Spring and summer is festival season: these are 10 of the best Prague festivals to attend
Thanks to its Christmas markets and cosy cellar bars, Prague has cemented its status as a favourite cold weather clime. But if you’re already planning your return trip, note that the start of spring is also an ideal time to visit the Czech capital. Suddenly, public parks are abuzz with picnicking locals, trees break into blossom and the city’s calendar fills with festivals. Whether you’re seeking contemporary dance at Tanec Praha or classical music at the Prague Proms, high gastronomy at the Prague Food Festival or frothy pilsner by the litre at the Czech Beer Festival, these 10 Prague festivals cater to all tastes.
Not quite ready to huff and puff your way through the city’s cobbled streets? Even if you aren’t sporting on your finest running shorts, it’s well worth attending the Prague Marathon as a spectator. The event draws crowds of thousands and hosts a perfectly festive atmosphere, thanks in part to the companion Marathon Music Festival with live performances and the concluding pasta party with, yes, heaps of pasta.
Prague isn’t Prague without its beer, and, while it’s delicious all year round, there’s nothing quite like sun and warm weather to complement a frosty half litre (or several). Make your way to the Czech Beer Festival, then, which offers plenty of opportunity to indulge. Over 150 varieties of beer hailing from around the country will be served, while snacks like schnitzel and chips will provide a bit of welcome stodge. And for dessert? Beer cupcakes, naturally.
If you know your Berg from your Brahms, doubtless the Prague Spring International Music Festival is already on your must-do list. Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the festival is a favourite of connoisseurs worldwide, and invites top performers, conductors, and orchestras from around the globe to participate. Several competitions also factor into the calendar, for those who like their classical compositions with a bit of competitive vigour.
Step aside, Edinburgh: there’s more than one experimental theatre festival around this season. The Prague Fringe Festival is slated to bring together dozens of performers and companies from the Czech Republic and beyond, with performances ranging from musical theatre and monologues to dance, comedy, and more, held in select theatres around town.
One of the most popular Prague festivals since its inauguration in 1989, Tanec Praha (or the International Festival of Contemporary Dance and Movement Theatre) is a celebration of all things kinetic. This year, the festival will open with a piece choreographed by Sasha Waltz said to have been inspired by the structure of classical music compositions – and the genre-blending will only continue from there.
Against the really rather splendid backdrop of the Prague Castle’s Royal Gardens, the Prague Food Festival is ideal for sybaritic types. Heavy goulash and dumplings this is not – rather, the festival, returning for its 8th edition this year, celebrates the heights of Czech gastronomy, and will invite the city’s top chefs and restaurants to serve up special plates. A snooze in the grass might be order afterwards.
One of several musically oriented Prague festivals, Prague Summer Nights specifically celebrates the talents of young musicians and performers. Opera lovers especially won’t want to give this one a miss: a highlight of the calendar will be Mozart’s Don Giovanni, performed in the Estates Theatre – the very same venue where Mozart originally premiered the opera in 1787.
If you’re in the business of hosting open-air concerts, it’s hard to do better than the splendid setting of Wenceslas Square. That’s just how the Prague Proms, returning for its 11th edition, will kick off this year’s schedule. For more than a month this season, the festival will host musical events across the city, ranging from saxophonist Branford Marsalis to performances of repertory favourites like Carmina Burana.
Not all music-related Prague festivals skew towards jazz or classical, however. United Islands of Prague has, in the past, featured acts ranging from Israeli indie rock bands to Mexico-based electronic DJs. This year will mark the 12th annual return of the open-air, genre-crossing festival, traditionally held in several outdoor locations across the city centre.
Highlighting the traditions of different Czech regions and eras, Prague Folklore Days is like stepping into a temporary time capsule. For four days this July, the festival will see many dozens of participants take to the streets of Prague, accompanied by music and performing historic dances. Take in the sights and you’ll soon start wishing for an embroidered outfit of your own.