Guys, writing a Prague food guide is not easy. But not because there’s not much good stuff to choose from; oh no. It’s hard because it’s all so freaking good, and it’s making me so hungry right now. Why did I do this to myself??
However, this was a guide that needed to be written, because I would hate for people to visit Prague, see a menu, think “I don’t know what that food is, or what it’s like” to themselves, and go down to that branch of McDonalds near the Charles Bridge. That would be extremely criminal, and I would not be busting you out of jail when the Food Police come for you.
So, with this avoidable tragedy in mind, this Prague food guide was born. And because I’m extra awesome to you, I’ve included links to where you can find excellent examples of them, without breaking the bank. There’s maps and reviews and everything! It’s just like your birthday, right?
Also, I’ve included as many traditional Czech foods as possible, because a big part of my enjoyment of travelling is eating something from that area, something that’s been enjoyed there for many years, and something that supports the local cuisine. However! There is one, non-traditional impostor on the list. See if you can spot it!
1. “Drowned Men” Pickled Sausages (Utopenec)
Don’t freak out about the name, folks. There is 0% drowned dudes in these sausages, because that would contravene many health and safety bylaws. The drowned men are the sausages themselves, which have been saturated in tasty goodness!
What does it look like?: Much like a small frankfurter, sliced open and partly filled with onions, for extra crispy tastiness! Also a few herbs and suchlike from the pickling process.
What’s the history?: Legend has it that these are named after a miller, who had the misfortune to drown in his own millstream one day. Or it could simply be that they look like drowned men when they bob around in a jar during pickling. Choose whichever you prefer, depending on how morbid you like your beer snacks!
How does it taste?: A cross between a hot dog and a pickled onion. If that’s a combination that’s never occurred to you, you’re probably not alone – but it’s definitely one you should try, hence its inclusion in my Prague food guide! Ideal to have alongside a big old glass of Czech beer.
Where to get them: As an ubiquitous Czech beer snack, you’ll find these just about everywhere – obviously the further out of the city centre you go, the cheaper you’ll find them. I had mine at Kamparium, and very nice they were too!
2. Goulash (Guláš)
If you visit Prague and you don’t try goulash, have you even Pragued? If you’re not a fan of spicy food, have no fear! It’s much more herb-flavoured and rich; you won’t have any burning taste-buds here. Goulash was absolutely one of my favourite foods in Prague, and it’s a brilliant winter warmer!
What does it look like?: Like an inviting oasis of meaty, gravy-like goodness: a thick meat sauce with chunks of stewed beef, with dumplings on the side of the plate. Quite possibly some shredded onion on top.
What’s the history?: Fun fact! The Czech Republic used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the dish travelled with the new Hungarian overlords. With a few modifications to better suit it to the tastes of the local Bohemians, Czech goulash was born. If you want an in-depth look at this Prague food guide staple, take a look at this Epicure and Culture guide.
How does it taste?: Like a rich, beef soup, featuring chunks of beef which have been thoroughly marinated in flavour. Not spicy, though you’ll get a distinct tang of herbs and paprika. Soak dumplings in the sauce for ultimate awesomeness.
Where to find it: Again, you’ll find goulash absolutely everywhere! Legend has it that one of the best can be found at Restaurace Mlejnice, and who are we to argue?
3. Stuffed Chicken Breasts (Kuřecí kapsa)
Yeah, yeah, every country in the world probably does stuffed chicken breasts. So why do these get into a Prague food guide? Answer: because the Czechs do it with a little German twist, add their own cuisine influences, and turn it into something a teeny bit special.
What does it look like?: A chicken breast, grilled to perfection, with a sneaky hint of a filling inside. This could be cheese and German ham, or mushrooms and parsley.
What’s the history?: Fun fact! As well as once being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia was also once part of the Holy Roman Empire – essentially, modern-day Germany. This is why a lot of Czech dishes have a slightly Germanic flavour, and stuffed chicken, a Rhineland speciality, was brought over the border.
How does it taste?: Like a yummy firework of flavour going off in your mouth (disclaimer: please do not put fireworks in your mouth). The taste of the grilled chicken goes perfectly with the creamy cheese and flavoured ham inside. It’s a dish often overlooked by a Prague food guide, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be.
Where to find it: Again, I had mine at Kamparium – it’s a German/Czech place, and so probably a good example of the type!
4. Roast Pork (Vepřo knedlo zelo)
If you’ve had roast pork in Germany, then you’ll know what to expect here. But the Czech version knocks the German version out of the park in my humble opinion (sorry, Germany!), thanks to some additional ingredients such as caraway, Czech dumplings, and uh, beer! This elevates it to Prague food guide inclusion on that last ingredient alone!
What does it look like?: Slices of tender, roasted pork, reclining lovingly in a puddle of flavoursome gravy, with some dumplings and sauerkraut on the side. Can be a main meal, or a smaller lunch.
