Working at possibly the most tourist-centric corner of Canada, I can usually spot a tourist when I see one. Some make it easy by studying rumpled maps on a corner, cameras around their necks or by simply noticing things locals wouldn’t, like unimportant buildings. They are in full tourist mode and aren’t shy about it and there’s nothing wrong with that.
There are others who try not to stand out as much and keep their map on their phone (if at all), walk in rhythm with locals and explore without looking helplessly lost. When I travel, I always aim to appear like the latter.
Whether it’s with safety in mind or just the hope that I’ll experience a new city in a more organic manner, I’ll often get lost, okay with getting back to my hotel in a taxi from wherever I end up. If I really think about it, I know I miss a lot more of what I’m there to see than if I had it all mapped out, or better yet, if I was led around on a walking tour for a few self-conscious hours.
Sometimes, you have to give a little to get some back. After my Urban Adventures tour in magical Prague, the 4-hour walking tour that had us all looking like blatant tourists was well worth the less than $70USD we each spent, and left us looking more like locals for the duration of our stay in this fun-loving city.
Full disclosure; I was born in Prague and can still speak the language. I was travelling with a friend who suggested we take a walking tour to get a local’s take on where to hang out for an authentic experience. I went along, wondering how long I would last before confessing to our guide that my formative years were actually spent here – I lasted about 30 minutes.
Prague Beer and Czech Tapas Tour
And there we were. In front of the statue of King Wenceslas on horseback, at the summit of uber-busy Wenceslas Square, our meeting place. My friend and I were two of eight thirsty newbies with Urban Adventures on their Prague Beer and Czech Tapas Tour on a mild October day.
Our guide looked Boho enough to be a local. A transplanted American from Idaho, he got a job teaching English for cash while backpacking Europe after college and never left. His Czech wasn’t the best but it is an extremely hard language to master, and he spoke well enough to get by yet not well enough to fool anyone who lived there.
What made him particularly perfect to lead the tour however was his passion for the city, its art, and more so, his understanding of beer. He was an amateur brewer in college and a very likeable guy overall. He knew Prague’s somewhat recent history and explained it well, going into detail about the anti-Communism demonstrations that took place exactly where we stood that successfully led to the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
The tour promised a visit to four of Prague’s true, local-favourite beer halls as well as a microbrewery. Typical ‘beer tapas’ would be included at each stop during which stories about the Czech/Bohemian lifestyle and how it ties in to the beer culture would be sprinkled throughout. Of course, many questions were posed and answered along the way, including mine.
The line-up of drinking institutions selected for the tour were perfect. They ranged from the oldest to some of the newest and covered the city well. In Prague’s Old Town, we stopped in a former monastery serving the world’s first golden pilsner (actually brewed in Plzen), Pilsner Urquell, since it was first tasted there in 1843. The most famous Czech beer (besides Budweiser Budvar/Czechvar – and not the American one) never tasted better. Here, it’s poured from a tank rather than a keg, eliminating some CO2.
Next up was a lesser-known Prague district, the up-and-coming Zizkov, a compact five square kilometres housing over 300 pubs strewn across a handful of tight-fitting cobblestone alleys. It is also where I was born and lived and it was interesting to see it now as Prague’s hip hood and nightlife epicentre (still mainly for locals as it is a tram ride away from the touristy town centre).
On the way there, we talked our guide into shifting gears for a moment to sample Prague’s Absinthe. We made our way to a cozy corner bar and indulged in the wormwood elixir that’s been banned in many parts of the world.
Warmed up and already buzzing, we made our way on to the Vinohrady district to a beer garden serving nearly 30 different microbrewery offerings. We sat outside around an old wooden table as order after order of bar bites made their way over, accompanied by various lagers, pilsners and even some fruity wheat beers and hoppy ales.
The bites along the way and throughout were delicious and plentiful. Czech food is hearty; potato pancakes, goulash type stews, breads and dumplings (knedliky). Our pints were accompanied by smoked pork neck and sweet white cabbage, rohliky (mini baguettes) with a chunky garlic spread, roast duck and sausages – all in shareable bite-sized portions satisfying everyone.
We all stayed out together well past the end of the tour, carrying on at the place the tour finished, our guide there too. There was the father and son from Chicago, the two football players from California and a young couple from Australia on their honeymoon.
We all met for the first time just hours ago but as we separated after our final drinks together, each of us left into the night knowing a lot more about the country and its culture than we would have by crawling a map or pretending we didn’t need one.
No matter the type of traveller you think you are, an Urban Adventures tour will leave you better off. I have since been on another and the experience was as pleasant and educational as my first, highlighted again by the wonderful guides Urban Adventures employs.
Alright, who’s thirsty?
Urban Adventures’ tours are available in over 100 cities worldwide. Ask a Flight Centre Expert about the possible tours available in the city you’re looking to visit today. Enquire online, call 1877 967 5302 or visit your closest Flight Centre store.