Thousands of tourists flood Prague's Old Town Square during the summer season

Prague is collapsing under the weight of drunk tourists, reports The Guardian

While tourism is on the rise in the Czech capital, the city is taking a number of efforts to reduce so-called alcotourism

“Drunk tourists are acting like they’ve conquered our city,” reads a headline quote in a new article written by Robert Tait for The Guardian published over the weekend.

For Prague residents, especially those who live, work, or often travel through the city center, the problem is certainly not a new one. While Prague, like other major European destinations including Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Venice, is facing issues of over-tourism, the Czech capital is also combating a unique breed of tourist.

Between 2012 and 2018, the Czech capital saw a nearly 30% rise in the number of tourists that visit the city, which now sits north of eight million people per year. Worryingly, a large number of people – most visibly, perhaps, stag parties from the UK – visit Prague as a form of ‘alcotourism,’ which involves getting drunk on the cheap while seeing the city on the side.

Prague tour agencies have taken advantage of this kind of tourism, and offer pub crawls that involve heavy drinking while obnoxiously touring the city’s landmarks. One became the subject of heated controversy for handing their patrons markers to scribble on the city landmark Lennon Wall.

The Knights of the Order of Malta, who own the wall, filed an official complaint with the city, which has resulted in a full ban on unauthorized graffiti at the site set to be implemented in the near future.

“Fuck pub crawls, fuck pub crawls,” local photojournalist Eugen Kukla told Tait.

“It’s an expression of my personal feelings, a buildup of frustration over a long period of time, years and years and years. It’s been going on for 10 or 15 years – but it’s got worse.”

Kukla is not alone in his concern.

“I remember this square being a quiet area where you would rarely meet anyone, let alone a tourist,” lawyer Karolina Peake, who has lived near the Lennon Wall, told The Guardian.

“Ever since the wall became part of the tourist and Baedeker circuit, it has become a bit of a nightmare, and in the last five years it has become unbearable. A lot of drunk tourists are coming and acting like they have conquered the place rather than just visiting. They have no respect for the fact that there are people living here – and it’s making people reconsider whether they want to continue living in a place where their families have been for generations.”

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Tourists pedal a beer bike through the center of Prague
Tourists pedal a beer bike through the center of Prague

While Prague’s city councillors, including new mayor Zdeněk Hřib, have vowed to curb alcotourism – installing a new night mayor to cooperate with late-night bars and pub crawls, and preparing ad campaigns to inform incoming tourists of local regulations – tour organizers that promote alcotourism in Prague are working just as fast.

A ban of beer bikes, which drunken tourists pedal through Prague to the annoyance of locals, has been approved by the city but contested by one of the breweries that provides the beer, and now awaits an official decision.

Meanwhile, one of the beer bike operators has already launched a new beer boat that will carry drunk passengers down the Vltava. While that sounds potentially dangerous, at least they’ll be off the streets of central Prague.

Read more about Prague’s issues with alcotourism in Tait’s article for The Guardian, which also includes a first-hand account of travelling with one of the city’s pub crawls.

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