Prague is known as a city of history and Gothic architecture – and cheap beer. But what many don’t know about is Prague’s contemporary scene of great design, art and food. Originally from the Czech capital, 91 contributor Sara Hesikova shares the most snap-worthy places to shop, eat and be while in Prague, besides the obligatory walk across the Charles Bridge and beer drinking. So let’s get exploring…
For caffeine, mazelab.coffee is a must-visit. Founded by former visual designer Jackie Tran, this space is like escaping the city and entering a calm oasis filled with greenery, where you can focus on just drinking some very good coffee. So much so that unlike other cafes, Mazelab doesn’t offer wifi or sugar so as not to take away from the experience. The cafe’s speciality is the Geisha coffee originating from Ethiopia’s Gesha region, known for its exclusivity and sweet floral taste.
The light and minimalistic space is inspired by cafes in South Korea, Germany and Jackie’s native Hanoi in Vietnam. And its spaciousness was completely intentional on Jackie’s part so that every customer can have their own space and privacy.
If you’re after something more substantial than coffee, Etapa is the place to go. Founded by a couple of award-winning food bloggers called PG Foodies at the beginning of last year, and despite the pandemic, it has quickly become known as the go-to place for Sunday brunch, only it is served every day. So no matter when you visit, you can feast on Etapa’s extremely photogenic dishes, like the 14-ingredient scrambled eggs which have become a hit, or their courgette bread with sweet potato cream. It never gets boring at Etapa as the menu changes regularly, introducing new dishes. Once it reopens for eating in again, you can enjoy the homely atmosphere founders Petr and Gábi Ogurčákovi have created, where old meets new and mismatching reigns, yet it works perfectly.
Shop Up Stories
Shop Up Stories is a beautiful lifestyle store in the trendy and international Vinohrady neighbourhood. Before starting Shop Up Stories, Hakki Goktas founded Slashpay, a payment service focused on small businesses. It was through this venture that he came to understand how difficult it is for young brands to sell in popular physical retail locations due to the high initial investment and risk it takes. That is why Shop Up Stories offers space to selected small independent brands, each ticking at least some of their criteria – sustainable, handmade, organic, non-toxic, fair trade or recycled.
The store is housed in a traditional heritage building from 1903 with high ceilings and decorative window and door frames, which have been painted avocado green. Shop Up Stories also features a coffee bar with a verdigris tiled backdrop, offering customers specialty coffee while browsing the offering of clothing for men, women and kids, as well as home decor and beauty.
While in the area, pop next door to Book Therapy for a carefully curated selection of the best books on design, fashion, architecture, travel, food and more. Born five years ago out of the founders Petra and Jiri Caudrovi’s love of books and design and their desire to share it with others. The books really take centre stage here as the minimal yet stylish look and feel of the bookstore gives the fabulous tomes the space to shine.
After a few minutes of walking through Vinohrady, one can reach Beloved Shop. The soothing atmosphere is felt upon entering this little beauty and wellness shop, dressed in a muted colour palette of white and beige. Their use of natural materials such as stone and jute were inspired by travels around Bali and Australia. The store is a beloved project of Alex Rambousková who has always had an interest in alternative medicine and natural cosmetics. However, she felt it was missing the aesthetics that would make these products pleasing to the eye, as well as to the body and mind. So one day Alex set out to find these rare brands she’d been dreaming of, finding a small selection that ticked all her boxes. The chosen products all have a story behind them, they are ethically made, natural, clean and often organic.
Another great cafe (and a newcomer to the scene) in Prague is Cafe Hrnek. ‘Hrnek’ simply means ‘cup’ in Czech and those blue and white cups of theirs filled with specialty coffee are certainly worth a mention. Especially since their prettiness is in direct contrast with the cafe’s raw and industrial interior, including a steel bar and mid-century furniture from Czech designers, lovingly restored by the owners. Those cups also come paired with matching plates serving delicious pastries and cakes like Kouign-amann (a Breton butter pastry) or semolina sponge with raspberries.