What’s the history?: It’s the national dish of the Czech Republic, so it’s appropriately steeped in tradition and local lore. It’s just always been there, at the heart of Czech cuisine. Leaving it out of a Prague food guide would be an offence punishable by the Food Police.
How does it taste?: Fabulously tender (like all good pork dishes, it’ll fall apart with not much more than a prod from a fork), in a sauce which is both creamy and meaty, and rich in flavour. There’s no need for food anxiety sufferers or picky eaters to worry here.
Where to find it: As you’d expect for a national dish, you’ll see it everywhere – again, expect to pay a bit more the closer to the city centre you are. I sampled the one at U Dvou Kocek – apparently Mozart used to come here, so if it’s good enough for him…
This is where my Prague food guide becomes a Prague drink guide, because Kofola is… *drumroll*… a drink! Who’d have thunk? But you shouldn’t leave the Czech Republic without giving the country’s version of Coca Cola a go, because in my opinion, it’s better than the Real Thing.
What does it look like?: Exactly like Coca Cola, except a bit less fizzy. But otherwise it’s identical; same old reddish-brown liquid you know and love.
What’s the history?: Kofola was devised by the geniuses at the Czechoslovak Research Institute of Medicinal Plants in 1959, as a way of dealing with surplus caffeine produced in coffee roasting. That solution? Pop it into a soft drink, and let your residents be both refreshed and wide awake! Unsurprisingly, it has 30% less sugar than Coca Cola or Pepsi, but a whopping 56% more caffeine.
How does it taste?: Like a cold glass of Coke, but far more herb-flavoured (remember it was created by an institute for medicinal plants!). There’s slight whiff of cherry and apple. It’s a much smoother taste, and you can also get different varieties such as vanilla, apricot, and coconut. It may not be a food, but it definitely earns a place on a Prague food guide.
Where to find it: All over the country, but I first sampled it in Lokal Dlouhaaa. And now I’m thoroughly addicted to it. Send help.
6. Bacon dumplings (houskový knedlík)
Another dish on the Prague food guide with a shared European heritage, bacon dumplings are a super-delicious accompaniment to a meal, or just tasty on their own if you fancy a small nibble. Because they have bacon in them, and bacon makes everything better. Except, like, custard and stuff.
What does it look like?: A bread-like ball, often cut into quarters, with delicious nuggets of bacon peeking out and demanding that you eat them. Listen to the bacon.
What’s the history?: Bacon dumplings are synonymous with central European cooking. Legend has it that they were a way of ensuring that meat survived during the winter, or that they were created as a way of using up stale bread. If that’s true, it’s the happiest accident ever.
How does it taste?: If you like a) bread, and b) bacon, then you’ll have no problems here. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a bacon dumpling. For ultimate flavour, order with the roast pork I mentioned earlier in this Prague food guide, and dip the dumplings into the pork sauce.
Where to find it: Order alongside the roast pork in U Dvou Kocek for a perfect lunch! You won’t regret it.
7. Sirloin Beef in Cream Sauce (Svíčková)
One of the most popular dishes in the Czech Republic. No Prague food guide would be complete without it. ‘Nuff said.
What does it look like?: Slices of tender sirloin beef drowning in a double cream sauce, spiced with black pepper and herbs. Bread dumplings on the side, for scooping up all that delicious sauce.
What’s the history?: Permanently engraved on to the heart of the nation, Svíčková is one of those dishes that’s been in the centre of Czech cuisine since forever. Every Czech cook has their particular way of making it which they swear is the best, and the recipe will be a closely guarded secret. It’s like your mother’s cake recipe in that regard.
How does it taste?: Delicious! There’s a lot of variety in flavour, thanks to the insistence that everyone’s mother/grandmother/grandmother’s cousin’s auntie has the best recipe, but you can expect tender meat, creamy spiced sauce, and that feeling that makes you sink back in your chair exhaling an “aaaaah” noise.
Where to find it: The easiest item on the Prague food guide: every Czech restaurant worth its salt will have Svíčková on the menu. Locals report that Vidlicky a noze has the best one in town (that isn’t made by your grandmother).
8. Pancakes/Crepes (palačinky)
So far, all of our Prague food guide picks have been dishes for lunch or dinner. So let’s mix it up with a breakfast item! Palačinky will get you going for a full day’s exploring of the city, especially if you have one stuffed with ham or bacon!
What does it look like?: Your standard crepe. Often filled with various foodstuffs, whether sweet or savoury.
What’s the history?: You may think that these look like French crepes, but you’d be wrong! They’re very traditional to Central Europe, and despite appearances, completely different to a crepe. The mixture for a crepe needs to stand for a few hours before being used; these babies are good to go straight away.
How does it taste?: Flipping good, excuse the pun! I personally like a savoury one for breakfast, with ham, bacon, and salad, but feel free to splodge on as much chocolate sauce and cream as you like, instead. You won’t hit any unexpected flavours.
