Prague is a beautiful, even magical city. It has an energetic spirit, an inquiring heart and a welcoming face. Culture oozes from its pores and history is baked into its very being.
Yet this has all been ruined of late by the crowds of booze tourists, the stag weekends and other parties of young, usually British, men. English and Irish themed bars have sprung up, drunken shouts (in English) fill the cobbled alleyways and puddles of vomit remain in the morning when those responsible are tucked up in bed with a hangover. Easy access to the city thanks to budget airlines have brought a gem of Europe closer to many who wish to enjoy it but at the same time brought a blight that has tarnished that gem.
Despite these problems there is no need to despair; Prague can still be enjoyed to its greatest extent.
Visit the center of Prague before lunch time
The first thing to realise is that the centre of Prague is generally commercialised and aimed at tourists, St Wenceslas Square, the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle are important to see but you will not want to spend too much time at any of them. Beautiful and impressive as they are they are also magnets for touts, beggars and pickpockets. Instead, use the main tourist centres as bases for your own explorations, simply walking from one to another and on to the next will show you more of the city than most tourists see. Start just after breakfast and you will miss the crowds in the centre and be off on your own adventure by the time they wake up.
Avoid the very center at night
The booze tourists will generally spend most of the day, certainly from lunchtime onwards, in the bars. If you are careful where you have lunch you should easily be able to avoid them until the evening. But this is where things become trickier. As night falls more and more bars spring open and the drinkers spill out onto the street. Once again, the best advice is to avoid the very centre. Wenceslas Square becomes a focal point for all the inebriated, lusty and loud denizens of the city. The restaurants in this area are extortionate anyway.
Go to restaurants where Czech people go
Many of the best areas of Prague are cobbled alleyways knotted together in delightful warrens and this is where the best bars and restaurants can be found. Unfortunately the binge bars have moved here as well, but they are easy to tell apart. Signs and menus in English (especially if exclusively in English) are a klaxon warning to leave immediately. However, staff being able to speak English is simply a tribute to the Czech education system and not a reflection on the establishment. A tourist wrangler on the street outside should be treated as a health warning and their desperate or cunning entreaties ignored. Finally, a simple look at the other customers should tell you a lot. Local Czech people go to the best restaurants; tourists go to the easiest restaurants.
The extent of the booze tourist problem is demonstrated by the proliferation of warning signs on the doors of many establishments. These bar entry to medium or large groups of young men and usually specify the British. This is hugely embarrassing to most British people and a sad reflection on our national character but it does have one bonus. The establishment will certainly be free of the type of people you are trying to avoid, if you can bear the shame of entering.
Spend the evening in Hradcany
Prague boasts an excellent public transport system that is cheap and easy to use, even if you don’t speak the language. This means that your exploration of the city is not limited to how far you can manage to walk. Exploring further out means you see more of the city and put some distance between you and the drunken revelry in the centre. The area from Hradcany and out towards some of the university accommodation is lively and interesting. This is where the next wave of culture, Czech mixed with western and with others thrown in for good measure, is brewing. Out here the prices fall and the atmosphere lightens. The food is good (very good), but the company is better.
Even a short visit to Prague should include an evening here. During the day, especially during spring and summer, the Letenske Sady park is a beautiful place to while away a few hours. The park has a gorgeous view over the city and is usually packed with locals. It is a short walk along and across the river from the centre of Prague but far enough to deter any barflies from making the journey, however, at night the park does have its share of domestic problems so it is probably best to avoid it after dark, especially if you are alone.
The growth of budget airlines has brought problems as well as benefits to many cities of Eastern Europe. It is important that visitors are not put off by these problems but rather attempt to minimise them. Avoiding Prague would not only deprive you of an incredibly rewarding city but also abandon it to the invading drunkards.
Photo of stamp imprint originally posted by skugga2shadow