Category: 02 – Prague Concerts 2022

A short trip to Prague in the Czech Republic that allowed us to catch two great concerts by the late Jeff Beck (supported by Johnny Depp) and Kiss

Stansted shocker

Departure airport: London Stansted
Destination airport: Václav Havel, Prague
Airline: Ryanair

There is something seriously wrong at Stansted. Security is actually working quickly and effectively and we both clear the scanners in under 15 minutes – even after Lin forgot to remove her toiletries from her bag and had to undergo the usual ‘enhanced’ check.

Ryanair’s advice to arrive three hours before flight time turns out to be utter nonsense. Departures is busy, but nowhere as bad as our previous visit. We have no problem finding a bench to sit on this time, and munch a £4.99 WH Smith meal deal for breakfast.

The gate experience is the usual Ryanair farce. The “priority” queue is longer than the regular queue – and that’s before you count the non-priority travellers taking the piss. Fortunately the process is relatively smooth and we leave just a few minutes late (airport incompetence rather than Ryanair’s).

Arriving at Prague Airport, the post-Brexit passport queue is quick and efficient – absolutely no different to the pre-Brexit process (I know – I have always queued because I have always collected passport stamps). The immigration officer even sends me away from the desk to call other passengers forward while he processes my passport.

Top tip: The Airport Express bus (route AE) leaves from directly outside the terminal and costs 100CZK (£3.45) per adult – buy your ticket from the driver. It takes you directly to the main railway (Praha hlavní nádraží) station in the city and the journey takes about 40 minutes.

When visiting Prague we have established something of a ritual – we stop at the Café Trinity at the bottom of St Wenceslas Square for a beer to break up the walk to our hotel. But after sitting on the terrace for five minutes and being unable to get service (or find out if they even sell beer any more), we decamp to the Jan Becher bar/restaurant instead.

Beer drunk, we continue our walk down to Hotel U Zlatého Stromu which will be our base for the next four nights. As we approach, I have two major concerns. First, the hotel is located on the main route between Prague’s famous astronomical clock and the Charles Bridge, meaning there are thousands of tourists passing our front door all day and all night. Second, there is a big sign advertising a nightclub inside our building – and it’s far bigger than the one for the hotel.

Check-in is quick and we are allowed into our room a little early. The room is decorated in a similar style to the other Bauer Hotels in the city, which is nice (more about them tomorrow). I’m pleased to see that our room is at the back of the hotel, away from the noise of the street – but it is also directly above the nightclub which I can see out the window.

Feeling quite hungry we head out for some food, eventually arriving at a place on Melantrichova that specialises in “Prague ham”. Linda and I both opt for the ham and mashed potato – and the waiter immediately forgets our order (he admits as much after the first 30 minutes of waiting). Eventually the food arrives and it is actually pretty decent, but the poor service detracts from our experience.

Afterwards, we head off for our first escape game of the trip – Moriarty’s Phantom Trap, operated by Questerland. Rated 10/10 difficulty, this is a hard room, particularly when there are only two of you. The first hour passes quickly and we expect to be ejected at any moment. However, we struggle on with the tasks, making very slow progress.

Eventually after 109 minutes, the games master helps us solve the final puzzle and we are free. We feel slightly embarrassed, but the young man running the room tells us that larger groups often take well over two hours before giving up entirely. (Prices from 1290 CZK / £44 GBP – not bad value if you’re allowed to keep going as we were).

A short tram ride and walk back to the hotel and it’s time to call it a night.

Bonus tips:

  • The Hotel U Zlatého Stromu is not air conditioned – all you get is a fan which is hidden in the wardrobe.
  • There is no lift at the hotel and your room will be on the second floor or higher (reception is on the first).
  • The reception desk is not staffed after 7pm in the evening.
  • You will be given two keys at check-in – one for your room and a second for the iron gate used to keep nightclub revellers out of the hotel after 7pm.
  • There are never enough plug sockets at Bauer Hotels properties – you will probably need to unplug a lamp or the TV. I strongly recommend packing a socket doubler or 4-gang power strip as well as your travel adapter.
  • The WiFi is rubbish. If you want to stream a movie, it has to be done during the day because there simply isn’t enough bandwidth to support all the guests at night.
  • Taxis from Prague airport cost £20/€27+ if you really can’t bring yourself to travel on the bus.

And in support… Johnny Depp

We both sleep very well. Neither of us heard the nightclub downstairs, but that may be because it was Sunday night. Perhaps tonight will be different…

Breakfast is served on the ground floor in the hotel’s conservatory. There is a small selection of cooked food – sausages, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, baked beans, green beans and ham – along with continental breakfast items like cheese, ham, salami and salad. There is also a small selection of cereals, cakes and a bean-to-cup coffee machine.

Having already visited Prague once this year, we decide to have a lazy day at the hotel. Which provides an opportunity to say a little more about the hotel.

