Czech food might not be the most famous cuisine in the world, but it is delicious. From dumplings and goulash to open sandwiches and the all-important Czech beer, in this Prague food guide, I’ll share my recommendations for what to eat in Prague and where to eat it, including a few dishes you might not expect! You’ll be able to eat your way through the city, enjoying traditional Czech cuisine in the best local restaurants in Prague. Sound good? Let’s dive in!
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What is Traditional Czech Food Like?
Czech cuisine isn’t dissimilar to that of other central European countries, and in many cases, the origins of popular Czech dishes can be attributed to other countries – or vice versa. I found similarities between Austrian and Hungarian food in Prague, as well as Slovakian dishes that I recognised – not surprising given that these countries were all part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, and even part of the same country until 1993.
Soups are usually served as the first course of most Czech meals, with popular options being garlic soup, sauerkraut soup or potato and mushroom with dill (known as kulajda) – although there are lots of other flavours you might encounter.
Traditional Czech food tends to be meat-heavy, with hearty stews and dumplings keeping Czechs full and warm in cold weather – perfect for visiting Prague in the winter! Pork is the most popular meat in Czech food, followed by beef. Duck and goose are typically more popular than chicken. Some game meats such as venison, rabbit and wild boar also appear on menus, particularly in more rural areas.
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Desserts are very important in the Czech Republic, and if you have a sweet tooth you could spend hours exploring the many cafes and cake shops in Prague. Fruits such as plums, strawberries and blueberries are popular features in desserts, as are poppy seeds.
Although meat-eaters will have more choice of dishes, vegetarians are catered for here too. Traditionally, mushrooms featured as a key ingredient in vegetarian dishes, as they are abundant in the forests around the Czech Republic, although these days vegetarian and vegan food in Prague is much more varied. You can also find fish dishes with river fish, mainly carp and trout, especially around Christmas time when carp are usually served for the Christmas meal.
What to Eat in Prague
To get a real taste of traditional Czech food there are some Czech dishes you simply must eat. This list of Czech foods is by no means exhaustive, although they are some of my favourites. I loved trying all the different food in Prague, and by the end of my trip, I was stuffed! If you are nervous about choosing what to eat in Prague, a food tour at the beginning of your visit could help you get some confidence – it certainly helped me!
Knedlíky – Dumplings
I feel like I have to start this list of what to eat in Prague with the ubiquitous dumpling. While dumplings are really a side dish (or a dessert), you simply cannot leave Prague without eating them. And you probably won’t be able to either, as most main courses are served with a side of dumplings!
Dumplings are usually made with flour, milk, eggs, and cubes of stale bread, which are mixed together and formed into a loaf shape, then boiled or steamed and sliced like thick white bread. Extra ingredients such as herbs or dried meats can be added, but generally, they are there to carry the rich sauces and gravy so don’t need a great deal of extra flavour.
Česnečka – Garlic Soup
Garlic soup is also a very popular dish in neighbouring Slovakia, where it is more creamy in texture. In the Czech Republic, it is usually more of a clear soup, made with potatoes and stock, plenty of garlic and served with crispy rye bread croutons. Apparently, it is a great hangover cure!
Zelňačka – Sauerkraut Soup
Soup usually is the first course of any meal, and soup with a base of sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) is a popular choice. The soup is thick and hearty, with a hint of acidity mixed with meaty chunks of smoked meat and potatoes.
The version I tried was served with a brioche-style bread roll and a swirl of sour cream, but a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil is more common to top off the soup.
Pečené vepřové koleno – Pork Knuckle
If you’re feeling hungry, then this one is for you! Roasted pork knuckle or knee is one of the biggest meals you can eat in Prague, as they are always HUGE as well as very tasty. It’s probably best to share one of these if you’re that way inclined, or work your way through the mountain of meat yourself.
The pork knuckle is served on the bone, after being marinated in dark beer and herbs and slowly roasted until it’s melt in the mouth delicious. On the outside the fat is crisp, and on the inside, the meat is tender and juicy. My mouth is watering at the very thought!
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Svíčková na smetaně – Bohemian Style Beef Sirloin
This was one of my favourite foods I tried in Prague, although it is one of the more complex dishes to make. It is traditionally a family recipe – like the equivalent of a Sunday Roast in the UK, and is often served at weddings and special occasions.
