PokerStars Championship Prague - A Guide to a Winter Wonderland
Many of the most popular PokerStars live events take place under sizzling suns with beautiful beaches a stone's throw away. However, there's one stop in particular that proves just as popular, despite the fact that swimwear and sand are swapped with scarves and Christmas markets.
We're talking of course about Prague. PokerStars has been visiting the capital of the Czech Republic every December for a decade now, dating back to Season 4 of the EPT right up to PokerStars Championship this year.
With the €5,300 Main Event (Dec 12-18), the €50,000 Super High Roller (Dec 10-12), and €10,000 High Roller all on the schedule (surrounded by a healthy mix of side events), there's always poker to be played at the Casino Atrium in the Hilton Prague Hotel (take a look at the schedule here).
But there's so much to enjoy in this city - particularly at such a festive time of year - that it would be criminal not to get out and explore. There's a very good reason that players love to come to Prague: quite simply, it's awesome.
So, for the case of this article, let's say you have two free days in Prague, during which you want to take in some culture, festivities, food and drink. Here are some suggestions.
Prague in December is certainly scenic, but it sure can be cold too, so walking everywhere isn't always the best idea. Luckily, Prague has its Metro (subway) serving 61 stations across the city. It's pretty cheap to get around here; a three-day Metro pass will only set you back around $14, while a 24-hour pass costs roughly $5.
See the sights
Kick off your sight-seeing with a trip to Charles Bridge. The landmark links the Old Town with the New Town, and is often bustling with street artists and entertainers. Plus, you'll get to take in some amazing views down the Vitava River, the longest river within the Czech Republic.
Once you're over the bridge, you'll soon get warmed up when you begin the walk up towards Prague Castle. We won't lie to you, it's a mission to stroll up there so the walk isn't for everyone. But it's well worth visiting the ninth-century castle to see the changing of the guard and the breathtaking views down over the
While you're in the area, take in the nearby St. Vitus Cathedral. And if you're a Beatles fan, head down to Lennon Wall - a once-normal wall that has been covered by John Lennon-inspired graffiti since the 1980s.
Where to eat?
For day one, we'll stick to restaurants near the venue. While there's a very nice buffet within the Hilton (for those dinner breaks where you don't fancy venturing outside), there are actually plenty of nice restaurants just a few minutes' stroll from the casino.
For some hearty local dishes and amazing beers (over 240 to choose from!), head to the Pivovarský Klub. It almost feels like we're giving away a poker reporter secret by telling you about this place, as you'll likely find Team Blog tucking into a delicious goulash on work breaks (beer comes after work only, I swear).
For piping hot pho or noodle dishes, you only have to go around a few corners to hit Vietnamese restaurant Pho Viet Huong. A minute down the road is Sushitime (a name that explains all). Both are pretty small, but if you can grab a table it's well worth it.
Vegetarians have a pretty smooth ride in Prague too. The city has a lot of vegetarian restaurants, including Mlsná Kavka just a minute's stroll from the casino. The restaurant prides itself of adventurous vegetarian cuisine, and does a pretty nice brunch too.
Oh, and there's a McDonald's down the road for those times when nothing else will suffice.
Where to drink?
Where not to drink in Prague would be a more appropriate sub-header for this section. Great pilsner flows all over the place, so for this article we'll pick out a few bars that are a little more niche.
You wouldn't even be able to find this first one unless you knew about it. It's called Anonymous Bar, and you won't spot any signs outside for it. So get your Google Maps ready, because once you are in the door you'll be treated to arguably one of the best cocktail bar in Europe. It's cool, it's unique, and you won't want to miss out on a visit.
And speaking of niche bars, it doesn't get more particular than the Absintherie. Not only is it a bar, it's a museum specialising in the historic anise-flavoured spirit. They serve all types of excellent cocktails in a friendly and relaxed environment.
You can't escape the festive feeling in Prague at this time of year, but if you're looking to truly surround yourself with the Christmas spirit, the markets are where you'll want to go.
And Prague's are up there with the best. You'll find the two biggest Christmas markets in the city at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, with stalls selling everything from tree decorations to unique trinkets and, of course, food and drink. While you'll want to do some shopping, make sure you keep your hands free to try some hot mead and Prague ham.
There are also smaller markets at Republic Square, at Havel's Market, on Kampa Island, and on the square in front of St. George's Basilica at Prague Castle.
Where to eat?
Restaurants further afield: Whether you've busted a tournament or just finished playing early for the night, make a reservation somewhere and get yourself out.
Here's a quick travel tip for you too - private cabs are comparatively cheap in Prague compared with other European capitals, so if you don't fancy the Metro just order yourself one of those.
One restaurant at which you'll certainly have to make a reservation is the Wine O'Clock Shop. With very limited seating, this cosy establishment offers amazing tapas (accompanied by great wine, as the name suggests).
For something a little more fine dining, you could try Portfolio Restaurant or Restaurant Alcron (the latter of which is located in the Radisson Blu Hotel). Both offer tasting menus which are sure to please the foodies, but bear in mind they're both on the more expensive side.
If you're looking for fine dining AND very affordable prices, try SOVA (contemporary European cuisine) or Blue Wagon (French and Czech cuisine).
Where to drink?
Looking to stick with the cocktails? Good news is there are plenty of places to try. Visually, Tretters has a 1930s vibe, but the music ranges from classics to 90s favourites.
For more general bars that still offer something a little bit different, you could try Vzorkovna (a cool basement bar), The James Joyce (a classic Irish pub), or The Prague Beer Museum (with more than 30 beers on tap).
We've barely scratched Prague's surface in this article. Get yourself out there in December for the PokerStars Championship and experience it for yourself!