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If you’ve been to Prague then you’ve probably walked past U Zlatého Tygra without even realising it. Frosted stained-glass windows hide the vaulted interior. An intimidating alley is protected by a closed door. A huge golden tiger carving guards the street. And it looks closed. But those brave enough to enter won’t be disappointed.
The Golden Tiger is a legendary bar. It’s atmospheric, noisy, smoky, packed with people. Getting a table is nearly impossible after 4pm. It’s a true štamgast pub for fiercely loyal locals, and tourists are only begrudgingly tolerated.
Yet you can get a taste of real Czech here. The wooden benches have always been renowned for democratic drinking, lawyers sitting with labourers, mechanics drinking with medics. Bill Clinton, then American President, was brought here by Václav Havel. Novelist Bohumil Hrabal, one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century, was a regular. It’s a place for chatting, toasting and making unexpected new friends.
Inside, the room is heavy with history. The original burgher’s house dates back to 1429 but its name came in the eighteenth century, when the baroque ‘creeping tiger’ house emblem was installed out front. An attention-stealing bespoke silver fount, with a roughly carved tiger on top, dominates the bar. The focused Tapster keeps all four taps in constant use, serving one beer one way. About 180 Hladinkas – two 50 litre kegs! – are served here every 30 minutes or so, mostly to people who have been drinking here for decades.
The Tapster stands there and pours. He doesn’t talk. He rarely smiles. But there is a beautiful simplicity and rhythm to everything he does. The perfect Pilsner Urquell with the perfect foam every single time. No variation. His eyes dart around the emptying glasses on the tables but his hands don’t leave the taps. He doesn’t even look at the beer he’s pouring. It is said a good Tapster “feels their beer”.
This is a Czech bar for Czech beer lovers. So grab a seat, if you can find one, settle in and enjoy an atmosphere as good as the Hladinka.
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