|Prague is saturated with medieval architecture, good beer, and expats teaching ESL. It has all the festivals, dining options, and cultural diversions one could want in a big city. But after a few months of living there, I realized something was missing.
Sure, they have some funkier restaurants or hang outs, but where were the thick framed glasses, the ironic tees, the vegan cafes? Unlike other European cities like London, Barcelona, Amsterdamâ€“where alternative is almost mainstreamâ€“there seemed to a noticeable void in Prague. Finally I confronted the glaringly obvious question: where were all the hipsters?
Oh, theyâ€™re there. You just have to know where to look. I must admit, it took a bit of diggingâ€“and help from my more in-the-know Czech friendsâ€“but Iâ€™ve compiled a list of alternative happenings for expats who are looking for more than overpriced beer and clubbing in Wenceslas Square.
To simultaneously honor Prague, hipsters, and my life-long obsession with Goosebumps â€śchoose your own adventureâ€ť books, I present you:
24 HOURS IN PRAGUE:
CHOOSE YOUR OWN HIPSTER ADVENTURE
Breakfast at Ouky Douky
JanovskĂ©ho 1118/14, 170 00, Praha 7
Nestled in Prague 7, this bookstore/cafe is a perfect spot for a cozy breakfast. Founded by a fellow expat, this cafe was one of the original English book stores in Prague, and offers a wide variety of American breakfast foods (be still my heart, even the elusive filtered coffee!) served amongst cluttered book cases and charmingly mismatched furniture. It feels like your worldly uncleâ€™s studyâ€“who just happens to really enjoy indie music. Settle down in a worn armchair and enjoy a large cup of filtered coffee (!), a savory pancake, and a good read.
Level of hip: Pickling your own ramps
Coffee at Cafe Neustadt
Karlovo nĂˇměstĂ 23/1, 120 00, Praha 2
I think the self-profession on the cafeâ€™s website really says it all: Itâ€™s an â€śoasis of superior coffee, cheesy ease, excellent music and civic disobedience right in the city center.â€ť Conveniently located by Karlovo NĂˇměstĂ, Cafe Neustadt is nestled in an ivy-laden courtyard in the new town hall building. Come for some morning coffee in the garden, or some pivo at night; any time of day this hip cafe is crowded and serving up good vibes. Its coolest feature? Modern art statues hang right above a stand-up piano in the corner of the courtyard, encouraging any casual Mozarts to sit down. Lastly, someone please tell me what â€ścheesy easeâ€ť means.
Level of hip: Back to back Wes Anderson flicks
Badminton in an old school, communist-style gym
Sokol Libeň, Zenklova 37/2, 180 00, Praha
Ever wonder what it was like to play basketball in the Soviet Bloc during the communist regime? The creaky, old Sokol Libeň is the closest you will ever get. Thanks to a tip from a Czech friend, I decided to check this gymnasium out one afternoon and was tickled with how wonderfully old school it is. It looked like it was untouched since the 60s and the entire building was eerily empty. The locker rooms reminded me of something out of a horror movie (think metal cages) and the gym (including a basketball court, badminton court, and gymnastics area) conjured up images of old communist Olympic propaganda posters Iâ€™d seen. I could only imagine how many short shorts and mullets had graced those squeaky, waxed floors.
Although empty when we visited, itâ€™s wise to reserve your hour-slot in advance. Sometimes most desired times (before and after work) fill up two months ahead of time! (You can reserve a time on their website: http://www.sokol-liben.cz/badminton/)
A one hour time-slot will only set you back 130 Kc, not including racket and birdie rental. A tip for foreigners: brush up on your Czech, since chances are no one will speak English there. (Another tell-tale sign of how authentic it is)
Level of hip: Bon Iverâ€™s lesser known stuff
Farmerâ€™s Market at JiřĂho z Poděbrad
In front of JiřĂho z Poděbrad Metro station, Praha 3
If youâ€™re a foodie, youâ€™ll be right at home at the Farmerâ€™s Market located at the JiřĂho z Poděbrad (or as expats call it, JZP) metro station. Situated right in front of the church which boasts the â€ślargest clock face in Eastern Europe,â€ť (what a claim to fame) this Farmerâ€™s Market is my favorite in all of Prague. Wander the stalls selling everything from organic, local produce, traditional spices, homemade sausages and cheeses, and Moravian wines. I could spend an afternoon staring at the giant tubs of pickled goodiesâ€“stuffed pickled peppers, pickled cabbages and other anonymous pickled things. In the summer the market runs each Wednesday and Friday 8am-6pm and Saturdays from 8am-2pm. Bonus: around December and April, it gets a holiday makeover and turns into a Christmas and Easter market, respectively.
Level of hip: Finding a new ramen shop in that recently gentrified neighborhood
Burgers at Dish
ŘĂmskĂˇ 1196/29, 120 00, Praha 2
Dish serves up the best burger in town, hands down. (And trust me, Iâ€™ve tasted my fair share in Prague). Not only have they perfected the ideal burger-to-bun ratio (amazingly juicy beef on a slightly toasted, sweet sesame bun), but they do it all with a fun culinary twist. International flavors like kimchi, piri piri, and artisanal cheeses drape the quality beef and garnish the crispy, garlicy fries. My go-to? The Koza Nostra: a tender patty topped with a giant slab of gooey goats cheese, sun dried tomatoes, arugula and a fig mayonnaise. Perfectly paired with an elderflower gin and tonic, off of their hand-crafted G&T menu.
Level of hip: Taking up woodwork and/or carpentry as a new hobby
Barbecue at U Kurelů
Chvalova 1119/1, 130 00, Praha 3
While most expats know and love the Tavern, not many are familiar with its low-key, barbecue-centered sister restaurant, U Kurelů. Beat the Tavern crowd and head over to U Kurelů for unique dishes like the barbecue Bahn-mi, live music, and a selection of Czech microbrews (all from small breweries across the country including Matuska, Permon, Zemsky, Malesov and Chotebor.)
Level of hip: Beard + flannel + ironic animal t-shirt
Microbrews at Cafe LiberĂˇl
Heřmanova 6, 170 00, Praha 7
Just a general rule of thumb for alternative Prague: walk around Prague 7, and look for signs broadcasting ĂšnětickĂ˝ beer. Chances are, youâ€™ll bump into a hip crowd. Cafe LiberĂˇl (just a few blocks down from my breakfast pick, Ouky Douky) is a perfect spot for early evening craft brews. Sip on a radler (my favorite; a summery mix of wheat beer and lemonade) and people watch. Hang out inside, and enjoy its minimalist interior, filled with creaky wooden chairs, art deco fixturesâ€“the only decoration a collection of LPs leaning against the bare white walls. This is the spot to see and be seen.
Level of hip: Cold brewed, fair-trade coffee