There's an old saying in the Czech Republic which goes, "Co Čech, to muzikant" (Every Czech is a musician). That might be stretching it a bit, but as visitors to Prague quickly realize, culture and performing arts are right at the heart of this beautiful city and its residents.
Music constantly drifts across the cobbled streets in Old Town; theater shows pop up in parks in the balmy summer months; and the calendar is chockablock with world-beating film festivals. And the best part? The affordable ticket prices. It’s almost criminal to come to this city and not take in a performance, from opera to ballet, when they are so accessible.
Prague’s musical history is a rich and varied one, from hometown composers like Antonín Dvořák or Bedřich Smetana to expats like Mozart, whose Don Giovanni made its debut here in 1787 and is still performed regularly. You can also catch the work of more modern Czech composers like Bohuslav Martinů, or even Vladimir Franz, the head-to-toe tattooed composer who gave more seasoned politicians a run for their money in recent presidential elections.
There’s something particularly lovely about the regular classical music performances that take place in ancient churches dotted around the city too, but do follow the recommendations to ensure you’re getting the best of the bunch.
And it’s not all classical. The avant-garde is alive and kicking in the Czech capital, from its youthful theater troupes, some of which perform in English, to a recent crop of thoughtful filmmakers. Interesting modern dance performances also sit alongside more traditional forms. Both the National Theater and State Opera have their own ballet companies staging a mix of classic and contemporary pieces.
Opera is a major draw in Prague too, both for locals and tourists thanks to the English subtitles on most performances. While the snooty exclusivity of opera found elsewhere is eschewed here, do make sure you still dress up to fit in with the regulars.
Even if you aren’t normally a culture vulture, consider taking in a performance while you are in town. The shows are world-class and many of the concert halls are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Note: big theaters and concert halls go dark in July and August; luckily there are festivals aplenty to keep the "magic" of art alive in Prague year-round.