When we started our Prague food tours in 2011 the hardest thing was finding a decent place for Czech pastries. Just like the chefs tended to cheat a lot with the ingredients under the Communist rule, the pastry chefs were no different, and even the consumers had pretty low standards up until a few years ago (witness the popular “Hera means baking” campaign by a big margarine producer).
We are happy to report that things have been getting better in Prague. But let’s be honest here: the situation is still far from ideal and Prague still lacks places like Pierre Hermé or L'Éclair de Génie or Alain Ducasse, our favorites in Paris, or the Levain Bakery, Dominique Ansel, or Bouchon Bakery, our must-go-tos in New York City. That said, we do now has several places that we like to go for Czech pastries in Prague. And we need them, because we both have a fairly sweet tooth. (Jan more than Zuzi. At least according to Zuzi. Well, we agree to disagree on this one.) Anyway, here are the pastries in Prague that we enjoy the most:
Czech Pastries in Prague
Simply good must be our favorite place whenever we feel homesick and miss grandma, because that is the kind of baking you’ll find in this local Czech bakery based in the Karlin district. You will have a hard time finding better kolache in Prague. Plum jam, poppy seeds, curd cheese - you name it, they have it… at least in the morning, the ideal time to visit, because they tend to run out of things later on during the day. Their smaller kolache are the Czech answer to the French macaroons at one third of the price. Seriously, at this quality, paying about CZK 12 per piece is a steal.We always combine our visit to Simply Good with coffee from Kafe Karlin nearby.
We honestly think there is no better place to have the Czech classics in Prague than Cafe Savoy. Venecek and vetrnik, two Czech takes on the choux pastry, the former filled with vanilla cream and topped with sugar glaze, and the latter filled with vanilla cream, caramel whipped cream and finished with caramel fondant, are the clear favorites. (Please order the “mini” version to retain your health and dignity.) Their laskonkas (two coconut meringues with a chocolate ganache in the middle) accomplish the uneasy feat of being light and very rich at the same time, and their strudels are pretty darn nice, too (especially in the morning).
Their daily cakes (usually Linzer-based) tend to be seasonal, although they are much better earlier than later in the day. Their tartelettes with vanilla cream and fruits are also among our favorites. If you like to watch other people work while you enjoy your dessert, just walk downstairs to have a look at the pastry shop where the pastries are made. We would skip the internationally known pastries and go for the Czech traditional recipes instead.
One a popular stand at Prague’s farmers markets, Votre Plaisir has gradually become the primary source of good French pastries in Prague. And now that they have opened their permanent boutique in the Soukenicka street, the delicious choux pastries, Paris-Brests and tarts can be had every single day. The boutique is a Parisian-style boutique: it only sits two or three people and most of the produce is meant to be bought in the shop but consumed elsewhere (although they do offer tea). At the moment, Votre Plaisir sells French classics, but they are about to start trying out their own recipes. If they are anywhere near as good as their current products, we better buy a gym membership now.
Yes, the pink wall paint is not our cup of tea. Yes, the coffee is too dark and not prepared ideally (which, btw, applies to nearly all the pastry shops on this list). Yes, the ambiance does not match that of Cafe Savoy or Erhart Café. Still, the pastries at Saint Tropez are seriously good, especially if you like French-inspired pastries. No secrets in this place: the pastries are created by Czech and French pastry chefs on plain sight right next to the counter. You can even join a pastry making class (booking way ahead is recommended). We can’t wrap our heads around the fact that their Paris-Brest is rectangular (blasphemy!) but it’s still one of the best in town. We usually go for their cakes… and then skip a meal.
Want to see how a Czech pastry shop looked like in the 1930s? Head over to Erhart Café. You have two nicely refurbished retro Bauhaus feel locations to choose from: the original one in the Letna district, and the newer one in the Vinohrady district. Both branches are filled to the brink with a very wide variety of classic Czech pastries like vetrnik or laskonka, and offer a variety of cakes they cut and price according to their weight.
Now, our recommendation is not without reservations: they do sometimes skip on butter and use substitutes instead. Also, the actual cost of a slice of a cake may come as a surprise sometimes, because it is simply hard to estimate what is the precise weight of the portion you want. Having said that, Erhart Cafe is a very popular spot among the locals that makes many Czech pastries well above the standard and serves them in a really nice, atmospheric environment.
