What better way to take a weekend off from Uni than to make the most of Newcastle’s direct flights to Prague? That’s what everyone else in our eight-person group concluded, whilst I made the infinitely longer trip to Luton for the sake of catching a budget flight. Regardless, we all arrived in the medieval city centre at just the point when its labyrinth of underground bars were at their peak; in the process we gatecrashed an increasingly agitated birthday party.
The city’s tourist hotspot – Old Town Square – lived up to all my expectations. As you meander out of a narrow cobbled alleyway you are immediately confronted by men painted in gold pretending to be statues, horse-and-carriages, the Church of Our Lady Before Týn (irony?), and an ornate astronomical clock. Just off of the main square is Charles Bridge, a fourteenth century construction with mounted baroque statues perched on either side.
“Just off the main square is Charles Bridge, a fourteenth century construction with mounted Baroque statues”
It’s well worth picking up a plastic cup of mulled wine from a street vendor before taking a seat on the banks of the River Vltava whilst watching the sun set over the bridge and Prague’s historic castle.
Prague is anything but a city lacking in bars and nightlife. After all, the Czech Republic is the home of Staropramen – familiar from the Wetherspoons list of “world beers”. A half-litre costs little over thirty Koruna (under £1), and a double vodka was never more than one hundred; just make sure you know which type of spirit you want, or you’ll end up getting the finest black label with pricing to match (as we did). You get great scenery for your money, descending two-storey bars such as aircraft-themed Hangar or the flamboyant Aloha to be served by staff dressed as pilots or The Beach Boys respectively. We spent a few (merry) hours pouring our own pints in the aptly named The Pub, where a drinking leaderboard ranks your table’s pilsner consumption against that of other bars across Europe; we narrowly lost to Berlin.
It is truly an international city: Groups of Germans and Poles have crossed the border for the weekend; Americans relax with bottles of Bud-in-hand at street cafés, and Spaniards are omnipresent on all five floors of disco club Karlovy lázně. And then there was us, a group of Newcastle students with university-branded hoodies to match. For that truly multicultural experience, it’s worth getting a Thai massage or having a fish pedicure whilst people-watching from a balcony.
“After all, the Czech Republic is the home of Staropramen- familiar from Wetherspoon’s list of ‘world beers’”
There is something for everyone. The Politics student of the group darted off into the faded Communist Museum to snatch a photo with busts of Marx and Lenin. There are bars for every taste, from heavy rock to 90s classics. And if everything goes pear-shaped, absinthe shops will sell you a (very reasonably priced) bottle. There are also free shots of the green fluid for the first hour of the Prague Pub Crawl. Or there’s a boat cruise advertised by men dressed as sailors. Other promoters attempt to get you to watch their “Cabaret” show. Inner-city travel connections are frequent: buses link the city to the airport through day and night, and a spacious Metro system lies beneath the cobbles.
We had a great time, and hit the perfect balance between sightseeing and sampling the local cuisine, whether that be drinking a lager or ordering goulash and dumplings. The Czech Republic is hardly an expensive country, and was well worth taking a weekend off to visit.