Once you have visited all the tourist attractions Prague has to offer, it’s time to experience the city like a local. And how best to do this than by learning about the Czech cuisine and taste the best traditional dishes in Prague? The best way to try traditional Czech food is through a food tour in Prague.
The Czech Cuisine
Unless you have been to Prague before, the chances are that you don’t know much about the Czech cuisine. If you think a little bit of the history of the country, the geographic position and also look at its neighbours, you can figure out that meat is an important element of the Czech cuisine. In fact, most of the traditional dishes are based on meat, with pork being the most popular.
The Czech cuisine shares many similarities with its neighbours – Germany, Poland, Hungary, even Austria. Goulash, even if it’s traditional Hungarian, is a very popular dish in most of the Czech restaurants. Sauerkraut and dumplings are often used as sides, to complete dishes. Appel strudel is a very common dessert. And not to mention the chimney cake, a simple kurtos kalac, which the Czechs had adapted by adding ice cream in the middle. If you wonder why does the Czech food has so many influences, remember that until the end of the First World War, the Czech Republic was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, together with many other countries from Eastern Europe.
A typical Czech meal includes soup as a starter followed by a hearty meat dish as a main. An interesting fact is that these days in Prague you will find a lot of Vietnamese restaurants, which somehow balance the local restaurants serving heavy dishes. During the communist times many young Vietnamese came to the Czech Republic to study, during an agreement between the two countries. Many have settled here and opened Vietnamese restaurants. So, if you are craving some authentic pho or a filling banh mi, Prague is the best place to have some.
The best food tour in Prague
There are quite a few food tours in Prague and it is hard to choose the perfect one for your needs just by looking at their websites. As I always say, the first criteria you should look at when booking a Prague food tour is its authenticity. Is it run by locals? Does it take you outside of the touristy area of the city? How many dishes will you try and how is the balance between the traditional and modern ones? We can all try traditional food in restaurants, but for me, it is also important to see how the trends are changing and how chefs adapt and elevate the dishes. Reviews are also very important, especially that food tours are not always the cheapest.
Asking myself all of these questions, I decided that the best food tour in Prague for me would be the one offered by Eating Europe. I have joined their tours before, when I experienced a twilight food and cocktail tour of Soho in London, and in Italy, when I joined an authentic cooking class in Florence. It was very important for me that the tour was run by locals who grew up eating Czech food, cooked by their parents and grandparents, so they know where to go to experience that kind of quality and authentic taste in Prague. Our guide, Petra, couldn’t have been more lovely and knowledgeable, taking us through a journey of flavours but also giving us some history lessons whilst passing through different parts of Prague. What I really loved about this tour is that there was nothing touristic about it and all the restaurants we have been to were frequented by locals and not visitors. I like tours that support the local community!
I will tell you below my experience of the tour and all about the dishes I have tried. If you want to check out this tour and book it, click here. Eating Europe is also running two more different food tours in Prague: The Prague Evening Food Tour and the Prague Craft Beer & Food Tasting Tour. You can check them out by clicking on their names. I hope my review will help you make a decision on which one is best for your liking. I went for the classic Prague Food Tour.
The Czech Gingerbread
We started the tour at the most adorable gingerbread shop in town. Stepping inside the shop probably made me feel the same way as Hansel and Gretel did when they saw the gingerbread house, in the famous tale by Brothers Grimm. This shop could easily be everyone’s happy place, with so many different gingerbread cookies, in every shape and form, carefully decorated by hand. Not to mention the counter, on top of which fresh baked cakes were louring me into buying some – which I did later.
We gathered all around a round table in the largest room of the gingerbread shop, surrounded by all those cute figurines, and introduced ourselves. The group was small, with only 7 of us. Each of us received a gingerbread shaped as a beer mug, as a gift, before a platter with three different treats was brought for tasting.
The first cake we tried was the sakrajda, a type of pastry filled with plum jam and plenty of walnuts. I can’t even tell you how delicious this was – my favourite out of the three cakes. It was very dense but with each bite bursting with flavour and texture.
The second cake was a typical koláče, a round almost gooey gingerbread base with a centre of poppy seeds and an almond on top. Interesting fact, did you know that the gingerbread in Prague (and Czech Republic) does not have any ginger in it? Originally, the “gingerbread” was made out of flour, honey and pepper, sold for the first time in the Czech Republic in 1335.
The third cake was more familiar, made out of coconut and toasted on the outside. It tasted very good, even if a bit on the dry side.
Learn about and taste the best ham in Prague
Our second stop was at one of the best butcher shops in Prague, very popular among the locals for the quality of the meat sold here. Here Petra told us about the once endangered local Czech breed of pigs, the The Přestice Black-Pied. The meat of this breed of pig is tender and slightly marbled with fat, and it used to produce special hams and quality sausages.
Here we got to taste a selection of hams and sausages, traditional Czech, and one of them stood up for me: the Prague ham. I grew up in Easter Europe, in a country that during my childhood years was recovering from heavy years of communism. Besides the local products, we didn’t have many international brands or products coming into the country, at least at the beginning, after the revolution from 1989. However, I will never forget how my grandmother would always wait for me to arrive on holiday with the best foods that she would buy “on the notebook” at the local store – buy now, pay when the pension comes. One of the delicacies on the table was always the Prague ham. I never knew why it was called Prague ham or if it actually came from Prague – it could have easily been just a random name of a ham.