Where to find it: Check out Sousto for a wide variety of pancakes, as well as excellent fries, burgers and hot dogs if you fancy a fast food fix later in the day.
9. Pork Knee (vepřové koleno)
You’re sitting in a restaurant in Prague (maybe reading an awesome Prague food guide on your phone, amirite), when suddenly a waiter walks past you with a gigantic plate of food. You do that “what was that?” double take. The recipient of the food has a slightly hysterical reaction at all the food they’ve been delivered. Yes, you have experienced the Czech pork knee.
What does it look like?: The leg of a pig. Quite literally; it still has the bone going through it. But don’t be put off if you’re a bit squeamish, or you worry about eating meat off a bone: the meat is so tender that you won’t encounter any problems!
What’s the history?: Another quintessential Czech meal which has been around since the dawn of time, pork knee has been described as the “queen of Czech cuisine”. It’s practically a mandatory item on every restaurant menu in Prague.
How does it taste?: Like roast pork, but infused with an extra flavour and tenderness from still being on the bone. Often comes in a dark beer sauce, which if you know the reputation of Czech beer, you can certainly look forward to. No nasty surprises; pork knee is a straightforward but oh-so-flavourful joint of meat.
Where to find it: Literally everywhere, but check out my favourite at Pivnice U Svejku – it comes highly recommended!
10. Fried Cheese (smaženy syr)
Forget every grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever had. You might think think you like melted cheese, but baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is Prague food guide-worthy fried cheese, a different beast, and the best cheese you’ll ever have.
What does it look like?: Weirdly like a hash brown. Slices of cheese are breaded before being fried, giving them a crispy, golden coat of breadcrumbs which will have you licking your lips.
What’s the history?: A traditional street food beloved by Czechs. It’s recently been picked up by visitors to the country, and now you’ll struggle to find a restaurant which doesn’t serve it. Don’t mistake it for a side dish though; if you order this, it’ll probably come with french fries and tartar sauce. It’s a full meal!
How does it taste?: Like gooey, melted cheese. Omnomnomnom. Dip into the tartar sauce for the full taste explosion, and prepare to fall deeply in love with a piece of cheese.
Where to find it: By all accounts, Lokal U Bile Kuzelky has the best in the city. In fact, you can’t go wrong with any of the dishes served in the Lokal chain of pubs; it’s affordable, and well-regarded by the locals!
11. Wild boar schnitzel (kančí řízky)
Wild boar is a bit of a thing in the Czech Republic: you’ll see it a lot on the menus of the city’s finest (and not so fine) eateries. So, what better to do with some wild boar meat than to turn it into a tasty schnitzel? As a schnitzel lover, I am completely down with this course of action.
What does it look like?: One of the most recognisable items on our Prague food guide. If you’ve ever had wiener schnitzel or an escalope, then you’ll know what this looks like. Wild boar meat, breaded and fried.
What’s the history?: Game meat is traditional in the Czech Republic (as anyone who’s ever played Kingdom Come: Deliverance will be well aware; I am deadly with that bow and arrow), especially in autumn. So why not combine the Holy Roman Empire’s history and food with a local speciality? Why, it would be rude not to!
How does it taste?: One of my absolute favourites on this Prague food guide. All the flavour, if not more, or a wiener schnitzel; boar meat is rich and flavoursome, and it goes perfectly with the Czech potato salad it’ll probably come with. And Czech potato salad is waaay better than the US/UK version!
Where to find it: The aforementioned Pivnice U Svejku does an amazing wild boar schnitzel – find it on the Svejku’s Special Offers menu!
12. Chimney Cake (trdelnik)
The most controversial choice on this Prague food guide. Yes, you’ve found the impostor!
If you’ve read my other guides to Prague, you’ll know that the trdelnik is NOT a traditional Czech food. It’s not remotely Czech. But you will see these everywhere in the Old Town centre, claiming to be a Bohemian speciality, and most visitors to Prague will want to try one. So, begrudgingly, they get on the Prague food guide.
What does it look like?: A tight spiral of dough (they’re cooked wrapped around a spit), often with jam, nutella, or chocolate spread on the inside. Some varieties have evolved like a Pokémon to involve ice cream, though these are much more expensive.
What’s the history?: None. See above. They’re purely there to cater to tourists.
How does it taste?: Despite my disdain for the trdelnik, I’ve got to admit – they taste pretty good. Kind of like a stringy donut, coated in sugar and cinnamon, and with a filling of your choice. They’ve got a certain charm.
Where to find it: Just about everywhere in the Old Town. I bought mine from Trdlo near the Charles Bridge, where the friendly staff will provide you with their evil impostor desserts. Boooo. (but seriously, the staff are lovely!)
Prague Food Guide: Recommended Restaurant Map
There we have it, folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Prague food guide, and that it’s made you ravenously hungry! (mwahahaha!) Please do share with your pals using those cool little buttons, or pin the below image for later if you so wish!
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