The period before Lent is a time to eat big, and to eat meat. The celebrations for Masopust – the local incarnation of Carnevale – span several weeks nationwide, with the biggest events centering on colorful street parades both in Prague and farther afield. But the entire pre-Lenten season, this year from February to early March, is full of festivals that allow for jovial drinking and dining in the run up to the Lenten fast. The events here play on the Masopust tradition of pork in its many, many forms and range from family-friendly fanfare to elegant costume galas.
Traditional zabíjačka in Holesovice
Not for the faint of heart, the traditional zabíjačka is a staple of Masopust festivities, and Restaurace Na Střídačce in Prague 7, close to Vystaviste, is hosting a full-day event Saturday, Feb. 8. The specialties will all be prepared onsite, and will include zabíjačka goulash, boiled and baked meats, as well as jitrnice, jelita and tlacenka (brain). In addition to being served up at the restaurant, fresh meats can be purchased and taken home. For those not stuffed to the gills with pig products, there’ll be dancing and live music provided by a traditional Bohemian band. For more info or to make a reservation, call 736 641 566.
Carnevale menus at restaurants
In conjunction with Prague’s Bohemian Carnevale festival, which hosts a costume ball at the Clam-Gallas Palace among other popular events, several restaurants around town will have special menus for a limited time in keeping with the theme of Masopust.
Kotleta, right on Old Town Square, has a special Masopust menu of themed dishes from Feb. 21 to March 4.
The restaurant Bellaria in the Clam-Gallas Palace has a set Baroque menu on Saturday, Feb. 22, starting at 8 p.m., for the price of 1,200 CZK per person. The themed dinner follows a ballet and concert of Baroque music.
Also on Saturday, Feb. 22, the Zlata Praha restaurant in the Hotel InterContinental hosts a zabíjačka between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the plaza in front of the hotel, with live music. Dishes will include zabíjačka blood soup, boiled salted pork, zabíjačka goulash, white pudding sausage, blood sausage, cracklings, several types of ham as well as buns with cabbage and desserts including freshly baked waffles. Call 296 630 522 for more info.
Caffé Italia, on Old Town Square, is hosting a Masopust evening on Thursday. Feb. 27, starting at 7 p.m. Reservations are a must for the limited-capacity tasting menu that costs 600 CZK per person. For more info and to book, call 724 332 194.
The Crystal Ball is Prague Carnevale’s crowning event, a costumed gala at the Clam-Gallas Palace that feels straight out of Labyrinth. In addition to Baroque music in the stunning backdrop of the palace’s Marble Hall, there will also be a Grand Gourmet Dinner. Tickets to the March 1 event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., are 7,200 CZK per person, including unlimited drinks, and can be purchased through the website Carnevale.cz. Masks and Baroque or Rococo evening dress are required.
Neighborhood street festivals
Most neighborhoods across Prague have their own Masopust celebrations in the run-up to Lent, taking place either on local squares, a series of streets or at a favorite local pub. The largest and most popular take place in Žižkov and Malá Strana. The Žižkov Masopust (March 4), now in its 21st year, is the longest-running and features a market gathering on náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, a parade through the streets and farmers’ market stands serving traditional pastries, beers from several microbreweries and zabíjačka specialties. Highlights include a program for children at Palac Akropolis, children’s films at Kino Aero and the traditional Masopust feast at the cult pub U Vystřelenýho voka.
Malá Strana’s Masopust takes to the streets a few days later, on Saturday, March 8. Hundreds often turn out for this pub-crawl cum street parade, which meanders through the cobbled streets down from the castle to Kampa Park, where a feast and celebration await with live music, pork aplenty, donuts and mulled wine, among other treats. It starts at the famed pub U černého vola and makes stops at U dvou slunců, U hrocha and Malostranské caffeteria.
There are several other notable ones.
The district of Karlín has its Masopust on Saturday, Feb. 15, starting at 1 p.m. in Kaizlovy sady park before moving on to Karlínské náměstí between 2 and 6 p.m. for live music courtesy of a few bands, children’s theater, a farmers’ market and zabíjačka specialties.
In Prague 9-Vinor, the Ctěnice Chateau is hosting its second-annual Masopust on Sunday, March 2 on the chateau’s grounds. Starting at 11 a.m., children and adults can make their own papier-mache masks to wear, and the Prague butchery Hudera a syn will provide zabíjačka dishes. There will also be fresh Masopust donuts, a specialty.
Also in Prague 9, the neighborhood of Kbely holds its second-annual Masopust festivities on Saturday, Feb. 15, from 1 to 5 p.m. Last year, almost 1,500 people turned out for the fun, and this year’s celebration will include a traditional Masopust feast, a medieval Bohemian market, theater for adults and children, freshly baked sweets and cakes, and competitions for the best mask.
In Letná, the National Museum of Agriculture is showcasing some butchering talent with a zabíjačka on Saturday, March 1, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. outside the museum. The event will include demonstrations of butchery throughout the ages, the chance ot taste and buy specialties, and displays of folk handicrafts.
Out in Prague 10, Touclův dvůr, an eco-farm and events center that specializes in educational activities for children, among other things, hosts a Masopust celebration on Saturday, March 1, from 1 to 5 p.m. Fit for the whole family, the day will feature a costumed parade for participants through the streets of old Hostivař and a lineup of theater and music with a Masopust menu served in a re-created Baroque pub. Food items include blood and white pudding, cracklings and egg salad, homemade desserts and beer from the Žatec brewery.
Most villages and towns have their own Masopust, as well. One of the largest and most famous is the joint Masopust between the towns of Roztoky and Únětice, just north of Prague. The award-winning microbrewery Únětický Pivovar, in Únětice, has a festival on the same day, Feb. 15, with live music, a children’s program, and hot Masopust specials served all day, as well as the brewery’s special Masopust pivo brewed special for the occasion.
Where will you eat, drink, and make masopust merry?