Praha (Prague) is arguably the most charming city in Europe. Small, cobblestone streets make way for sprawling renaissance squares and ornately sculpted buildings in creamy hues leading to dramatic bridges that link two sides of the city together. What could make a day strolling on the Charles Bridge followed by a decadent lunch of crispy duck, sweet cabbage and pillowy knedliky better? Well, shopping of course.
We decided Prague would be the first stop on our shopping tour of Eastern Europe. After a day of flight delays, crushing crowds and lousy airport food, we arrived at the Prague airport tired and cranky. Feelings of anxiety began to ease as soon as we reached baggage claim and quickly spotted our driver, sent by the Augustine Hotel. Any feelings of exhaustion or annoyance had disappeared by the time our Audi town car made its way through the streets of Prague that first night. It was late, the streets were empty, and the city felt like a sprawling castle.
The Augustine, ideally located in heart of Prague, perfectly embodies what Prague is all about. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, the Augustine is housed in seven different buildings that once were part of a 13th century monastery. The hotel harmonizes original vaulted ceilings and beams with heated marble floors and Frette sheets. Not-too-modern and not-too-classic luxury at its best.
Over a sprawling Czech breakfast buffet the next morning (consider 5 types of homemade dark breads, local honey and honeycomb and house cured meats) we plotted our first day of shopping, starting with what we know Prague would do best: antiques.
Our first discovery was around the corner from the Augustine. A hole in the wall antique store called Malostranské Starozitnictvi. Stocked primarily with small items, we discovered a case in the back, full of 40s an 50s costume jewelry; Czech crystal necklaces, delicate earrings and statement-making cameos adorned with rows of rhinestones. We went nuts over the cameos ($25 apiece!) – exactly the look Dolce and Valentino had all over their fall runways. There are dozens of antique stores all over Prague that are the heart and soul of what shopping is about here. Your heart will begin to skip a beat after discovering the perfect garnet choker or hand-embroidered tablecloth.
The next stop on our shopping list was a lot harder to track down: vintage folk clothing. Not as easy as you’d think in Prague. After a lot of research we finally got tipped off to Antique Ahasver, a small store across the river filled to the brim with frilly handkerchiefs, ornate table cloths, and (jackpot) vintage clothes and folkloric costumes.
We probably spent upwards of two hours in this tiny store, oohing and aahing over handmade lace blouses with dramatic collars and luscious velvet skirts with beading and embroidery. Prices are extremely reasonable for the goods (skirts ranged from $40 upwards) and nowhere else have we seen such an impressive collection of boho skirts and vests. Definitely a must.
After three full days of wandering aimlessly through tiny streets and mom and pop antique shops, we decided to see what Prague had to offer in terms of modern fashion. The sad truth is, not much. Czech designers are few and without the infrastructure to manufacture, Czech made clothes and shoes are extremely pricey. However, if you’re in the market for a winter coat or fur, you’ve found the holy grail.
Across the street from a goliath shopping mall called the Palladium, is an old fashioned department store called Bílá labut’. Most of the clothes and shoes feel like they’ve been there since the fall of communism, it’s a strange feeling akin to being in a time warp. That is, until you reach the outwear department. Rows and rows of mink, sable and fox – in dozens of modern styles, and for pretty modest prices. We spotted mink coats with floppy hoods and belts, glam fox chubbies and aviator hats. If fur isn’t your look they also stock fitted down coats with lush collars, more stylish than anything you’d find at Saks or Neimans.
Overall shopping in Prague is more akin to a treasure hunt than a fashionista paradise. But because everything in the city feels small and unique, the finds are that much sweeter.
Written by Guest Contributors Iris Friedman and Chloe Popescu for EuropeUpClose.com