Svíčková na smetaně is made of slow-cooked sirloin beef with chunks of speck bacon inside, that has been marinated and braised until tender. It is served with a rich, smooth sauce made with root vegetables and cream, a side of dumplings and a dollop of cranberry sauce. It is quite sweet, which isn’t unusual for Czech food, and very delicious.
Vepřo-Knedlo-Zelo – Roast Pork with Dumplings and Cabbage
This is the standard Czech dish you will find in every restaurant in Prague. Pork is the most popular meat in the Czech Republic, and this simple yet delicious meal ticks all the boxes. The cabbage (usually sauerkraut or red cabbage) balances out the heavy meat and dumplings. While the pork is usually simply roasted (yet still tender), I had a version that was topped with blue cheese which was a good, but probably unnecessary addition.
Guláš – Goulash
Czech goulash is a traditional stew that is a bit less spicy than the Hungarian version, and thicker. It typically has more meat than vegetables, and the meat is cooked in a rich sauce flavoured with paprika.
While beef is most common you can find other versions including pork or chicken, and I also tried a venison version which was incredible. Goulash, like most Czech dishes, is usually served with dumplings on the side, and is guaranteed to keep you warm on a cold day!
Řízek – Pork Schnitzel
While the Wiener Schnitzel is undoubtedly from Austria (and one of the must-eat foods in Vienna), the Czech’s have their version too. In Austria, the schnitzel tends to be veal, but here in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic, pork is the meat of choice.
It’s served in a similar way to the Austrian favourite, as a thin cutlet, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. As there is no rich sauce to soak up, you won’t usually find dumplings with your schnitzel, instead, potato salad is more common.
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Pečená Kachna se Zelím – Roast Duck
You’ll often find duck or goose pate as a starter, but this dish of roast duck, served with dumplings and sauerkraut or red cabbage is one of my favourite foods in Prague. The duck skin is crispy, yet the meat is tender, and the cabbage helps to cut through the grease.
Chlebíčky – Open Sandwiches
Similar to open sandwiches you can find in Austria, Czechs don’t see the point in ruining an attractive sandwich by squishing another piece of bread on top. Popular toppings for sandwiches vary from cured meats and cheeses to egg mayonnaise and most other things you can think of, all carefully arranged. In this case, the first bite really is with the eye!
To try these open sandwiches in Prague, head to Chlebíčky Letná near Letná Park, Libeřské lahůdky or Lahůdky Zlatý kříž. The best thing about being able to see all the sandwiches on display is that you can just point at what you want – no language barriers here!
Halušky – Slovakian Dumplings
While I would highly recommend a separate trip to Slovakia to explore the country and cuisine there, if you want to try a taste of a Slovak speciality while you are in the Czech Republic, then you can find Halušky everywhere in Prague. Unlike the Czech dumplings, these are much smaller and more like tiny Italian gnocchi. They’re usually served coated in a cheese sauce, topped with speck bacon.
Czechs adore beer, and in the pubs and taverns, it’s important to have something to soak up the alcohol so you can drink more beer! Varying from simple crisps (chips to Americans) to more complex dishes, beer snacks are an essential part of Prague food culture.
Cured meats, Cheeses and Pickled Vegetables
I hadn’t expected this from Czech food, having eaten stewed or roasted meat and dumplings all week – however, there is a distinct Italian influence in Prague, Italian noblemen who once lived in the area. Grazing boards of Prague ham pražská šunka (a brined and smoked ham), other cured meats, sausages and pickled gherkins, onions or chilli peppers are a great way to sample various Czech specialities.
The one we tried also had some cheeses, including a delightful creamy blue but I didn’t write down what it was. Food fail!
Another unusual addition to Czech cuisine that I hadn’t expected is steak tartare – raw minced beef. It is usually served as is, just seasoned and sometimes with a raw egg on top, or pre-mixed with added ingredients such as onion or capers. The beef is then spread on toasted bread in the style of an Italian bruschetta.
Hermelín – Czech Cheese
This Czech camembert-style cheese is a typical beer snack – and you’ll find it on most bar menus, but it’s so delicious I wanted to include it as a separate item on my Prague food list. It’s usually served pickled or marinated in oil, grilled or coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It is deliciously creamy and gooey.
Desserts to Eat in Prague
Trdelník Chimney Cake
I have included this calorie-laden treat with some hesitation. You can’t go anywhere in Prague without stumbling across the chimney cakes, usually served filled with ice cream, Nutella and various other fillings.
