Praguers back in the pubs and on the trams are finding the city, for the moment at least, strangely peaceful. Couples can take a tranquil, early evening stroll across the Charles Bridge, enjoying the pleasant May weather unhindered by throngs of tourists – a scene long thought unheard of. Before the pandemic, springtime meant the inevitable appearance of hordes of drunken stag parties, generally pouring off cheap Ryanair flights from all over the UK.
This year, even at the most high-profile terrace bars along the Vltava riverfront, Czechs mainly have the place to themselves. Nowhere in view are the loud, stumbling packs of lads attracted by travel firms such as Praguepissup.com.
“They must be pissing up at home,” says Prague native Jiri Balak, who bristles at the sight of loud Brits invading his favourite beer garden in the Letna district.
Where have all the stags gone?
But savouring the peace and quiet is a good idea while there’s still the chance, it seems. Inbound numbers are steadily improving after the crash of 2020 – Czech tourism officials expect this year’s visitor totals to reach 50 per cent of pre-Covid figure of 8 million (around half a million of which come from the UK).
Some suspect the reason for the sleepy pub crawl sector may be a healthy respect for keeping at least two borders away from active war zones. Prague-based finance firm manager Grazyna Kurzbauer says conflict-conscious stags are certainly steering clear of her former home in neighbouring Poland, Krakow, and this could be a factor behind the Czech capital’s slump.
A relative lack of accommodation may be another. Many hotels won’t take stag parties, so they often stay in Airbnb apartments. But short-term rentals are scarce these days because landlords changed tactics during the Covid slowdown and have now rented out many properties long-term. Praguepissup.com, one of the early leaders in the sector, wouldn’t be drawn on the reasons why, but there’s no doubt business is down. The original founder of the company sold it off not long ago, points out Chris Wiseheart, whose own firm Prague Transport has greeted incoming stags at Vaclav Havel International Airport for years.
“There are still stag parties coming to Prague but in smaller groups and certainly not as many. We do have five or six a weekend but they tend to be a bit more mature than before Covid and not just here for the cheap alcohol and partying scene,” he says.
Max Munson, founder of Jama, a bar near Wenceslas Square that specialises in Western fare such as ribs and fry-ups, has also sold off his creation – though not for lack of business.
Jama is still recommended by Praguepissup.com and still accommodates stag parties, he says, but it’s always a tradeoff with the needs of the bar’s dedicated locals. “I always tried to keep the groups in the back rooms so they did not infringe on the vibe for the other clientele,” says the native Chicagoan.
The beer-guzzling parties are a fact of life, he adds. “The stag-dos are back now to some degree. But it does seem down compared to before.”
The peace won't last forever
Katerina Hix, a veteran of the tourism sector in Prague, notes that authorities have wrestled with what to do about loud revellers in the city’s normally quiet centre for years – but not much has come of their public pronouncements. “It’s just the Czech tradition of declaring goals and then standing back.” The reduced noise is certainly being enjoyed by locals, she adds, however it happened. But she believes the stags are certain to return en masse – it’s just a question of when.
For more destination info, see our expert guide to the perfect weekend in Prague, plus pick of the best hotels in Prague.