Prague: A guide to grocery stores and food markets

Aisles of grocery goodness at Tesco in Prague. Photo: TheFunkyManM
Aisles of grocery goodness at Tesco in Prague. Photo: TheFunkyManM

By Joann Plockova in Prague—

Food is a great way to get to know a culture, and so is shopping for it. Along with purchasing their foodstuffs in supermarkets, Czechs do their food shopping in smaller markets, special stores just for fruits and vegetables, butcher shops, farmers’ markets (during the summer season), organic (or “bio”) shops and a few other offerings.

When traveling, shopping for your food is not only a great way to get to know a place, it’s also a smart way to save some crowns. Here’s a quick guide to food shopping in Prague.

Let’s start with the big boys

The three main supermarkets in Prague are Albert, Billa and Tesco. In my personal experience, Albert caters more to the Czech market, Billa has a bit more quality and Tesco offers the most options for foreign shoppers.

All of them have locations throughout the city. Once inside, shop with a basket or have a 5 or 10 crown on you to insert into the top part of a shopping cart (to unlock the chain holding it to the other carts) if you plan to pick up a lot of items.

Fresh produce galore at a farmers' market in Prague. Photo: tee.kay

Don’t expect aisles and aisles of packaged goods or frozen meals. Do expect lots of interesting yogurts, beer and chocolate! Try new stuff even if you don’t know what it is. It’s fun!

Just a quick pick up

The potraviny, something equivalent to a smaller market or convenience store, can be found on nearly every corner of the city. Here you’ll find more of the essentials. There great places to go if you just need to pick up a few items. They usually stock a small selection of bread, sometimes cheeses and a handful of fruits and vegetables.

If it’s a bit late in the day, look out for something called Vecerka. These are potraviny that stay open later or in some cases, non-stop.

Ovoce a Zelenina (Fruits and Vegetables)

The fruit and vegetable markets are the place to go for the best selection and highest quality of produce. Again, ovoce a zelenina are found throughout the city. Some are just tiny little shops, while others spill out into the streets, with a few even being housed in small huts on the street.

Inside, you usually just select and bag your own goods (small clear plastic baggies are found hanging or in a roll within the fruit and vegetable box). There are still a handful of places where the clerk does it for you; just point, nod and smile.

Enter the land of meat

If you’re a fan of meat, there’s lots of in the Czech Republic. You can’t miss the butcher shop because the meats are prominently displayed in the window. (People stop by and stare as if gazing into a clothing shop window.) And you can’t miss the smell–it starts before you even enter the shop.

I don’t eat much of the stuff, so I’m not a great guide for this one. Just go inside and see what’s on offer.

Farmers’ markets

Although the fall brings an end to the farmers’ market season, they’re definitely worth noting. As I mentioned in a previous post, they just started last year and continue to be packed with shoppers eager for fresh, local goods.

Go early, buy one of the beautiful weaved baskets on offer and start shopping for some delicious Czech specialties.

Of the health food and organic variety

During the past few years, a noticeable number of of bio-portraviny (“bio” is basically the same as organic) have been popping up around the city. To be sure the items are indeed organic, look out for the Czech biozebra mark or the EU organic logo.

There are also a few fair-trade offerings as well as food shops selling Czech-made goods. Founded in 1991, Country Life stores offer organic, fair-trade and a variety of health food options. Many of the products are from the shop’s own eco-farm and organic bakery. In a few locations they have a restaurant or a take-away counter.

About the author

Joann Plockova
About the author: Joann Plockova is a freelance journalist based in Prague. Her work is regularly featured in both print and online publications in the Czech Republic, the U.S. and U.K. To see what she's been up to visit her Web site.
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