Sit back and take in the cafe culture and architecture of Prague, or Praha as it’s called over here. Whether you prefer opulent Art Deco and Nouveau wonders, or bookish hideaways, or theatrical nostalgia, or a study oasis, Prague has it all. The more time I spend drawing in the cafes of this great city, the more I feel I get to know its inhabitants. Prague feels like the Paris of Central Europe, and it has cafes to prove it.
There are so many great cafes in Prague that I can’t mention them all here, and the more I roam its streets sketching the more gems I discover. So for my five best, I’ve picked a selection of my own personal favourites that show the range of atmospheres and architecture you can find for the price of a coffee. With the help of my sketches, paintings and words, I hope to transport you to five very different tables. Grab your own notebook, or sketchpad, and join me for a drink, and maybe even a cake.
So, in no particular order, here they are:
5 – Kavarna Obecni Dum
Let’s start with a building so beautiful it’s worth visiting just to stare in awe at the architecture. The cafe is part of the Municipal House, a great concert hall, festooned with swathes of Art Deco and Nouveau opulence. If you ever wanted to listen to an orchestra live, I can easily recommend the Municipal House, or the Obecni Dum as it’s called here.
The cafe also does not disappoint. Lit by magical deco chandeliers, and decorated at one end with a fountain, seemingly inspired by local boy Mucha (who actually worked on the building), the space blooms with style and elegance. Occasionally resonating to the sound of a grand piano, it’s the perfect place to step into the past and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, as if you were taking a break from your own grand tour.
One bit of advice though, if you’re a fan of ice tea, have a change, as there ice tea isn’t, in my uncultured palette’s opinion, the best.
This was one of my first sketches inside a building in Prague. I want to thank the staff for not being too critical when they saw my attempt at capturing their movements.
I painted this, as I have with all my Prague paintings, in Cafedu – more about that later. It was done on an old iPad 2, using a basic Wacom stylus. The main aim of this painting was to capture the beautiful light. It’s an ambience that stays with you.
Website – http://www.kavarnaod.cz/kavarna-obecni-dum-2/
Address – KAVÁRNA OBECNÍ DŮM, náměstí Republiky 5,
110 00, Praha 1.
4 – Globe Bookstore Cafe
Hidden away at the back of Prague’s first english language bookstore ’The Globe’ lies its small, but cleverly laid out, Cafe. Even some locals don’t know it exists. As well as being a great cafe with abundant architectural charm (church style windows, a spiral staircase and a mezzanine level), it also boasts a social side. It is well known, especially in the expat community, for its weekly language exchange meetings. Maybe less known, is its involvement with an annual charity softball tournament for abandoned disabled kids. I also saw the hint of possible karaoke activities in the evenings, but I won’t hold that against it.
When you take your seat you may be surprised by the variety of languages echoing off the walls, a sign of its popularity amongst expats. Since it becomes a bar at night, the cafe also maintains that cozy shut away feel, even during the day.
If you like nothing better than browsing the shelves of an independent bookstore, before sitting down for a drink, then the Globe Bookstore Cafe is definitely worth a visit.
I want to thank my friend Katerina, who managed to stay still long enough for me to scribble something down.
Website – http://globebookstore.cz/cafe/
Address – Pštrossova 6, Prague 1, 110 00
3 – Cafe Slavia
Across the road from the majestic Prague National Theatre, with one side overlooking the Vltava river, sits the Slavia Kavarna, or Cafe Slavia in English. Thanks to the cafe’s Art Deco interior, it feels like nothing has changed since the nineteen twenties / thirties, though its history dates back to 1884. With grand windows framing great views of the city, and black and white portraits hanging on the walls, the cafe has a distinctive feel. This distinctiveness is only added too by the cafe’s famed historical connection with Bohemian writers and political dissidents, including the Czech Republic’s first president Vaclav Havel.
Yes, in case you were wondering the figure was actually wearing that hat, which added a nostalgic feel to the scene.
Website – http://www.cafeslavia.cz
Address – Café & Restaurant Slavia, a.s. Smetanovo nábřeží, 1012/2, Praha 1, 110 00.
2 – Cafe Louvre
When you enter Cafe Louvre you are instantly transported back in time to the early 1900s, thanks to the interior, the staff in their waistcoats and white aprons, and the odd waiter drifting smoothly past with a silver tray balanced professionally on one palm at his shoulder. It’s the perfect atmosphere to sit back with a coffee and sketch, while listening to the soundtrack of ’Hugo.’ Well I did say Prague was the Paris of Central Europe.
This famous Cafe is popular with tourists and locals alike. Some of its previous regulars include the likes of Kafka and Einstein, and if, by some quirk of time travel, they happened to pop back in for a civilised drink I reckon they would hardly notice any difference. It’s not hard to imagine them perched at the tables beside you. So why not add your name to the list of regulars, and settle back into the early 1900s.
The staff darted about so quickly, as if part of some intricate dance routine, that it was difficult to capture any of them. Luckily though, the waitress who served me repeated a stance enough for me to attempt to draw her. Later I showed her my drawing, and she seemed to appreciate it. I sometimes like to show people who I sketch my final drawings, as they all play an important part in the scenes I capture – moments of their lives recorded on paper.
Website – http://www.cafelouvre.cz/en/
Address – Národní 22, Prague, 110 00
1 – Cafedu
When you visit Cafedu, you instantly sense the buzz of academia. Though usually crammed with students hard at work on their laptops, or discussing project business plans, you don’t get the feeling of being excluded if you’re not a student. In fact, many non-students meet here too. It’s a great place to come, chat and work.
Not only does it supply good free wifi, the cafe also has sockets for laptops, as well as usb power hubs. The place opens until late, and as the view of the beautiful National Museum dims to black, it is replaced by the reflections of the cafe’s hanging lights, which appear like a Galaxy of bulbous stars.
There is also a second floor with study rooms and shelves of academic books. So if you’re looking for a place to spend a few hours writing, studying, or painting up your sketches on an iPad, while supping a jug of homemade ice tea (other beverages available, apparently) then try Cafedu.
Oh, and if you get peckish they sell great quiche.
As I drew this sketch the light started to go, and by the time I finished the drawing the cafe’s windows were full of reflections, something I felt I wanted to capture in my iPad painting afterwards.
Website – http://www.cafedu.cz
Address – Škrétova 490/12, Praha 2.
So there you are – my five favourite cafe’s in Prague. When you’re next in this beautiful city, check them out, but not too much, I need to find a table too.
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