Tis the season to... talk about shopping, obviously. Don't get us wrong: we love Christmas and all the good things it brings: seeing family and friends, eating all the Christmas cookies (more on that later), watching fairy tales on TV, opening a bottle of wine and simply having some quality time. However, when it comes to shopping for gifts, many things can go wrong, especially when you shop abroad, and especially when you are walking along the beaten path.
So, in an attempt to steer you in the right direction, we bring you our annual tips for some of our favorite Christmas gift ideas. Now, what we did here is we imagined what we would have loved to get if we were your family members or friends. In some rare cases, we assumed you had an unlimited budget. But mostly we just wished for something cool and reasonably priced. However, we always picked something we thought really represents where the Czech Republic stands right now and where it comes from. Notable omissions include: Russian dolls of any kind, "My dad was in Prague and all he got me was this stupid t-shirt" shirts, overpriced glass and fake garnets. We have also set some imaginary categories of family members and friends for your convenience. Enjoy!
For kids with imagination: Fatra inflatable toys
After a long pause, Fatra, the original manufacturer, has recently resumed the production of the classic inflatable toy designs by the famed toy designer Libuse Niklova. We had so much fun with these when we were kids. No trip to a pool was complete without these inflatable animals. Oh, we can still smell that rubber. Now you can buy a piece of modern design history and bring it home to your little ones. Just like us, they are going to love it - guaranteed! If you wish to learn more about Libuse Niklova and her work, we recommend that you buy her work’s catalogue compiled by her son. Where to buy? In the Guma retro shop at Jecna 24 street or online at their website. If you wish to shop for children in a regular shop, we recommend that you visit the beautiful Ookidoo shop near the National Theatre or Space4kids, another cool shop for kids near the Hradcanska subway stop. Oh, how we wish these shop had existed when we were small!
We have already written about these a while ago but they still remain a great gift in our eyes. And with their factory store just a few steps off the Municipal House and the Powder Tower, there is now no excuse for not buying a set of these for an elementary school student. Just a quick tip that... ehm... "adds value": just screw the mechanics out of the metal casing, and you get a spit gun as a bonus (here’s an old school class recipe: just take the casing, punch one end through the peel of the orange you ate during recess, blow into the other end and - voila - you get an invitation to the principal’s office). In addition to the mechanical pencils, the store sells lots of leads, brushes, fantastic set of colored pencils and other accessories and tools for the aspiring artist. Where to buy? The Kooh-i-noor design shop at Na prikope 24 street.
For your hipster friend or relative: Botas 66 sneakers
From disappointment 30 years ago to hipster accessory today: when we were young, a pair of Botas shoes was a bitter wake up call from our dreams about wearing Adidas and Puma sneakers. However, with their new, retro “Botas 66” fashion line, Botas made a huge splash about five years ago, and a pair of the bright-colored sneakers is now a must-wear item for all Czech hipsters and the like. Still made mostly by hand in Skutec, Czech Republic, the Botas retain an old-school feel but add modern, colorful design, high quality materials and good craftsmanship. Where to buy? JB Sport at Dlazdena 3 street has a very small selection but boasts a great, central location. For a proper assortment, you’ll have to travel outside of the centre to Artis - Botas shop at Radlicka 11, Prague 5. If these are not your cup of tea, you can also check La Gallery Novesta selling Novesta shoes and some pieces by Leeda, or you can visit our favorite Kurator or Debut Gallery for the wonderful Cutulum shoes.
For dad or grandpa: Zufanek slivovitz
Hailing from Borsice in the Slovacko region of Moravia, just about two miles from Zuzi’s birth village, the slivovitz (plum brandy) made by the Zufanek distillery comes as close to the real thing as possible, and is the best slivovitz money can buy today. Yes, “the best stuff does not have a label”, as Mr Fric, a famous Czech chef, says to glorify Czech moonshine, but Zufanek comes very, very close. If you do not like Slivovitz, Mr Zufanek’s family also makes brandies from other fruits: pear, sour cherry, apricots, juniper, even walnuts. Where to buy? Sklizeno foodie market has a nice selection in different sizes, as does the Bartida shop and bar.
For the design lover with cash to spare: Dechem glassware
Following up on a tradition dating back to the 13th Century, Ms Tomiskova and Mr Jandourek, two young Czech designers, founded the Dechem studio in 2012 to “tell new stories in Bohemian glass". Their lamps and tabletop decorations immediately caught the attention of many design fans all over Europe. Be ready to splash some serious cash for their creations but their products are truly beautiful and forward-thinking. We would love this as a gift. Anyone? Where to buy? The Qubus design shop in the Dox Centre for Contemporary Arts, the Debut gallery, one of the great Artel shops and the Kubista shop.
For paper lovers: Modern Czech Stationery
Who does not love the smell of paper? We certainly do. When combined with clever design, we think a piece of modern stationery can be a great present. Our favorite Czech stationery designers include Papelote, which has been on the market for a few years and sells everything from envelopes to folders to diaries and notebooks and, importantly, wrapping paper, Paragraph, a young independent studio seated in the Zizkov district, and VOALA. Where to buy? Both Papelote and Paragraph have their own shops (see their websites linked in this paragraph). In addition, Paragraph stationery can be bought at Page Five, a recently opened independent publishing house with a shop that sells everything from books and magazines to stationery and posters, and in our favorite Kurator.
