The one thing Prague definitely isn't lacking is a vibrant nightlife. However, the other thing Prague isn't lacking is a huge chasm of difference in pricing for essentially the same entertainment products and services. It's reassuring stepping into a place where everyone speaks English but that doesn't always mean that you are going to receive a fair price or quality of service - usually quite the opposite. I've been living in Prague for over 16 years and I have compiled a list of places which I completely recommend as places to socialize - places where you can expect above average service, places which are non-Czech friendly, and places which are away from the typical tourist and newbie expat haunts. Please note that the majority of places recommended are located in the Vinohrady/ Vrsovice/ Zizkov districts of the city.
For convenience this list is numerical, but numerical position is not an indication of preference. I have listed each place with name and contact details and then a few lines of place description. In true Spinal Tap style this list goes to 11:
1. Dobra Trafika
120 00 Praha 2
- Charming Tea House/ Coffee Shop on bustling Korunni street. Very reasonably priced with smoking and non-smoking sections. A great place to chill practically any time of the day and any day of the week. I recommend the Pita Syrova (cheese pita) and the wide selection of coffees and teas. This place also doubles up as a tobacconists and magazine vendors.
2. Cafe Sladovsky
110 00 Praha 10
- Cafe Sladovsky is a bar (slash) restaurant (slash) cafe, serving up mainly tapas and (very bravely) Czech wine. Actually, if by just going by their menu you might assume that you were in a Portuguese Tapas restaurant. This however is tapas and wine Czech style and while there is nothing wrong with that I think the main draw of this place is the Bohemian ambience of its clientele and top quality beer and cocktail menu - as well as its excellent breakfast brunch menus.
120 00 Praha1
- It's simple. A place with a homely vibe and where they serve up divine Plzen Urquell. Yes, your students go on about how Czech beer is the best in the world and this might just be the place to put that very bold superlative to the test. The beer here is sublime bliss - it makes you want to immediately contact the management and request how much a section of the bar would cost to rent as an apartment so you could have more time on this planet to sip the delights of this other worldly amber nectar. Staff are very friendly and the food ain't bad either. A recommended stop but if you plan to eat then reservations are a must. If you only plan to drool over your perfectly poured Urquell then you can normally find a standing place by the main entrance. Drool, drool, drool :-)
4. Clown and Bard
130 00 Praha 3
- When I first came to Prague I stayed here for a couple of weeks before I hooked up with similar minded people and found a shared apartment. In those days the Dorm room was on the top floor and between the main entrance of the Hostel and the stairs to the Dorm was a well-stocked bar and lively room of expats and locals. I'm glad to write that this hasn't changed. This place is still a great place to meet expats and locals and bridge the gap between being an expat and local. It's also a great place to try absinthe :-)
5. Big Lebowski
130 00 Praha 3
- Big Lebowski boasts a very unusual USP. This is that they are the only place in town where you can choose how much you pay. If you drank 10 beers and thought they sucked then technically you could leave without paying a single Crown. If you had 1 beer and had a beer satori moment then you could show your appreciation and hand over the deeds to your Gulf access waterfront home. I imagine that's how it works :-) Either way the system must work on both sides because they are busy every night of the week and showing no signs of going out of business.
Karoliny Světlé 30
110 00 Praha 1
- Duende is a great place to spend an afternoon over coffee and drinks while you people watch both inside and outside the place. Located a few minutes walk from the Charles Bridge this is one of the 'hidden' gems of Prague 1 and that's exactly how the regulars want to keep it. However, if you do find yourself wandering in here and if you are not of the obvious tourist genre then you will receive a very warm welcome. Part of the fun of Duende is working out who are the movers and shakers and who are the floaters and fakers. Expect late nights/ early mornings here. Everything except dancing on tables is accepted. The beer on tap is ok, the food better, the atmosphere on a good night to die for.
7. Cafe Louvre
110 00 Praha 1
- This is one of the only places in Prague 1 (in fact maybe in the city) which lists its Daily Menu both in Czech and English, clearly presented on the premises. And what a daily menu it is! Recipes often stem back from the first Republic when Albert Einstein and Franz Kafka would have been poring over a similar menu - both of whom were regulars of Cafe Louvre. Prices are very affordable. Quality is high. There is a pool table area and board games upon request. The cake stand is impressive. Toilets are immaculate. Service mostly impeccable. My recommendation from the a la carte menu is the very reasonably priced and very addictive hamburger with fries.
8. U zavesenyho Kafe
118 00 Praha 1 - Hradčany
- This place is perhaps the only non-rippoff restaurant in the Prague Castle area. They serve great beer and great honest soul-lovin' food. OK, the service can be a little on the abrasive side at times but when the food is good you don't mind and anyway, this is the Prague castle area where you expect a bit of attitude. Located around a bend from a castle exit road it is easy to miss but well worth the journey when you do find it. Just make sure to apply the Dobry den rule and you should be fine. Menus are listed in Czech/ English/ German. Prices are local Czech restaurant prices.
9. U Peronu
150 00 Praha 5 - Smichov
- This place is a recommended stop if you are taking the train from Smichovske Nadrazi or if you fancy a wander down to Prague 5 one evening. Friendly staff, good beer and food.
130 00, Praha 3
- Akropolis is a Zizkov institution. Their fried cheese (smazeny syr) is legendary. Akropolis consists of bar(s)/ restaurant/ club/ music club - the likes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have played here.
11. Original pivnice Budvarka
160 00, Praha 6
- Correct me if I am wrong, but there is a general consensus among Europeans that American beer tastes like something not dissimilar to the liquid which seeps from the behind of a gnat. As a frequent traveler to the States I firmly know and believe that this is just a myth and that there are some fabulous micro breweries in the States which easily rival the best which the European giants have to offer. My favorite tipple on the East Coast for example is Coney Island Lager (best served in my humble opinion in Katz's Delicatessen, Lower East Side). BUT, and don't sue me here please ( :-) ) it is clear that the Budejovice Budvar (Budweiser) in the Czech Republic, where btw Budejovice Budvar originated from (Ceske Budejovice), is far superior to the Budweiser which is available in the States. Outside of Ceske Budejovice the next best thing is probably found at Original pivnice Budvarka, in Prague 6. AND they serve great bar food - local Czech prices with a bilingual Czech/English menu. Here they really care about the quality of their beer and even better news is that the tourist route goes nowhere near the place. This is a highly recommended stop off for any Castle/Prague 6 trip.
Na zdravi! / To your health!