Knedlín is all about a twist on a classic – the traditional and much-loved Czech dish of dumplings and the classic concept of fast food. These dumplings were made to evoke holidays at grandma’s, but also to feel and taste more contemporary. They are perfect to just grab and go but they can also be enjoyed at Knedlín’s bistro, looking out at Prague’s city centre, surrounded by cream painted walls with a delicate blue pattern and lots of warm wood. The dumplings, served on pretty blue and white plates similar to those at Cafe Hrnek, come in an array of colours and flavours, both sweet and savoury. Coconut with forest fruit and raspberry with white chocolate filling are a couple of my own personal favourites.
Started by former lawyers Eva and Pavel Urbanovi, Nila Store offers sustainable and ethical products. The couple’s passion grew after travelling the world and seeing some of the negative impacts we have on the environment, as well as Eva’s law education where she focused on women’s rights and equal opportunities.
The main stores – one in Vinohrady and one in Karlín – focus on fashion, accessories and homewares, while Nila Daily, neighbouring the Vinohrady main store, provides customers with practical everyday essentials for the home, as well as beauty and skin care products, all environmentally and socially friendly. The stores are not only spaces to sell in but also to inspire customers how to live a greener lifestyle.
DOX is the largest centre of contemporary art in the Czech Republic. The gallery’s name is derived from Greek “doxa” which means a belief or an opinion. Housed in a former factory, DOX not only showcases many art works but it is one itself – from its pillow-like facade and industrial interior to the Gulliver Airship, nestled on the top of the main building. The early 20th-century-inspired airship’s wooden interior is a favoured backdrop among Instagrammers, as well as a place where discussions with leading Czech and international writers and artists take place.
Haenke is more than a plant shop. It’s mission is connecting people with plants, educating about plants and their many roles in our lives and raising awareness about the importance of nature in our society in general. The founders Alexandra Strelcova and Julien Antih achieve this through various events which often take place in their jungle-like studio/store where, yes, you can also buy some of the lovely plants. Some of these events include workshops and lectures on indoor gardening or phytotherapy (the use of plant-derived medications as a treatment or prevention from illnesses) or initiatives such as bringing greenery to care homes.
A mere five minute walk from Haenke lies another gem – Kartotéka. This design stationery shop gives out a retro vibe and 1960s look with bold colourful wallpaper, mid-century furniture and graphic posters. The goal of owners Lenka Rambousková and Petr Oplatka was to bring together well-designed and aesthetically-pleasing stationery which they both love, as going to a stationery shop is for them what it is like for a child to go to a toy store. Much of the brands they stock are not very well known and generally not available anywhere else in the country.
Another hip neighbourhood worth a visit while in Prague is Letná, centred around its namesake park, situated on a hill overlooking the city. Letná is also the home of Coverover Boutique, a homeware and lifestyle store. The store’s offering is in the name – anything that covers over a surface in the home, be it a runner or a carpet covering the floor, prints to cover walls or tablecloths and trays to cover tables. It’s a humorous way to look at it. Coverover also offers many home accessories which will bring joy to your day and a smile to your face, whether it’s a set of cactus-shaped drinking glasses or a cross-legged plant pot.
In August Company
For some more beautiful and joyful companions to your everyday life, head to In August Company‘s showroom in a residential area of Prague 6, close to the aforementioned mazelab.coffee, bringing us full circle. The couple behind the brand, Teodorik Mensl and Karolína Stryková, both love design and surrounding themselves with beautiful objects and with their creative backgrounds, it was only natural to start designing their own beautiful objects. Each design of every piece – be it pottery, an art print, a T-shirt or wooden kitchenware – starts with Karolína’s drawings (as in the case of the brand’s popular face motif, also present in the logo) and Teodorik’s photography which adorns many art prints. The showroom’s most prominent feature is undoubtedly the irregularly-shaped shelves carved out into the wall, currently displaying the tea ceremony collection inspired by the traditional Japanese custom.