"Like tourists huffing and puffing to reach the peak, we forget the view on the way up." Friedrich NietzscheSpring arrives and Prague's streets start sprouting tables. They can be nice places to eat and observe both people and architecture
But I sometimes hunger for something extra special when dining al fresco. After all, Prague is a feast for the eyes. Glimpses of the Golden City can add magic to a meal.
I now give you a list of special spots, in no particular order, from which you can marvel at the view while you chew. I've been to many, but not all of them. There are certainly more restaurants with a view than I have time or space to cover here. But I'll tell you what I know:
Terasa U Zlaté Studně (Terrace at the Golden Well)
I've seen very nice photos of the views from here. I've never had the pleasure of dining in the actual restaurant, but I've sampled their food a few times. I attended a party last year for Maurer's Grand Restaurant Guide's top 10 restaurants. It's sort of a Zagat's guide for the Czech Republic, and diners voted this place number one. The dishes they served there were, indeed, the best. And I loved their entries at this year's Prague Food Festival. Be sure though that the great food and view will come with a big price tag.
Grosseto Marina Ristorante
This big barge on the Vltava takes the prize for best view for a bargain. The top deck gives you open air access to the sight of Prague Castle, all for the price of a pizza. The Italian fare is usually decent and reasonably priced. They serve quite good wines by the glass, but they tend to be expensive. Your tab can climb quickly. I'd stick to beer, but they serve Staropramen and Stella and I'm not a fan. Note that they don't take reservations for the top deck. Unlike the lower deck, it's first come, first served, though it's very large and the waiting list moves quickly.
Boat Hotel Matylda Ristorante
This smaller boat is further up river and has a more romantic atmosphere. The menu is also Italian, but it's a little more sophisticated and expensive. There is no pizza. I ate here more than a year ago and the food was decent. In good weather, it's nice to sit outside on the fantail of the boat.
The tables down by the river have a wonderful view of the Charles Bridge, which sits next to the restaurant. This is one of Prague's most famous high-end spots, attracting the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Vaclav Havel. More than 10 years ago, I thought it was a good deal and ate there a lot. Now, main courses can be close to 900 CZK ($45 at today's rate) and so it is more for big spenders and splurgers. I haven't been there in a few years, but I know a serious foodie who thinks it is still quite good.
This is a member of the same restaurant group as Kampa Park and also a neighbor on the river. Many of the tables inside don't have a good view unless you are right by a window. But their large outdoor terrace has a prime position to gaze upon the Charles Bridge and Old Town. I ate inside by a window with a view a few months ago. I didn't think I would like their foie gras pizza and foie gras burger, but I was wrong. I loved them both. It's not cheap, either, but you'll spend less than at Kampa Park.
Letenský zámeček (Letna Beer Garden)
This is one of my favorite summer hangouts, weather permitting. For the higher-end experience, you can eat (or have your wedding party) at Restaurant Belcredi in the top part of this old villa in Letna Park. I've never done this. If you want the mid-range experience, you can eat at Brasserie Ullmann in the lower part of the villa or just in front of it. I've done this twice. It was OK. If you want pizza, grilled meat, beer, and wine, there is the Garden Restaurant. This is where you'll usually find me. If you just want beers and maybe a sausage, you can sit at the tables and benches that have the best view of the truly Golden City as the sun goes down. This option attracts the biggest crowd.
Coda at the Aria Hotel
I ate here long ago, right after the opening, so it's not worth going over the experience, except to say that I ate in the restaurant on the ground level. But they also have tables perched on top of the hotel, in the middle of Malá Strana. The dome of the St. Nicholas Church is practically in your lap. I can't tell you how it tastes, but the food is just as pretty as the scenery. And the prices match the altitude.
Terasa Hotel U Prince
The rooftop of this restaurant overlooks Old Town Square. It's just across from the Astronomical Clock and is a popular place to be when the weather is good. Finding a table is not always easy. I ate there with two friends a couple of years ago and no one was happy with their food, especially given the prices. But I'll agree with the opinions I've seen on TripAdvisor and elsewhere: it's worth it to climb up there for drinks. Their mojitos pair well with the Týn Church on a warm afternoon or evening.
This restaurant's menu has changed completely since I was there in 2009 (in fact, it was the first story I wrote for Expats.cz). A number of credible reviewers on Tripadvisor say the food is very good now, though even more expensive than when I visited. There are some tables that don't have good sight lines for seeing the city, but the view of the river and Prague Castle from their terrace is one of the best. The impression from outside the building is something special, too. The restaurant is in the "Dancing House" -- sometimes called the "Fred and Ginger building" -- created by Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry.
This is an amazing location, sitting on what is still a working vineyard right next to Prague Castle. The steep hills join into the castle gardens and roll down to Malá Strana below. This villa and grounds, restored about four years ago, is divided into three different venues. There is the fancy Piano Nobile, with main courses in the 400-500 CZK range. There is the lower priced Terra restaurant which serves Czech specialties. And there is the casual outdoor "bistro" where you can have wine from the grapes grown around you and light snack. I went to the Sunday brunch at Terra in 2010. While I wasn't impressed with the food back then, the beauty of the city and the reasonable price left me feeling it was a Sunday well spent.
Here are a few other options to combine Prague's beauty and a feast: Aureole, Mlynec, Bellevue, La Terrassa, Nebozízek, Restaurace Petřínské Terasy, Cowboys, and Občanská plovárna. Feel free to add to the list in comments.