Beer is one of Czechia’s national treasures, and the nation’s brewing tradition dates back to the Middle Ages. Inviting your best friends “na jedno” is a Czech national custom. This is well known to the famous Rolling Stones, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and other well-known figures who have been charmed by the atmosphere of a real Czech pub. You can enjoy it, too!
Václav Havel: The Stones roll into the pubCzech President Václav Havel loved the pub atmosphere. Besides Prague’s famous U Pinkasů restaurant and the U Zlatého Tygra pub, he also used to go for a Pilsner Prazdroj at the Na Rybárně restaurant (now the Origami Restaurant) in Gorazdova Street near the Dancing House. After the Velvet Revolution he played host to stars such as Paul Simon and The Rolling Stones there. An equally legendary spot for a beer is the nearby Vltava restaurant (formerly the Paroplavba pub), where Havel, together with other dissidents, put the finishing touches to the petition entitled A Few Sentences, which helped bring about the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.
U Pinkasů, Prague
It is interesting to note that Havel worked as a labourer in the Krakonoš Trutnov brewery in the Giant Mountains. According to his peers from that time, it was there that the future first president of the Czech Republic was taught to drink beer! And it is said that his famous play Audience was also written there. You can take a look at the places where Havel wrote it on a visit to the brewery.
Bill Clinton: A beer with Havel, then a jam session at the Reduta
Bill Clinton was only the second U.S. president to visit Czechia (the Czech Republic). And that was his second visit to Prague; he first saw it as a student during a visit at the height of the communist regime. His plane, bearing the call sign Air Force One, landed in Ruzyně in 1994. After talks at Prague Castle, he ventured out with Václav Havel and Madeleine Albright – who was born in Czechoslovakia and was appointed by Clinton as the first female U.S. ambassador to the United Nations – into the streets of Prague.
Over a beer at the U Zlatého tygra, he chatted with leading of Czech cultural figures and then, after dinner, they commemorated the Velvet Revolution on Národní třída and went for a jam session at Czechia’s oldest jazz club – the Reduta. Playing the saxophone he received as a gift from Havel, the U.S. president is said to have given renditions of the jazz standards Summer Time and My Funny Valentine. The place he chose to stay was the Hotel Hilton in Prague’s Karlín district.
Bohumil Hrabal: Inspired by a breweryBohumil Hrabal, one of Czechia’s most famous writers, was a great lover of the beer culture. He spent his childhood in the Nymburk brewery near Prague, where he drew inspiration for his book The Little Town Where Time Stood Still. The brewery offers guided tours upon request. However, the film version of the story, Cutting It Short, by Oscar-winning director Menzel, was shot elsewhere, in the Dalešice brewery near Brno.
U Zlatého tygra, Prague
Hrabal had several favourite pubs in Prague. At the U Zlatého Tygra in the heart of Prague’s Old Town he even had a table in front of the entrance to the kitchen, where he used to sit with the other barflies. From his home in the House at the Stone Bell by Old Town Square, one of the most valuable townhouses in Prague and now home to the Prague City Gallery, it was not far to the U Pinkasů restaurant. There, he used to enjoy some excellent Pilsner beer to wash down his beloved pork roast with potato dumplings.
Leoš Janáček: To the mill for a beerThis Czech composer is still one of the most widely played classical music composers in the world. Janáček’s operas are hugely successful from New York to Tokyo. However, he is most often associated with Brno in South Moravia, where he used to work. He was a sociable fellow and used to enjoy visiting cafés and pubs, which were teeming with leading figures from the world of art and politics. The Stopkova Plzeňská Pivnice pub near Náměstí svobody, where he used to sit, still serves beer to this day.
Stopkova Plzeňská Pivnice, Pilsen
Other of Janáček’s favourite haunts also included the spa town of Luhačovice and the area around his native Hukvaldy, where he liked to take walks and call in for a beer at the Šmířák Mill in Kozlovice. And of course Štramberk, which he described as the most beautiful town in Czechia. The romantic villages below the Beskid Mountains are said to have inspired him to write his opera Her Stepdaughter, or Jenůfa.
Antonín Dvořák: For a pint and bowl of potato soupThe famous Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, who wrote the New World Symphony, used to enjoy going “na jedno” to wash down a bowl of potato soup in Prague’s pubs. He loved Czech food and beer, and one of his favourite places to tuck into these was the U Pravdů brewery opposite his apartment in Žitná Street in Prague. Not many people know that this Czech musical genius was tasked with composing the national anthem during his stay in the U.S. In the end this didn’t happen, although his work in the U.S. did a great deal to develop classical music on the American continent. You can find out more about Dvořák's life at the Antonín Dvořák Museum in the Villa Amerika in Prague.
U Pravdů, Prague
Jaroslav Hašek: The king of the Czech bohemians and author of Švejk loved Czech beerThe persona grata at pretty much all Czech pubs and the king of the Czech bohemians, Jaroslav Hašek, made his name with his book The Good Soldier Švejk. The writer led a very wild and adventurous life. He was said to be able to drink as much as 30 beers a day, and enjoyed a good plate of goulash. It was at the Kravín restaurant near Náměstí míru in Prague that he founded The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law. The famous protagonist of his novel, Švejk, is associated with the U Fleků, U Kalicha and U Vejvodů restaurants, beautiful historical premises that serve up the best Czech beer on tap. Hašek spent the end of his life in a small room above the U České koruny restaurant below Lipnice Castle in Vysočina. His favourite table was apparently on the left, right by the entrance.
U Fleků, Prague
Mozart: Night-time rambles around the heart of PragueBeloved by the people of Prague, Mozart would visit the U Tří zlatých lvů restaurant near Old Town Square, in the house he used to stay in when visiting Prague. During his famous nocturnal roams, he is also said to have been a regular visitor to bars on Celetná Street. Legend has it that it was somewhere there, right in the very heart of Prague, that he met a harpist, for whom he composed a small piece right there on the spot. Another place frequented by Mozart is the mediaeval U krále Brabantského tavern in Malá Strana, which is one of the oldest restaurants in Prague and is still open to this day.
U Krále Branbatského, Prague