It is time to let the secret out. Cocktail bars in Prague are way better than you have any right to think they are. Sure, you’re thinking “Hey Taste of Prague, shouldn’t I drink beer while in Prague?” Yes, you should. The beer culture of Prague is quite unique and exceptional, and the Czechs are famous for their beers and rightfully so. But Prague’s true hidden gem is its cocktail bars, and you would be seriously missing out if you did not have a drink or two while visiting the City of Thousand Spires. (Another Prague’s hidden gem: our Prague food tours, of course. [End of shameless plug.])
What follows is a shortlist of what we think are…
The Best Bars in Prague
But first, a few general observations that apply to nearly all the good bars in Prague:
We can’t really think why, but next to coffee, cocktail bars are where Prague punches way above its weight and can go head to head with many much bigger world capitals. We think that it all boils down to what we’ve heard someone call the “Czech bar mafia”: a group of Czech bartenders who headed some of the best cocktail bars in the world: the Alex Kratena at the Artisan bar and Mr Tvaroh at Lounge Bohemia in London, Atlas Bar in Singapore, or Martin Hudak at Maybe Sammy in Sydney, among many others. These world-class bartenders have been continuously raising the bar of mixology around the world and - by extension and through friendships, internships and sharing of know-how - in Prague. As a result, Prague can boast mixology at a level that clearly offers more than the price tag would suggest.
That brings us to the second point: cocktail bars in Prague offer a fantastic value. With even the best drinks rarely exceeding CZK 250 (about EUR 9) per drink, we can’t see a reason why not to have a drink in the city. “…the quality of the drinks, service and ambience is not reflected in the price, which is way too low, but hey, that’s Czechia,” said Martin Zufánek, the most famous Czech distiller, in an interview he gave us for our Prague Foodie Map. (BTW, did you already get your copy?)
Reservations are generally a good idea. Bar-hopping? You may not get a seat in the best bars in town. Places like Hemingway Bar or Tretter's can get really crowded. That said, Hemingway Bar doesn't accept reservations past 9pm so you better get in early. Otherwise, walk-ins are fine in some of the bars listed.
Finally, Prague benefits from a friendly community of high-end bartenders who know, like and support each other. Everywhere you go, you can feel the respect bartenders have for each other. Again, Mr Zufánek says that the Prague bar scene is run by “a group of real aficionados who never stop learning and who are bound together by camaraderie and mutual support: when you finish a drink in one bar and tell the bartender what bar are you visiting next, they will say some like “oh, great place, say hi and enjoy!” You should take advantage of that.
Must-visit Bars in Prague
Ask anyone in Prague what’s their three favorite bars in town, and Hemingway Bar will inevitably pop up. A medium-sized two-story bar, Hemingway Bar has been a local favorite for years. As the name suggests, the bar has a slight focus on rums but the seasoned professionals behind the bar will fix you a drink out of just about anything. The bar uses quality ingredients, with many bitters made in house, and the bartenders make sure you understand what goes into every drink and why. They use dried egg whites for their sours. Our suggestion? The Becher Bitter Sour, which highlights Becherovka, the most popular liquor of the country and one of the most popular Prague souvenirs.
Also, Hemingway Bar is THE place for Absinthe in Prague: the bartenders will explain all the possible varieties and the differences between them and tell you how you should drink it. Hemingway Bar is clearly very popular so get in early: the last time we were leaving at about 11pm, about a dozen people waited to get in on the street outside. The best seats? Top floor at the bar: just talk to the bartender, explain what alcohol and flavors you’re looking for, and enjoy the sight and the drink. The atmosphere is lively but a bit subdued: they like their rules at Hemingway Bar (there’s a list of them at each table), which smooths out all excessive behavior. Clearly one of the best bars in Old Town.
Parlour is a tiny place in Krakovska street, a truly uninspired piece of the city near the top of the Wenceslas Square. We would not blame you if you had a hard time finding it: out of all the Prague bars listed, this one truly fits the bill as a “hidden gem". It is also fairly small: the bar sits about twenty maximum. Sitting here is like sitting in your old-school friend's living room, if he or she also happened to have a big bar in it. Given these qualities, Parlour wins the prize as the place to visit if quiet contemplation is what you like with your drink. The soundtrack helps: usually jazz classics (think Kind of Blue by Miles Davis) spinning on the turntable. Simply said, if your want to paaaarty, look elsewhere. (They also don’t accept reservations for larger groups.)
