For some tourists, a trip to Prague is all about the beer. For true gastronomes, though, it’s really the pastries that are worth hunting down. The origins of Czech baked goods vary—a lot of them have roots in the various countries that once comprised the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And although reports of subpar pastries have abounded in recent years—with blame laid on cost-cutting measures once necessary in the Soviet era—we found that high quality, delicious treats, most of which are unknown back in the States, weren’t at all hard to find. Our top seven picks, and where to find them:
This hollow, spiral-shaped cake (pictured at top), grilled over an open flame then dusted with vanilla sugar and almonds (or cinnamon sugar and walnuts), is found in abundance everywhere tourists congregate. It’s got a yeasty aroma like brioche and a gritty sugar shell, and is delicious all on its own, despite the fact that a lot of stands cram it full of ice cream. It’s best eaten warm so before purchasing, watch to make sure the vendor is selling pieces hot off the spit, rather than those that have been sitting around on racks for a while.
Where to find it: At stands in and around Old Town Square in the city’s first district.
If you’re a donut-lover, then this vanilla-iced beauty, sliced in two and loaded with custard, will be right up your alley. Be aware that Czech pasties are often a lot less sweet than their American cousins; this one is no exception—only the icing has a sugary bite. It’s best eaten cold, accompanied by a shot of strong, hot coffee.
Where to find it: Cafe Savoy, Vítezná 5, Prague 5.
A classic pâte à choux-based cream puff, with a difference: this one, baked right, features a light, barely-there pastry, an intense burnt caramel icing, and a barely-sweet caramel custard filling. It’s usually found in two sizes: small, and large enough to share—to share with three or four people, that is.
Where to find it: Cafe Mysak, Vodickova 710/31, Prague 1.
4. Špaldový košícek
This is a small spelt flour cake, topped with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a scant glaze of sugar. It’s dense and chewy, not unlike a French financier, and the seeds give it a nice crunch and good texture. You’ll want to make sure the pastry you’re buying is extremely fresh; stale it’s dry and disappointing.
Where to find it: Krusta Artisan Bakery, Karlova 144/47, Prague 1.
5. Kolácek knutý
This is about as traditional as Czech pastry gets—marmalade, cheese or poppy seed Danish, sprinkled with a light streusel topping. Our favorite filling is made from pounded poppy seeds, which has a taste that’s reminiscent of marzipan. This is another pastry that doesn’t fare well if it’s been sitting around getting stale so buy early in the day, when it’s hot out of the oven.
Where to buy: Simply Good, Sokolovská 146/70, Prague 8.
6. Horické trubicky
Children of the ‘70s, who had cream-filled wafer sandwich cookies packed into their lunch boxes, will find something familiar about the taste and texture of this treat. A crispy, thin wheat wafer is rolled around a vanilla or chocolate cream filling; then it’s ends are dipped in chocolate. You can also find these packaged at grocery stores, but it should go without saying that the fresh variety, bought at a sweets shop, is a far superior thing.
Where to find it: Kavárna Pod Lipami, Cechova 1, Prague 7.
A little something for those who are gluten free, these extremely sweet meringue sandwiches, filled with cream and often, walnuts, are crisp and light and just the thing to eat on a hot day when you’ve got a glass of sour lemonade on hand (note: infused lemonades are also popular all over Prague so you’ll have no trouble finding basil, ginger, or mint lemonades to accompany).
Where to find it: Café Savoy (see above).
Lela Nargi is a cookbook author and freelance journalist who lives in Brooklyn, NY. Find her at lelanargi.com.