What defines a scene? Why is Prague such a magnet for footloose Brits and continentals alike? Is it the refined cultural palette of galleries, architecture and theater? The more recent legacy of top-flight house-music clubs like Roxy, Mecca and Radost FM? Perhaps immersion in the Euro blender has more clearly defined the city’s nightlife direction, with the impact of homogenization becoming ever more apparent. No more Czech-only venues and folksy local shows. Today it’s about profitability and sponsorship.

This streamlining has paved the way for countless IKEA-inspired minimalist bar/clubs. Think frosted Plexiglas, chrome fixtures, retro animation art. These places pack ‘em in, and they do serve their function well, pumping out generic house and happy Latin-dance singles for a crowd that equates “scene” with being seen. Occasionally heads turn as a new groove mixes in, but dancing is scarce and DJs who attempt to innovate are less welcome than underfed waifs and lighthearted tourists. M1 on Masna, K.U. on Rytirska, Jet Set in Andel, Papas on Betlemske Namesti and the Emporio Café chain have cookie-cutter mentalities with clienteles to match, but they’re fun for a gander before seeking more satisfying fare.

For more discriminating tastes, the cornerstones of Prague clubland maintain a comfortable vibe while keeping up with the beats. Fraktal in Letna exudes a warmth and diversity missing from the downtown bathroom-style bars. Here you can hear anything from rare groove to alt-rock and a curious range of Afro-ethnic melodies with hints of acid-jazz. The Chateau on Jakubska, the granddaddy of bad behavior and excellent music, celebrated 10 years in business last month with world-class DJs Giles Peterson, Norman Jay and Jose Padilla. Its added basement capacity has chased some old regulars away, but the dance floor, stellar sound and eclectic lineup of hip-hop, jungle and breaks have attracted fresh denizens. Glenn Spicker salvaged Zelene Dvere on Kremencova by scrapping the pricey original interior for tree-house-style shabby brick chic (while preserving the VIP “Cocaine” room round back). Funk, R&B and ’80s keep the frat-party vibe thumping. The Akropolis’ theater/restaurant/club/dive combo continues to blow most competition away with consistent quality atmosphere and noise.

And let’s not forget the many independent DJ bars that speckle the city with tomorrow’s talent tonight, notably XT3, Wakata, Le Mirage, Punto Azul and Sedm Vlku. There’s a lot going on — far too much for this brief space. The action is varied, spontaneous and frantic, if you know where to look. Jump in and start your research.

Timmy’s Top 5 Bars with Soul

1) Fraktal (Šmeralova 1, Prague 7; 732 156 096)

2) Hapu (Orlická 8, Prague 3; 222 720 158)

3) Wakata (Malířská 14, Prague 7; 233 370 518)

4) Café Erra (Konviktska 11, Prague 1; 222 220 568)

5) U Sedme Nebe (Zboravska 68, Prague 1; 257 318 110)

Tim Otis hosts High Fidelity every Friday from 8-10 p.m. on Radio 1, 91.9 FM.

Tim Otis

Latest posts by Tim Otis (see all)

Tim Otis