Ah, souvenirs. If you’re anything like me, these are some of your favourite things to lovingly select while on an adventure — then shove, unceremoniously yet carefully, into whatever over-stuffed bag you convinced yourself in a fit of travel idealism would force you to travel lightly. (Let’s be honest, such light packing never actually happens, but no matter, because there’s just something about lugging an unwieldy pack as you explore that makes travelling feel more like, well, travelling.) And with souvenirs, well, hey, your back might hurt or the airline employees might be giving you steely death glares, but that giant beer glass from your favourite obscure European pub is totally worth it.
The thing about souvenirs, though, is that if you’re going to commit to spending your hard-earned cash, sweat, tears, and even blood to lug these much-loved items home, you had better bet your travel-loving keister that it was worth it.
Prague, while an amazing and historic city, is unfortunately not a haven for easy-to-find, distinctive souvenirs. Besides the many t-shirts proclaiming you as a member of the “Prague Drinking Team”, the city is full of matryoshka nesting dolls and faux fur hats bearing the emblem of the USSR or KGB. All cool stuff, no doubt, but curious when you consider that fact that while communist, neither present-day Czech Republic nor Slovakia were ever a part of the Soviet Union.
And that’s why we’re here, and with this handy-dandy gift guide, so you’ll now know where to find the best, most legitimate stuff, whether for you or for someone else.
If you’ve ever stepped one foot into the centre of Prague, you might think that finding a nice memento of the golden city can’t be hard, as there are souvenir stalls and shops covering almost every conceivable spot and corner in the Old Town or on Wenceslas Square. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case if you want to practice more responsible tourism, as many of these stands or shops are owned by non-local entities and will gladly sell you inauthentic or even shoddy goods if it means a little more cash in their hands.
Our tips? Head for the seasonal markets or regular farmers’ markets throughout the year. While there are usually locals buying up their weekly fruit and veg, there are also a few handcrafted, traditional goods made by local artists or small businesses. Another tip is to head to the Charles Bridge. While this may seem contradictory, the truth is that many of the artists and vendors set up on that historic stretch of stone and mortar are, in fact, locals peddling their quality wares for prices way fairer than in the neon and fluorescently lit shops. They have to apply to the city authorities to get special licenses and permits to sell their goods here, meaning all of their wares are vouched for and on the up-and-up.
But the bridge and local markets are just a few of the places you can score some fancy souvenir swag. For more locally responsible and achingly cool souvenir ideas, here’s our master list — the pinnacle of a Prague shopping guide! Feel free to play an appropriately awesome symphony or some other musical masterpiece as you read through — we’re that proud of it.
Blue Praha. A Czech glass company that has been selling local, handmade glass products and other souvenirs in Prague since 1992. They have a number of locations throughout the city centre and tend to stock a more modern selection of goods than other shops. Check out their books or t-shirts/stationery designed by local artists for a slightly easier-to-lug memento.
Manufaktura. A Czech company that can be found in malls and streets all over the Czech Republic. Manufaktura makes distinctly Czech cosmetics of fantastic quality. And what are “Czech cosmetics”? Well, the most popular ones they have are made using beer and wine (which provides some awesome health benefits), but they also have some other, non-alcoholic (but still fantastic) soaps and lotions. Not looking for something to add to your skincare regime? No problem — Manufaktura also has a selection of home goods, traditional folk crafts, and even handmade toys.
ARTĚL. Yet another glass and crystal company, ARTĚL is a big name in the world of glass blowing, even though they’re fairly new to the scene. Established in 1998 by American Karen Feldman as a foray into the traditional Czech glass scene, ARTĚL has been turning out beautiful works of art ever since. They’re especially known for their bold, geometric designs and more modern pieces, winning critical acclaim for their work the world over.
If traditional Czech souvenirs aren’t your thing, there’s still lots to buy. In fact, the fashion and design scene is exploding these days. For more contemporary and trendy remembrances of your trip, try any of the following:
Parazit Fashion Store. Parazit is the oldest fashion/design store in the city, and if that didn’t make it worth at least a visit, their cool designs and alternative souvenir items definitely do. We love the fact that the shop features lots of younger Czech and Slovak artists and is run by two Slovak ladies who have made a name for themselves in Prague’s design and fashion scene. Here, you can find tons of cool gift ideas or even ideas for gifts for yourself (because you’re worth it too, as L’Oreal says), like postcards, small pieces of porcelain jewellery, and even journals and planners with illustrated covers by the local artist Deaf Messenger. The other cool part about Parazit is its location on Karlova 25, which features a small backyard bar and alternative tattoo parlor. Parazit is full of cool stuff, but keeps a tiny atelier feel that we can’t help but love!
