Prague - It was one of Prague's most popular Wednesday dancing spots, club Mecca. By midnight, my girlfriends and I had finished our rounds of the bar and lounge area and, cocktails in hand, were pushing our way through a crowd of faces and bodies half obscured by a thick cloud of artificial fog and the rhythmic patterns of multicolored lights.
As one straight couple was dancing next to us, I felt two soft hands touch my shoulders and make their way across my back tattoo and down to the upper seam of the red tank top I was wearing.
Startled, since I had not known fleeting back-rubs to be a staple of crowded European clubs, I turned around to see a beautiful woman with long, brown hair and soft lashes. She smiled at me seductively, and pointed to another woman who was dancing close by. She was a shorter and blonder version of my masseuse, but just as lovely in jeans and a button-down dress shirt, two lively blue eyes peaking out from behind shaggy bangs. The two started dancing together, beckoning for me to join in their excitement.
As an uninformed first-time traveler to the Czech Republic, I was surprised by this open display of same-gender desire, excluded from my ideas of a post-communist Central European country.
Prague liberal attitude
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly Prague has a liberal attitude towards sexuality and drugs, and is home to a vibrant and expanding gay and lesbian scene.
Indeed, in 2006 the Czech Republic passed a law allowing same-gender couples to enter into registered partnerships, a civil agreement that gives partners many rights available through heterosexual marriage, such as inheritance, hospital visitation rights, and spousal privilege and alimony rights. The law does not address joint property rights, the adoption of children, or impact on citizenship or residence.
Beyond arguably LGBT-friendly state policies, however, Prague harbors a world of adventures for the lesbian traveler, and there are a plethora of friendly accommodations, eateries and entertainment for any queer woman seeking to meet women in Prague, or traveling in a couple or a group. Intrigued yet?
Traveling and Ticket Tips
First, check out one of these two gay-owned and operated travel agencies that service queer travelers visiting the Czech Republic. Gevoke Travel (gevoketravel.cz) works out of Prague, but will help you book transportation to and accommodations in other Central European destinations, such as Bratislava, Slovakia.
In addition, it is a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, an organization that seeks to promote networking and cooperation between LGBT-owned and LGBT-friendly companies around the world. The owner of The Saints, a gay friendly bar in Vinohrady, funded this travel agency in Prague with the intention of putting a queer spin on tourism in the city. Both agencies can be used to book gay-friendly accommodations, whatever your needs and price ranges.
If you are planning a romantic getaway with your girlfriend, and you are willing to go all out with the hotel, The Saints will point you in the direction of The Clarion. Located close to the city center, this hotel is within walking distance of both the bank of the Vltava River, and the tourist sights of Old Town. Depending on the time of year you schedule your trip for, a double room for you and your sweetie will run anywhere from 94 to 173 EUR (or $137-$253).
If you are in a partying mood, and would rather skip sleeping in Old Town, make your Prague home base the Hotel Sieber, a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Vinohrady. A few minutes away from many Prague gay bars, and only 15 minutes from the city center via the reliable subway, this friendly jewel will cost you anywhere between 69 and 199 EUR, the prices varying with the season.
Vinohrady also boasts gay-friendly apartments, owned or operated by The Saints or Gevoke Travel, which can be booked through the respective agency. A night in one of the Saints's apartments, for example, runs 90 EUR for two people, and every other person who joins the group adds only another seven euros to the bill, making this an affordable alternative for queer women traveling in a group.
Relax and Refuel
After you've settled comfortably into your chosen hotel or apartment, it's time to grab a bite at one of the following places. For a coffee, a light salad or a quick desert, make your way to Café Erra, a gay-friendly hangout popular with the ladies. The café's alternative vibe is complemented by minimalist interior design which attracts an eclectic crowd. Order one of their tasty cocktails and relax to tunes before heading out to party.
If you want to sample local fair, but your friends are feeling international, Pizzeria Gusto has a good mix of Italian and Czech food, and you can get a satisfying dinner of pasta, pizza, or your pick of a Czech specialties here for CZK 200 (or $10). And it is located in the heart of Vinohrady, within a few blocks of gay bars and clubs, making it the ideal location for a pre-party dinner and chat.
Lehka Hlava offers a vast selection of meatless fare for any vegetarians or vegans. This restaurant is located a few minutes away from the Charles Bridge, making it accessible on foot from Old Town, New Town and the Lesser Town across the Vltava River. If you stop by here for lunch, the fixed menu is only CZK 105, and it includes soup and an entrée.
Let Go and Let Loose
If you've worked up an appetite for dancing, it's probably time to hit some of Prague's gay bars and clubs. Be warned: while the queer scene here is quite vibrant, there is only one exclusively lesbian (though gay boy-friendly) bar, the others having been opened as gay male hangouts originally, and frequented now by queers of all genders. It's quite usual to meet lesbians in gay men's clubs, but a good bet is to start at Jampa Dampa, the only designated lesbian night hangout in town.
This is a two-floor establishment, featuring a bar and a lounge area with comfy couches upstairs, and a disco-ball-lit dance floor in the basement. They serve pizza and sandwiches till the late evening upstairs, and their coffee is running for the cheapest in Prague, at CZK 28 for a cappuccino.
For a change of scenery, try Valentino, a gay male club popular with women, which yet again takes up two floors of its Vinohrady building. The upstairs is a restaurant by day and a lounge and bar by night, while the downstairs is a maze of dance floors, booths and tables, bordered by men-only rooms and foosball tables.
Last, but definitely not least, Friends club is a queer establishment that features a rigorous program of entertainment, including Karaoke Tuesdays and a monthly ladies' "Freedom Night" featuring the mix-n-spin talents of resident DJ Henriette. All these gay-friendly spots above are conveniently listed, with websites and addresses, in the pocket guide below!
A. The Saints, Polska 32, Prague 3, 222 250 326, praguesaints.cz.
B. Gevoke Travel, Ne Balkane 134, Prague 3, 226 310 958, gevoketravel.cz.
C. The Clarion, Hradebni 9, Prague 1, http://www.cpihotels.cz/en/choice-hotels/clarion-hotel-prague/
D. The Sieber, Slezska 55, Prague 2, http://www.sieberhotel-prague.com/
E. Café Erra, Konviktska 11, Prague 1, 222 220 568, erra.cafe.sweb.cz.
F. Pizzeria Gusto, Vinohradska 83, Prague 2, 222 211 316.
G. Lehka Hlava, Borsov 2, Prague 1, lehkahlava.cz.
H. Jampa Dampa, V Tunich 10, Prague 2, jampadampa.cz
I. Valentino, Vinohradska 40, Prague 2, club-valentino.cz
J. Friends, Bartolomejska 11, Prague 1, 226 211 920, friends-prague.cz
This story was originally published by the Prague Wanderer, a web-zine run by New York University students in Prague, Czech Republic.
Corina Maritescu is a third-year student at New York University studying journalism and gender and sexuaulity studies. She is from Bucharest, Romania.