Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Prague

One of the great pleasures of life is to dine well. In Prague this pleasure is considered to be part of life, not something reserved for special occasions. In fact few European capitals can claim a greater variety or more sophisticated cuisine than can be enjoyed in Prague's hundreds of restaurants. And when you consider the low cost of dining out in Prague, you can understand why it's so hip to visit this culinary mecca.

To start there is Czech cuisine, which like most central European food, is centered around meat and potatoes, with vegetables and excellent salads. Whether you like goulash or not, a meal in a traditional Czech restaurant is an unforgetable experience, if not a gastronomic high point. For that kind of experience you need only visit one of the many French restaurants dotting the city. From hardy French country food to Nouvelle cuisine, Prague does justice to the epicurian palate. World class restaurants serve up excellent fare, in elegant, classical surroundings. In many of these places you can easily imagine you're in Old Europe with many restaurant buildings in the Old Town dating back 500 to 1000 years. So ambiance plays a big part in the Prague dining experience.

Seafood, Italian and Asian food also appear prominent in Prague's culinary scene. From traditional mediterranean fare to the latest Pacific Rim cuisine, adventurous gourmets will have many a good meal here. Although Prague is far from the sea, we found fresh seafood that was flown in from places like Greenland and Sri Lanka. Thai food has caught on, adding a bit of spice to the traditional Chinese and Japanese experience.

Vegetarians and vegans aren't forgotten in Prague, as there are several very good vegetarian restaurants including a Govinda's (hare krishna) restaurant, and another in Old Town Square. Many non-Czech restaurants also cater to vegetarians, often with a whole section of vegetarian dishes. Other popular cuisines are Indian, Greek, Mexican, Caribbean and South American. Please check our Restaurant Guide for specific dining suggestions.

Of course every meal must be accompanied by a good beverage, and in Prague there's no shortage of excellent options. By far the most popular beverage is Czech beer. With a long tradition of brewing beer with the most natural ingredients in the old way, you'll be amazed at how good beer can be! The best we tried were Krusovice and Staropromen. These beers come in several flavors, usually a light and a dark. These are not your everyday Budweisers (even though the original Budweiser is Czech!). One or two half liters (ask for a big beer) is usually enough for a meal. At prices from under one Euro to two Euros per half liter, it's hard to beat. And when you consider the price of wine in Prague, which unfortunately isn't a bargain, you'll want to imbibe the foamy stuff unless you're splurging.

Wine may be pricey, but you can't go wrong. Even Czech wine will surprise you. The Czech reds in particular can be good to excellent, with a range of flavors, somewhat different from say French or Spanish wines (because some of the grapes used are different). They also make a good, rather dry Muscat wine, which retains the flowery taste, without the sickeningly sweet sugar content. For more about Czech wine, please read our story The History of Czech Wine. Besides the local wines, there is a plethora of French and Italian vintages on most wine lists. But be prepared to pay even more than in the EU because there's a 30% import duty on these. I'd say most imported wines were 50 to 100% more than in an EU country. That beer's sounding better and better, eh?

In addition to all these full service restaurants, much of Prague's eating and drinking scene revolves around cafes and bars. Most Czech's can't afford to eat in the fancy restaurants, so their social life revolves around the pubs and cafes where lower priced meals and drinks abound. There are so many cafes and pubs in the tourist districts (Old Town and Mala Strana) most visitors miss those further out, where beers go for 35 Eurocents, and menus for under five Euros. If you're on a budget, or want to practice your Czech or just want to rub shoulders with the average working stiff, you might check these out.

An interesting feature of the night scene in Prague is that many clubs that cater to the younger crowd also cater to their stomachs. Prague clubs are now sprouting restaurant/cafes where a decent late night meal will keep you powered up, dancing till dawn.





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