local tips

How to Stay Cool in Prague

The summer is officially here and while the temperatures in Prague are not as high as they may be in other places (anything over 30C/85F is considered a heat wave here), it can still get very hot in Prague, especially given that we have no benefit of sea breezes and the like.

Prague is the perfect walking city: everything is within walking distance and the hills offer some beautiful vistas, but in a scorching heat, you want to walk smart. Here are some tips that may help you survive the heat while still enjoying some great food and walking (mostly) in the shade:

Pedestrian Tunnel - Kampa Island - Café Lounge

The first trip looks like a visit to the Prague Castle, but it's not (reserve that for the night hours). Walking down from the Strahov Monastery, turn left to the New World area, one of the most beautiful corners of Prague in our book. Get some refreshments in the beautiful Novy svet cafe and then follow on to the "Deer Moat" in front of the castle, cool down in the pedestrian tunnel, sit on a bench. Walk down along the slopes to the Malostranska station and from there to the Kampa Island, passing some wonderful walled gardens on the right. Feel free to walk inside and rest there. Make a few snapshots of the opposite bank with the yellow penguins on the riverside, explore the Kampa museum located in the beautiful Sova's mills, tap the babies by David Cerny and just enjoy the lazy atmosphere of the park. Follow towards the Ujezd and rest at one of our favorite cafés in town - Café Lounge at the Plaska street (just look for the "Hunger Wall" banner).

Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia - Lokal/Nase Maso/Sisters/Sansho - Muj salek kavy/Tea Mountain/Veltlin

Often missed by many travelers, Convent of St Agnes near the Hastalske square is a beautiful gothic complex that accommodates a minimalist exhibition of Czech and European medieval art from the National Gallery collections. After you're done exploring the Convent, cool down with a cold beer and a light snack at the Lokal restaurant nearby. Alternatively, you can have an updated Czech classic - an open-faced sandwich at the Sisters bistro (they do delicious daily soups, too), or have the fantastic meatloaf, burger or sausages at the Nase Maso butcher shop right opposite the hall. Finally, Sansho, one of our favorite restaurants in town, has a great outdoor seating for lunches (served until 3pm on weekdays - closed on Mondays) and serves fantastic Asian-fusion dishes, some of them lighter and thus perfectly suited for this weather.

Once you have eaten, take the 8 tram to the Urxova stop (or walk for about two miles) and have coffee at the air-conditioned Muj salek kavy cafe at the corner of the Krizikova and Saldova streets. You can literally spend the whole day there - in addition to coffee, they serve nice cakes, home-made lemonades, and ice-cream. On the other hand, you don't have to: you can just walk two blocks further to reach two great and fairly recent openings. Tea Mountain is currently our top pick for a tea room in Prague, and they offer fantastic, high-quality cold teas in the summer. Finally, if you want to spend a lazy, hot afternoon drinking wine, Veltlin, located right next door, has wines. And absolutely great, organic, Central European wines at that.  

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Beer Gardens

Another cool idea for the hot days to come is to go and just relax in a beer garden - you don't have to have a beer, of course. Instead, you can have Kofola, the Czech coke, for instance. On top of that, beer gardens tend to be integrated in parks, which offers the exciting possibility to just buy a beer and sit on a bench and enjoy the shade and views. Yes, life can be beautiful here in Prague.

Here are the three beer gardens that we would recommend: the Riegrovy sady beer garden, which can be found in the Vinohrady district. Many people buy beer into a plastic cup and go about 100 m from the garden to the park and enjoy the beautiful view of the centre, just sitting on the grass. Alternatively, have some craft beers and a great pulled pork burger at The Tavern on the edge of the park.

The second beer garden is at Letna, again with a great view. You can combine your visit with a visit to the National Technical Museum nearby. The best way to get there is to climb to the metronome above the Jewish Quarter and then turn right. You'll be there in about five to ten minutes. Finally, if you really want to avoid tourists and combine beer drinking with a great walk, visit Hospudka na hradbach within the Vysehrad fortress south of the centre. After the city cools down, just walk back down and head to the town on the riverside.

Last but not least, two tips: if the heat really gets to you, there is always ice-cream: we have posted about it recently here. And, even if ice-cream fails, you should definitely hide from the sun at one of our favorite independent movie theaters in Prague. It is always cool and nice there. We have blogged about them here. Have a great, cool day!


Meet a Local: Adam and Vojta of EMA Espresso Bar

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We've said it many times and we will say it again. We really like EMA Espresso Bar and we knew we would like it from the day it opened in June 2013. In its heart, EMA is an espresso bar: a place to get delicious coffee to go or to stay. But it's more than just that. In addition to the coffee - and they do both espresso-based drinks and drips using coffee from at least two roasters every week - EMA offers great Czech baked sweets (like various kolachees or sweet yeast buns with curd cheese that Jan tends to order more than he should), one or two salads and sandwiches, lemonades made in house or sodas by Fritz Cola, and even some wines supplied by Veltlin. EMA also added a daily soup to their menu a few weeks ago, and has began serving community table-based breakfasts on Saturdays.

What really makes it our favorite spot to grab a cup of coffee despite the sad lack of wi-fi (otherwise a standard in Prague cafés)? Is it the airy interiors with lots of natural light? The decor that is at once modern and reminiscent of the 1930s Czech functionalist architecture? Or the delicious coffee we order there on a daily basis? 