However, it is traditionally from Hungary so not really a Czech food at all – but Prague has accepted it as its own. As long as there are tourists willing to pay over the odds for this sweet treat, I don’t see it disappearing any time soon, so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
Ovocné Knedlíky – Sweet Czech Dumplings
I mentioned earlier that dumplings can also be sweet. Sweet dumplings are usually smaller, individual dumplings instead of sliced like their savoury counterpart, and filled with fruit such as plums, strawberries or apricots, and sprinkled with cottage cheese, sugar and cinnamon or poppy seeds.
Palačinky – Pancakes
Who doesn’t love pancakes? These yummy Czech pancakes are usually served rolled up and are filled with fruit, jam, cream or other sweet treats. You can also find savoury pancakes too, but the sweet ones are my favourite!
You can find palačinky in most cafes in Prague, and being sold from food carts in the Squares around the city. If you’re visiting Prague in the wintertime, they’re popular at the Christmas markets too.
Pastries and Cakes
I’m cheating a bit by lumping together a lot of Czech desserts in one category, but there are so many delicious desserts to try in Prague the best thing to do is head to a bakery or café and choose your favourite. Cukrárny is the Czech word for cake shops or confectioners, and there are excellent ones all over the city.
Keep an eye open for České koláče or kolaches – Czech pastries made of yeast dough and usually filled with fruit, but sometimes traditional flavours like cheese or poppy seeds; Buchty – sweet yeast dough buns, and anything else that takes your fancy.
What to Drink in Prague
The Czech Republic is considered by many people to be the home of beer, and Czechs drink more beer than any other nationality in the world, downing a whopping 143.3 litres per capita in 2021. However, beer isn’t the only drink in Prague.
One important thing to remember when you have a drink here is na zdravi (pronounced: nah z-drah-vee) which means cheers. And when you cheer, make sure you look people in the eye to avoid 7 years of bad luck, or 7years of bad sex, depending on what you choose to believe. Either way, it’s not worth the risk!
Beer in Prague is often cheaper than buying bottled water, and when it’s poured it comes with a tall head – that is to say a lot of foam! Pilsner Urquell is the best known Czech beer. In Prague, locally brewed Staropramen is popular too, although a name you might be more familiar with is Budvar.
Budweiser Budvar is a brewery in the Czech city of České Budějovice in Moravia, best known for its original Budweiser or Budweiser Budvar pale lager. They have been in a trademark dispute for years with Budweiser in the USA, which is a completely different company, but here Budweiser refers to the Czech version.
For me, as a non-beer drinker, I was thrilled to find that you can also get Czech cider in Prague. On the first stop of my food tour of Prague we called into the Green Stove Café, where I tried a Prager pear cider which was very good, and much less sweet than other pear ciders I’ve tried. Despite the name, Prager Cider is actually based in Kladno which is to the North West of Prague, but close enough to include here!
While the Czech Republic is better known for its beer, the wine from Moravia in the South East of the country is also rather good. The best chance to try Czech wine is in the Czech Republic as it is not often exported. Most Czech wine is consumed in the country, partly because high taxes would make it prohibitively expensive for most people in the UK, and partly I think because the Czechs don’t want to see it leave!
We tried three wines; a white, rose and a glass of red wine, and partnered with some cheese, crackers and fruit jams to bring out the flavours. Wine Bar Vinotéka U Mouřenína is a great place to try some Czech wines, and you can also buy some bottles to take home or enjoy in your hotel!
Pure spirits are rarely to my taste, but a trip to Prague isn’t complete without sampling a Czech spirit called Becherovka, a herbal liquor which is made in Karlovy Vary, northwest of Prague and close to the border with Germany. If you visit Karlovy Vary, you can go to the Jan Becher Museum and visitor centre to learn more about how it is made. In Prague, you can try it in a shot, in various chilled cocktails and even in a couple of hot ones!
Plum brandy is a common drink throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and in the Czech Republic, the most popular brand of slivovice as its known here is produced by R. JELÍNEK, who have been making fruit brandy since 1894.
In Prague, you can visit the Slivovice Museum to learn about the brewing process and taste some of the different brandies available. They also make Kosher spirits (acknowledging the important Jewish heritage in the Czech Republic), fruit and herbal liqueurs, as well as Slovácká Borovička gin.
Where to Eat in Prague
There are some amazing places to eat in Prague. You’ll find something to suit every taste, and of course, plenty of traditional restaurants to try traditional Czech food in Prague. These are some of my favourites, but ask any locals that you meet for their recommendations too – everyone has their own opinion, and there are too many fabulous restaurants in Prague to list here!
