Prague ranks best European city for nightlife – but is the title welcome?

Despite attempts to redefine the city’s image as a party destination, Prague reigns supreme in a recent UK-based index that measures nightlife across European cities. Taking in factors such as price of accommodation, cost of beer, and the number of bars and clubs per capita, the Czech capital came out on top. But is this title really welcome? I put the question to Barbora Scherf, spokesperson for Prague City Tourism.

Prague was just ranked the best nightlife destination in Europe – is this recognition welcome in the eyes of Prague City Tourism?

Illustrative photo: Kristoffer Trolle,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

“Of course, we are not happy to see these statistics that people are still coming to Prague because they see it as a party destination. The City of Prague and Prague City Tourism launched a conception in 2020 that was supposed to rebrand Prague and the narrative of the city. We wanted to show that it is not a place where you can come on a stag or hen trip to get cheap food and drinks in the old town, but rather a place that offers great European history where you come to see culture, gastronomy, and so on.  Since we started this new conception in 2020, we’ve already finished 30 or 35 projects of the 70 that are planned for the coming years.

Photo: Prague City Tourism

“In 2021, we launched a campaign in the touristic centre of Prague that is part of this new conception, and it’s supposed to educate tourists and people who come to Prague about the importance of treating the city with respect. I think it’s really nice visually, and the wording is quite catchy. The slogan is “treat the mother of cities as you would treat your own mother”. For young people that come to Prague, it gives them the message that they should treat the city and locals with respect.”

How do you measure the success of this campaign? And are you able to tell me how effective it has been at mitigating this kind of belligerent behaviour that is often associated with tourists coming to the city for alcohol related tourism?

Illustrative photo: Rondell Melling,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“It’s only been a few years, and I believe you can understand that it’s a long distance run to solve this problem. But I am happy to say that there have been some improvements. For example, if you look at Staroměstská radnice, there’s a renovated space that invites tourists to appreciate the old town hall – the space, the culture, and so on. Prague City Tourism is trying to invite people to really feel different in these places, so they will also upgrade their behaviour in the city. Especially for local people, this bad behaviour is really disturbing, and I can say that as a resident of Prague 1. From the perspective of Prague City Tourism, I can really say that we are trying hard to mitigate these negative elements.”

One might argue, and I am certainly not saying that I agree with this perspective – that tourism is tourism, even if it is alcohol related. Can you explain to our listeners what the consequences are for this kind of tourism in the city? How does it impact locals, or even other tourists who are in Prague for different reasons?

Illustrative photo: Jiří Šeda,  Czech Radio

“Prague City Tourism is aware of how hard this kind of tourism is on our historical sites, and also the negative impacts on local people. That’s why we launched this program not only for foreign visitors, but also for people who live in Prague. We are trying to get people out of the historical zone, and that’s a practice we’ve seen in Barcelona and Amsterdam, we’re trying to replicate this. We are trying to show tourists activities outside of the city centre and invite them to different districts of Prague, like Karlín or Holešovice. This helps alleviate the pressure off the historical centre of Prague, but also boosts the economy of these areas for local producers and culture.”