Best Festivals in Prague
Although festival season is essentially a year-round phenomenon in Prague these days, things really take off in April and there's hardly a weekend that passes by through October without a music, food, film or arts festival taking over colorful venues.
4+4 Days in Motion. One of the more creative festivals on the Prague circuit, the 4+4 Days in Motion festival offers art projects, installations, performances, and discussions in venues across the city. The venues are half the fun—think reclaimied, little-used palaces surrounding Old Town. The festival is themed around contemporary dance and usually takes place in the fall. 224–809–116; www.ctyridny.cz.
Days of European Film. Fans of foreign films have a chance to catch up on recent English-subtitled efforts in Days of European Film, which happens every April in Prague and other locations around the Czech Republic. A week of films play at two cinemas; there are also some panel discussions and seminars. Tickets are inexpensive, and the theaters used for screenings are beautiful and historic. 603–844–811; www.eurofilmfest.cz.
Febiofest. One of the largest film festivals in Central Europe, with hundreds of screenings in Prague and its sister festival in Slovakia, Febiofest runs for about a week at the end of March and beginning of April. Films—both premieres and retrospectives—come from virtually all over the world, and a number of directors and stars, including Roman Polanski and Peter Mullan, come to introduce their work. As a side to the festival, world-music bands also perform for free in the garage of the multiplex where the festival is held. 221–101–111; www.febiofest.cz.
International Organ Festival. The lovely organ in Bazilika sv. Jakuba attracts noted international musicians for the annual International Organ Festival, which runs from August to September with weekly concerts. Malá Štuparská, Staré Mesto, Prague, Praha, 110 00. 224–826–440; www.auditeorganum.cz/festival.html.
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The most important film festival in the Czech Republic is in an ornate spa town in West Bohemia. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival ranks with Cannes, Berlin, and Venice among major European festivals. Visitors to the gala, which rolls out in late July or early July, have included Lauren Bacall, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Robert De Niro. This is one of the most publicly accessible film festivals around. 221–411–011; www.kviff.com.
Khamoro Festival. Celebrating Roma culture and diversity, the Khamoro Festival offers music, dance, and film. Romany (Gypsy) bands have become a hot item on the world-music scene, and groups from all over Europe gather in Prague at the end of May for a week of merrymaking. Check out contemporary Roma music, Gypsy Jazz, exhibitions, and dance performances, as well as the crowning glory—a parade. 222–518–554; www.khamoro.cz.
Mezi ploty. From amateur to professional, entertainers of all kinds descend on the grounds of a mental health institution for Mezi ploty—the festival between the fences. The two-day festival has some of the best local bands, plus theater acts and art workshops, but be aware that only nonalcoholic beer can be sold on the grounds. It takes place at the beginning of June and aims to raise awareness of issues concerning mental illness. Ústavní ulice, Bohnice, Prague, Praha, 181 02. www.meziploty.cz.
One World Human Rights Film Festival. The One World Human Rights Festival could be handily subtitled "films that will make you think." It showcases work dedicated to human rights and other social and political issues, offering a glimpse of the world through a filmmaker's eye along with many post-screening director chats and workshops. The festival runs in March at various theaters, usually including Lucerna, Světozor, and Atlas. Nearly all films are in English or with English subtitles. www.oneworld.cz.
Prague Fringe Festival. There isn't much English-language theater in the Czech capital. An exception is the annual Prague Fringe Festival, which began in 2002 and has visiting acts from Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. The venues are scattered around Malá Strana; performances, which range from Shakespeare to avant-garde cabaret, are staggered so that you could conceivably see five a day. The Fringe takes place in May. www.praguefringe.com.
Prague Spring. Since 1946 Prague Spring has been the main event of the classical season, and usually runs from the end of May to the start of June. Conductors such as Leonard Bernstein and Sir Charles Mackerras have been among the guests. Important anniversaries of major composers, especially Czech ones, are marked with special concerts and the gala increasingly features hot international jazz talents. Orchestra performances, operas, and church recitals make up the bulk of the schedule. The competition element gives attendees the opportunity to see the next big star. Typically around 60 concerts are spread over more than 10 venues during the nearly three-week run. Bedřich Smetana's Ma vlást (My Country) usually opens the festival. Major events can sell out months in advance; tickets usually go on sale mid-December. If you miss the big one, don't despair—the festival does have a younger brother taking place later in the year, the Prague Autumn. 257–312–547; www.festival.cz.
Tanec Praha. European contemporary dance and movement is celebrated at Tanec Praha. Lasting for about a month every May–June, renowned companies from all over the world strut their stuff in a renovated Prague 3 venue. 222–721–531; www.tanecpraha.cz.
United Islands of Prague. Rockers, this festival is for you! Located on the peaceful, pretty islands of the Vltava, an often underutilized aspect of Prague, the festival brings international rock, blues, and world-music acts to several waterside venues for a weekend at the end of June, and entry is free. In the evenings performances by additional bands take place in nearby clubs. 220–951–432; www.unitedislands.cz.
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