Here’s the good news: not every restaurant near Prague’s Old Town Square is a tourist trap with watered-down beer and ‘customer service’ straight out of a prison canteen. Luckily, there are plenty of great places to eat after a hard day of sightseeing – if you know where to look.
Notice that I didn’t say “on” Old Town Square itself. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Unless you enjoy being ripped off.
It’s only a short, scenic walk to something better, I promise.
All the regularly priced, casual places are marked in green on the map. At these, you can usually turn up without a reservation (though if you’re going on a Friday night, booking is always a good idea.)
If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a special dinner, I’ve marked the more upscale (pricier but worth it) places in red. At these you’ll need to reserve a table in advance.
For Czech food and beer, one place I always recommend is Lokál. It’s a long, tunnel-shaped Czech pub, which some local people call the ‘Czech McDonalds’ because the food there is of such uniform quality. To me that’s a good thing, since I can always confidently recommend the food – which is no-nonsense but made with high quality ingredients, sourcing its meat from the same places as Nase Maso (below) and Cestr. The tank Pilsner is always well-kept, too.
There’s also Kolkovna V Celnici nearby which I like a lot too. When the food is good, it’s very, very good. But it’s a much more ‘typical’ Czech restaurant in that the quality of the food is up and down. That doesn’t stop me from going all the time, though, and the beer is reliably great.
For a quick gourmet snack during the day, head for the Gurmet Pasaz (meaning ‘gourmet passage’, of course) where you’ll find posh sausages, Prague ham and the best meatloaf around at Nase Maso (pictured) and fancy open-faced sandwiches (chlebicky) at Sisters. There’s also the food market at Trznice Dlouha 14, which includes the Rybárna bistro, specialising in seafood.
If you really want to splash out, there’s the Michelin-starred La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise – though be aware this is less ‘blowout meal’ and more ‘gastronomic experience’ and you’ll need to book way ahead.
For French food and wine in an intimate, deisgner setting, try Pot-au-Feu (pictured). For something a bit special on a budget, try Grosseto Marina – a stylish but casual city-centre restaurant on a boat with great views of Prague Castle. The Italian food is good – not great – but the service, atmosphere, location, view and prices are hard to beat around here.
Maitrea is great for vegetarian food, with fresh ingredients, low prices and designer decor (sit downstairs if you can, it’s nicer. There’s a little waterfall thing and the occasional monk having his lunch.)
There are lots more options to check out on the map.
A general rule when looking for a place to eat in central Prague is to avoid anywhere that feels the need to advertise itself as ‘original Czech’ or ‘traditional Czech’. Because they’ll water down the beer, throw something inedible at you, add some random extra numbers to the bill because you spoke English, and then demand a tip.
And, obviously, avoid anywhere with the menu in ten languages or – god forbid – laminated photos of the food. But you knew that already!
If you try any of these places do let me know how it was.