No, our favorite thing about EMA Espresso Bar is the friendly atmosphere, partly created by the team of their skilled baristas. In today's edition of the "Meet a Local" series, we bring you the views of the two baristas we chat with the most every time we get to the bar: Adam, who is also the manager, and Vojta, who creates fantastic latte-art on our cappuccinos and flat whites.

How would you describe Prague style? 

Adam: A nice coffee scene has been developing in Prague recently. If you know where to go, Prague has many really nice cafés you can visit, each of them unique in terms of design, each of them with their style of coffee and each of them diminutive in size, so they have to make quite an effort to survive :-) In my book, these include I Need Cofee, Pražírna, Můj šálek kávy, Café Jen, Ema, Cafe Lounge, Mezi zrnky, Monolok, Bistro 8 etc. Awareness about coffee has been on the rise among both baristas and guests, which is probably the best scenario.

Vojta: Answers.. usually will bring more questions. I think it is quite difficult to define "Prague style". It depends on daylight, season, time and place, where you are. Because people in Prague, especially in winter, wear lots of black and grey... and the grayness is everywhere. But its going to get better:o).

Where do you go in Prague to be inspired?

A: For me that would be cafés. I like places where you can sit down by yourself and relax, have your own private space but be in the centre of the action. For me, such a place is the bench in front of the Vescovi Café in the Újezd area under the Petřín hill.

V: When I need inspiration, I usually walk through the city and near the river.. or I just sit in some pub alone, but not alone: having many people around is the right atmosphere for me. 

Three favorite places in Prague?

A: I generally like places with some trees and greenery. That's why i like parks, the Vyšehrad fortress which has remained a place that only a few tourists know about, and the Lesser Town for its narrow streets and the aura of ages long past.

V: Three favorite places in Prague are: (1) the Charles Bridge at 4 or 5 am in the summer when the sun rises; (2) crossing the Bridge of Legions in the Ujezd direction drunk at night during a drizzle; (3) and actually about 50% of Prague – that's my last favorite place.. You cannot really tell a favorite place. Each of them is nice at a different time and in different weather.

Describe your perfect Saturday? 

A: My ideal Saturday would start at about 10am-ish. I would visit the farmers' markets at the Jiřího z Poděbrad square. I would follow with a late breakfast at Café Jen, a walk to the Vyšehrad fortress, a book or some drawing, wine and the observatory:)

V: My perfect Saturday starts when I wake up about 11am, then have a brunch somewhere and then...? No-one knows. It's still too early :D

What’s your secret shopping address?

A: The farmers' markets at the Jiřího z Poděbrad square.

V: When I tell you my secret shopping address, it will not be a secret anymore! But it's at the same address as my favorite clothing brands: Carhartt, iriedaily etc.

The best place for romantic/weekend/with friends dinner?

A: Rest, ideally in their outdoor seating area in the summer.

V: For a really nice dinner, I head over to an awesome place called "Rest – sním či jím" (meaning "Am I dreaming or eating?")

Where do you like to grab a drink?

A:. Hoffa bar, Vinograf, Wine and Cognac ("U stare study" near the Malostranské náměstí square in the Lesser Town)

V: If you would like to grab a drink, definitely visit the Hemingway Bar, one of the best cocktail bars in Prague. Or Hoffa, a bit noisy but new, clean and friendly.

Where do you go to relax? 

A: The surroundings of the Karlštejn castle or the small garden in the courtyard of Coffeesource.

V: Best relax? Doesn't matter if it's in Prague or anywhere else.. it will be in my bed.. anytime, anywhere.

You swear they have the best breakfasts at…

A: Café Jen, Cafe Lounge.

V: The best breakfast? There's more options. Try Cafe Lounge or Bella Vida. Or visit the farmers' market, buy some food and go and sit somewhere in one of the bigger parks in Prague, for example Petřín, Ladronka, Stromovka or Riegrovy sady. Of course, that only applies in the summer:D

Top three things that every traveler to Prague should do/see?

A: Have a cup of coffee at EMA, the farmers' markets and the flea market on the river embankment and then renting a paddle boat on the Vltava river.

V: Top three things in Prague... Hmm... Prague Castle and the view, that's just amazing. The Letná park and the view from the Metronome where Stalin's statue used to be. And, finally, EMA and the baristas there :D (Or the sunrise viewed from the Charles Bridge I mentioned already. That's REALLY AMAZING!)


Meet a Local I: Magdalena Happyfeet

Jan's most priced 2012 Christmas gift? Prince's Purple Rain and Marvin Gaye's Best Of LPs that he got from Zuzi. Where did she buy them? In our favorite records store in Prague, a small shop in the Lucerna Palace just a few steps off the Wenceslas Square, called Happyfeet. Open in the afternoons from Monday to Friday, Happyfeet sells new and second-hand records, with special emphasis on the old Suprafon and Panton-branded Czechoslovak pressings. In addition to the vinyls, Happyfeet also carries old Czechoslovak Prim wristwatches, mostly from the 1970s but all refurbished and in mint condition. (BTW, did you know that Czechoslovakia (and Prim) was only the 7th country in the world to successfully master the manufacture of an automatic wristwatch?)


Do what the locals do and see the Slavia - Sparta derby!

Zuzi and I love to travel and do "local stuff" when we get to our destination, and one of the goals of Taste of Prague is to help you do the same when you visit Prague and give you some tips for truly local experiences. So what can you do when you are in Prague in about a month's time? Easy - go see the Sparta - Slavia football derby!