This is our fourth trip to Prague and the third time we’ve stayed in a Bauer Hotels property. On previous trips we used the Hotel U Prince, located on the Old Town Square, even scoring a free upgrade to a suite once when staying for our wedding anniversary.

If you like you like clean, minimalist design, the Bauer Hotels are not for you. If you like dark wood, odd paintings in heavy gilt frames and various metal sculptures and oddities, you’ll love it.

Top tip: When staying at the Hotel U Prince, see if the attic room is available. Yes, there are stairs to climb and yes, the ceiling is low, but the views from the dormer windows are spectacular. You can see every one of Prague’s main sights from the room.

This latest trip to Prague is something of a last minute thing for us. Linda wanted to see Johnny Depp (and Jeff Beck) perform and we both wanted to see Kiss one last time. By some good fortune, both are performing in the city within a few days of each other – which is why we are here.

After a quick (somewhat overpriced) meal in the hotel restaurant (goulash for me, gnocchi for Linda), we set off for the Jeff Beck gig. A short walk to Mústek station and six stops on the ‘B’ metro line gets us to Českmoravská and the O2 Universum.

The venue itself is brilliant. Spotlessly clean, well-priced and a world away from the O2 in London. Flushing urinals means that the place doesn’t smell like piss – unlike it’s London-based namesake. Food and drink is also extremely reasonable; a beer costs 55CZK (£1.90 – cheaper than our hotel). You can even get a giant slice of pizza and a drink (including beer) for less than £5 GBP.

The show is opened by Czech Rock n Roll Hall of Fame member Michal Pavliček, his set is almost entirely wordless. It’s actually pretty good.

Jeff Beck then comes on stage and also performs a wordless set – again, pretty good. The show then shifts up a gear as Johnny Depp makes his appearance. The crowd – including two guys in full Pirates costume go nuts. Depp roars and snarls lyrics from their forthcoming album ’18’, and actually does a really good job. ‘Death and Resurrection Show‘ is a barnstorming finale.

After the show ends we stop for a beer to avoid the crush at the doors. Then it’s back to the hotel for some sleep.

Climbing a mountain

Having seen most of Prague’s main sights on previous visits, we’re in no real hurry to ‘do’ anything. After breakfast we decide to take a trip up to the Petrin Gardens and have a look at the mirror maze.

We walk up to the Staromestká tram stop, catching the number 15 across to Újezd. There is a long queue at the funicular station and Linda decides we should walk to the top of the (large) hill – even though the queue is actually for tickets (and we already have one).

Top tip: Your public transport tickets are valid for the funicular too. A 24 or 72 hour ticket will not break the bank and will save time and hassle as you move around the city.

Bonus tip: Your public transport ticket is not valid for the AE airport express bus.

We make several stops on the way up the hill, including taking a short detour to find a geocache. The view is absolutely spectacular:

Reaching the top, we realise that the mirror maze is not free – and that we don’t actually want to visit all that much anyway. Instead we stop for a beer at the Petrin lookout tower and then head back down the hill – this time using the funicular.

Afterwards we head over to The Chamber to play their Haunted House escape game. We had tried to book this room on our previous trip to Prague in February, but never quite made it, so we’re looking forward to it. (Prices from 1590 CZK / £55 GBP).

The room is extremely well put together, has some intriguing and clever puzzles and maintains a serious sense of dread throughout. This time we do manage to escape within the 60 minute time limit and have a really good laugh while being slightly on edge.

Going back into the old town, we stop at the Good Food trdelnik shop next door to the Hotel U Zlatého Stromu. Yes, we know that chimney cakes are not a traditional Czech dish, but we need a snack and they look cool. Linda opts for The Devil, black yoghurt poured into a black chimney. I choose the apple strudel variant (caramelised apples, walnuts topped with whipped cream). They are both very good.

Later that evening we go all out with a three course meal at Deer, another Bauer Hotel property. Linda starts with fish and I choose the sampler, which includes a small amount of all the starters. Too late I remember that I hate goats cheese. and there’s a big dollop of it on my plate. The duck pâté tastes like pure butter and the steak tartare is unmemorable. Presentation of all the dishes is incredible though, and the bread rolls with pink butter is a nice touch.

Top tip: If you’re staying at a Bauer Hotel property, reception should be able to make you a table booking at Deer, even if the restaurant is busy.

For main course, Lin has the sea bream because she enjoyed so much during our last visit in February. This time I go for the deer saddle and dumplings. There’s plenty of flavour but my main course is cold. For dessert, Lin selects the ice cream, including a scoop of sea buckthorn gelato; it’s unusual but very tasty and a good partner for the other flavours (mascarpone and blueberry).

