A stag night in the life of Prague, the toast of boozy Brits

Eye witness: Good beer and cheap sex lures packs of young British men to the Czech capital.
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At the very spot where the playwright and later president Vaclav Havel addressed the dignified, bloodless Czech Velvet Revolution, a gaggle of British "Elvises" bowled obliviously towards the nearest strip joint.

Fourteen years after the end of communism, capitalism in its brashest form has come to Prague's historic Wenceslas Square and with it a "plague" of vocal, alcohol-fuelled stag parties intent on sampling as many of the neon-lit establishments as possible.

In one such club nearby a lithe, dark-haired girl led her smiling rugby-shirted customer down a dark corridor - adorned with incongruously ornate gold-framed pictures of women performing a variety of sexual acts - and into a private room.

Beyond, the claustrophobic tunnel opened into the Darling Cabaret club, where pretty, overpainted women lounged on faux zebra skin sofas as one of their naked colleagues slowly curled her body around a pole. Nearby a young Englishman explained his accountancy business to a baffled-looking blonde in cheek-baring shorts. Other men sat quietly observing the wares on offer.

Mohammed, a rotund Egyptian, explained with gleeful candour that 2,400 Czech crowns (£50) would buy half an hour of "anything".

With the summer stag season getting into full swing, the weekend Anglo-Saxon invaders make up the vast majority of Mohammed's client- ele. "The only people you get problems with are the British - but we have bouncers."

It is not difficult to see why the city has become the stag capital of Europe in just two short years - a proliferation of flights for as little as £18, beer at 50p a pint and hundreds of lap dancing clubs and brothels. Prague is beautiful, exotic, cheap and has its sexual wares plainly on show.

"They always like Pussy Galore - when they embarrass the groom by dragging him on stage and he is stripped by four or five strippers," explained doorman Patrick Sedlacek - a visual arts student by day.

Czech society may have an undercurrent of promiscuity: next to the exquisite Art Nouveau façade of the Grand Hotel Europa is an equally ornate establishment once inhabited by the prostitutes who awaited their wealthy clients 100 years ago. And the country now boasts one of the highest divorce rates in Europe. But outwardly they are a conservative people with strict rules of behaviour. Boasting reputedly the world's best beer and the highest consumption rate - an estimated 330 litres, or 580 pints, per year - they nevertheless do not tend to roam the streets in packs of 20, wearing false breasts and singing loudly.

Unsurprisingly, like the residents of Dublin and Amsterdam before them, the more genteel inhabitants of "Little Mother Prague" are beginning to tire of their visitors.

Journalist Johana Grohova talks of her resentment of the drunken men who board the bus she takes home: "They bother the women on the bus. They come here thinking this is a poor place and they have money and they can do whatever they want. They treat us like we are stupid."

The expats who sought out Prague for its culture are equally unimpressed. A columnist in The Prague Post recently proclaimed: "Those all-time record holders, the Americans, have been dethroned as the No 1 tourist plague of Prague ... When instant gratification isn't provided [the English] can be expected to put on a dazzling display of chair throwing and beer glass smashing."

Tourism forms Prague's second largest industry after the automotive business. Recession in Germany has seen a 25 per cent drop in visitors from that country, with the Brits filling the void.

Companies such as Praguepissup.com have been only too happy to oblige. Manager Tom Kenyan explained that business has really taken off this year with hotels only too keen to take on the business.

"There is an interesting pattern. The expat owners of bars, they are the ones that are afraid of stag groups. But the Czech bar owners have no problem with them," he said, adding: "I live here and my wife is Czech. I also do not want people committing crime or disturbing locals. But what is wrong with two guys walking around in a wedding dress?"

The locals show as ambivalent a reaction to the phenomenon as the chief of police, Jiri Sellner. He initially said "Italians are wild, Dutch are wild, but Britons are the worst". Yet recently he insisted the latter were no worse than other visitors.

For many, revulsion is matched by amusement. "They behave like normal British pigs. Every day they are very drunk. They come to Prague to sit in some strip bar but I like them. They are funny. They are a joke," said Antonin Felfel, a PhD student driving a bicycle rickshaw bearing a Union Jack flag. A form of apartheid has developed. At the Bombay cocktail bar, a "no stag groups" sign was put up when the owner finally lost patience after a fight.

Down the road, Caffrey's had an almost exclusively foreign crowd including a stag party from Dublin who stopped socialising in their own city centre because of the English stag parties, now banned by the authorities from certain areas.

"I can empathise with the people of Prague," explained accountant Jason Kernan, 23, one of the jovial but raucous crowd celebrating a friend's impending nuptials.

While most are older and professionals, few will have bothered to sit through Don Giovanni at the glorious Estates Theatre the night before.

"We have done a bit of culture. Prague is a stupendous place. But essentially we are here for Don Peroni," explained 27-year-old salesman James Link.

Purists may be offended that Kafka's birthplace is turning into a den of iniquity, but as long as it provides cheap sex and beer on tap, British stag parties will drink from the fountain.

Nearby, Dean Lord's crowd had chosen the city for "cheap beer, cheap women ... and very nice architecture."

Kevin Ireland, 42, a friend and fellow Gloucestershire policeman may have collected leaflets from reputable museums to take home for his better half's benefit, but the only painting he had admired so far was the groom's varnished toenails and the easyJet flight attendant's "easygirl" signature on his T-shirt.

"The honest truth is that we went to a museum yesterday. It was the sex museum and it was very good value," explained a smiling PC Ireland before his friend Karl Tuley interjected seriously: "It is a great place and it blows your mind culture-wise. A few of us will come back with our partners and wives."

Additional reporting by Dinah Spritzer