You can find traditional Czech food right in the centre of Prague’s old town in Havelská Koruna, a canteen-style restaurant which is popular with locals and visitors alike. It’s great value as there is no table service here – you pick up a tray and take it to the counter where the servers will dish out large portions of meaty stews, dumplings and other specialities.
Only when you have a tray full of food can you then find a table to sit at – I ended up sharing a table with a Czech couple who spoke English about as well as I speak Czech – so we exchanged a few hand gestures and smiles ate our meals together in friendly silence.
If you are worried about what to choose, the servers can help you decide, and there are a few photographs of the dishes with some English translations so you have a vague idea of what you’re ordering. It’s one of the only times I will recommend a restaurant with photos, but in this case, it really did help!
This chain of pub-like restaurants has some of the best food in Prague, and plenty of beer to wash it all down. They have a menu filled with popular traditional Czech dishes and lots of excellent beer snacks. Lokal has several locations dotted around Prague, including in the Old Town, and on the other side of the river – don’t miss it!
Ferdinanda is an underground restaurant serves up hearty Czech dishes like pork knuckle and goulash, as well as plenty of beer snacks. The servings are large and the food is delicious – I went for a pork steak with blue cheese and dumplings and was stuffed!
Czech Slovak Restaurant
The Czech Slovak Restaurant is actually inside a hotel, and this is another unusual restaurant for me as I wouldn’t normally think about eating in a hotel restaurant. However, I came here on my Prague food tour and tried the goulash which was divine. The dishes are traditional yet served with a modern twist and beautifully presented. It feels like more of an upper-class place, yet the price and service are both excellent and I didn’t feel out of place here.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Prague
While much of the traditional food in Prague is meat-orientated there are some excellent vegetarian restaurants in Prague to try too. Unfortunately, some of the most popular restaurants have closed either permanently or temporarily due to the pandemic, so I hope they will start to re-open again when the tourists return! These options are all currently open.
Close to Prague Castle, Vegan’s Prague offers up a varied menu of vegan dishes. It’s one of the best places in Prague to try vegan versions of traditional Czech meals such as goulash and Svíčková and gets rave reviews.
Estrella was a very popular cosy vegetarian restaurant, which since the pandemic hit is currently only offering takeaway meals to collect or for delivery. I hope they can re-open the restaurant again in the future, but it’s worth checking out the menu to see about making an order.
While the menu is definitely more internationally-inspired than Czech, Satsang is a popular vegetarian restaurant that uses local ingredients to rustle up favourites like risottos and pad thai, as well as a very nice brunch menu. Vegan options are available too.
If you’re craving some veggie-friendly fast food, Forky’s is the place to go for quick dishes like burgers, sushi bowls and ‘Not Dogs’ soy sausages. There are a couple of different locations around Prague, including one in the Old Town.
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Prague Food Experiences to Try
If exploring Prague’s food scene alone seems like too much for you, then don’t worry – there are plenty of locals ready to help you seek out delicious food and drink through tours, cooking classes and tastings.
Dining with Locals
Have you heard of Eatwith? I first found out about Eatwith when I lived in Barcelona, and met some wonderful friends at one of their events. Eatwith has various foodie experiences, including having dinner at a local’s home and cooking classes.
In Prague, you could try a selection of homemade Czech soups with Gabriela, a traditional four-course Czech dinner with Aida, or a dessert tour with Adéla for example. Take a look and see what you fancy, and use the promo code 22974F81 for a £10 discount off your first booking with Eatwith
I loved the food tour that I took in Prague with Eating Prague (now Eating Europe). At the moment they aren’t running the evening food tour which I did, but they do have a daytime food tour back up and running in Prague which gets excellent reviews as well. You can book directly on their website or through GetYourGuide here.
Beer Tastings & Tours
As you might imagine, there are plenty of beer tours in Prague to choose from! You could try this Czech Beer Culture Tasting Tour which is great value and gets rave reviews, a 3 hour Beer Tour with Unlimited Tastings or visit some of Prague’s Micro-Breweries on this 3-hour tour. Judging by the reviews, there is no bad choice for a beer tour in Prague!
Here are some more options for you:
I hope I’ve given you food for thought (pun intended) so you can have an idea of what to eat in Prague and the kind of Czech foods you will encounter. When you visit Prague my advice would be to try a bit of everything, and to bring stretchy pants so you can enjoy eating your way around the city in comfort! Bon appetit – or as they say in Prague: “dobrou chut”!
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