Then it’s back to the hotel, another day done. But just as we’re dropping off to sleep, I’m jolted awake by the weirdest creaking noise – there’s someone in our room! We lie awake, waiting to see who it is and what they want.

Creak… creak… creak.

Eventually we realise the noise is coming from the floor above. That pretty painted ceiling can be a little creepy when your upstairs neighbour is walking around late at night.

I guess that’s what happens when you visit a haunted escape room and watch a horror movie on the same day.

Crazy, Crazy Night (or not)

We’re heading out to see the Kiss concert in Prague tonight, so we decide to take it easy again today. After breakfast and a film, we go for a wander to grab a beer – the weather is quite warm. We wander over the (crowded) Charles Bridge and grab an outside table at Restaurace Gotika. It’s nice to sit by the water and watch the boats going up and down the river Vltava.

After a few more hours lazing and doing nothing, it’s back on the ‘B’ metro out to the O2 Arena. This venue is much bigger than the Universum, and regularly hosts ice hockey events, alongside larger concerts like Kiss.

Just like its smaller brother, the Universum, the Arena is clean, well-priced and doesn’t smell like piss (still looking at you London). Again, beer is just 55 CZK (less than £2) – in London it is nearly £7 per pint.

Kiss are predictably awesome. Our seats are stage side so we don’t have the best view – but we can feel the heat from every fireball and pyrotechnic effect. This is the second time we have seen the band and they are just as good as they were pre-Covid.

Something strange happens at the end of the gig though. The band play their encore and disappear. A message flashes up on screen (‘Thank you Praha’) and God Gave Rock and Roll To You begins to play on the PA – but the crowd is frozen. No one quite knows whether the show is over because they haven’t played Crazy Crazy Nights.

But the show is over and we leave feeling somewhat cheated.

Escape, Café, Home

It’s our last day in town so we plan one last escape room. This time it’s The Alchemist’s Chamber, run by MindMaze. Having played two of their rooms previously, we expect this one to be good. (Prices from 1490 CZK / £51 GBP).

We’re not disappointed either. The puzzles are suitably challenging and inventive, with some nice variations that we’ve not encountered before. After a couple of errors, we do eventually manage to get free – with less than four minutes to spare. We did struggle with one puzzle in particular because we’re both short!

Making our way back to the hotel to collect our suitcases, we stop for lunch at the Hard Rock Café – another of our travelling traditions. The menu has expanded slightly since our last visit, so I select the “local legend” burger which is exactly as expected. Lin tries one of the Kiss-themed cocktails and declares it good – so she has a second.

With food done, it’s time for an epic yomp, first to the hotel, then back to the main railway station to pick up the Airport Express bus. Lin sets a punishing pace, but we make the 6pm bus with time to spare.

Top tip: The Prague Airport Express (AE) leaves every 30 minutes. You can find the correct bus stop by entering the main train station and following the signs that show a bus and an aeroplane. The bus departs from the upper level. A queue of travellers with suitcases will tell you you have arrived at the right stop.

At Prague Airport we clear immigration in a matter of seconds – and again we have arrived too early. Some kind of screw-up at Stansted means that our flight will be about 25 minutes late, so we sit in one of the corridors waiting.

Prague Airport has a slightly unusual set-up where you don’t pass through security until you reach your gate. I actually quite like this, because it means you’re not trying to clear security with the whole airport – just the other people on your plane. This tends to be far quicker and painless than the Stansted approach.

Once at our gate, the “Priority” queue is again longer than the regular one. But as another traveller points out, we have to get on a bus out to the plane, so queueing is pointless anyway. And he’s right.

Our flight departs slightly late (as expected) and is again, uneventful. Back at Stansted passport control is unusually efficient – even the ePassport gates seem to be working – so queues are weirdly fast. Strange things are afoot at what I once called ‘The World’s Worst Airport’.

Final thoughts

Thanks to its excellent transport links, Prague is a great choice for attending concerts abroad. Ticket prices are often lower than the same gigs in the UK too, as we discovered when we caught Def Leppard at the O2 Arena back in 2019.

It’s also worth noting that Prague is not as cheap as it once was (no more £0.12 beers). Food, drink and accommodation prices are shooting up. Clearly some of the rises are caused by the global ‘cost of living crisis’ that saw Czech inflation top 11% back in February, but it appears that Prague no longer sees itself as a budget backpacker destination either.

This is also the first time we have not visited The Black Angels Bar while in Prague. As much as we love their cocktails, we were disappointed by our last visit so we gave it a miss this time round. Hopefully, they get back to the standard of service and chat that saw them ranked as one of the top 10 hotel bars in the world soon.

Who is this trip for?

  • Americans apparently – they seem to be everywhere.
  • Beer lovers.
  • Stoners. Prague has sold its soul to hash culture, which is a great shame.
  • Medieval sightseers – most of the buildings are older than the USA.

Next stop, Southampton…

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