Sunday, January 11, 2009

A short beer guide to Prague - part 1

Most people coming to Prague arrive at the airport. The airport is a half hour drive from the city centre. One day in the distant future, the metro will take you into town, but nowadays you need to use bus or car. Taxis have a bad reputation in Prague. I have never taken a cab in the town. The ordinary bus/tram/metro-system is more than good enough. In short: The public transportation system is excellent with an efficient metro and trams and buses that even have a service at night. A taxi from the airport will cost you from 500 til 800 CZK. I prefer the cheaper way, and buy myself a bus ticket for 26 CZK.

A ticket machine at Prague airport.

Tickets can be bought at a stand in the airport or from a ticket machine at the airport's bus stop. Please have coins in hand, as you can not use notes in the ticket machine. I advice you to buy several tickets for later use. Suddenly you want to take a tram, and the local ticket machine is out of order. It is better to be safe than sorry, and another possibility is to buy a day ticket (valid 24 hours) or a ticket for 3 or 5 days. Another tip: If you withdraw money from an ATM, it will give you large bank notes. Employees in shops and restaurants do not like giving change to 1000 and 2000 CZK notes, so my advice is that you select an amount that gives you some 100 CZK notes.

The 119 bus arrives at Prague airport.

If you are going into town by bus, you can take the 119 bus to Dejvická or the 100 bus to Zličín. Both places are terminal stations for metro lines, and it is easy to get to the city centre from there. If you bought a 26 CZK bus ticket, it is also valid for further travel. As you enter the bus at the airport, remember to validate your ticket. Use the yellow boxes on the bus. There is a large fine if an inspector catches you without a valid ticket.

Use these boxes for ticket validation. On the metro you will find
them at the entrance to the ticket area.

Then you are settled in your hotel or apartment. My advice is to do the tourist route first. Start at Wenceslas Square and walk towards the Charles Bridge. Cross the bridge and take a tram to the castle. Walk through the castle area and enjoy the sights.

Nice view from the Prague castle hill.

Then you take a walk down from the castle to Malostranska. Catch a tram from there to Anděl. There you can find a large mall and several restaurants and bars. And there the beer tourist part starts.

Anděl is a traffic centre with a bus station, a metro station
and several tram lines passing through.

You have now been through the tourist area, and if you looked at menus along the way the prices are OK compared to tourist areas in other major European cities. At Anděl the prices are at a much lower level. Use beer prices to find the price standards. If the beer costs more than 35 CZK, you are at a tourist place or an upscale restaurant. Here and there you will find beer at 20 CZK or lower, but most places will sell you pints of beer for no more than 30 CZK.

The Staropramen brewery is just a short walk from Anděl.

What beers are there to be found? First of all there is Pilsner Urquell; the original lager beer of the pilsner style. This is in my opinion a great beer, and I buy it often here in Norway.

In Prague Pilsner Urquell tastes the best from a tankova restaurant or bar. This is Urquell beer in an unpasteurized version, and it is delicious! Gambrinus, which is owned by Pilsner Urquell, is everywhere in Prague. The same is to be said about Prague's own brewer, Staropramen. Here and there you will also find Budweiser Budvar (the Czech brew - not the American!), Krusovice, Starobrno, Kozel and loads of other brews. Most of them are not well known outside the Czech Republic, and my advice is that you try the large beers first and then journey into the lesser known brands. Some of them are real gems, and you will thank yourself afterwards after tasting them. In my opinion, you should be on the look-out for beers from brewers like Svijany, Cerna Hora, Kout, Bernard and Primator. They will not disappoint you.

Herna bars are everywhere in Prague. These are both bars and game
playing joints. Hernas are not the best places to go for a beer,
but some of them are open 24 hours a day, and will thus
give a possibility of a cheap night cap.

Before embarking on your beer tourist route, I advice you to check out these blogs. Pivni Filosof does an excellent blog about Czech beers, and he has covered more than the beer brands you will be able to try during a week in Prague. He has also a short beer guide for Prague tourists, which is available here. Evan Rail's book "The Good Beer Guide to Prague and the Czech Republic" is a good handbook to bring along to Prague, and his blog is not to be missed either. Check also out Velky Al's blog Fuggled, which also tells much about Czech beer culture.

There is a part 2 of this beer guide coming shortly. There I will tell a little bit about Czech beer styles and some of my favourite Czech brews.

1 comment: