Long regarded as one of the most beguiling cities in Europe, Prague has captivated many travelers with its unique medieval architecture as well as its vibrant modern entertainment. You can spend days exploring its bridges, cathedrals and church domes, and then nights enjoying its music, cultural art, and fine dining. The capital of the Czech Republic has its unique customs and traditions, so what kind of souvenirs would be most representative of this city? Here are some suggestions to consider when you go shopping for items in Prague.
1. Bohemia crystal
Before the present-day Czech Republic (and its predecessor Czechoslovakia), Prague was also the capital of the historic region of Bohemia, an ancient kingdom which lasted from around 5 BC to 1918 AD. And the pride of the nation was its traditional glass-making art, which dates back to the 1200s. Over the intervening centuries, Czech craftsmen developed a reputation for turning out some of the finest glass products in Europe, and artisans from many countries came to perfect their skills at glass-making schools in Prague. You can find a dizzying array of blown glass, painted glass, engraved glass, and cut crystal available in Prague shops.
Puppet-making dates back to the Middle Ages, and puppet theater became a highly evolved art form in Prague in the 18th century. The National Marionette Theater stages adaptations of classic opera and theater, with the most successful serial production thus far being Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which has been packing crowds of tourists for years. What all this means is an astonishing variety of marionettes that make great gifts for kids. You will find one of the best selections at Pohadka in Old Town, where you’ll find lots of commercial marionette characters like Popeye and Charlie Chaplin, as well as a charming selection of devils, angels, princesses, sprites, and other fairy-tale characters in sizes well-suited for small hands.
3. Becherovka herbal liqueur
Although this herbal drink is produced in another Czech city, Karlovy Vary, it is much beloved among Prague locals. Formerly, it was taken as stomach drops to improve digestion, but as patients gradually increased the dosage, the tradition of serving it as an aperitif was created. Today, it is served ice cold or in mixed drinks. Usually, it is bitter, with soft undertones of ginger, and contains a wide variety of spices and herbs. You can find tiny bottles of this liqueur in most convenience stores and supermarkets.
4. Czech garnet
Garnet is a semi-precious stone, and it has a long tradition as a royal gem in the Czech Republic. It is usually deep red, but can also be black or transparent. Bohemian garnet has been said to have curative powers, helping to overcome sorrow and bringing vital power and the feeling of joy. In modern-day Prague, garnet prices vary according to their quality, quantity, and size. It is used to make anything from jewelry to pieces of art to paperweights, which means that you’re likely to find something that fits your budget, no matter how small. One word of caution; fake garnet is everywhere, so always ask for a certificate of authenticity before paying.
5. Kovap mechanical toys
For more than 50 years, the Czech company, Kovap, has been turning out high-quality mechanical toys. These are marvels of craftsmanship – legend has it that there are 300 steps involved in creating the toy from tin plate to finished product. The most popular vehicles are not the flashy racing cars, but incredibly-detailed wind-up tractors with rubber tires, working gears, and a functional steering. Kovap toys show up in many souvenir and toy shops, but for the best selection, try the Rocking Horse Toy Shop a few blocks from Prague Castle.
6. Czech porcelain
The very first European porcelain was produced in Germany, with Bohemia following soon after. The first Czech manufacturer was Thun, which was founded in 1794 and still produces top-quality household china nowadays. While Thun is justifiably famous, there are many other quality labels available in Prague shops. It is, therefore, a matter of taste, budget, and intent, whether you want collectibles or durable kitchenware for everyday use. Try finding those which are decorated in the distinct “blue onion pattern”, a symbol of the combination of usefulness and being pleasing to the eye.
7. Art Nouveau collectibles
The work of Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha can be found everywhere in Prague; from the Old Town Hall to theaters and cafes. But Mucha is best known for his posters of beautiful women, and while most originals are in museums or private collections, you can buy reproduction prints almost everywhere in Prague. The gift shop at the Municipal House - itself an Art Nouveau architecture masterpiece- also offers a lovely collection of jewelry done in sumptuous Art Nouveau motifs.
8. Czech spa wafers
Large, light, and sweet, with a consistency similar to altar bread, these wafers were created in the 18th century as a crisp delicacy for spa patients. Mass production started in the 1850s and took off on a large scale in the 1920s with the invention of a custom baking pan. They are now one of the few foods in the Czech Republic officially recognized as a protected regional specialty by the European Union. Recent variations have become more elaborate, with chocolate and hazelnut filling. In any form, they are perfect for a tasty souvenir of the Czech Republic, packaged in sturdy, lightweight boxes that travel well.
9. Tea and tea supplies
Prague may be famous for their great beer, but locals love their tea houses instead. Traditionally a place where you sit down to have a cup of tea, the largest tea houses around Prague also sell a number of packaged and loose-leaf teas, ceramic and metal kettles, special tea strainers, and cups. When in Prague, look for a sign with the word “Cajovny” on it, and step in for a warm brew and a great tea-related souvenir.
10. Classical music CDs
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
The Czech Republic has produced many famous classical music composers such as Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, Leos Janacek, and Bohuslav Martinu. So if you are more into music than drinking, classical music CDs are an ideal souvenir to take home as a great memory of your time in Prague.
Souvenirs for great Prague memories
Even among the rich and diverse cultures found in Europe, the Czech Republic stands out in its uniqueness. These souvenirs bear testament to that, and you will probably not find them anywhere else on the continent. With Prague being a magical, atmospheric capital, you will definitely want some keepsake to evoke memories of the city when you leave. So don’t forget to find these souvenirs to buy, and take a piece of Prague home.
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