Beer from two local microbrews and natural wine; art, cinema and theatre; coffee and cake…the only thing bad about this is that we can’t clone it!
Kasárna Karlín, what a thing. A burgeoning social and cultural centre not far from the centre, this place wraps everything nice into one (not-so-)neat little package. The site of a former barracks, this cultural hub has taken something not so nice and is attempting what seems impossible. Collectively, they have begun to turn it completely around.
Let’s start with the heart and soul of so many cultural centres: the café. The café is somewhat small and modest. Only partially restored, you’ll enter to find a few tables in a rather cosy space. A picture of Vaclav Havel adorns the wall beside the bar, where he, so uncharacteristically, looks down upon us. They’ve got a small fridge with some cake, sandwiches or nakládaný hermelín (marinated cheese, which you should all be familiar with by now), I tested the cake and the cheese, both of which were decent enough. For drinks they have homemade lemonades, bottled lemonades/natural soda-like things, and, of course, coffee. But what about the beer…Vinohradský Pivovar’s beer is flowing through the faucets at the cafe here, and is kept in good condition. The lager is crisp and fresh, with its typical light honey and grain flavour and earthy bitter balance. Not a bad lager at all, especially on a hot day. Opposite Havel is a doorway into another room with an old swimming pool. The room, and the pool, have been turned into an art gallery.
Having explored the gallery, you can grab another beer and turn your attention to the courtyard; that strange area with a metal unicorn and iron tower…yes you read that right. The unicorn is a product of the mind of Frantíšek Skála. This post-modern artist walks the line between brilliant, absurd and mad, and seems to do so with relative ease; for a country which was so well known for its absurdist arts, Skála (in my humble opinion) may well be one of the last great artists of this genre. Skála also created Prastánek, which will be the next stop that we’ll mosey on over to. Prastánek is a mini-cafe/hut carved out of a more-than-300-year-old oak tree. To make it even better, they tap a beer called Křižík, an 11° (~4.5% ABV) light lager brewed with Czech Pilsner malt and Munich malt and Bohemie hops (a cross between Saaz and Sladek hops). It’s a very slight, but welcomed, change of pace from the traditional Czech pale lager. Unfiltered and unpasteurised, the malt body is a little more rotund and sweeter, more dark honey and dried fruit flavour subtly coming from the Munich malt, and the hops show similar, but different, qualities to the typical Saaz hops. They also serve fantastic natural (“authentic”) wines from the region. In case these two are not enough, there are a couple other places within the grounds to get a beer, though I’ll keep going back for the Křižík. All of this perfectly complements the atmosphere, which is natural, inviting, lively and exciting. The whole area encourages us to let down our guard and just relax.
Beyond the bars, the complex hosts a summer cinema that screens plenty of interesting international films with Czech subtitles, firepits to sit and relax near, theatre, art exhibitions and live music. Kasarna Karlin is an alternative oasis: calm and composed during the day and buzzing with energy in the evenings. A list of their events can be found on their website or Facebook. There’s always something interesting happening, so check up on it regularly. To me, few things are better than a former military building in disrepair repurposed as a centre for culture; a reclamation of the space for a better function, a space that supports local organisations, artists and businesses and creates a healthier city. In a word: Brilliant!
Getting here is very easy, located less than 500 metres from the Florenc Metro station (red and yellow lines); or by trams 3, 8, and 24 to either Florenc or Karlínské náměstí. It’s also very possible to walk, taking only about 30 minutes from Prague’s Old Town Square.
**Note: for a list of non-pubs to visit around here, see our neighbourhood guide.