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We love our coffee third wave as much as the next guy, but the few pre-war cafes that made it through Communism and the Velvet Revolution are worth an afternoon of people watching. More than 160 existed in the early 1900s, but only a handful remain. Here’s our pick for Prague’s best traditional cafes, steeped in history and caffeine.
A popular brasserie-style café with a long history, upscale vibe and remarkable art deco interior. Whether you go for a three-course dinner or a cup of coffee, you can expect it to be classy. Their seasonal menu has lots of international influences, but is still regarded by many locals as one of the best places to go for the Czech classics. Reservations recommended.
Map. Na Porící 15, Prague 1. Metro: Line A – Staromestska. Tel: +420 222 221 155. Hours: 7am-11pm. Non-smoking section. Web: http://cafeimperial.cz/
Steeped in history, this former hangout of Prague’s intelligentsia is firmly on the tourist trail, but somehow, it hasn’t lost any of its old-world charm. Locals and visitors alike gather in the high-ceilinged rooms, while smart waiters ferry everything from coffee to three-course dinners to the tables. Avoid the rather dull cake selection and go straight for the Czech classics. Svickova na smetane never disappoints, and Café Louvre’s version tops the beef sirloin in a thick, velvety cream sauce and plenty of it. Don’t give in to the food coma – energize yourself with a game of post-lunch billiards in their old-school games parlor.
Map. Národní 22, Prague 1. Metro: Line B – Národní třída. Tram 6, 9, 18 & 22 to Národní třída. Tel: +420 224 930 949. Hours: 8am-11.30pm. Non-smoking section. Web: http://cafelouvre.cz/
A big part of Prague’s historic café culture since the 19th century, Café Savoy is now an elegantly restored, modern spot, popular with everyone from Czech celebrities to families with kids for its well-executed classic dishes. The café is best known for its breakfasts and traditional desserts, and it is a great place for lunch or weekend brunch, but make sure you book ahead. Order: Domácí ovocné knedlíky (homemade fruit dumplings), filled with seasonal fruit and topped with sugar, butter and your choice of curd cheese, grated gingerbread, chocolate or cinnamon – no one will mind if you ask to try them all!
Map. Vítězná 5, Prague 5. Tram: 6, 9, 12, 20 & 22 to Újezd. Tel: +420 257 311 562. Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-10:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-10:30pm. Non-smoking section. Web: http://cafesavoy.ambi.cz/en/
This spot on Národní street, the scene of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, is probably the most famous of Prague’s historic cafés. Slavia was a popular meeting place for poets, writers and anti-Communist dissidents, attracting the likes of Václav Havel in the 70s and 80s. Today there’s a very mixed crowd, with everyone from local politicians to students from the film school next door. Take a seat by one of the large plate glass windows, from where you can look out over the Vltava River at Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle – though the most coveted table, beneath a painting called The Absinthe Drinker, is permanently ‘reserved’.
Map. Smetanovo nábřeží 2, Prague 1. Tram: 17, 18, 20 & 22 to Národní divadlo. Tel: +420 224 218 493. Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-midnight, Sat-Sun 9am-midnight. Non-smoking section. Web: cafeslavia.cz
Kavarna Obecni Dum
As it is housed in one of the most opulent buildings in the city center, it is not surprising that everything in this historic café, dating from 1912, is so sparkly and ornate. It is accessed through the Municipal House itself, which is a popular classical concert venue. Admire the chandeliers and Art Nouveau décor, or people-watch through the large windows, as you sip a coffee and make your choice from the cake trolley. If you can resist the decadent-looking whipped cream and fruittopped creations you’ll find they usually have the plainer-looking, original Medovnik and Marlenka cakes, too.
Map. Náměstí Republiky 5, Prague 1. Metro: Line B – Náměstí Republiky. Tel: +420 222 002 763. Hours: 7:30am-11pm. Non-smoking section. Web: kavarnaod.cz