Few things are more quintessential of the Prague experience than holing up for an afternoon or evening in a café. The city has a rich tradition of café culture, with its golden era being in the 1920s, when the likes of Egon Kisch and Max Brod would channel Kafka’s spirit at cafes all over town, and through the period of communism, when the likes of a certain playwright (and future president) by the name of Vaclav Havel would perch in a window seat of Café Slavia.
Today, there’s no shortage of cafes around the capital, varying from storied and gilded testaments to a bygone age to uber-hip spots reflecting the latest trends in coffee and philosophy. Here are five spots that cover the spectrum of Prague’s unique café culture:
This stalwart gathering place is easily the grandest and most-loved of all Prague’s cafes, garnering a steady crowd of both locals and foreign visitors at any time of the day. The high flourished ceilings and tall windows mean there’s always breathing room, no matter how busy it may be, and the café excels equally at breakfasts and coffees (as well as an incredible hot chocolate) to sandwiches and steaks and other meal staples for subsistence later in the day. Pool tables in the back are popular in the evening, when coffees give way to glasses of wine and, of course, beer. Located just steps from the Vltava River and the National Gallery, it’s a must for a break between sights or a just reward after a busy day.
Open Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 9 a.m.-11:30 p.m.
Prague 1-New Town.
Tel. 224 930 949.
Hidden in the maze of cobbled alleyways that comprise Prague’s Old Town, Café Montmartre is worth getting a little bit lost when trying to find it. This café recently celebrated its 100th birthday, and feels lost in time – in a good way. Mismatched tables and overstuffed chairs, bric-a-brak wall décor and arched, frescoed ceilings make a fitting environment for a highly intellectual conversation or for losing yourself in a good book.
Prague 1 -Old Town
Tel. 222 221 143
Cukr Káva Limonáda
The café “Sugar, Coffee, Lemonade” covers all the bases of what one might be looking for in a café, and with aplomb. This tidy, cozy little spot in Malá Strana located within shouting distance of Charles Bridge and among the buildings of Ango-American University, has specials of the day scrawled on a blackboard, and serves up pastas and salads as well as freshly baked pastries and cakes, made by an in-house confectioner. A wide range of Czech and international wines are also in stock.
Open daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Prague 1-Malá Strana.
Tel. 257 225 396
Týnská Literární Kavárna
If you don’t mind the sometimes-overwhelming smokiness of this place, Týnská’s café is a perfect break close to Old Town Square. The literary buzz in its small connecting rooms is as stimulating as the coffee, and – in warmer months – a courtyard garden opens up out back. In winter, try a svarák (hot mulled wine) or a grog to fight off the chill. The arched ceilings are a cozy backdrop to sipping on some Bernard lager or tasting a local white wine.
Open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat.-Sun. noon-11 p.m.
Prague 1-Old Town
Tel. 224 827 807
Muj šálek kávy
In the recently revamped business district of Karlín, just a few minutes by tram from the city center, Muj šálek kávy is offering something a bit different. It is colorful and conscientious, bright and nonsmoking, with just enough of an edge to make it super cool. Double Shot coffee is on hand, as is a changing menu of hot and cold daily specials and desserts, including a memorable cheesecake.
Open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Tel. 222 981 874.
Written by Guest Contributor Fiona Gaze for EuropeUpClose.com. Fiona Gaze is a food and travel writer based in Prague.