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Go gastro in the Czech Republic: Where to eat and drink in Karlín

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 11/09/2018 Auburn Scallon

a group of people around a table © Provided by Evening Standard Limited “When we moved here six years ago, Karlín wasn’t so popular,” recalls Standa Soukop, manager of the Veltlin wine bar. “Everyone said, ‘Karlín’s amazing,’ but it wasn’t reflected in the business. The first three years were very, very difficult.”

Karlín (pronounced “Kar-leen”) is located just east of the tourist-filled districts of the Old Town and New Town in Prague’s city centre. Vítkov Hill creates a natural border to the south, while the Vltava river runs along the northern edge.

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After severe flooding nearly wiped out the neighbourhood in 2002, an influx of new development gradually established Karlín as one of the most desirable areas to live. Tree-lined streets, easy public transport connections and an absence of rowdy beer drinkers shouting their way home drew families and young professionals. 

Veltlin wine bar © Provided by Evening Standard Limited Veltlin wine bar Veltlin, with its passionate approach to natural, additive-free wines from across the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was among a community of small businesses that help to define the area’s now renowned culinary landscape. Other early innovators included its organic neighbours at Tea Mountain, the coffee connoisseurs and pioneers of Prague’s weekend brunch scene, Můj Sálek Kávy, and French cuisine with a Czech twist from Krystal Bistro. 

Karlín’s culinary landscape continued to expand with the opening of Manifesto Market in June. This open-air collection of 27 shipping containers — near both a highway and Prague’s main bus station — provides satellite incarnations of some of Prague’s most recognisable restaurant names. Digital media manager Alexandra Siebenthal describes the space as “a long-term pop-up street-food and design market based on local concepts that has created a sort of international space within Prague”. 

Related: Cheers! These Are the Best Wines of 2018 (Provided by Coastal Living)

Those international flavours include Argentinian steaks and empanadas from Gran Fierro, colourful Hawaiian-style bowls of seafood and fresh vegetables from Poke Haus, and vegetarian fare from Etnosvět, to name a few. In another twist to the usual Prague scene, Manifesto Market is entirely cashless, accepting only credit cards or digital payment apps. The project is overseen by reSITE, a local NGO focused on urban development and revitalisation of neglected areas.

Repurposed spaces seem to be working for the neighbourhood’s outer edges. Kasárna Karlín, a former army barracks turned artsy event space, celebrated its one-year anniversary in June. An inner courtyard houses a volleyball court, outdoor cinema, view tower and a mesh unicorn statue, plus the potential return of an ice-skating rink this winter. Tucked inside the surrounding buildings are a café inside what used to be a swimming pool, and garage bars keeping visitors lubricated. 

Pristav 18600 © Provided by Evening Standard Limited Pristav 18600 Then there’s the mellow outdoor hangout of Přístav 18600, above, tucked behind rows of trees and office buildings along the Vltava riverbank. A group of young residents got permission from the city to use the area five years ago, based on their desire to enjoy untouched natural beauty instead of manicured parks. 

“Every year we’ve added something new,” says co-founder Jindřich Krippner. “We especially like to collaborate with young architects.” These partnerships have resulted in outdoor tables with wi-fi for remote workers, a family-friendly play area and a beach volleyball court, plus food stands. Summer evenings bring live music and lecture but respect for the neighbours means the noise stops promptly at 10.30pm. 

In November 2015, Eska, joined the Karlín neighbourhood with an in-house bakery and restaurant near the base of Vítkov Hill. The aroma of fresh bread lures visitors into the ground floor of the former factory space, which offers lighter lunch fare of open-faced sandwiches paired with speciality coffee. Upstairs the vibe is a little more upscale with a bright, open kitchen serving multi-course degustation menus of modern Czech cuisine. 

Downstairs at Eska © Provided by Evening Standard Limited Downstairs at Eska The instant favourite has earned the Michelin status of Bib Gourmand, an award arguably more in line with Czech culture than a coveted star, for combining excellence in food with good value. According to marketing manager Sárka Hamanová, international recognition has brought only positives. “We have more guests, especially international ones, but the vibe has not changed. We are very grateful for this.” 

Across from Eska stands the newly remodelled Forum Karlín, a 3,000-seat concert hall attracting international music acts and local favourites. George Ezra and Bullet for My Valentine will grace the stage in coming months, alongside a programme of dance performances and symphonic tributes to Michael Jackson and Metallica.

Heading into the heart of the neighbourhood, visitors will stumble across local bakery Antonínovo Pekařství, which opened its third Prague location here in April. “Every time we choose an area, we’re interested in a historic building with a genius location to satisfy the local sweet tooth,” says manager Kateřina Procházková. The grassy square of Karlínské náměstí, with stunning views of the twin towers and rose window of the Sts Cyril and Methodius Cathedral, seems to fit the bill. “Karlín is special for us because we bake more sweets and sell more coffee there than in the other bakeries,” Procházková adds.

Local bakery AntonínovoPekařství © Provided by Evening Standard Limited Local bakery AntonínovoPekařství Karlín’s appeal may centre around outdoor spaces but the neighbourhood remains attractive even as the days get shorter in winter. The residents of one of the area’s most charming establishments, Kavárna Kočičí (“Cat Café”), are patiently awaiting a drop in temperature so they can curl up in the laps of visitors sipping lattes all winter long.

Details Prague

Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from London Stansted to Prague from £30 return. Pentahotel (pentahotels.com) offers doubles from £71, room only.

Related: 50 reasons to visit the world’s most beautiful country (Provided by Love Exploring)



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