Harddecore. Another big name in Prague’s fashion and design scene, Harddecore is located on Senovážné Square (that’s náměstí, to all of you quick studies out there) and serves as a gallery as well as a shop. If you walk through its doors, expect to find a multitude of things to check out, including clothing, jewellery, glass, porcelain, and even lights. It’s a hip place with a big city vibe, making it the perfect stop for any urban enthusiasts out there. No matter how hard your friends and family might be to shop for, it would surprise us if you couldn’t find at least one innovative or quirky gift in there to bring back.
Leeda. Leeda is an original Czech fashion brand located in the heart of Old Town, whose customers include a few of the Hollywood stars. While they’re committed to making an impact on contemporary design, architecture, photography, film, and music (quite the gambit, we must say), they mainly focus on the sartorial fields of innovation, making it the perfect souvenir stop for lovers of contemporary fashion — although anyone who appreciates beauty in any form should have no problem finding something of value in their cosy, modern gallery of a shop.
Jelení šperky. This shop, whose name translates to “Deer Jewellery” is located in the up-and-coming quarter of Žižkov, where its blue-collar roots are busy blending with its hip new residents, creating a neighbourhood that’s full of surprises and exciting new eateries, shops, and galleries. We love Jelení šperky for it’s uniqueness — each piece of jewellery they make is different, combining modern quirk and classic tradition to make products a bit like the neighbourhood they reside in. Their pieces even get the diplomatic nod, as former US Secretary of State and lifelong brooch connoisseur Madeleine Albright (a Prague native herself) is reported to be a fan. What better recommendation could there possibly be (well, besides our own, of course)?!
How about some music to provide a soundtrack for your future adventures? We’ve got a few options from which you can take your pick:
Musictown. One of the newest music stops located in Vinohrady (one of our favourite neighbourhoods, if you hadn’t heard), Musictown has pretty much everything a music and film buff could ever want: CDs, LPs, DVDs, and other odds and ends of every genre imaginable. Be careful, you may step into the shop and feel as thought you’ve been transported to another film and music-loving dimension. If only our spending money was limitless…
Phono. Located in New Town, Phono has the biggest secondhand collection of LPs in the city, making it the perfect spot for the discerning audio buff or rare recording specialist. They even sell a range of different sound systems and speakers/repair old record players so that you can get the best listening experience possible. It’s funky and old school, for sure, but any true music lover can tell you that sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics!
Rekomando. Situated just a few steps from Karlovo náměstí (Charles Square), Rekomanda is an interesting place, containing books, magazines, LPs, CDs, and t-shirts all geared toward the Czech alternative and underground scene. Compared to the other shops, it’s rather specific, but for alterna music fans, it’s the perfect spot to explore the genre in another country, or even for locals to go and find their next favourite album.
Not only are books perfect for keeping you entertained as you travel onwards, but they can also tell you a little something special about our fair city. Here are some of our favourite spots for books on local art and culture:
Page Five. One of our favourite places in one of our favourite neighbourhoods. We fell in love with Page Five during our Connoisseurs of the Streets project in Holešovice, as some of you who follow us on social media may already know. Page Five is a tiny bookshop filled with rare magazines and books on art. While we think almost anyone would find it a cool place to explore, it’s particularly popular with the local hipster crowd, not because it’s inaccessible to other people, but because it’s just that trendy and cool. Don’t take our word for it, go see for yourselves!
KAVKA Art Books. Tucked away in one of the most truly amazing building from the 1930s, in Prague 1, KAVKA Art Books is a MUST for any art lovers out there. Not only is the place architecturally stunning, but it’s got the best selection of books on art in the entire city, which, if you’ve ever seen how many bookstores there are in Prague, is a real accomplishment. They also feature some gorgeous works of art, as well as fantastic photography for sale. Is there anything else an art aficionado could possibly want?