But the drinks are fantastic. The owner-bartenders subscribe to the Japanese school of mixology and avoid all disturbances: no cherries, no lemons, preferably no egg whites, and… wait for it… almost no bitters. Yes, they see themselves as “philosophers of mixology” at Parlour, and the bar is a great place if you want to get nerdy about cocktails. But their drinks are the best and cleanest in town in our book, and if you are a serious cocktails aficionado, you might find yourself coming back to Parlous every single night. (No, really, we have had guests who did exactly that.) Also, their use of and interest in vintage cocktail glasses reaches near-fetish levels. In short, one of the best places to go in Prague, regardless of category.
L’Fleur is the ying to Tretter’s (see below) yang: literally a few steps off one of Prague’s main "meat markets”, L’Fleur is a place for adults: the music is a bit softer and the tunes are a bit older (just like most of the guests). The bar is owned by some of Prague mixology's usual suspects (some of them having won big mixology trophies) and there is a clear drive for quality. The interiors are geared towards the classic 1920s bar, incl. wooden panels, leather-bound seating boxes, and a stained window in the back. We’ve tried a few of their signature drinks and the flavors were great, and the friendly waiters explain all the drinks, including their history or motivation behind them.
But cocktails are not where it stops: the bar offers an astounding selection of Champagnes, and we’re not talking the supermarket kind. The bubbles sold in L’Fleur come from a carefully curated selection of boutique Champagniers and cater to people who love and know their Champagne, at prices that are lower than their US retail counterparts. If you like bubbles and don’t mind spending on them, L’Fleur is the place to go for a splurge. Let the kids party like it’s 1999 on the street outside. You have a bottle of Jacques Selosse to finish in the privacy of your box.
Other Favorite Bars in Prague
Cash Only Bar
Now, first things first: don’t flash out your credit card in Cash Only Bar, or you’ll risk getting looks that will range from bemused to annoyed. Remember the name of the bar, okay? Anyway, this little sister of Hemingway Bar serves two purposes: (1) to catch the overflow from Hemingway Bar, just two corners away, (2) to start or finish your bar hopping night in Prague. The bar does have the looks but is stripped of all the gimmicks: there’s no story here, just solid drinks from a streamlined, seasonal menu, and the classics if you ask for them. But it’s good enough for us to include the recipe for their (or George Nemec’s, to be precise) The Bohemian in our Prague Foodie Map. Recognize.
Now, we have always thought of this bar as a one-two drink bar and move on. Not entirely sure why. For more privacy, walk past the bar downstairs. But if you want to be in the middle of it all, stay up and have fun with the tourists who drop in to have a drink or two. Either way, you’ll be very happy in the Cash Only Bar. Just leave your credit card at home.
Schody Home Bar
Oh, we miss the seventies. What? That we were all born in the late 70s or 80s? Okay then, busted. But we do crave for the times when people just casually had small bars in their homes and were actually able to mix a few drinks themselves. Say what you want, but the Baby Boomers knew how to party. Anyway, imagine if you had a packed home bar, and it happened to come with a crafty bartender. And that’s exactly what Schody Home Bar is. And that crafty bartender comes from Parlour, one of the must-see cocktail bars mentioned above.
It’s a home bar, so the choice of alcohol is limited. Don’t expect to be wowed by a “tower of gin” like in Singapore’s Atlas, or other huge displays. But there is more focus on local liquors, since Schody HB (schody means “stairs” in English) is located just at the foot of the Lesser Town stairs that lead up to the Prague Castle, so the owners are expecting tourists pop in, and the assumption is that tourists want to drink local. The bar is tiny and you have to be buzzed in, but the location is simply magical. We honestly can’t think of a better thing to do in the Lesser Town at night than just to wander around and then have a cocktail or two in this secluded space. Could be the best memory of your Prague stay.
Banker’s Bar may be one of the youngest bars on this list, but you’d be fooled if you’d think it’s run by novices or amateurs. Instead, it was opened as a sister to La Casa de la Havana Vieja, one of the oldest bars in town. Designed as a bank vault, it retains a banking / stock market feel throughout. What we like about Banker’s Bar is that the drinks are rock solid and use great alcohol. Sure, they do have a fairly extensive seasonal menu of their own originals, and we do like the drinks they make, but they can also fix you a classic drink with a wide array of choices for the alcohol. Which can also drive the cost fairly high: Jan once ordered a Boulevardier with a great whiskey and the drink ended up costing somewhere in the vicinity of USD 20. And it was worth every penny.
Given the location, we ultimately tend to think of Banker’s Bar as a before or after theatre bar, or a great prelude to or the finishing touch after your meal at La Degustation next door. The theme may turn some people away, but their drinks are worth tasting, and the menu is inventive without being gimmicky. One last thing: the bar serves commented tastings of whiskey - standard or fancy bottles.
