In 2009, at the end of my second séjour in France, I booked a little trip that included Prague. The city had been on my wishlist for a long time & it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit. I was looking forward to catching up with a Czech friend from school in Rennes, exploring the beautiful sights, & eating my weight in fried cheese. It did not disappoint. When we went to book our 2017 trip, I knew it had to include this beautiful gem. & the Czech people love their beer, so of course, they’re my kind of people. Here’s what I loved most on this most recent visit.
Traditional Czech Food
I’m not sure that food is the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Prague, but I think it certainly should be. The food scene here is really diversifying, but I truly love the traditional dishes of the Czech Republic. They’re rich, comforting, & truly delicious. There’s a reason this grandmotherly style of cooking is making a comeback: it’s amazing!
The first (& last, let’s be honest) thing I want to eat here is fried cheese: a slice of Eidam cheese, breaded & fried. In fact, I booked my first trip partly because I had to try it. & I will happily eat fried cheese in any of its many forms throughout the Czech Republic, but my favourites are Lokal’s simple version, pan-fried in butter, & the sandwich you’ll find at food carts around Wenceslas Square. I ate fried cheese every chance I got & I have no regrets.
Without a doubt, the best thing I ate in Prague, & possibly anywhere, was beef tartar. I cannot recommend this enough, even if raw beef makes you a little bit wary. This regional classic is definitely something I wouldn’t leave the Czech Republic without tasting. Embrace your adventurous side! Usually served with toast & condiments, each bite has an addictive textural contrast that had me wishing we’d ordered two. The tartar at Nase Maso doesn’t look like much: two slices of toast, Czech raw garlic, & what looks like a hamburger patty. Rub the garlic over the toast & top with the meat for what I believe is the most perfect bite of food.
If you really can’t wrap your mind around raw beef, the burger here is a good compromise. I wouldn’t want to you to come to Prague without getting a glimpse into the hussle of this wildly popular butcher shop. Butchers cut the steak & grind the beef in full view, which I found to be a fun part of the experience.
Overall, we ate a lot of good food in Prague, most of it regional specialties. Other noteworthy meals included chlebicek (Czech open-faced sandwiches) for breakfast at the adorable Sisters (actually next door to Nase Maso on Dlouha) & Goulash, a Czech take on this specialty shared by many in that region, at Mincovna in the Old Town Square.
It wouldn’t be right to go on a European Beer Tour & leave out the Czech Republic. Beer drinking is practically a national sport here. I remember discussing the beer culture with my Czech girlfriend over lunch before I was anywhere near as into beer as I am now. She told me it was normal to have a beer at lunch, & common to see women enjoying a pint alongside their male colleagues, which was somewhat of a revelation to me at the time. I’d only just graduated from drinking bacardi breezers after all. (Don’t judge! I was so young!)
There is no shortage of great spots to enjoy a pint in Prague, with more microbreweries popping up all the time. Our AirBnB happened to be across the street from Craft Beer House, which we wound up at a several times over our short stay. If you’re looking for knowledgeable staff & multiple taps – this is your bar. The service is friendly & welcoming & they really go the extra mile to find a beer you like. We ended both our nights in Prague with a drink on their front stoop.
Touted as THE pub in Prague, U zlatého tygra is a must visit for me. They serve one type of beer: Pilsner Urquell, & although I enjoy this local brew, it’s really the atmosphere that makes this the spot to visit. I’d read it was a cultural institution, & it was clear the Czechs agree from the minute we walked in the door. The place was packed. I’ve never seen people pound back beer as quickly as these guys while maintaining an air of sobriety. They were certainly loud, but hanot the least bit belligerent. Everyone was there to have a good time with their friends. Photos of sports icons, celebrities, & politicians line the walls, the bar staff is gruff, but efficient, & you’re unlikely to get a table unless you show up early, but it’s worth stopping in for a glimpse into Czech pub culture.
If we’d had better weather & more time, I’d have loved to check out some of the beer gardens around the city too. The Letna Beer Garden figured high on my list! As I mentioned above, the fried cheese at Lokal was a definite highlight, but so was the excellent beer & cave-like interior of the Mala Strana location. We also enjoyed U Rudolfina for a pint, but you really don’t have to look very hard to find good beer in this city.
I love having time to wander a new city, & even enjoy getting a little lost. If you’ve followed my blog since the very beginning, you know it used to be called Au fil de mes balades, which roughly translates to “as I wander”. A balade has no finite destination & that is how I prefer to explore a city for the first time. Prague might just be one of the best cities to do exactly that. Not only does it ooze old world charm, but it constantly rewards explorers with hidden courtyards, quiet cobblestoned lanes, & unexpected glimpses into daily Czech life, like no other city I’ve visited.
I highly recommend the New Europe Walking Tour here. They can be hit or miss, but both time I’ve come to Prague, I’ve hit the tour guide jackpot. Despite the most comically relentless downpour, our guide kept us engaged & entertained over the course of our three hour tour. He was full of wonderful stories & insights into his hometown & although, we were soaked & pretty cold, I truly enjoyed his tour.
Once you’ve got your bearings, & a good understanding of the center, I highly recommend wandering some of the other neighbourhoods. Head over the Charles Bridge & up to the Prague castle for stunning views over the city. Explore the cobblestoned lanes across the Vltava River in Malá Strana. This is where you’ll find the John Lennon Wall (pretty meh, especially after the East Side Gallery in Berlin). Keep an eye out for markings on different buildings in this area – they show how high the flood waters measured in different years! The views of the Charles Bridge & Prague Castle from the Mánes Bridge are also some of the best in the city, if you ask me!
It’s funny the things that stick with you when you travel. For me, it was this Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Due to a lack of space in the tiny ghetto, people were buried on top of one another so that now the whole cemetery sits 2m above street level. The gravestones have tilted a little further in the 8 years since I last visited, but you can still steal a peak at them through a small window in the door.
The Jewish Quarter is a top destination for tourists for many reasons – its rich history, medieval synagogues, & various exhibitions – but this little cemetery is my favourite.
No matter what brings you to Prague, I think you’ll find something to love. I could have easily spent a few more days exploring, eating, & drinking, but it was on to our next stop for us: Munich!