Baobab Books. Looking for something to bring back to little one, or a special treat for kids on a trip with you? Then you’ve got to check out Baobab Books, which specialises in children’s literature. Located on Krymská street — one of our favourite haunts in Vršovice — this bookstore and small publishing house has stuff for adults, too, meaning you won’t be totally immersed in a world for children. Perhaps one of the coolest bits about this little shop is the art, posters, and pictures they feature — many from important Czech illustrators. Even if you don’t go expressly for the purpose of picking up a book, Krymská and the surrounding area are worth a visit.
Up next we have an idea that’s sure to have something for everyone: antique shops! And, no, a major hobby of antiquing is not required to enjoy these shops. In a city as old as Prague, it’s not a surprise that the streets are jam-packed with more antique shops (or antikvariáts) than you can shake a beer at (not that that’s something we recommend, of course — it’d be a waste of a good brew!). Ducking into one of the many shops, it’s quite easy to be overwhelmed due to the fact that they can contain, well, everything and anything. It’s a fascinating way to find out how people lived, or at least what stuff they had. We’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favourites so you don’t have to delve deep into every corner antique shop you spot.
NanoAntik. If you’re looking for a place to get the best antiques or just dive into the Czech past, we’d have to say that NanoAntik in Žižkov is probably the best around. Not only does it have a cool atmosphere that feels is if you’ve stepped right into the First Czechoslovak Republic — which many locals will tell you was the golden age of democracy and culture here in CZ — but it’s got some amazing finds! Checking out their selection, you may come away with the usual things like books, art, trinkets, and maybe even a new gaslight or two to decorate your living space back home. NanoAntik is not only popular for souvenirs, but also celebrities, and, of course, collectors.
chlá klika galerie. Gallery, publisher, bookstore… Ztichlá klika is certainly the jack of all trades on the antikvariát scene. Located in Old Town, it’s your best bet in the city for getting your hands on some awesome antique books and graphics — truly one-of-a-kind souvenirs! What’s more, the gallery has some cool local history behind it, as it’s connected with the legendary Czech dissident movement. For more options, you can always check out their biggest competitor, Podzemní Antikvariát in New Town, just to mix things up.
Art Deco Galerie. Probably one of the most specific shop on our list, the Art Deco Galerie on Michalská Street specialises almost anything and everything from the years 1918-1938 — and by anything and everything, we really mean it! On their website, they give a list of some 18-odd categories, including, but not limited to, glass, ceramics, smoking equipment, lighting fixtures, clothing, and jewellery. It’s the place to go if you want to pick up something uniquely from this time period, or even just want to check out all the cool Art Deco options the city affords.
Nanovo. If there’s one word to sum up the feeling of Nanovo, it’s the word cool — something that the shop just seems to ooze. Nanovo is a super hip design shop started by local designers Adam Karásek and Jiří Mrázek in 2011 to “offer original quality furniture and home décor that are often neglected in the Czech Republic and usually unknown abroad,” to use their own words. What do they do, you ask? The two focus on either partially or fully renovating quality furniture and design products from the second half of the 20th century. They provide fantastic service, full-year warranties for their products, and a fresh take on furniture that, though vintage, is a welcome change from a market flooded with super modern Ikea-esque pieces. I’m gonna be honest with you here, I’d gladly stuff my apartment full of their products, if I had the space and funds for it. Do yourself a favour and go check out what these guys have to offer.
Okay, we’ve gone through roughly 2,000 words of suggested shops and places to get some unique souvenirs on your trip to Prague. If you haven’t seen something that appeals to your senses yet, then congratulations, you, my friend, are either in possession of an incredible sense of shopping self-control or you just hate souvenirs, which there’s no shame in. Listen, if you’re still looking for one last spot to get a little something to remember your Prague adventure, we have a final option to share: the traditional “local alcohol” option.
Bartida. Bartida is not your average supermarket or liquor store, but instead a Degustation Bar and Shop, making it a few steps above the norm. What does this mean exactly? Well, Bartida offers all of the famous brands of alcohols that you might have already heard of, but also some special wines, syrups, and liquors from smaller local sources and distilleries. It’s the perfect spot to get something truly unique and tasty to share with all of your cocktail or wine-loving friends back home.
And, so, my friends, our list of souvenir shop suggestions is at an end. We hope you’ve found at least something you’re interested in, and if not, well, challenge accepted! Let us know your interests in the comments and we’ll try and find a little something special, just for you. To all of you, happy shopping, and may the sales be ever in your favour!