Iveta Fabesova, a finalist of the Czech version of the “Top Chef” show, has always been more of a pastry chef than a chef, and went on to publish a few cookbooks and open two pastry shops (the third one’s on the way). The second location on Tylovo namesti square near the IP Pavlova subway stop is nice, airy, comfortable, and clearly popular (and we like it better than the first location on Belgicka in the Vinohrady district). Iveta clearly favors French-style pastry making. Her mille-feuille is great: the custard is not that sweet and the leafs are buttery and softer than many, which makes them easier to cut. The mousse tarts have a tiny bit more gelatin that we would have liked, but are nice nonetheless. They also bake their own croissants and serve breakfast, cheeseboards and some charcuterie. For coffee, we’d rather have a specialty coffee offering at Anonymous Coffee or Kavarna Prazirna nearby.
Muj Salek Kavy and Kavarna Misto
In addition to being the must-dos in our list of the Best Cafes in Prague, Muj salek kavy and Kavarna Misto, the flagship cafes of the Doubleshot coffee roasters, are pretty good places for pastries, too. Our recent favorites? The poppy seed and grapefruit cheese cake and the nut and cinnamon rolls. Over a year ago, Doubleshot expanded their kitchen and bakery and opened Cup of Cake, an online shop for the products of their bakery headed by Lana Libin. As one of the few pastry makers here in Prague, they do offer gluten-free cakes and pastries, too. If you like mascarpone in your pastries, this is a must.
Café Lounge & EMA Espresso Bar
It is really hard to criticize a place you love to visit and have a close relationship with, but we have to be adults about it: for the longest time, we were not fans of the pastries at Café Lounge and EMA Espresso Bar, otherwise our places on either side of the Vltava river in Prague. That has changed recently when our friend Lucie, who goes by her blogger name Chez Lucie, called it quits in her previous work and turned her passion of baking and pastry making into a full-time job. You can't go wrong with the classic Czech baking: the yeast dough buns with plum jam or curd cheese filling and frgale are fantastic, and really complement your coffee experience. (EMA Espresso Bar temporarily outsources some of their baking, but from a good source: the buns and kolache are pretty damn delicious.)
Maso a kobliha
Alright, Maso a kobliha (the nearest you can get to the Spotted Pig in NYC) may be one of the hottest bistros in town at the moment (and a recent recipient of the Bib Gourmand ranking by the Michelin guide) but it's not just because of the meat from The Real Meat Society butcher shop or the Czech craft beers on tap or the Scotch eggs or schnitzel sandwiches. Since “Maso a kobliha” means “Meat and donut”, it is quite unsurprising that they sell by far the best donut in Prague. The sugar-coated Berliner filled to the brink with rich vanilla custard is a highly addictive affair. But their burnt caramel tart or their apple crumble (if available) are delicious, too!
The Cukrarna Alchymista pastry shop/café/gallery may be located just a few steps from the Sparta football stadium in the Letna district, but their garden in the backyard may just be the calmest, quietest place to contemplate life over a piece of cake in the entire Prague. Despite our reservations about how dark the roasts can be, their coffee is honestly one of the best among Prague pastry shops, and their cheesecakes do usually deliver.
Having desserts in a beer hall, a shrine of Pilsner lager? Yes, we know. Sounds strange. Unless you realize that Lokal sells pastries made at… Cafe Savoy. They serve things that are not always available at the Savoy, which is a shame (e.g. the wonderful chocolate venecek, Harlekyn, Jan’s favorite whipped cream cake, or rakvicka). On top of that, the same pastries are cheaper in Lokal than in Cafe Savoy! Talk about a “life hack”!
Our favorite? Definitely "rakvicka" - a staple of Lokal’s pastry menu served up until late hours (in case you like your booze with something sweet). The crunch when you bite into a rakvicka is highly addictive. Combine the rakvicka (which translates as “little coffin”) with two veneceks (“laurel wreaths”) and you can recreate one of our favorite macabre scenes from The Cremator, one of the best movies of the “Czechoslovak New Wave” of cinema in the 1960s.
Going for pastries or sweets to one of Prague’s farmers markets is a great idea. It's also a great place to start the day or the weekend with a nice breakfast or a later meal. Our favorite Czech pastries are served at the Kulatak farmers market at the Dejvice subway stop: if you want to have something traditional (like kremrole or veneceks), we really recommend that you visit the stand of Cukrarstvi Karlovy Vary. Their kremrole are among the best we have ever tried (and we have tried many). The stand is easy to find: just look for the longest line in the entire market. After you’ve tried their kremrole, you’ll understand why.