By Celeste Wong
The Girl in the Café
After a very busy few weeks prior, doing a café takeover, judging a coffee and design competition, a wedding to go to, as well as organising a pop up charity café for when I return, I was glad to be getting out of town for a breather. Packing my bags is usually a daunting task, especially when I have limited time – but not with my Eastpak luggage I’ve come to really trust. I seemed almost excited to see how much I could neatly fit into my nifty packs.
You may have noticed that I also don’t board a plane now without my trusty bumbag (thanks Eastpak!) – boarding passes, passport, lip balm, lipstick, pen and earphones – tick. A quick check and this girl’s ready to go.
Prague would be my coldest destination yet, so my luggage was pushed to its limits – and passed with flying (bright red) and autumnal colours… However, I wasn’t quite prepared for how cold it would actually be, so I had to make an emergency hat purchase when I got there, to replace my usually sufficient beanies….now I can't take it off (oh yeah, and it snowed! Video to come).
This time last year I did an “Around the World in 8 weeks” pop up, which meant featuring great coffee from eight places from around the world. For one weekend I featured Doubleshot coffee from Prague that was introduced to me by my old friend Gwilym Davies (ex world barista champion). Ever since, I have been looking forward to visiting Prague myself, for the growing coffee industry I had heard so much about.
Prague is undoubtedly one of the most charming cities I’ve been to (granted there are still many more cities for me to visit) but so far, the most picturesque. With it’s intricate gothic cathedrals and architecture, bridges that join it’s sparkling river and sherbet-colored buildings, I felt like a character in a fairytale land– where I might actually catch a glimpse of a gargoyle bounding to it’s spot before sunrise. Everyday I set off with my backpack ready to explore the city – mainly on foot, because most of the city is walkable and public transport is very easy (though finding ticket machines weren’t that convenient - you can get them at metro stations). Tickets generally cover trams, trains, busses and boat!
Prague is rich in history, it's still hard to believe it was a communist country not so long ago! Speaking to some locals there, it astounds me how much can change over just a few decades. I found the people there friendly and genuine which one might not expect given its turbulent history.
I’m not generally a Christmassy person, but the little wooden huts, dramatic Christmas tree lights and booming music made it hard for me not to get involved when there’s such a good vibe around. How could I not take part in copious cups of delicious mulled wine, sausage sizzles and freshly cut and fried crisps? Even the grumpy vendor of the fried chip stall eventually became my friend…eventually.
There are quite a few cafes on the outskirts that are easy to get to but just as many within walking distance around the city too. It was great to meet Adam from Onesip, a cute tiny café near the centre that actually serves Round Hill coffee from Bristol. It’s definitely a great place to stop for a good caffeine fix, sweet treat and a chat. I got the feeling that even though there are a few specialty coffee shops in Prague, there is still a lot of room for the industry to grow here.
It was great to catch up with Jaroslav from Misto and Muj Salek Kavy (two of Doubleshot roaster’s cafes). They are lovely cafes to visit and a must! I really enjoyed their food menu which was hearty and value for money. Misto is a more modern fun version of their first café Muj Salek Kavy, with a bright mural of “contents of a handbag” strewn across the back wall – which include a hario handgrinder and bag of coffee… that’s always what I carry around with me too! ;)
There’s a great guide called “The Prague superguide book” which I’d also recommend getting if you’re planning a trip - also if you're a little more cashed up, The Taste of Prague looks interesting too.
It took some time to find Kavarna co hleda jmeno - "CAFÉ with no name” which is what it apparently translates to. It’s been described as the latest “hipster café” and it was certainly busy for being relatively ‘out of the way'. The interior was rustic and cosy, and my long black was ok.
EMA espresso bar (which is about 10min walk from Onesip) has a beautifully bright, open space with bar, window and shared seating options. Their food cabinet is simple but tasty and their coffee menu is decent. I was glad to see JB kaffee there (I’ve liked every cup made with their beans so far in the past) and they also had Hasbean as an espresso option too. It was a busy place that seemed to have lots going on. You can even learn how to roast coffee while on the loo with posters on the wall explaining everything! (sorry no pics of that)
I met a great guy called Miroslav who owned and ran a market coffee stand. He made me espressos with his coffee they roast and told me of his history in coffee that spanned back generations. It was awesome to speak to someone who was so passionate about his coffee.
For a touch of old school French elegance, make a stop at Café Savoy. The coffee isn’t the best but it’s a nice experience and a nice little walk up through the trees to Petrin Hill (Eiffel tower) look out afterward. The structure itself isn’t very impressive or anything like the actual Eiffel Tower in Paris, but the view from there is unique.
While we’re on a 'high' - above the main square there’s a tiny rooftop bar called Hotel U Prince that overlooks the square and has a fantastic view! You stare right into the face of the Old Square's famous clock face while taking in the sights in style with an old fashioned cocktail in hand. Another thing that I’d recommend is catching a classical baroque concert. They’re not too expensive and the sound is incredible. When do you ever get to hear music in halls where Mozart actually played?! My photos didn't capture the atmosphere, but I thought it was incredible. I basically cried the whole way through Vivaldi’s four seasons concerto – as you may have seen in my instastories!
Someone once told me that I’d like the Prague food, and they were right. I really did. I fell in love with their hearty goulash inside bread. We found this place randomly called Mlejnice (two locations) and became fans, because the food was really flavour full but also great value and traditional. I blamed the cold for forcing me to eat there most days for an early dinner…. OH, and beer is cheap and good, everywhere Prague.
There is still plenty to see so I’ll definitely be back – I want to see those weird David Cerny babies climbing up the TV tower! As it leads up to Christmas, I couldn’t think of a better place to visit – for many reasons that will remain long after the silly season passes…. Whether it’s walking down the river bank, visiting the castle, a museum, cathedral or just strolling around the little streets with a coffee in tow (of course) Prague is a great place to get away and explore some pretty sights across the Charles Bridge, interesting culture and some good coffee.