The thought of an evening at the theater may have you checking everything from proper clothing to ticket cost before nixing the notion to see a play. “‘It’s expensive’, ‘I can’t understand the language’ and ‘I packed nothing to wear’ are excuses travelers will make to avoid the theater,” says Prague-based journalist Jacy Meyer. However, she adds, Prague defies these stereotypes about theatre. A main stage performance can cost as little as $15 for an orchestra seat, and many performances offer subtitles in several languages. Local troupes in Prague invent new genres of theater and expand on established European themes to make them distinctly Czech. Experience the city’s theatrical culture through shows, cafés, boutiques, and performers in the cobblestone streets.
If you’re a backpacker or a light traveler, chances are you didn’t bring appropriate clothing for an evening performance. Locals of Prague attend the theatre dressed in formal attire. Head to Mustek, the fashion district to find an evening dress — but shop smart. Stores on the main street have high prices, so wander into gallerias on side streets to find cocktail dresses at reasonable prices. Palac U Styblu is a galleria that houses original Czech designers and clothing stores at more modest prices. Housed in Palac is Taboo, a boutique that caters to business casual and cocktail attire. Shop at Taboo for a cheaper evening ensemble with prices around $30-$40.
Address: Wenceslas Square 28, Praha 1
Black Light Theatre
For your first taste of Prague theatre, buy tickets for a Black Light Theatre performance. The first of its kind, the original theatre (Ta Fantastika) rests in the Staré Město near Charles Bridge. Rather than traditional stage lights that illuminate the performances, the lighting comes from the actors themselves. Even if there are 15 performers on stage at once, you only see what they want you to see. Imagine candlesticks that levitate, gloved hands without owners, and scenery that glows and has a gravitational mind of its own. Ta Fantastika’s performances run every night, so the show does not typically sell out. You may buy your tickets at the door, but be aware, last minute ticket purchases are for the “hot zone,” where performers pull audience members to participate on stage.
Address: Karlova ulice no. 8 110 00 Praha 1
Hours: Box Office open daily 11:00-21:30, tickets also available online
Start your morning off with a light refreshment at Café Nona. Housed in the New Theater (adjacent to the National Theater), this modern café pulls you into the performance vibe. Aside from the bar, the café is entirely glass-walled. This allows for a 270° view of the city. Choose a window seat or a lounge chair backed into a comfy bookshelf. Servers are prompt at Nona and can prepare your order in as little as two minutes (time it). Plus, café prices are cheap — a cappuccino with whipped cream and flavor additives is less than $2.
Address: 4 National, Praha 1
Hours: M-F 9:00-24:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-24:00
Shakespeare and Sons
Take the metro to Malastranska and wander the small shops and cafes along the riverbank. Among these is Shakespeare a synové, or Shakespeare and Sons Bookstore. Venture here for the extensive collection of new and used English language literature. The store appears small, but look for the lower floor stacked from top to bottom with books in several languages. On the far right wall, find the shelves of drama and theatre-related novels. Enjoy Czech authors and playwrights while sitting in the reading room downstairs. Chintz armchairs and Shakespeare artwork complete the Renaissance atmosphere.
Address: U Lužického semináře 10, Praha 1
The Mala Strana area houses the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Established in 1945, the Academy is the largest arts school in the Czech Republic. Locate the Academy behind St. Nicholas Church — you can’t miss the teal stucco and endless parade of performance flyers. Wander into the courtyard directly through the main entrance to catch a midday performance. Also visit the Academy’s coffee house, Café Hamu. The café serves students and locals alike and is reasonably priced.
Address: Malostranské námĕstí 12, 118 00, Praha 1
Named by Trip Advisor as “Prague’s best-known café,” find Café (Kavárna) Slavia across from the National Theatre. The café overlooks the river and is a hub for actors. The warm, polished atmosphere evokes the rich history and tradition of the café as a meeting point for artists and Vaclav Havel, former Czech writer and president of Czechoslovakia after the fall of Communism. The café offers a selection of entrees, including sweet crepes topped with lemon sorbet, maple syrup, figs, and walnuts.
Address: Smetana embankement 1012/2, Praha 1
Hours: M-F 8-24:00, Sat-Sun 9-24:00
Choose Your Own
Prague Shakespeare Company (Rating: PG-13 and under)
Don’t arrive late, or you won’t enter until intermission. These performances are among the most intimate in Prague and the actors interact with the audience. Expect performers to sit with the spectators, sword fight through the aisles, or finish your wine for you (though you’ll receive a reimbursement if this happens). Anticipate that you will be engrossed in the performance, whether you are a die-hard Shakespeare fan or not. The Company performs in the Divaldo Kolowrat, a small venue across from the Estates Theater. Most performances are in English with Czech subtitles.
Address: Ovocný trh 579/6, 110 00 Praha
Hours: Box Office open Mondays from 15:00-19:00pm or two hours before the show
Svandovo Divaldo (Rating: M)
Find Svandovo in Andél, away from the tourists. Warning: the subject matter is mature (a PG rating in Prague does not match a similar rating in the United States). Expect references to substance use and abuse, language and onstage nudity. See a performance in the Big Hall and request a balcony seat — the best area to view the onstage action and subtitles. The small theatre’s set design is ellaborate; Svandovo creates a stage world that resembles a professional troupe instead of a community theater. The plays stretch to a variety of topics: ex-rock musicians turned wheelchair racers, hen-pecked husbands lamenting their wives or Prague’s garbage collectors and their musical lives. Though the plays are diverse in content, all have underlying ties back to Prague and the Czech Republic. Each play leaves you with a deeper meaning behind what it means to live in Prague.
Address: Štefánikova 6/57, 150 00 Praha 5
Hours: Box office open from 14-20:00
Take it in, take a bow, and close the curtain on Prague — for this visit.
Click here for a detailed theatre map.