I can’t resist an alliterative title (#sorrynotsorry).
I also can’t resist comparing Prague to other Habsburg cities: for example, anyone familiar with Vienna will instantly recognise similarities in Prague. But where Vienna is the grown-up sister who lives in a chic Brownstone in NYC, Prague is the plucky little sis who moved to Seattle and can’t (read: doesn’t want to) shake the grunge scene.
With confectionary-like buildings abound, walking the hilly streets of Praha brings to mind an exploding Victorian candy store, or a wedding cake acid trip. Frilly, exuberant, and often crumbling, these buildings weave together in a panoply of pastel pinks, oranges, purples, blues, and greens that are likely to result in a serious case of vertigo. But below this aristocratic 18th-century façade lies a wildness that’s evident as soon as you seek out the nearest watering hole.
I spent five days in Prague in late summer, and the below is a list of the best coffee, cocktails, beer gardens, and wine bars that I could find. Žižkov is indisputably the hippest area around and offers the best of the best in terms of chic coffees, artful cocktails, and drinking-until-you-drop, though there are other nearby areas worth discovering, such as Vinhorady or Vyšehrad.
A word to the wise: things open LATE in Prague. If you’re an early bird, try adjusting your alarm; and for you night owls — well, this is the city for you as most bars don’t start to fill up until 10 or 11pm. Also note that mid-August is still peak tourist time in Praha, so you’ll be elbowing people left, right, and centre if you fancy seeing the historical sights. My sources tell me that November and February are alternately excellent (quieter) times to sightsee.
And, finally — don’t believe Google! This is what I mean by ‘grunge little sister’: sometimes, she doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, so sometimes, things just aren’t open. Hodně štěstí in your search for caffeine the morning after a proper sesh!
It’s nigh on impossible to throw a stone without hitting ten trendy coffee shops in Praha. The question is, will they be open early enough to stave off a serious hangover?
Dating back to the late 17th or early 18th century (depending on who you believe), this city has a coffee history to rival nearly every other in the former Habsburg empire, including Vienna. Though this history has a focus on the more traditional Turkish-inspired coffees, you’d be remiss to think that contemporary Prague doesn’t offer an updated version for the digital nomad. This is especially true in Žižkov, thanks to the area’s large student presence.
Coffee Break & Cake: One of the early-openers in the area, a nook-like feeling, with decent pastries to kick-start your day.
My Coffee Story: A funky little brunch place that stays open late, offering wine and cocktails later in the day, along with fun events like speed dating and comedy nights.
Peter’s Apartment: scrumptious eggs benny, fluffy pancakes to die for…basically Peter is your new BFF.
Žižkavárna: dusty and funky, this is a true hole-in-the-wall, perfect for cuddling up with your laptop and not emerging until sunset.
Kavárna Kaaba: bright and airy, and closer to the old historic centre, this is the perfect spot for rehashing last night’s events with your gang, before taking off for the day’s sightseeing.
Café Jen: semi-subterranean and off the beaten path, this place is awesome for scoring free WiFi and a filling brunch for as little as £6, multiple lattes included.
Whilst Prague is an incredibly green city, it’s not for the tree-bathing that all the locals are in the park: I guarantee you it’s to enjoy one of the plentiful (and extremely cheap) beer gardens!
The best park for this, in my humble opinion, is Riegrovy Sady as it has an excellent view over Prague castle and so is one of the more scenic spots in the city. However, a trip to hilltop Vyšehrad is well worth the hike as it has a stunning view over the Vlatva river, along with a weird old cemetery, a stunning church, and sometimes strange hippy festivals during the day.
Mlikárna or the Beer Garden - Riegrovy Sady: perfect for all-day, cheap drinking with a view. Beers for as little as 39 CZH (about £1.20), and open from around 11am until very, very late. There are several kiosks from which to get beer in this park, so take your pick! I prefer the beer garden, as it has both a choice of craft Czech beers at some counters, and more mainstream tipples at others.
Vyšehrad: perfect for a weekend stroll and early afternoon beer, so you can catch the sights and activities in this wide-open space.
Vinični altán - Havlíčkovy Sady: this posh park is perfect for a late-afternoon aperitif with a view. Nestled atop a hill covered with vines (the area was once part of the royal vineyards), this pagoda is a unique and hidden watering hole, with wine, beer, and non-alcoholic drinks on offer.
If there’s one thing Praha loves more than an outdoor beer, it’s a late-night craft cocktail in a cosy space. There is certainly no shortage of living-room-inspired bars to sip on a late-night mélange, most of which don’t open until 8 or 9pm, and don’t get busy until 11 or later.
District 3 Bar: this is a personal favourite, as it was about three doors down from my AirBnb (no musical pun intended). The cocktails are strong (and cheap - about 120 CZH or £5), the lights are low, and there is a giant squishy armchair in the main room. And, if you arrive early, you might just catch the owner playing board games with his buddies.
Bukowski’s: a Žižkov staple, this is a quintessential late-night place named after everyone’s favourite transgressive American writer. Charles did say, after all, that he liked to hide in bars.
Malkovich: just up the road, this other eponymous bar is equally a local favourite, cosy like your nan’s living room (but with much, much stronger drinks).
Bike Jesus: open all day, this hot spot has coffee, bikes, and later in the evening food, a patio, and cocktails. Is there anything truly more hipster than this combination?
Vibrant national wine scene
Central and Eastern European wines are finally starting to gain well-deserved recognition, and it’s a great time to take advantage of this and sample the best of Czechia in the country's capital. There are no shortage of wine bars around, though natural wines and small producers are still something of a rarity.
Fajnšmekr: hands-down my favourite — and not just because they saved me from an AirBnb nightmare (another story for another time). This place stocks every natural wine worth knowing from Czechia, and quite a few others from abroad, such as the well-known Gut Oggau or Claus Preisinger. It’s a bonus that you can drink in or take out, and local deli snacks are plentiful as well.
Moravian Wine & Delicacies: It’s all in the name - this is the spot for everything truly Czech, both food and beverage.
Morning Coffee Evening Wine: unfortunately my foray to this café-cum-wine bar was thwarted by an unexpected closure. But I have it on good authority from the locals that this is home to one of the best cappuccinos on your way to sightseeing, and the best small-producer wine list as you wander home in the evening. Opening hours are flexible. If they happen to be closed, check out Bar Bougainvallea just around the corner as quick-fix.
Prosekárna: as the name suggests, this is the bar for everything fizz. Well, just the fizz from northern Italy. If you are a fan of these bubbles, there’s really only one patio for you in Praha. So it’s not strictly speaking Czech, but it’s everyone’s favourite bubbles served with a bit of local flair (e.g. the staff’s adorable matching Cos dresses).