Prague Eats (and Drinks)

When we weren't sightseeing in Prague we were, of course, eating and drinking, we were on holiday after all, not that we need that as an excuse! Czech food is definitely comforting and filling, over the course of our few days in Prague there was duck, goose, sausages, dumplings, sauerkraut, spätzle, pork schnitzel and potato salads and a whole lot more besides. With our dining venues including one of Prague's famous grand cafes and a brewery. Portion sizes were typically pretty generous so my advice is go everywhere hungry! 

I mentioned duck above and this one in the photo below with its red berry sauce was particularly good. This was followed by a large slice of honey cake, a cake that I've since learnt is quite common in many Eastern European countries and a dessert often featured on many Czech restaurant menus. The delicious layered cake with honey, nuts and buttercream was a thing of beauty, my sweet tooth was delighted by this choice to end the meal.

Prague has several grand cafes, these ornately decorated coffee houses being public meeting places since the Austro-Hungarian Empire, places to go to for both political and literary discussion. With the likes of Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein and many other writers, playwrights etc. having dined at these cafes they are definitely places to include on your visit list.

We decided to eat at the Cafe Louvre one evening and upon entering and heading up the stairs to the restaurant I had a huge moment of déjà vu realising I'd been to the exact same cafe on my first visit to Prague several years previously. The cafe was opened in 1902 and became the place where the cream of Czech society would spend their time, billiards was the speciality of the cafe with it eventually becoming home to the Prague Billiards Club who organised tournaments there every year. 

The cafe played its part in the Women's Emancipation Movement too. In the nineteenth century the role of cafes was mainly for conducting business which included discussing politics and art. The clientele was pretty much exclusively men, women were barely tolerated and could not visit the cafes on their own, it was more common for Prague ladies to visit friends and have coffee at home. This changed though at the beginning of the twentieth century when women of high society began visiting the cafe and were also able to visit on their own too. 

The cafe was closed down during the Communist coup of 1948, being seen as a bourgeois institution and its furniture and fittings were thrown out the windows to the street below. In the early nineties a major restoration was undertaken and the cafe was opened once again in 1992. Now you can enjoy breakfast through to dinner with coffee and pastries in-between. My dinner choice was chicken breast in a pepper sauce with spätzle and as we dined we soaked up just a little of the history and atmosphere of this cafe for ourselves.

This pork schnitzel and potato salad was my choice for a late lunch at the Strahov Monastic Brewery after our visit to Petřín hill. The potato salad included hard boiled egg and various vegetables including carrots and pickles (as you can probably see) this is a typically Czech version of the dish and very good it was too. The brewery is in the monastery building which was founded in 1142 by King Vladislav ll. We sat outside in the courtyard, despite the rain that day as they have plenty of shelter, but there is also seating in the brewery as well as within a restaurant area. This is a great place if you're a beer lover as each dish comes with a recommended beer. Luckily though for the likes of people like me who are not beer fans (I sometimes wish I was as it seems there is always a local beer to be had no matter where you go) there are plenty of other drink options to choose from too.

My sweet tooth couldn't be satisfied with just that piece of honey cake I mentioned previously, there were also crepes and a trdelník at various points on the trip. There are trdelník stalls everywhere in Prague with the trdelník dough cooked on a stick and then covered in sugar and a walnut mix. There are various versions of this sweet treat including ones with an ice cream cone inside the dough and a whole load of ice cream on top. They are marketed as a traditional Czech treat but it seems they are more of a tourist gimmick than anything else. Nonetheless they are pretty good and with all that dough and ice cream very very filling!

Neither myself or my husband are vegetarian but it did seem like a lot of the restaurants we went to were quite meat heavy. One place we went to that we'd read about and seen nothing but good reviews for did serve up one of the only non-meat based meals I had over the whole course of the trip. St. Martin is tucked away on a little back street in the shadow of the castle but is well worth hunting out for yourself. We went for lunch and enjoyed a quiet meal with great service and good music too. My vegetarian tostadas with cauliflower were light, fresh and perfect for that lighter lunch, a pleasant break from the meatier heavy meals I had had the previous few days.

Obviously it wasn't all eating, there was some drinking too. Beer is definitely a major player in Prague as a drink choice and there are plenty of very traditional beer halls to head to if that's your tipple. For the non-beer drinkers (like me) though there are plenty of wines, including Czech wines, which of those I tried I liked, spirits and cocktails to enjoy too.

Until this holiday it seemed like I was one of only a few people who'd never had an aperol spritz, well that all changed here. We'd found a nice bar by the river with plenty of outside seating which was perfect for the great weather we had for almost all of our trip. I fancied something different from my usual choice of wine but I'm always really bad at deciding what I want when I decide it isn't wine. I noticed a lady near me enjoying one so I decided to take the plunge. Whilst I can't say it was the best thing I'd ever had it was certainly good and over the rest of the summer I've definitely enjoyed a few more of them.

A bar that came highly recommended was one called Hemingway, a snug little bar a few streets away from the Charles bridge. It's obviously very popular, on the first night we tried to go they were queuing out the door with a one out, one in policy in place unless you'd pre-booked. On our second attempt the next evening we decided we might be better to go early and headed there for a pre-dinner drink instead which if you don't book or only want a drink or two is probably the best option.

The bar is well stocked with a large range of spirits, in particular rum, and the bar staff very knowledgeable. When we arrived for the second time we got shown up to the upper level and luckily got a seat at the bar, always great for watching all the cocktails being made. Browsing through the bar list they have a few bar rules laid out to make your visit that bit more special and enjoyable. These include not speaking loudly or using vulgar language, not using computers in the bar and that once they are full (i.e. everyone has a seat, there's no standing in this bar) they won't allow anyone else in, hence that one out, one in policy the night before. As for the cocktails they were great, but which one from these two photos do you think was my husband's??

As well as the alcohol there were plenty of coffee shops too. We stumbled upon this handsome one below on the day we went to Petřín hill as well. It had started to rain, this was a theme of that day and dictated a lot of what we did and where we later ate as you've already read, so we ducked in here to avoid the passing shower. On the banks of the Vltava river the Bella Vida cafe has a lovely atmosphere with an attractive outside seating area for sunny days. The coffee was good and the rain moved on, even if it did come back with a vengeance later that day.

The food in Prague was hearty, comforting and the portions very generous. One thing we noticed was that quite a few places were cash only, certainly far more than I would have expected in a capital city so make sure you have some cash with you. On a couple of occasions we had to go elsewhere purely because of this. We had good meals throughout our time there though and totally embraced eating very well for those few days. The drinks were good too with plenty of choice beyond just beer. Like anywhere there are both good and bad choices to be had but overall we were not disappointed.


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