Before taking this food tour, it’s been probably years since I last had Prague ham. Its taste brought back dear memories for me, as my grandmother passed away almost 10 years ago.
Besides the Prague ham, the platter also had the tourist salami – named this way because it was created especially for tourists, the Klobása– a slightly spicy smoked pork meat sausage and a roasted pastrami. They were accompanied by fresh homemade bread and pickles – the real ones, pickled in brine not in vinegar.
Obložené chlebíčky – Open faced sandwiches
You would think that the open faced sandwiches are a Danish type of snack, but that’s not quite true. Chlebíčky is a very popular snack in the Czech Republic, present at every home party and celebration, but also in cafes and restaurants. They make a great lunch or can be a snack to accompany the local beer you may have.
The tradition of chlebíčky started in the 20th century, when a local deli owner buttered a slice of bread, topped it up with an array of ingredients and sold it in his shop. It became so popular that today it’s a staple in the Czech cuisine. Chlebíčky are usually served on a Veka bread, which is similar with the French baguette, and they are not only delicious, but also a delight to the eye because the ingredients are arranged to create beautiful designs.
We tried the chlebíčky at a very local small deli, in the new town of Prague. The first slice of bread was spread with butter and topped with three types of cheese: emmental, smoked cheese and a creamy brie. On top, the chlebíčky was decorated with a salad leaf, parsley, a cube of pepper and dusted paprika. The second chlebíčky was more elaborate: the bread was topped with potato salad, half an egg covered in a white sauce, a slice of ham, and decorated with pickled, peppers, parsley and a bit of cream. Have you ever had a sandwich like this before?
Taste the modern Czech cuisine
Our next stop was at the modern Speijle restaurant, which has a very cool concept, pretty much like the Spanish pinchos. You can help yourself with whichever foods you fancy from the bar, keep the skewers and pay at the end based on how many you had. Every skewer has the same price.
Here we were served a modern twist on a classic duck recipe. If you have been to the Czech Republic before, you probably know that duck is advertised on every menu of pretty much every traditional food restaurant in Prague. A portion usually includes half a beer roasted duck served with bread dumplings and cabbage.
We were served roasted tender breast of duck in a red jus, topped with crispy onions and served with a red cabbage stuffed dumpling. It was absolutely delicious! To drink, I went for the beer of the day, which was “gummy bear”. I did not find any gummy bears inside the glass, but it did have a sweet aftertaste. Very intriguing and peculiar taste, I would recommend it.
Try Svíčková at one of the oldest cafes in Prague
If you wouldn’t know about this café, you would probably pass by it on the main street without even looking in its direction. Located at the first floor, Café Louvre is not only one of the oldest in town (dating from 1902), but it also has a rich history, being frequented by many famous people. The décor, the high ceilings, the wallpaper, the carpet, even the billiard tables, they all seem to belong to a different era. Karel Čapek, Albert Einstein, and Franz Kafka are only a few of the famous people who regularly liked to spend their time at Café Louvre.
The menu of Café Louvre features both Czech specialities but also fine dining modern dishes. We have tried here the svíčková – braised beef served with a creamy thick vegetable sauce, bread dumplings, a slice of lemon, whipped cream and cranberries jam. The beef was marinated overnight with the vegetables (carrots, celeriac, onions and parsley roots), spiced with black pepper, allspice, thyme and bay leaf, and then blended together with sour cream, to create the sauce. A slice of lemon topped with whipped cream and cranberry is added on top, for flavouring. You are supposed to put the lemon aside and then adjust the sauce to your liking, and not just mix everything together. It is a very good dish, surprising regarding the taste. The beef was tender and soft, whilst the sauce very creamy and sweet, with a slight sharp acidity.
Even if we were only served half a portion, the size of the dish was still very large. I had troubles finishing it, after all the food we tasted before. I paired the svíčková with a refreshing glass of local pilsner.
Delight your taste buds with ice cream
Ice cream might not be a traditional Czech dessert, but the local gelaterias surely know a thing or two about how to perfect this international treat. We went to try local flavours at what Google ranks as the best ice cream shop in Prague. And no wonder, as we approached, the queue was stretching quite a bit outside of the shop. We were lucky as there was a table inside reserved for us.
We tried the sea buckthorn and the poppyseeds ice creams and they were both delicious. Definitely very interesting and adventurous flavours, especially the sea buckthorn, which was on the sour side, but perfect as a palette cleanser. The poppyseeds flavour was much milder, a bit sweet and very creamy. Together, the flavours complimented each other so well.
The tour involved a lot of walking and a lot of historical facts as well, not just eating. It lasted for around 4 hours and there was plenty of food, I couldn’t eat anything else that day. And I did show up with an empty stomach, skipping breakfast. Overall, I can’t recommend enough this fantastic food tour! If you like what you’ve read so far and would love to join it as well on your next trip to Prague, click here to book it!
Disclaimer: Please note that I was a guest of Easter Europe and I received this experience complimentary. However, all the opinions in this article are my own and I would not recommend anything that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself doing or think it was a great place to visit.
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