tasting Prague with Eating Europe: a traditional food tour in the Czech capital

I was invited to be a guest of Eating Europe’s Prague Food Tour. I’ll be the first to admit that, initially, I knew nothing about the food scene in Prague. I had heard about trdelnik and how it wasn’t a Czech tradition. I knew the beer culture was thriving and that traditional Czech meals are almost always meat and carb heavy. That was the full extent of my knowledge.

After my 4-hour walking tour with Eating Europe, however, I found myself filled to the brim with Prague urban legends, Czech folklore, cultural and historical trivia, and….well…food, obviously.

WARNING: THIS POST WILL MAKE YOU HUNGRY!


READ ON FOR THE FULL DETAILS OF EATING EUROPE’S PRAGUE FOOD TOUR + WHAT I THOUGHT OF IT


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food tour breakdown

HOW MUCH FOOD DO YOU EAT + WHERE DOES THE TOUR GO // The food tour covers six locations across Prague. At these six different stops, you are given seven traditional Czech dishes to taste. The food portions aren’t small by any stretch of the imagination. At the first stop we had three different kinds of Czech cookies, which was the smallest bit of food for the whole day… Point being, you get a lot. Luke, who traveled with me on the tour, and I split all the food and neither of us needed dinner after the tour. I can’t imagine how full those who weren’t sharing their plates were by the end of the day. Between eating locations, we passed by famous {and not so famous} landmarks in both Old Town and New Town Prague. Tour goers got the local low-down on all things “Prague.”

IS THE MEETING POINT EASY TO GET TO // You meet your tour guide at the first tasting location, Perníčkův sen. There is a table to the side of the main shop that is reserved especially for Eating Europe’s tour. From there, you walk to the other eating locations. While my beloved City Mapper app doesn’t work for Prague, having Google Maps on your phone will be helpful to get you to the meeting point if you’re anxious about getting lost and being late for the tour.

WHAT SHOULD I BRING WITH ME // You should bring a hat, gloves, and a proper winter coat if you are visiting during the winter. Perhaps bringing a water bottle would be helpful too, for stops where there wasn’t water {or beer} offered to cleanse your palette before the next course. Bringing your camera is a good idea, especially if you are in Prague for a limited amount of time. You’ll see many of the city’s major landmarks while you’re walking between eating locations.

HOW BIG ARE THE TOUR GROUPS // It used to be that Eating Europe’s groups were no bigger than 10, but it’s recently been changed to 12 people due to high demand. Our group of 10 was just about right, judging by the size of the eating locations we stopped at. The small tour size also made it easier to hear all the information our guide was giving us, and allowed all of us to connect with one another a little more.

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MEETING POINT + STOP #1: Perníčkův sen

We met our tour guide, Petra, at a famous family-owned gingerbread bakery, Perníčkův sen. Gingerbread was seen traditionally as a health food. It was made exclusively by men in Czech Republic during medieval times. It was considered so healthy, in fact, that many people ate it as a starter thinking the spices promoted digestion.

Now, obviously, people know that eating cookies isn’t healthy for you, but they still make a mean cookie! We were given three each to try. The first was a layered biscuit with plum spread. It was actually quite spicy and you could taste a little kick. The small round cookie also had a bit of a bite, but the vanilla crescent cookie was fully sweet and decadent.

FUN FACT: Sometimes, Czechs will make a large Christmas gingerbread cookie for their friend and decorate it with a message to tell them something they are otherwise afraid to say in person.

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STOP #2: SISTERS

The charming family-owned bistro, Sisters, is a healthy, more modern take on Czech cuisine. Sister is most well-known for its updated take on chlebíčky, an open-style sandwich. While traditionally Czechs top their sunflower bread heavily with mayonnaise, hardboiled eggs, and pepper, Sisters spreads their handmade bread with healthier ingredients like locally sourced beetroot and goat’s cheese. Sisters also serves soups, salads, and coffees, but on the food tour, we tasted a variety of their famous chlebíčky.

The one that stuck out to me, as someone who doesn’t like egg or hollandaise sauce, was the beetroot and garlic hummus-like spread with goat cheese and spinach leaf. I would so happily order that at a restaurant. The spread melted in my mouth and the bread was perfect. This is the perfect example of something I wouldn’t have thought to try had I not been on a tour, and I’m so happy I did. It remains one of my favourite dishes from my entire time in Prague.

FUN FACT: Sisters is owned and operated by two actual sisters, thus the bistro’s name!

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STOP #3: Naše maso

My father would properly get behind the Czech belief that, “it’s not a meal with the maso {meat}.” It’s a food philosophy that’s familiar to me, as I’m sure it’s familiar to anyone who has Midwestern parents. But Naše Maso is a far shout from the kind of butchers either of my parents would be accustomed to.

All the meat products at Naše Maso are carefully prepared with full transparency. The shop is designed with large windows so that you can see the butcher working. Imagine how delicious their meat must be if they can openly butcher and prepare sausages in front of their customers and still have people lining up literally around the block waiting.

I obviously didn’t try the butcher’s meat, though it was reported to me by everyone on the tour that you could taste the quality of it, especially in the sausage. It wasn’t a standard supermarket hot dog. Most of the people on our tour went back to Naše Maso to buy their own meaty treats, including Luke who downed two sausages for lunch one day in the span of 30 minutes.

I really liked learning about how the Head Butcher at Naše Maso is trying to make a name for Czech butchery and revive the culinary experience in Prague post-Communist rule. During the Communist era in Prague, people ate what they were given. There wasn’t much fuss over quality, because people had what they had. Agriculture suffered under the collectivization of farms {meaning everyone owned everything}. Animals were neglected worse than they ever had been, because typically when everyone owns everything, no one takes special care in anything. On top of that, the best profit margins for livestock producers were animals with a high-muscle mass and low-fat content. The problem with that is that some of the most important flavours in meat are found in the animal’s fat.

