Something Czech: Traditional Souvenirs from the Heart of Prague
Admit it – souvenir hunting might be one of your favourite sports. But it can get quite tricky! You can always buy one of these Made-in-China sweatshirts with a huge “I ❤ Prague” sign, but then why don’t you get something that was actually made HERE? Not so easy, you might say. How is one supposed to recognize the traditional product of a country they just arrived in, possibly for the first time in their life? Don’t despair, Urban Adventures are here to help you out in your search for the perfect keepsake from this amazing city.
The Czech Republic has a myriad of handmade products. We make pottery, wooden products, glass, jewelry, toys,… you name it, we have it. By buying traditional Czech products not only will you support the local economy but you will acquire a quality handmade item.
Czech pottery and porcelain
Pottery production in the Czech lands dates all the way back to prehistoric times. Various decorative objects and statuettes were found in this area, among them the Venus figurines symbolising fertility. While these would be rather obsolete now, you might be interested in our contemporary handmade ceramics in the form of teacups, kettles, vases, and other crockery. Often decorated with stylish ornaments, Czech earthenware is now considered an essential component of our traditional art. You will find modern pottery and design products in Lípa Store situated just a few steps from the Astronomical clock of the Old Town Square. If you feel like something more traditional, visit the art gallery and shop of local artists right underneath the Charles Bridge.
Our porcelain production is also worth mentioning. You can be sure most Czech families have at least a few pieces of the traditional “cibulák” in their kitchen. Cibulák, or the blue onion, is a decorative pattern typical of porcelain tableware in central Europe, that was very popular here throughout the 20th century. I’m sure that drinking tea out of these cute white-and-blue cups will always remind you of your stay in Prague. In that case, Český porcelán might have just the right thing for you.
Trust me, not only children will fall in love with the Czech wooden puppets. Marionette theatre has a long history in this country as it used to occupy a prominent segment of popular entertainment. In fact, visiting the National Marionette Theatre during your stay here is not at all a bad idea, especially if you are travelling with the wee ones. They are currently staging their version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Apart from the performance itself, the theatre also offers tours through the building and a puppet workshop, both in English. If you would like to take one home with you, we recommend Marionety Truhlář – a shop and a theatre in one, packed with beautiful hand-carved puppets and other small wooden objects. They also hold exhibitions and workshops.
Widely known as Bohemian crystal, the glass produced in the Czech Republic is internationally celebrated for its high quality and originality of designs. From glassware, perfume bottles, jewelry, and decorations, to champagne flutes and massive chandeliers, the Bohemian crystal is distinguished by its innovative shapes and elaborate patterns. It comes in various colors and has a highly decorative function. There are many shops offering the Czech crystal around Prague, but you will definitely make no mistake by stopping at either of these: Erpet Crystal, Moser Glass, or Artěl.
Due to its delicate nature, Bohemian glass is a bit difficult to transport, especially in larger sizes. But don’t give up, some travelling-friendly versions are available as well. The AleAle store in Prague offers a variety of colorful glass beads and unique jewelry, which might be exactly the right souvenir from Prague. In fact, glass beads, or “druks”, as we sometimes call them, is a traditional Czech product we are quite famous for.
Speaking of jewelry, have you ever heard about Czech garnet? You must have! This alluring violet-red stone has played a major role in our jewelry production for hundreds of years. Bohemian garnet was considered a royal gem and as such adorned many decorative products, including cutlery and furniture. It is said to have protective powers, so it is a perfect keepsake for your future trips. But you need to be extra careful when buying something with this precious stone, for its fake imitation gradually became the object of several tourist traps.
In case you are not impressed by our deep-red treasure, there is another jewelry alternative – Jelení šperky. You will fall in love with these cute deer-shaped brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and more!
Apart from marionettes, the Czech wooden industry produces a whole range of original toys and brain teasers that are widely enjoyed by children and parents alike. These include old-fashioned cars, trains, dolls, puzzles, hanging animals, or various building kits. A typical specimen of a more advanced plaything would be the “hedgehog in the cage” (ježek v kleci), which features in the popular adventure stories by Jaroslav Foglar.
