Home to a thriving jazz circuit and a lively community of street buskers, the Czech capital is no stranger to a good tune. And there’s plenty to appeal to all tastes. For those seeking something more high-brow, local and international classical music stars roll out an engaging programme of concerts and operas year-round, while electronica enthusiasts can dance the night away at Prague’s world-class festivals. From the noisiest gigs in town to the merriest of Czech folk, here’s where to discover music in Prague.
You don’t need to saunter far to fall in earshot of a melody in Prague. The lively areas around the famous Charles Bridge or Old Town Square are Prague’s much-loved musical hubs. Buskers here come in all stripes, from a cheerful fiddle player to a spectacular operatic harp duo. The city’s historic churches, meanwhile, are popular concert venues year-round, thanks to the quality of their acoustics. Some have spectacular musical pedigree: The Church of St Nicholas, itself an opulent example of High Baroque architecture, has a 4,000-pipe organ once played by Mozart.
Classical music has a particular hold on the Czech soul. Prague was, after all, the birthplace of Antoni Dvořák and home to Mozart for a time, with the latter famously conducting the 1787 premiere of his Don Giovanni in the city. The Rudolfinum, seat of the Czech Philharmonic, is a good place to start, with its extensive programme of classical concerts. Elsewhere, Municipal House has several halls that host performances by the Prague Music Chamber Orchestra, the Prague Proms, and the Dvořák Symphony Orchestra Prague, among others.
There are plenty of jazz clubs to be found peppered throughout Prague’s cobblestone streets, but a particular highlight has to be the Reduta Jazz Club, a beloved addition to the city’s music scene since 1958. With vintage glamour layered on in velvet and gilt, the Reduta offers a stylish backdrop to big names in local and international jazz, as well as blues and swing. It’s also the spot where Bill Clinton rocked out on the saxophone gifted to him by the then-president Václav Hável. For a more varied mix of musical styles including electro and funk, Jazz Republic, also found in the Old Town, is the place to go.
For something a little different, visit the historical collection at Lobkowicz Palace, found inside Prague Castle, to see the hand-annotated musical manuscripts of world-renowned composers such as Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The Palace is also known for its daily classical concerts, held in the 17th-century Baroque concert hall. Make sure to take in the stunning frescoed ceiling while listening to Antonín Dvořák’s Valse, Vltava by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana, and Vivat Bacchus! by Mozart.
In addition to the wealth of concerts and performances available year-round, there are some seasonal standouts on the Prague music calendar that draw audiences from around the world. The year kicks off with the Prague Spring International Music Festival, considered by many to be the premiere classical musical festival worldwide and now approaching its 75th year. As the months tick by, visitors can expect everything from world music at Respect Festival and dance music at Transmission Festival, to the innovative and eclectic programming of Strings of Autumn, which showcases talents from the realms of electronica and contemporary classical to jazz.