Do your loved ones love coffee and design? Why not combine the two? The Chemex coffeemaker, although not Czech, is a beautiful object by itself that will double as a decorative piece in any kitchen. Use it to make drip coffee from beans roasted by Doubleshot, the Prague-based coffee roasters who supply coffee to almost all the good cafés in Prague. You can buy a tasting set of three different coffees of your choice from their assortment. Where to buy?Muj salek kavy, one of the most popular cafes in Prague, is the flagship café owned by the Doubleshot roasters. In addition to delicious coffee and cakes, you can buy all the props to make great coffee at home.
For design lovers who have everything: Brokis lamps
The installation of lamps by Brokis, based near Jihlava, Czech Republic, was one of our favorites at this years Designblok, the annual design show in Prague. Combining the creativity of young designers and the beauty of high-quality Czech glass, the lamps offer some striking designs. So good they were features in a recent Yves Saint Laurent video! Our favorites include the Shadow and Muffin lamps by designers Lucie Koldova and Dan Yeffet, the Capsula lamps by Lucie Koldova, and the Balloon lamps by Boris Klimek. Where to buy? The easiest way is to inquire for Brokis products at their website. They have stockists all around the world and are sold by several online shops. Try to google them.
For just about any woman (or man): Modern Czech jewelry
What woman does not like shiny things? The Czech Republic has recently witnessed the rise of many talented designers, ranging from the more traditional (e.g. Belda) to the more daring. These might not be to everyone's taste but are surely going to get everyone's attention. Our favorites include Zorya with their Virus collection, Janja Prokic and her Le Grand Jeu collection, Antipearle pearl-based jewelry with an edgy look, and Blueberries 3D-printer based designs. Where to buy? Zorya can be bought in their Letna-based studio (by appointment only), in the Dox by Qubus store and the Simple Concept Store. Janja Prokic can be had in the Debut Gallery, Antipearle sells its products in its showroom at Janackovo nabrezi from 10am to 6pm from 18 to 23 December, and Bluberries pieces can be bought online at their website, in the Leeda shop and at Modernista.
For wine and glass lovers: A Czech red and glassware by Czech designers
Czech wines have been getting very good recently and although they are mostly known for whites, you can find some good reds here, too (although they will never have so much body as an Australian cabernet). And is there a better way to enjoy a good red than from a designer carafe and glasses? No, we didn't think so. Czech designers have always designed really nice glassware for wine and food alike. The glasswares by the Olgoj Chorchoj studio, Rony Plesl, Martin Zampach or the LLEV studio are among our favorites. Use them to devour a glass of some of our favorite Czech reds: the 2009 Shisar by Mr Zapletal, the 2009 Neronet by the Prague-based winery Salabka, or the 2009 Trkmanska by Stapleton Springer. Where to buy? The carafe at Hard-De-Core, and the wines at the Vinograf wine bar. Both can be found at the Senovazne namesti square in the centre of Prague.
For your friend who looooves cooking at home: Lugi kitchen accessories
Lugi, the Czech manufacturer of modern design furniture such as our "when we grow up, we'll buy this" table, has found an ingenious way of putting that excess material resulting from their manufacturing process to good use: create a line of kitchen accessories and tableware. Their wooden trays, cutting boards and salt and pepper grinders are really cool, beautifully made and sport nice minimalist designs. Where to buy? Pavilon. the furniture and design complex at the Vinohradska trance market.
For your chocolate-loving aunt: Passion chocolates and pralines
Made in the Kbely district of Prague, these designer chocolates and pralines are the joint creation of Melinda and Geert, a couple that relocated to Prague after the Hungarian-born Melinda quit her job, met Geert in Belgium and decided to make artisan chocolates as part of her creative urge. The pralines and chocolates are beautifully decorated and creative and are made from high-quality ingredients. Where to buy? Online at their website. For perhaps a more accessible alternative, have a look at Jordi's chocolates at the Sklizeno foodie market at Vodickova 33 street.
Well, this is just a short selection of things we really like. The list could be much longer of course, but for more ideas, we'll send you to our favorite shops instead. We are pretty sure you'll find your perfect gift there.
Harddecore - A wonderful gallery/shop with a great selection of Czech design with many things made specifically for this place.
Kurator - One of our favorite shops in Prague owned by lovely and friendly couple, Martina and Jan. They will do their best to help you find a beautiful gift (and probably feed you, too).
La Gallery Novesta - This beautiful concept store carries pieces by many great Czech fashion (and other) designers such as Zuzana Kubickova, Jakub Polanka, Katerina Geislerova, etc. Your better half will be very happy to see you've picked something for her there.
Futurista - This unique space has a great selection of the best of Czech design, art books, jewelry and architecture.
Ingredients - We bet this is the nicest smelling shop in Prague. You can spend hours in this wonderful perfume store, but anything you pick from perfumes, candles to cosmetics will definitely bring a smile on the face on the receiving end.
Panska Pasaz - Imagine 10 great shops under one roof, all carrying great gifts for men. From great watches, ties and shoes to quality whiskey and cigars. As a bonus, you'll find a popup store there until Friday, Dec 13, featuring the talented Leo Macenauer and beautiful bags by Playbag.
Well, this concludes our annual list of Christmas presents from Prague tips. If you are missing something or are looking for something specific, let us know!
And remember: sometimes it may be better just to spend it on yourself: