In Prague, it’s easy to skip lunch because you’re concentrating on sightseeing. But that would be a pity: eating out
in the Czech capital has recently become much more exciting
. The number of quality, affordable restaurants has rocketed, and you’ll find plenty of excellent soup and snack options, as well as quick two-course lunchtime specials with an emphasis on locally sourced, often organic food.
Don’t just stick to the centre when choosing a venue. Thanks to excellent public transport, some of Prague’s best value eateries are a mere hop from the centre, in the inner suburbs such as Žižkov, Karlín and Vinohrady. And by happy coincidence, these areas are emerging as foodie hotspots. Lunching there allows you to experience a local slice of life – the lunch ritual. Hungry office workers stop between 11am and 12pm and head to the nearest restaurant for the lunchtime menu (polední menu), usually soup (polévka) and a main course (hlavní jídlo).
Most establishments vary their menus each day, but some offer the same dishes through the week. Sometimes, a small dessert is added or a drink, but in total you shouldn’t pay much more than CZK 200 for two courses and a drink at a mid-priced restaurant. The lunch menu is usually available between 11am and 3pm. Here are some of the best places to eat in the city, at wallet-friendly prices.
Restaurant, Contemporary, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Czech cuisine is heavily meat-based, and Prague enjoys a reputation as a carnivore’s paradise. But these days, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, contrary to what you might think, meat-free food is surprisingly ubiquitous in the Czech capital.
One of the best veggie options is Etnosvět
, offering lunch with an international twist, for instance moussaka or pizza, with gluten-free versions. Desserts include raw food, such as blueberry cheesecake.
Pub, Restaurant, Czech, $$$
The food scene in Prague has become much more cosmopolitan recently, but if you just want to sit down and have a traditional Czech dish, the Lokál
chain of restaurants is the answer. They offer a beer hall experience, with vaulted ceilings, and long tables – but minus the clouds of smoke, thanks to anti-smoking laws. The menu is typically Czech, which means pork, mounds of sauerkraut and layers of dumplings, washed down with beer. But the quality is noticeably higher than that of the average pub.
Restaurant, Tapas, European, Spanish, Vegetarian, Gluten-free, $$$
Housed in a cosy brick-vaulted cellar, in the evening this convivial restaurant
specialises in tapas. During the day, from 11am to 3pm, Kofein serves a loyal band of regulars, attracted by the justifiably popular lunchtime specials. The menu is a creative mixture of internationally inspired dishes, such as risotto or pasta, and lighter versions of Czech traditional ones, such as pork or chicken schnitzel or goulash. You can always count on at least one veggie option. The lunch price includes homemade ice tea.
Bistro, Restaurant, European, $$$
Small and easily overlooked, on a Vinohrady street corner, this restaurant
is a real find and handily lies close to several public transport routes. Like Kofein, above, lunches at the friendly neighbourhood eatery draw on international inspiration, such as Asian cooking or Italian; regulars also rave about the Beef Wellington. Main courses are more expensive than those of most lunch menus, at around CZK 150. But the many local devotees would argue that it is money well spent.
Meat & Greet Burgerhouse
Restaurant, European, Czech, Contemporary, $$$
Decent food at fair prices can’t always be guaranteed in the centre, but happily, centrally located Meat & Greet Burgerhouse
meets both criteria. As the name suggests, meat dishes predominate, with a focus on traditional Czech or contemporary beef- or pork-based dishes, as well as burgers and chicken. At lunchtime, the restaurant offers three main courses and one soup course. Bear in mind that the restaurant gets very busy with local office workers, so arrive early to avoid the lunchtime crush.
Polévkárna Paní Mančo / Manana
Restaurant, Georgian, Russian, European, Polish, Vegetarian
Prague’s small but enterprising Georgian community has popularised restaurants specialising in soup; the name of this popular little joint
roughly means “soup cafeteria”. Polévkárna Paní Mančo / Manana doesn’t have a lunch menu as such, but serves several varieties of soup – Georgian, Czech and international – throughout the day. Look out for the charčo
, a thick, filling soup with walnuts. They include the sinfully good khachapuri
, a cheese-filled flatbread. You can also try Georgian-style open sandwiches and a selection of healthy salads.
Restaurant, Healthy, European, Czech, Vegetarian
If you find yourself in the up-and-coming Holešovice district and you’re feeling peckish, join the office crowds making their way to Puzzle Salads
for a quick and satisfying meal. One of a new range of stylish, excellent value eateries with an emphasis on healthy food and imaginative menus, the restaurant opens during working hours and on weekdays. As well as the salads of course, a filling daily soup and main course option is available. There is also a takeaway service.
Restaurant, Czech, $$$
Náměstí míru square is a local transport – and food and drink – hub, and this restaurant
is handily located nearby. Like Lokál, above, Sokolovna focuses mainly on Czech and traditional. However, the soup and a main course menu usually extends to an international dish.
Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream, Vegan, Vegetarian, $$$
Also on Náměstí míru square is Zmrzlinář
, the excellent ice cream shop immediately, one of Prague’s best spots for chilled desserts. Relax with a richly-flavoured ice cream or try an affogato –
ice cream drowned in an espresso. Vegan-friendly ice cream is available too
Bistro, Restaurant, Czech, European, Vegetarian, Vegan
A short hop east of the historic centre, the narrow gridiron strip of Karlín has been transformed after the devastating 2002 floods
; the subsequent regeneration has fuelled a restaurant boom, particularly on and around Křižíkova street. Venues to look out for include soup and snack restaurant Polévkárna
(staff left this restaurant to form Polévkárna Paní Mančo / Manana below). And close by, Krystal Bistro
are just two examples of the new breed of affordable and stylish new restaurants serving quality Czech and international dishes.