Prague’s got it all when it comes to cafés, from the Grandes Dames elaborate places to Starbucks and everything in between.
There used to be a time when it was a Herculean task to get a decent cup of coffee in Prague, thankfully those days have passed, but there are still some dubious mugs of the black stuff around.
What to avoid
Many cafés, bars and restaurants make it very clear with signage what kind of coffee they use. My list of beans to avoid is, from worst to least worst (but still worth avoiding):
- Piazza d’Oro
I’m inclined to suppose that any place serving one of these doesn’t pay that much attention to the coffee and by extension any other taste-related decisions they’ve made are called into question. In general Lavazza and Illy are a safe bet, from the big brands.
Classical and Historical
If you’re after some classical European café architecture to go with your caffeine hit, then check out Café Savoy (where they serve the excellent Danesi), Café Louvre or Café Imperial. The historically significant Café Slavia, where Vaclav Havel and fellow dissidents would gather in the 80s, before the Velvet Revolution, has huge picture windows looking onto the Vltava.
Off the beaten path
A special mention to Dobra Trafika, with two locations, one in Vinohrady and the other in Mala Strana, which has a coffee menu to rival most food menus. They have a wide selection of beans from most of the coffee-producing world. The Ujzed/Mala Strana location is probably the most accessible.
In search of the familiar
If a good cup of coffee to you is an Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha, then you won’t have to look far for a Starbucks. Since opening here in 2008 they’ve popped up all over, Malostranske Namesti, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square, Namesti Republiky and more. For British visitors, Costa are to be found here too, though with a few less branches. Both have simple paper-based loyalty cards, though you have to ask for them. With Starbucks every 5th coffee is free (perhaps in recognition that their prices are rather steep for locals). Costa is less generous; every 10th coffee is free.
Attack of the clones
Long before Starbucks and Costa considered Prague economically viable a Polish chain called Coffee Heaven opened here. They were always a poor substitute to my tastebuds and not significantly cheaper. The same goes for new-to-Prague Cross Café, though at least their prices are lower. As of Spring 2011, Coffee Heaven have sold out to Costa and all the outlets will be rebranded between April and July.
Kava Kava Kava, with two locations, one tucked away in a courtyard near Tesco in the centre and the other at Andel, the 3 Café Ebel locations and Mama Coffee‘s 3 are all reliable independent coffee houses.
Where’s the bottomless coffee at?
A particularly American tradition, the bottomless filter coffee is not much in evidence in Prague (outside of hotel breakfasts), but Bohemia Bagel in Old Town has you covered, for 49Kc. The bagels are pretty good as well.
As you may have guessed very few of the above are among my favourites. If I want an exceptional coffee I go to either of the two Lamborghini Paste Caffés. It’s no coincidence that my two favourite restaurants serve Lamborghini (yes the car company!).
My second favourite is Friends Coffee House, an independent ‘new-marketing-trendy’ place that opened in 2010, launching on Facebook. The atrium space is great for working/business meetings whilst the living room area at the back is very comfy. Very good homemade cakes and they roast their own beans and they clearly care about their coffee.