By Nancy Bestor
Prague is a beautiful, albeit touristy, European city. The architecture is stunning, and incredibly well preserved. There are also, however, an extraordinary number of chintzy souvenir shops and over the top “tourist experiences” in the old town, with tacky trinkets and “my mom went to Prague and all I got was this t-shirt” (I kid you not) items, as well as people in all sorts of character costumes in the main square available to take pictures with tourists—for a fee. But, as Rick Steves says, if you can just look past all this, in this case, by looking up, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of art nouveau facades and romantic and charming sites.
And then, of course, there’s the beer. The Czech Republic is known for its pilsners and lagers, so in our three day visit, we were determined to experience all Prague had to offer, namely, by drinking beer in as many authentic spots as we could find. In this endeavor, Prague did not disappoint.
Our airbnb was right in the Old Town, which was a great central location for exploring the city on foot. On our first evening, we walked over the famous Charles Bridge, with its great views of the Prague Castle, to a basement bar serving none other than one of our favorite beers, Pilsner Urquell. We appeared to be the only non locals in the place, and there was no English menu, but it wasn’t hard to communicate that we wanted two beers—and then two more—after which our waiter, in broken English, was able to break down the few food offerings on the chalkboard. The goulash with dumplings and sausage with potato salad were great accompaniments to the star of the evening, the beer, which cost about $2 per pint.
The next day we visited the Strahov Monastery & Library, above the Prague Castle, to get a look at its Philosophy Hall and its Theology Hall, with their stunning ceiling frescos and more than 200,000 books on their shelves. You can only peek into the doorways of the halls, but it is well worth the $6ish dollar entrance price.
Across the way from the Library is the Klasterni Pivovar, the Monastery’s brewery. Of course we couldn’t miss the opportunity to sample beer made just like the monks made it back in the day, or that was our excuse anyway. FYI—it was delicious. As was the onion soup, goulash soup and brown bread toast rubbed with raw garlic. Yum.
In the afternoon we took an “off the beaten path” walk through Prague’s suburbs between the Strahov Monastery and the Brevnov Monastery, to try, you guessed it, more monastic beer. Although the walk itself was not super interesting, the Brevnov Monastery was lovely, and the beer once again was delicious and cheap.
On our last night we settled in for more Czech suds at Konvikt bar. When we walked in and sat at a table, a waiter walking by nodded hello. Bob held up two fingers, and before we knew it, there were two pints sitting in front of us. There was no asking “what kind of beer do you want.” We got served the beer that was on offer. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the beer was outstanding, and about $2 per pint.
Lest you think we did nothing but drink beer while in Prague dear readers, we did also eat sausages. But all joking aside, we thoroughly enjoyed several walks from our Rick Steves Prague guidebook, the Old Town walk, a walk to the Prague Castle, and the Wenceslas Square walk, which gave the history of several fantastic art nouveau buildings, including one—the Hotel Evropa—where a movie was being filmed out front. A highlight was a self guided tour of the Municipal House (with the help of Rick again). This building has a stunning rotunda, lobby, restaurant, and bar, with beautiful mosaic floors, stained glass and art nouveau light fixtures and signage. The Municipal House is Prague’s largest concert hall, but if you can’t see a show here, a visit is still highly recommended.
And the beer, whatever you do while visiting Prague, don’t miss out on the beer.