It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying magnets, coffee mugs or other kitsch items to take home from your holiday – but what should you buy in Prague? Next time you’re in the Czech capital, consider shopping for one of these traditional souvenirs that capture the essence of the city.
The Czech Republic is famous for its beer, but beer cosmetics make more travel-friendly souvenirs. Manufaktura is a traditional Czech brand of cosmetics that uses all-natural, non-animal-tested ingredients to produce high-quality products. Although it makes all kinds of items, from bath salts to hand creams, it’s famous for its beer cosmetics, including shampoos, hair balms and shower gels. Don’t worry – beer cosmetics won’t leave you smelling like you’ve been on a drinking rampage. Instead, expect the products to smell slightly fruity and provide tons of B vitamins. You can find Manufaktura stores at shopping centres all around Prague.
Puppetry is no child’s game in Prague. Here, handcrafted, hand-carved marionettes are meant for discerning adults who like high quality and don’t mind the stiff price tag that comes with it. You can buy Prague puppets all over the city, but some of the best stores are near Charles Bridge in Old Town. Sizes and themes vary, and you’ll find everything from witches and demons to literary characters, political figures, cartoons and animals. Prague residents like to say that you don’t choose the puppet; rather, the puppet chooses you. So, arrive without an idea of what you want and see where your eyes fall. Whichever one you choose, you’ll leave Prague with a unique souvenir.
Garnet is a semi-precious stone that has a long tradition as a royal gem in the Czech Republic. Today, it’s used to make everything from jewellery and pieces of art to paperweights, meaning you’re likely to find something that fits your budget. One word of caution: fake garnet is everywhere, so always ask for a certificate of authenticity before paying. Certified authentic Granát Turnov (the traditional Czech garnet) is also available online.
Bohemian crystal is a traditional type of glass that is hand-cut and engraved in small factories all around the country. Although the name can be confusing, the word “crystal” is used in the Czech Republic to refer to fine, high-quality glass that contains a significant amount of lead – an addition that makes the crystal highly reflective, very easy to engrave and thicker and more durable than most glass. For high-end Bohemian crystal, shop at the official Moser store. You can also find other brands of Bohemian crystal at souvenir shops all around the city. These delicate yet durable pieces make beautiful souvenirs of your time here.
Although many tourists miss these quaint venues, people in Prague love their teahouses. Traditionally places where you sit down to have a cup of tea, the largest teahouses around the city also sell packaged and loose-leaf teas, ceramic and metal kettles, special tea strainers and cups, and other tea supplies. When in Prague, look for a sign with the word čajovny on it, and step in for a warm brew and a great tea-related souvenir.
A spa wafer is a special type of giant wafer cookie. Although several companies make spa wafers, the most famous ones are produced in Karlovy Vary, best known for its thermal water fountains and spas. These wafers are very thin and very large (the size of a small vinyl disc) and hide a surprise layer of sweet cocoa, hazelnut or vanilla. Boxes of wafers are available at stores and supermarkets everywhere in Prague and make a delicious souvenir to take home.
You don’t have to be a kid to appreciate Prague’s fascination with wooden toys, just a child at heart. From old-fashioned cars and trains to hanging animals, these are a very affordable alternative to more intricate handcrafted souvenirs. Wooden toys are available at many souvenir shops and weekend markets, such as Havel’s Market in the city centre.
Although native to another city in the Czech Republic (Karlovy Vary), the popular herbal drink Becherovka is found in bars and pubs around the country. While the recipe used to make it is a well-guarded secret, the bitter drink has soft undertones of ginger and contains a wide variety of spices and herbs. Locals drink Becherovka as a shot since it has a high alcohol content (38 percent ABV). You can find tiny bottles of this liqueur at most corner stores and supermarkets, and it makes a fun, unique souvenir for friends or family.
You’ll find the work of art nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha everywhere in Prague, from the Old Town Hall to theatres and cafes. But Mucha is best known for his posters of beautiful women, and while most originals are in museums or private collections, you can buy reproduction prints almost everywhere in the city. For the best selection, check out the Mucha Museum.
Franz Kafka was born and lived most of his life in Prague, where he wrote his famous book The Metamorphosis (1915). No visit to Prague is complete without a literary visit to the Kafka Museum to see its many exhibits, including first editions, letters, diaries and original photographs. Before you leave, visit the gift shop, where you can pick up copies of his books as well as calendars, postcards and other Kafka-inspired gifts and collectables.