Gothic Basement Dining in Medieval Vaults
Gothic basement and vaults in Renaissance and Baroque buildings: a strange combination! It is an open secret; but the best restaurants and bars in Prague are in the basement, the cellar. Gothic basement dining in a cellar, may not sound very attractive. Just do it and you won’t be disappointed! Not only Gothic vaults and brick walls make these basement-cellar restaurants stand out also authentic Czech cuisine and often few other tourists make them pleasant places for a meal. If you are used to first look through the windows to see if you like a certain restaurant, this is impossible for basement restaurants: they have no windows. It is an unwritten law; when stairs leads down to a windowless restaurant, you are sure you have found the best!
Why are there so many restaurants in a basement?
The Vltava River gently flows through Prague, it is friendly and beautiful. But after winter rain and snow the river can burst its banks and cause severe flooding. In the thirteenth century inundated parts of the city were leveled up to prevent flood-damage to the houses. What was once the ground floor of a house now became the basement. In 1541, a fire almost completely destroyed the wooden buildings of the Hradcany and Mala Strana districts. New stone houses were built using the Gothic vault as foundation. These new buildings were in Renaissance and Baroque styles. In the Nove Mesto and Stare Mesto neighbourhoods, the ground was also raised. The result was that the former ground floor was now below street level. Many of these Gothic ground floors, now basements, became restaurants and are to this day.
Gothic Basement: food and drink
A list of 5 attractive restaurants in a Gothic basement where you can savour Czech food, but also international dishes. Ask for the fixed lunch menu, poledni menu, which rotates daily. Most restaurants are busy during lunchtime. This is because employees are paid part of their wages in vouchers to spend in a restaurant or the supermarket. It is customary for small party of office workers and other professionals to have lunch in a restaurant close to the office or work.
Gothic basement dining experience:
1. Malostransky Restaurant Pod Petrinem, Hellichova 5, Mala Strana
Located just below street level and has windows so best defined as half basement restaurant. Always crowded with office workers at lunchtime. In the evening popular for a beer or two.
2. Kozicka Restaurant and Bar, Kozi 1, Prague (near Old Town Square), Stare Mesto
Meets all requirements for a basement restaurant: no windows, brick walls and vaulted ceiling. Restaurant and bar with a variety of Czech beer: Staropramen, Gambrinus, Krusovice and Pilsner Urquell.
3. Ferdinanda, Karmelitska 18, Mala Strana
Real basement restaurant without windows. Quite difficult to find because the entrance is in a courtyard and you do not immediately recognize the entrance, but … there is a staircase going down so you are in the right place. The big bonus is their own Ferdinand beer on tap.
4. U Pinkasu, Jungmannovo namesti 16, Nove Nesto
On ground level a ‘normal’ restaurant and in the basement a pivnice (beer bar) in low vaulted ceiling, with a window but with exposed brick walls. It is on the tourist trail which is reflected in the prices.
5. U Sudu Vodičkova 10, Nove Mesto
U Sudu is a basement restaurant with an labyrinth of Gothic basements and vaults, On the ground floor are two beer bars and in the basement is the second bar and of course without windows.
Photos U Sudu and Marianne Crone