For the May holiday weekend, we took a trip to Prague with a couple of friends, one of whom is Slovak and thus fluent in Czech as well. This helped a lot, especially when it came to finding nice and not-touristy spots to eat. On top of that, Prague is also excellent when it comes to cafés and the selection of cakes you can find there.
Overall, the city is much cheaper than Vienna for eating out. In Vienna you can seldom go out and pay below 40 EUR for a meal for two, but in Prague we paid about the same for the five of us.
Other than Prague being a really great city, I decided to write a bit more about the restaurants and cafés we visited there. Important to know are two words – in case the menu is only in Czech - knedlík (dumplings) and spek (bacon). That’ll get you through most menus ;)
Pod Dračí Skálou
Karlštejn 130, 267 18 Karlštejn
Our first stop on the way to Prague was the town of Karlstejn, south west of the city, location of a great castle. The restaurant is not easily accessible, you either park at the town’s car park and walk for half an hour since the whole town and the way up the castle is a pedestrian area, or you try to drive through the masses of people by car. Either way, it’ll be worth it. Hearty Czech cuisine, duck and bacon dumplings, pork roast with more dumplings and skewers with… dumplings. Washing it down with Kofola, the Czech/Slovak version of coke, and pancakes with fresh berries as dessert.
A word about Kofola – this is a very dark (think Guinness-black) fruit drink we first came across in Slovakia. Its history dates back to communist-era Czechoslovakia, but it still functions as a viable rival to the big US brands who have appeared on the scene since the Velvet Revolution. The drink is more fruity and rich, but less overtly sugary than brand colas and is worth a try if you are steering clear of the ridiculously cheap Czech beer.
Vítězná 124/5, 150 00 Praha 5
Once we arrived in Prague, it was time for coffee and cake. The café Savoy is located in the “Small Town”, is a beautiful café with tasty cakes and on the way to the toilet you can even see their kitchen and watch the bakers at work.
Václavské náměstí 42, 110 00 Praha 1
I admit it, if there is a ‘Paul’ in town, I will go there. This French bakery can be found in many large cities in France and across Europe, but not in Vienna. I’ve been to their branches all over France for breakfast, so when I heard there was one in Prague as well, we had to go there. For croissants, and breakfast eclairs, and breakfast mini quiches and and and…
Cihelná 2b, Prague 1
Going to lunch at one of the prime spots next to the river with perfect view of the Charles Bridge is just as fancy as it sounds, but by far not as expensive. Whilst I had fantastic salmon and home-made ice tea, my beloved went for the octopus monster that’s coming out of the black sea. It tasted much better than it looked!
Kavárna Obecní dům
Náměstí Republiky 5, 110 00 Praha 1
That afternoon, the rain was pouring, but we found shelter in this huge and beautiful Art Deco café. We “had” to try almost all the cakes because the rain took a very long time to stop, but this was the very place where I discovered honey cake. Honey in the dough, honey in the cream, many layers, crunchy, moist, delicious!
In addition to the food and drinks, we were treated to some live music, courtesy of a jazz trio (bass, piano & sax) who played a mixture of classic standards as well as a couple of modern pop songs given the jazz treatment. They were generally greeted by polite applause, but were not intrusive. The resulting atmosphere, despite the lashing rain beating against the windows, was very relaxing and it was such a pleasure to have something other than the usual piped pop junk clashing with the natural murmur of conversation. Apparently jazz is really a big deal in the Czech Republic and it was common to come across bands playing out on the street, as well as in cafés and bars.
Valentinská 11, 110 00 Praha 1
Another day that started with French breakfast, though some of us went for an English one (not who you think!); it was delicious! The only problem we had was that it only opened at 10am, which is a bit late when you are under-caffeinated and hungry.
Posezení u Čiriny
Navrátilova 1632/6, 110 00 Praha 1
For lunch, we went for the native’s suggestion again and ate in this small and cosy restaurant. There were spaetzle with bacon and cheese on the menu at which point we didn’t even bother to read more. As usual, it was fantastic!
Grand Café Orient
Ovocný trh 569/19, 110 00 Praha
This cubistic café – though I’m not sure why it was supposed to be cubistic – was full of people, twice. If you have the patience to wait for a table and for the attention of a waiter (who seem to be even more aloof than Viennese ones), you will be rewarded with great café and even better cake. The honey cake was even better than the one we had the day before.
School Café Restaurant
Smetanovo nábřeží 205/22, 110 00 Praha 1
Our last breakfast in Prague was also by far the most lavish one. There was savoury breakfast and pancakes, accompanied by fresh juices and a lot of coffee. Some even had two courses of breakfast. Another great start to a busy day!
U třech čertů
Starobrněnská 7, 602 00 Brno
Driving back to Vienna, we stopped in Brno, a town close to the Austrian border. After going for a small walk, we came across a restaurant with two devils as a logo, that looked intriguing. Inside, there were people eating from huge pitchforks, so we knew we were at the right place. Somewhere between very stinky cheese and a comfy pub atmosphere, we ended up pretty stuffed for our drive back home.
Of course, we didn’t spend ALL our time in Prague eating and drinking. As well as a walk up to the castle (which is stunning, but was very crowded), visiting several great bookshops (Shakespeare & Sons and The Globe being particularly memorable), climbing up the Observatory tower and visiting the National Library of the Klementinium (the guided tour is recommended for a stunning view over the city) and taking in a Tim Burton exhibition, we thoroughly enjoyed losing ourselves in the various winding streets of Prague. Western high street shops are, as everywhere, starting to take over the centre, but there are still plenty of interesting local shops, restaurants and cafés to explore. The popular tourist attractions (especially the Charles Bridge, the castle and the Astronomical Clock) can be overwhelmingly mobbed, but it doesn’t take too much exploring to escape the crowds and find some true gems.