Now, the master butcher of Naše Maso is showing the people of Prague that there is better out there in regards to food and that they are entitled to asking for the very best. He’s making the carnivores of Prague proud of what their livestock produce. Some special breeds had almost gone extinct, and thanks to Naše Maso there are heritage breeds that have been saved. There were only a few hundred prestice pigs in the 90s, but they now have a stable population.

FUN FACT: František Kšána, the master butcher at Naše Maso, learned the trade from his father.

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STOP #4: RESTAURANT ZVONICE

Unbeknownst to tourists {and most locals} is the two-story restaurant housed cozily inside Jindřišská Tower. This was the favourite tasting location on the tour for everyone but myself and our guide, Petra {who preferred stop number 6}. I admit, in terms of atmosphere and views, eating at the top of a wooden bell tower is pretty hard to beat. An impressive effort has gone into maintaining the historical heritage of the tower. Every wooden beam holding the ceiling up over the original oak floors plays its part in telling the story of the tower. The interior of Zvonice made the tasting all the more special.

While everyone else enjoyed a hot bowl of Old Bohemian soup, I enjoyed a veggie-friendly delicacy of goat cheese covered in nut grounds and served with beetroot cubes, which is an alternative starter to the soup. The thought of goat’s cheese seemed odd at first, but it actually tastes incredible and the addition of crunchy nut crumbles.

FUN FACT: While all the details of Restaurant Zvonice will “wow” you, it’s the Bell of St. Maria, which was cast in 1518, that is the central focal point of the restaurant. And! You can actually eat at a table for two underneath the old bell if you’re brave enough.

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STOP #5: ŠPejLE

Špejle is a Czech-style tapas bar. While the food served at Špejle is traditional {for the most part}, the way in which it is served is not. Here, every portion is smaller than usual {thus the similarity to tapas} and served on a skewer. If you were a regular patron of Špejle, you would walk through the front area of the restaurant like an upscale buffet, adding the skewers you wanted to your plate, then the wait staff would count your skewers to tally your total bill.

However, Eating Europe’s guests are not regular customers. We had a reserved table in the back of the restaurant where the music could be heard and the greenery that decorates the restaurant create a beautiful atmosphere. To go from the bell tower to Špejle was like walking through history. Špejle’s modern concept and minimalist interior design details was very different from Restaurant Zvonice, but the cozy ambience and delicious food was the same.

I really appreciated how Špejle created a vegetarian burger for me on this leg of the tour. It was a thoughtful touch that allowed me to continue to feel included in the experience. My burger was made of caramelized onions, crispy lettuce, cheese, and tomato all put together on a toasted bun. I found the caramelized onion patty strange at first, never having seen this veggie option before, but my mind and food palette completely expanded once I took a bite of the burger. It was messy to eat, like all the best food are. Luke ate my portion of duck with potato dumplings and it was his second favourite dish of the tour. He said the potato dumplings were “very tasty” and that the duck was “well cooked.”

One of the many things I learned about beer in Prague and Czech Republic is that is works on a degrees system. The degree of your beer represents the alcohol level. The higher the beer’s alcohol percentage, the higher it’s degree. Lighter beers, for example, will have 8°-10° by their name. This is approximately 4% alcohol. A lager sits between 11°-12.99°. Anything above 13° is considered a specialty beer. The beer we tried at Špejle was also a major hit between the two of us! I love a good beer and Špejle delivered a delicious pale lager {pilsner} for me and a darker lager for Luke, which were both listed as 11° brews.

FUN FACT: Špejle translates from Czech to mean “skewer” in English.

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STOP #6: CAFÉ LOUVRE

I referred to the final stop on our food tour as the “B meal”, because, as you can see in the photos, the meal consisted of beer, beef, bread dumplings, and the best strudel. You might be thinking this looks like goulash, right? Well, while it might appear to be goulash, any proud Czech foodie will tell you that goulash is delicious, but it’s also Hungarian. Traditional bread dumplings were served to us in a vegetable mash/soup with a side of beef filet that’s been injected with pork fat for taste {which Luke ate for me}. The meal was completed with the best apple strudel I’ve had anywhere in the world! The vanilla cream custard and whipped cream paired with the hot apple cinnamon filling stuffed inside the filo pastry perfectly. I could have eaten three more if my stomach hadn’t already been filled with delicious Czech food and my stomach was larger.

The “B meal” was had inside the lovely Café Louvre, named after the famous French art museum. Serving Czech classic since 1902, Café Louvre is class and sophistication in a way that simultaneously evokes warmth and comfort.

FUN FACT: The novelist, Franz Kafka, once dined here, and he wasn’t the only famous name to eat at Cafe Louvre. Ever heard of Albert Einstein?

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BOOKING YOUR TOUR

Overall, you get incredible value for money on the Eating Europe Tour in Prague. Petra, our guide, was warm and knowledgable. The city itself put on a stunner of a day, despite it being winter. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of Prague and how it shaped the city’s food culture. For instance, eating in at a restaurant is a very modern concept in Prague, since, in the time of Communism, no one wanted to sit and drink and talk where “the walls might have ears.” It was also interesting to learn about the food traditions of Czech people, like how they eat carp on Christmas instead of turkey or ham and keep a scale of the fish in their wallet to protect their money. The tour was a real highlight of my time in Prague this go around.

You can book you own Eating Europe Prague Food Tour on their website here.


Disclaimer: I was a guest of Eating Europe’s Prague Food Tour in Prague, but all my opinions are my own and my experience is expressed authentically. 


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