great place to visit and has much to offer for the discerning drinker.
You can fly to Prague with any number of airlines including BA, CSA, BMI and EasyJet from various airports around the UK and an excellent web-site for finding good value fares is Travel Jungle. All flights arrive at Ruzyne Airport from which there are various ways of travelling into Prague. I would suggest that you consider investing in a travel pass on sale at a desk in the airport, available for 1, 3 and 7 days and costing 80, 250 and 280 Crowns respectively, and then take the 119 bus to Dejvicka Metro station which is 4 stops on line A from the centre of Prague making sure that you validate your ticket / pass on the bus! On a recent trip to Prague I meet 3 American students who, having been charged 650 Crowns for a taxi ride that should have cost 200 Crowns, were on the same day each fined 500 Crowns for travelling without a ticket on a tram! A travel pass allows you to travel on the efficient Metro system and the comprehensive Tram and Bus networks and is a much better bet than travelling by taxi as Prague taxi drivers have a well-deserved reputation for fleecing non-Czech speaking customers. For accommodation in Prague and the rest of the Czech republic I can strongly recommend hostels and apartments to suit all pockets.
An Introduction to drinking in Prague
You may feel somewhat taken aback by the apparent strength of the beer on sale in the many hundreds/thousands of pubs in Prague! If you work on the basis that their 10% and 12% pretty much equates to our 4% and 5% you will be OK. As in most of Europe you pay for your beer(s) when you leave the pub. The current exchange rate is around 45 Crowns to the Stirling and beer in and around Prague costs anything from 18 to 90 Crowns for a half litre. A few useful words in “pub“ Czech are;
- Pivo – Beer
- Prosim – Please
- Dobry Den – Hello / Good Day
- Dekuju – Thank You
- Platit Prosim – Can we pay please
- Jidlo – Food
- Opening hours vary but you are unlikely to ever encounter a problem getting a Pivo in the centre of Prague!
Brewpubs on the 22 and 23 tram routes
Three of the four brew pubs that I am going to recommend are very easily accessible from the 22 and 23 trams. If you board the tram at IP Pavlova, Metro Line C and slightly south of the centre of Prague, and get off at the next stop heading west, eg towards the river and the castle, which is Stipanska then you are a few yards from the Pivovarsky Dum. Opened in 1998 this is probably Prague’s premier brew pub and offers 0.5 litre of it’s own tasty svetle and cerne – light and dark – pivo for a fairly reasonable 31 Crowns. For the same price, but you only get .3 of a litre, they offer a range of at times quirky beers that may include sour cherry, coffee, banana, wheat, nettle, “beer champagne“ and herb the last of which reminded me somewhat of a cough medicine from my younger days. If you are feeling particularly thirsty then a Zirafa – a pipe of beer – of 4 litres of the svetle and cerne can be bought for the price of 3.5 litres (if you like this idea similar deals are on offer at the excellent C K Browar brewpub in Krakow and Bar Fusser in Nuremburg) and the beers can be soaked up with some typically filling Czech cuisine. The friendly English speaking staff will also be happy to sell you bottled beer and souvenirs and brewery trips can be arranged.
A few minutes walk, heading more or less back to IP Pavlova, takes you to the excellent U Havrana at 6 Halkova Ulice a much more traditional pivnice serving Kozel beer – probably familiar to many of you from various Wetherspoon’s pubs – but at a much happier price and with the added benefit that the Havrana is open 24/7!
A couple of stops further going into the centre of Prague brings you to Narodni Tridna tram and Metro stops. Look out for the large Tesco’s shop and look to your left just beyond the crossroads and you will see the sign for U Medvidku at Na Perstyne 5. Which includes 0.5 litres of Budvar 12 and Regent Dark 12 for 26 Crowns together with a small brewing museum and a shop selling a wide range of beer related items. Walk right to the end of the beer hall and up some steps and you will find yourself in the Pivovar U Bulovky. The majority of which is only in Czech at the moment provides details of the beer on offer which is brewed in the Vienna Red style and very nice it was to at 49 Crowns for a 0.5 litre. The beer was served straight from a barrel, so is likely to be of particular interest to members of the SPBW, and further information is available in an article in a recent edition of What’s Brewing.
Get back on the tram and enjoy the view as you travel across the river Vlatava and then go uphill to the right hand side of the Hrad (Castle) and as the tram bears left alight and make your way to the Klasterni Pivovar. For a map and further details. Founded in 1140 this attractively located brewpub offers St Norbert Amber and Dark beers for 49 Crowns. I particularly like the Dark beer which has coffee undertones and a smooth finish but do note that you only get 0.4 of a litre! Draft Budvar and bottles of Erdinger Weiss are also available and there is an extensive range of Czech dishes on the menu. Very much on the tourist trail as it is the pub does, however, retain a pleasant ambiance and monks from the local abbey can sometimes be seen enjoying a contemplative Pivo or two.
A Brewpub on the 24 tram route
It is well worth travelling a little further out from the centre of Prague on a tram 24 to visit the Pivovar Bulovky. A Czech friend advises that if you board a tram 24 going towards Ladvi at Vaclavske Namesti then the 13th stop is Bulovka and the pub, at 17 Bulovka, is a couple of minutes walk down the hill and is adjacent to a hospital. The website provides details of the considerable range of beers that are brewed the majority of which, at any one time, are available as lahvove pivo – bottled beer. Of the two beers available on draught, at 26 crowns a 0.5 litre, during my last visit in October 2005 the svelte pub premium was pleasant without being overly exciting but the wheat beer was an excellent drink being zesty and refreshing although without the flavours of banana and cloves which characterise a number of wheat beers from Bavaria. The pub itself would not be out of place in Bavaria with lots of wood panelling and hearty food available but it did not appear that an English language menu is available so having a menu decoder, or a Czech speaker, with you will definitely pay dividends! My Czech friends consider this to be the best brewpub in Prague and I would definitely recommend that you do take a trip out from the centre, it should take about 25/30 minutes, to sample some of the beers although another option would be stay in the small Pension attached to the pub details of which are on the web-site. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noted that there is a connection between this pub and the “pub within a pub“ at U Medviku in the centre of Prague.
Other Brewpubs in Prague
It is a number of years since I have visited either the Novometsky Pivovar, at 20 Vodickova, or U Fleku, at 11 Kremencova, so I can’t provide details of their current beers and prices. Both pubs are very much on the tourist trail, I tried to get a Pivo at the Novometsky one day earlier this year but 2 coach loads of Spanish tourists arrived at the same time as my friend and I did which made it impossible to get served, but they are definitely worth visiting and I would be interested in peoples opinions of the beers that they serve. A further brewpub, somewhat further from the centre of Prague, that I did visit a few years ago and would have no hesitation in going back to is U Bezousko at 5 Kvetnova Namesti in the southern suburb of Pruhonice. Take Metro C to Opatov and then a 10 minute bus ride to Pruhonice.
A brewpub in Brno
If you find yourself in the Czech Republic’s second city, a train from Prague takes about 3 hours and train fares are remarkably good value, make sure that you do not miss the Pegas brewpub/hotel at 4 Jabuska . Dark, light and wheat beers of a truly excellent quality are on offer and I have also had the pleasure of drinking honey and ginger beers in this bustling establishment which is about 10 minutes walk from the station but there is no guarantee that these “special“ beers will be available throughout the year.
I hope that you find these notes useful and would be interested in any feedback that people might like to provide. If I know you then I would also be happy to lend you my rather dog-eared copy of Graham Lee’s Prague/Czech Republic beer guide which will point you in the direction of many hundreds of other fine drinking establishments across the Czech Republic.