Back in 1714, Georgius Deodatus Damascenus – known as 'the Arab' – started selling coffee in Prague. He was the first to do so, heating the jugs over a pan of charcoal in the street, until he had earned enough money to buy U Zlateho hada (the Golden Snake coffee-house) in the Old Town, where he continued to serve the fragrant brew until his death in 1730.
Even without its history, the Cafe Slavia would be a popular location due to its beautiful Art Deco architecture and its unmatchable views of Prague Castle. Opened in 1863, it is in fact the oldest coffee-house in the city, and it was a meeting place for artists and intellectuals such as Franz Kafka, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jaroslav Seifert and the composers Smetana and Antonin Dvorak.
In the first half of the twentieth century, coffee-houses were an essential part of Prague life, particularly in the period leading up to the end of the Austrian monarchy and the years between the wars. The Cafe Louvre, a Modernist building dating from 1902, is part of the heritage of the First Republic and included Albert Einstein among its illustrious patrons. The ambience echoes back to a by-gone age, although the menu is thoroughly modern, with a range of vegetarian dishes and excellent desserts. The Cafe Imperial is another remnant of the past; as part of the refurbished Imperial Hotel, its walls and columns display the beautiful ceramics with Moorish motifs of plants and animals that caused such talk in 1914.
Another must is the Cafe Savoy near Kampa Island. Set in an Art Nouveau building, the interior is a veritable jewel of Neo-Renaissance art, with seven-metre-high ceilings and a truly monumental chandelier. Opened in 1893, it wasn't until after the Velvet Revolution that it became a popular place for meeting and discussion. Today it serves light meals in a relaxed atmosphere.
One of the most beautiful of all is the cafe of the Municipal House in Republic Square; Modernist in style, its large windows, high ceilings, mirrors and sparkling crystal chandeliers create an atmosphere of light. The Grand Cafe Orient, located in the House of the Black Madonna, is the only Cubist-style coffee-house in the world. The architect Josef Gocar designed the interior fittings, too, including the Cubist buffet-bar and the lamps. It has recently undergone a major redecoration and the walls are hung with black and white photos. Don't miss the home-made apple strudel!
In the twenty-first century there is still room for innovation in the world of cafes. At Al Cafetero the brew is prepared in glass vacuum coffee-makers, to keep it free of impurities and enhance the natural aromas and flavours of the freshly-roasted organic beans which are brought from micro-plantations around the world. The Siddharta Cafe, a part of the exotic Buddha-Bar Hotel, offers a blend of cultures, as does the Ethiopia Cafe, which serves specialities from Senegal, Mali, Angola and Ruanda in the Vinohrady district, where the commercial area of the new city is now spreading.
Czech Republic Tourist Board
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