Eight Great Spots to Raise a Mug this Fall
By Mike Dunphy
In Prague, suds rise with the sun: The Czech passion for beer amounts to the most per capita in the world – a full 142 liters (38 gallons) per person a year. That’s 40 liters more than Germany and 65 more than the United States. Morning, noon, or night, it’s perfectly acceptable to fill a raise a glass free of judgement. In nice weather, these eight beer gardens pour some of the Czech Republic’s finest.
1. Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden
This former royal vineyard on a hill east of the main train station is now the main playground for young, cool professionals and expats of the surrounding Vinohrady and Žižkov neighborhoods. At the center of the wide lawns, cobbled promenades, and shady chestnut trees, one of Prague’s largest beer gardens welcomes up to 1,000 people and shows sports on large screens. Tip: If it’s too packed, head to the smaller garden, Mlíkárna, about 250 yards away next to a sloping lawn with the city’s best sunset views.
2. Letná Beer Garden
Where the Vltava River turns east at the north end of Prague, the land rises to the plateau of Letná Park; nearly a million people gathered here during the Velvet Revolution to protest the communist regime. Far more tranquil nowadays, the park claims the most attention for its leafy beer garden with sweeping city panoramas.
A Communist-era slab of intersecting hexagons in Náměstí Republiky, T-Anker was Czechoslovakia’s largest shopping center when it opened in the 1970s. Today, it’s considered a wretched eyesore by some, and a work of beauty by others. No one debates the view from the beer garden up top, however, which overlooks Old Town’s towers, steeples, and terracotta roofs and serves nine rotating microbrews (many local) such as Cvikov, Matuška, and Nová Sladovna.
4. Strahov Monastery
As in so many other parts of Europe, Bohemia’s beer-making tradition owes much to monks: those at Strahov Monastery perfected their brews between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries until they were evicted by the communist regime. After the Velvet Revolution, the monks returned to their home just west of Prague castle and resumed progress. Head here to sample any of 10 varieties of Saint Norbert beer at long tables in the brewery courtyard.
5. Hospůdka Na Hradbách
Prague’s secondary hilltop castle, Vyšehrad, anchors the south end of the Vltava River. The eighteenth-century fortress contains ruins going back to the Middle Ages, as well as the Czech Republic’s most important and beautiful cemetery, where national heroes like Antonín Dvořák, Alphonse Mucha, and Jan Neruda rest in peace. The rampart’s panoramic views of Prague are best savored with cold beer at the beer garden atop the easternmost bastion.
6. Tiskárna na Vzduchu
It’s never a dull evening at this beer garden and performance venue on the eastern edge of the city’s largest park, Stromovka, once the royal hunting ground of Holy Roman Emperors. An eclectic nightly schedule brings everything from dance and yoga classes to album release parties, movie screenings, and live music, which, together with taps from Czech microbrewers Polička and Únětická, keep everyone on their toes.
7. Augustine Hotel
This cluster of seven buildings from the thirteenth-century cloisters of Saint Thomas now serves well-off travelers, but the Augustine‘s interior courtyard and garden are open to the public (a little-known secret), where you can sip dark St. Thomas beer beneath a shaded arcade or among medieval ruins. Although the dark lager is no longer brewed on the premises by monks, the original recipe for was passed on to the hotel owners, who partnered with microbrewer Matuška, which produces it today. As Czech writer Jan Neruda once said of the beer, “After the third glass from the Augustinian St. Thomas brewery, you are ready to sell your soul to the devil.”
8. Náplavka Riverbank
Stretching nearly a mile along the east riverbank between Vyšehrad and Šítkov Water Tower, this pedestrian path is loved by joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers in the morning. By late afternoon it transforms into the city’s largest unofficial beer garden, where locals relax with craft brews at any of several kiosks with small patios along the route or on one of the floating beer boats moored to the bank.