Czech Republic Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Czech Republic
Unsurprisingly for a country that gave us the word 'Bohemian', the Czech Republic specialises in souvenirs that are original, inventive, and often unexpected. So avoid the usual selection of tacky t-shirts and novelty pens and instead pick up an authentic slice of this fine country.
Without doubt, the most common souvenir people bring home from the Czech Republic is Bohemian crystal. Famed for its colour and beauty, and used in everything from decanters to chandeliers (most royal residences around the world boast Bohemian chandeliers), it makes for a unique and beautiful gift – and costs a fraction of the price buying it here than it does outside of the country. On a similarly luxurious level, garnet is the Czech national gem, so jewellery lovers are apt to find a piece lined with the beautiful deep red stone.
Other great mementos from the Czech Republic include an ice hockey jersey (ideally with the name of national hero Jaromír Jágr), wooden folk carvings and, if in Prague, a marionette puppet. Prague was at the heart of a continent-wide puppetry revolution in the 18th century, so you can watch marionette shows at many theatres here, then buy a puppet as a souvenir.
Most souvenir stores in Prague are centred around the Old Town and Wenceslas Square, but a more relaxed place to pick up trinkets is on the other side of town. Walk the Golden Lane, under Prague Castle, then visit the unique art and antique stores that line Nerudova Street. For utterly unique fashion, visit designer outlet Boheme (www.boheme.cz), or for traditional Czech handicrafts make a beeline for the near ever-present market in the Old Town Square.
There is also great regional shopping outside of Prague, and it's often even cheaper. Discover the china ornaments and geyser stone carvings of Karlovy Vary, the delicate lace and needle embroidery of Moravia, and the very distinctive 'Mrazek-style' pottery of Western Bohemia.
Mon-Sat 0900-1800. Some stores, especially in smaller towns and rural areas, close at 1200 on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays, while others in larger towns and cities will be open 1000-1600 on Sundays. Supermarkets and food shops in large towns and cities are open from 0700 and stay open until late.
Nightlife in Czech Republic
As you'd expect, the hub of Czech nightlife is Prague. The Czech capital has an extraordinarily diverse after dark scene, incorporating a bit of everything, from live theatre, ballet and opera, to clubs, casinos and lap dancing bars. There are also a seemingly infinite range of cafes, bars and jazz joints dotted around the city centre and the riverside. The central districts of the Old Town and Malá Strana are crammed with pubs, nightclubs and music venues mostly aimed at the tourist market, while the area around Wenceslas Square has a concentration of sports bars and strip clubs – stay clear of this part of town if you want to avoid drunken stag parties.
The up-and-coming suburbs of Vinohrady, just east of Prague city centre, and Holešovice, to the north, have lots of cool cafes and hip cocktail bars, and are also home to some of the city's top clubs, including Radost FX (www.radostfx.cz) and Cross Club (www.crossclub.cz).
Brno, the Czech Republic's second city, also has a varied nightlife and has its own opera and ballet venue in the National Theatre (www.ndbrno.cz). Spa resorts such as Karlovy Vary support a lively cultural scene, with a regular programme of classical concerts and a stylish casino, while there are several good live music bars tailored to the tourists in Český Krumlov.