Anonymous Shrink’s Office
You know, food writers love a place that has a simple, strong premise that is fun and easy to explain. And Anonymous Shrink’s Office totally fits the bill: it’s a speakeasy with a cocktail menu in the form of a Rorshach Test: you get a series of cards with inkblots, have a good look at them, and choose one. The attending staff reveals what the drink is, and if you’re happy with your choice, the suit-clad bartenders with face masks depicting some of the inkblots will fix it for you.
Now, this may seem either super cool or kinda gimmicky, depending on where you stand on this. That said, the bartenders are great and the drinks are, too. The drinks behind the inkblots are house specials based on the classics. My inkblot said Boulevardier, for instance. Which was actually spot on, so perhaps it works? We will let you decide. (And no, you don’t have to talk about your mother.)
Bugsy’s bar was undeniably the first artisanal cocktail bar in Prague when there was none other, and you have to respect that. It is a well oiled machine that may look flashy and glitzy on the outside, but on the inside, it’s really a wooden-clad old-timers cocktail bar that relies on rock-solid basics and is really the founding father of all the other bars around it. When it comes to looks, we feel it visually looks at Singapore than it does at NYC, but maybe that’s just us.
Now, we did mention the solid basics, but the fact is that the bar and the young staff behind it does flirt with modern approaches. We’ve yet to summon the courage - or the entourage - to order the bucket of mojito jelly pearls that comes with a million straws and looks like it should be served to groups of girls who go “whooooo!” a lot. So no matter what you’re looking for, Bugsy’s can deliver, and it’s the place to go to see where Prague’s amazing bar scene has really started.
Calling Tretter’s a “meat market” would be a degrading label that would not give justice to a great cocktail program with a fairly long tradition and a strong base of signature drinks. But then again, it is totally a meat market. My two college friends did use to spend their Friday nights at Tretter’s, trying to find a soulmate. For the night or longer: it was all good. Not sure that has worked out for them, but the fact is Tretter’s is your place for cocktails if you’re looking for a “party vibe”, which many in Prague do. And the crowd in front of the bar is a lively mix of locals, expats and foreign visitors. In a way, Tretter’s is the ying to Parlour’s yang. The latter is a library, and the former is where librarians go to party,.
Cocktail and dim sum dumplings. That’s pretty much the entire pitch of the Martinez bar in the residential Vinohrady district. And it works. Sure, is it Din Tai Fung? No, and it does not strive to be. It’s just solid cocktails and you can have an Asian-inspired bite with it. Opened by some of the people previously associated with Bonvivant’s CTC, the drinks are hard to fault. The space is difficult: you enter the door to the bar area, with a few rooms fragmented behind it. So if you seek privacy, this is definitely a plus. If you want atmosphere, that can be a minus. (And the great local site dojedeno complained about the lack of patrons in their review.) Still, it’s a great place to see something that 99% of all visitors of Prague would never see.
Bar and Books
Bar and Books is exactly what it says it is: bar and books. And cigars, too: they sell them on the spot. You have to ring a bell to get in, which is nice because it prevents big groups from coming in, making a huge mess, realizing that they picked the wrong place, and walking out. They have two branches in Prague: one near the Tyn church in the Old Town, and one in the Vinohrady district. We visit the one in the Old Town, a fairly small venue with lighting levels that make it very difficult to take a picture of just about anything, let alone the drinks.
And the drinks we like: usually well-made classics with a few of their own touches. If you like Bond... James Bond, you will like this place and their selection of Bond-inspired drinks like Vesper or Golden Eye. You sit by the table and the welcoming staff helps you with the selection of drinks and brings you small snacks to go with them. The atmosphere of this bar is a bit more intimate and subdued compared to, let’s say, Tretter’s. But B&B remains one of your top choices of you’re looking for a great bar in the Old Town.
Bonvivant's Cocktail Tapas Cafe
We used to go to Bonvivant's because it was quirky - the bar was basically made of an old door just for its beautiful, high-polish veneer. The bartenders were mostly very young but were wearing white work coats over their perfectly pressed pants and dress shirts and ties. And the drinks ranged between classic and a bit crazy if you wanted them to be. And on top of that, the bar had a kitchen and they did serve tapas-style food.
Fast forward a few years, and the bar has recently opened in a new location in the Vinohrady district, taking over the space formerly occupied by Lounge Bohemia, the avant-garde cocktail place by the infamous Mr Tvaroh. The place is bigger but it retains the vibe of the original, incl. the bar and the ceiling decoration. There’s one more room in the back and another secret room accessible via s hidden lever. What we’re trying to say is that this will fit larger reservations, too. Bonvivant’s is a great place if you’d like a place devoid of any tourists, where the bartenders are chatty, the drinks are rock solid, and the vibe is quirky and fun.