Mother Nature has been taking us on a roller-coaster ride lately with scorching heat and pouring rain. High season for tourists is also upon us which means that the streets are packed full of people nearly every hour of every day. What better place to escape the steamy, crowded streets than in a cellar bar? Prague is full of bars that make use of the space below her many old buildings. But did you know that many of these cellars weren’t meant to be cellars at all?
Throughout the course of Prague’s humble beginnings, the city was plagued by flooding. The people understandably did not want to see all of their possessions under water every few months so it was decided that the ground needed to be raised. No one seems to be completely sure how or when they did it. Some people believe that it is medieval garbage below our feet while others believed that it land that was dug up to create the moat that used to encircle Old Town.
Regardless of the time or the building materials, it would have been a huge undertaking. Unfortunately for the residents, it wasn’t enough and the ground level needed to keep getting higher and higher. Their houses were soon completely buried and new structures were built on top.
Fortunately for us in the 21st century, this has resulted in some wonderful cellar bars hidden throughout the city. So in celebration of places that offer respite from weather and crowds, here is our top 5 list of our favorite underground bars. Not only do these bars provide a place where you can escape the heat, the crowds and the rain, they also provide the opportunity to knock back a tasty beer.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Prague and drink beer while you are doing it, come join us for our Tipsy History Tour.
Lokál U Bílé kuželky is one of our tried and true favorites. Their Pilsner Urquell is some of the freshest that you can get in the city and who doesn’t love to keep tabs on their beer consumption than by using the cute little beer-counter paper? At first glance, Lokal looks like a normal bar but below the ground level, Lokal is hiding some wonderful cellars. The cellars are open for seating during busy periods but even if they are closed, you can always ask to take a little peek. The walls of the cellars are unfinished, unlike in many other cellar bars, which gives you great insight as to how the original Romanesque structure looked. If you know where to look, you can see where the windows and doors used to be. With a little imagination, you can even what life was like in the first half of the millennium. Fantastically fresh beer and an awesome cellar combined with a great location in Mala Strana - yes, please!
Míšeňská 12, Mala Strana
Ferdinanda is a great little find just meters away from the Malostranska Namesti. The dark stairwell downstairs opens up to a wonderful cellar that has retained its Medieval atmosphere. Their Sedm Kuli (Seven Bullets) beer is a delicious 13° semi-dark beer that is perfect when you are looking for something with a little more bite thanks to the addition of herbs in the brewing process. Pivovar Ferdinand is based in Benešov, about 50 kilometers outside of Prague, and is named after one of the former owners - you guessed it - the ill-fated Franz Ferdinand. His company bought the struggling brewery in 1887 and gave it a new lease on life. Thankfully, the brewery is still running and another great beer to try is available today.
Karmelitska 379/18, Mala Strana
Krcma, located in the Jewish Quarter, is another favorite. While not completely submerged underground, you feel like a time traveller that has just popped into the Middle Ages when stepping into the bar. Candles set the mood, complete with large piles of dripping wax, and the dark, quiet atmosphere offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Pařížská Street. However, don’t let the location near one of Prague’s most expensive streets scare you off. Prices are extremely reasonable and the traditional Czech food on offer is fantastic so make sure you come hungry and thirsty!
Kostečná 925/4, Old Town
M4, is a hop, skip and a jump away from Charles’ Bridge and is an obscure little bar hidden behind the tourist information signs of a 14th century building. While it certainly lacks in the marketing department (they more prominently promote the toilet to tourists than the bar itself), it makes up for it in character. The bar is located is fantastically preserved cellars complete with rough edges and low ceilings. They have a few craft beers on tap, including beers from Permon Craft Brewery. The bar offers the perfect escape when you are tired of the crowds and the heat and are in desperately in need of a cool, refreshing pint. If you are lucky, you may even happen to be there on a night with live music. Just make sure to watch your head when walking through the doorways or you may end up with the wrong kind of beer-induced headache the next morning.
Mostecka 4, Mala Strana
U Sudu draws a bit of a younger crowd and their beer isn’t the best. However, what it lacks in beer-quality, it certainly makes up for in atmosphere. The entry looks unassuming but once you walk inside and follow the stairs down into the main bar, you feel like you are in another world. The bar has many different sections that form a labyrinth of drinking holes. For the visitors in need of entertainment, there are even fussball tables where you can work up a thirst. Take the time to check out the smaller details while you are there, including the window nooks and what looks suspiciously like the spot of an old fireplace, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. The downstairs section opens around 5 pm. However, beware, the bar is extremely popular with Erasmus students so come early in the evening to snag a seat and enjoy a - slightly - quieter atmosphere.
Vodickova 677/10, New Town