Want to savour Prague's finest beers without bumping into stag parties and tourist traps? Simply follow this short and scenic route and you'll be shouting "Na zdraví!" with the locals in no time
With its quaint streets and imposing Gothic architecture, it's no mystery why visitors began to flock to Prague in their droves almost as soon as the Iron Curtain fell.
But with its buzzing nightclubs and bars serving 40p pints, the city soon became a magnate for British stag groups and was in danger of gaining a reputation for sleaze. Prices immediately went up, the old town was overrun and, as the locals will tell you, some of the city's unique charm was lost.
These days, though, there is a sense that Prague is coming back into its own. The stag parties that threatened to take over the city have largely moved on to the much-touted “new Pragues” of Tallinn, Riga and Bratislava. The stags that remain can easily be avoided by visiting some gems off the beaten track. The city’s fascinating sights, beautiful parks, cityscape views and delicious Czech beer make for a magic stay. So as they say in Prague... "Na zdraví!"
It is still a very affordable city. Half a litre of beer costs about £1, or even less in the suburbs. So here's my route for the perfect Prague pub crawl.
Start in the old town at U Fleku. This is the most touristy your pub crawl’s going to get. The oompah bands and its cavernous rooms attract the camera-toting crowds but it is still a traditional pub with a smattering of locals who tolerate the tourist charade for the excellent beer brewed on the premises. www.ufleku.cz
Then head to nearby U Zlateho Tygra. A favourite of former Czech President Václav Havel, who famously took Bill Clinton there for a swift half-litre of Pilsner Urquell. It manages to hide itself from the tourist hordes and attracts local regulars rounding off a hard days work. www.uzlatehotygra.cz
Walking through the town square, past the gothic Tynsky Cathedral and the elaborate Astronomical Clock, you get a feel for how beautiful the place is. Then head across the busy Charles Bridge towards U Glaubicu, easily the best watering hole on Malostranské Náměstí (Lesser Town Square). Despite its position on the tourist trail en route to the castle it still manages to keep its beer prices at the very sensible 27kc (90p) for a half litre of Pilsner Urquell. www.restaurant-uglaubicu.cz
Continue up the hill and you’ll arrive at Prague Castle. A complex of majestic buildings that housed Czech presidents, kings and Roman Emporers, it is an impressive sight which commands some fantastic views across the city.
A path then takes you downhill towards Letna Park. Here it's a pleasant amble uphill though the park towards numerous beer huts with gorgeous views across the Vltava and the old town beyond. Crowd the picnic benches under the chestnut trees - sharing benches is the custom and a great way to meet locals - or opt for the tidy café tables opposite at Letenský Zámecek that also serves excellent meals. www.letenskyzamecek.cz/en
If you tire of the view take a short taxi ride to the funky neighbourhood of Zizkov. This is where Prague's 24-hour party people go for their nightlife. There’s a huge concentration of pubs in this area but few are better than U Sadu, a sprawling place with a pleasant outdoor terrace that’s busy day and night. The pub also serves traditional Czech food at bargain prices.
There are plenty of other good options nearby. But with the excellent Gambrinus on tap until 4am, you can relax in the knowledge that you’ve done Prague in a day and you’ve well and truly earned your beer. www.usadu.cz