Wooden toys present an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to their overpriced plastic rivals. They are of high quality, handmade, and ultimately traditional. You get one for your children and you might depend on it lasting for the next generation as well. Look around for Hugo goes barefoot or the Rocking Horse Toy Shop, if you feel like providing the young ones with some quality pastime.
Natural Beauty Products
Are you fond of practical souvenirs? Then you will definitely appreciate all the organic products the Czech market has to offer. For this purpose, you need to visit Manufaktura – a unique chain store with a rich variety of natural cosmetics, accessories, gifts, and decorations that will make your life easier wherever you are. It makes me wonder if you can guess what is the one special ingredient they add to some of their products. I will give you a hint – it is full of vitamins, minerals, and skin-nourishments. Why… beer, of course! Can you get any more Czech than that? Manufaktura stores are all around Prague, so you have no excuse to skip this experience.
For cosmetics that are less beer-infused and more plant-based, explore Botanicus. You will find a whole range of skincare products and shampoos for very reasonable prices there.
Although it might seem a bit odd, the Czechs are obsessed with notebooks, decorative papers, wrappers, diaries, sketchbooks, folders, and all the other paper-based necessities. And it is not that we would need to write all that much, we just like to own these things, because they look nice and smell nice and feel nice… Ok, maybe it’s just me, but we got some amazing stationary shops in Prague, so why not take advantage of that. If you ever happen to be around the Letná neighbourhood (which you definitely should, because it is a beautiful part of town), stop by at Papírna. Even if their simplistic design notebooks fail to amaze you, you might appreciate their wooden stamps or greeting cards. Also, Papelote is a paradise for all the notebook lovers among you. And don’t forget about Pragtique and their “superlative souvenirs,” especially all the colored postcards of Prague.
Art, books, and music
And the paper show goes on! Yes, we love books, in fact, we have one of the largest production of books per capita in Europe. And we not only read them, we keep them and collect them (which we always regret whenever we need to move to another place). Almost every household thus contains its own library, and the same goes for some cafes and restaurants around Prague. There are countless bookstores in the city, not even mentioning all the second-hand bookstores that are just as popular, if not more. From the range of English bookstores, I can definitely recommend Shakespeare and Sons. For some music, visit Vnitroblock or Phono.cz and browse through their collection of vinyl records. Vnitroblock also offers various exhibitions and design markets.
Painted Easter eggs
If you happen to be in Prague around the Easter time, you have to get at least one of the traditional hand-painted eggs that we call “kraslice”. You will find these all around the Easter markets, which are a must-see anyway. Painted eggs are inherent constituents of our childhood memories, for all of us used to make them, whether we wanted to or not. They come in all possible colours, often displaying elaborate designs and patterns that may vary according to specific regions within the Czech lands. Sometimes wax is used instead of paint. Kraslice are not exactly indestructible, but I think you may as well risk the one euro in the hope of carrying it safely back home.
Edible (and drinkable) souvenirs
While beer is a must DURING your stay in Prague, there are some goodies and drinks worth taking WITH you back home. These include our tasty gingerbread cookies called “perníčky,” made in various shapes with cute icing decorations on top. You will come across these especially at the Christmas markets or in Perníčkův sen all year round. Another typical food souvenir comes from the spa town of Karlovy Vary – “lázeňské oplatky.” These big round wafers have a long history in Central Europe and they are an inherent part of every spa experience. They often come in a nice gift package available even in the duty-free store at the airport. While its contents quickly disappear, the package remains as a nice chest for tiny treasures.
Karlovy Vary is the birthplace of one more traditional Czech product – our herbal drink called “becherovka.” The recipe behind this popular liquor is a well-guarded secret. Becherovka has a high alcohol content and is often drunk in shots as a digestive aid. You will find it in every shop and supermarket around Prague. Another alcoholic beverage that might serve as a nice souvenir is the local mead. While the history of this drink dates all the way back to ancient Asian cultures, the Czech lands played an essential role in its spreading through Europe. If you want to know more about our “medovina,” visit the Mead Museum that offers guided tastings and other public events. This simple yet tasty drink from various regions of the Czech Republic can also be bought at the Christmas markets.
September 3, 2018