A mile-and-a-half from the forced debauchery of Prague Old Town’s myriad theme bars lies Žižkov, the Czech capital’s bohemian enclave.
This working class district, often referred to as both “Red Žižkov” (for its left-wing political leaning) and “The Free Republic of Žižkov”, proudly claims to have more pubs per capita than any other area of a European city. These authentic, rowdy and unpretentious watering holes revel in offering great beer, stodgy food and a guarantee that you’ll leave feeling giddy and stinking of cigarette smoke.
Here’s how our bar crawl through this fiercely independent neighbourhood panned out.
This is neither a proper bar, nor technically located in Žižkov, but deserves its place in this article for providing the fuel for the rest of the evening. Located at Vinohradská 1241/67, just a two-minute walk from Žižkov’s Jiřího z Poděbrad metro station, it sells hearty and inexpensive burgers (with an average price of about £6), plus a decent selection of lagers and ales from local brewery Pivovaru Uhříněves. Unlikely to be awarded a Michelin star any time soon, but ideal if you’re looking for a good feed to set you up for the night ahead (for more about the world’s best bar crawl food, check out our blog on Lithuania’s incredible “snacks to beer”).
Comfortably the most “British hipster” place on this list, BeerGeek (Vinohradská 988/62) is full of beer, beards, 80s music and flannel shirts. It boasts a generous 32 taps and is proud to sell beers that you won’t be able to buy in a supermarket, including obscure brews from across the Czech Republic, Europe and the US. It’s also one of Žižkov’s few non-smoking bars. The atmosphere is friendly, with the staff only too happy to engage in intimately detailed discussion about the vast range of ales on offer, and provide pointers on the local bar scene. We were strongly urged to avoid the Old Town (“Full of arseholes on stag dos”) and instead seek out some of Žižkov’s homegrown hotspots. Who was I to argue?
A Žižkov institution, Bukowski’s (Bořivojova 689/86) has little to do with the American author from which it takes its name, beyond a love of hard drinking. This cocktail dive is full of old books, kitschy light fittings and oddball wall hangings. While reputedly an excellent haunt for a quiet early evening drink, it’s properly buzzing on Friday and Saturday nights, with local revellers and backpacking tourists thronging to enjoy strong liquor and good music. The bar staff were dangerously attentive, meaning our pitchers of pilsner were never empty. Bukowski’s felt like an initiation. On leaving, we felt ready to brave everything Žižkov had to throw at us.
With its spacious outdoor terrace, packed with benches nestled beneath the branches of an old beech tree, U sadu (Škroupovo náměstí 5) could be easily mistaken for a gorgeous spot to enjoy a civilised evening. But once you cross the threshold and head down a narrow spiral staircase to the crowded cellar bar, any preconceptions of politeness are quickly dispelled. U sadu (The Orchard) is hot, noisy, and brimming with an eclectic crowd of stylish students, tattooed rockers and impassive old-timers. All are united in their love of fine pilsner and table football – challenge the locals to a game if you’re feeling bold.
Žižkov offers an overwhelming choice of bars and pubs, but the true heart of the local nightlife is Palac Akropolis (Kubelíkova 1548/27). Occupying a sprawling socialist chic complex on the border of Žižkov and Vinohrady, this multi-level venue is home to a theatre, restaurant, several bars and numerous art spaces – but after dark, it’s the club that draws the crowds. Its dingy nooks, sweaty dancefloors, disorienting corridors and art deco design features create a decidedly dangerous, decadent feel that evokes Žižkov’s rebellious roots. Music-wise, you’ll hear everything from dubstep and drum’n’bass to reggae, dancehall, rock and indie. Emerging from Palac in the early hours, you’ll be confronted with the presence of the looming Žižkov Television Tower, once named the second ugliest building in the world. It’s a fittingly surreal end to a night out in this idiosyncratic district.