Tours that don’t look like tours – in Prague and the Czech Republic, homeless tours, corruption tours, industrial landscape tours to name just a few – are a thing now; a nice option for expat hosts who would rather spend the day at the foreign police then be caught dead on a Segway.
Eating Prague is one such tour that aims to offer a window into Czech culture. More of a moveable feast than a proper tour, it was launched in mid-June by the company behind the successful Eating Italy tour which began life in 2011 as a casual walk through Rome’s Testaccio district with company founder Kenny Dunn.
Dunn agrees that while seeing museums and architecture are still a part of the formula, there is a notable trend towards intimate local experiences: “We believe that the Eating Prague tour, led by our local guides, provides travelers the opportunity to experience the country’s traditions and culture more authentically.”
While a tasting tour of eternally edible Rome sounds like a no-brainer, how does Dunn think his tour will fare in a city whose people aren’t exactly known for dining with the same gusto as the Italians?
“It’s an exciting time for Czech cuisine and we want to help share it,” says Dunn whose “Eating” tours have successfully expanded to London and Amsterdam, the latter of which isn’t exactly a foodie destination either. “The Czech Republic may prove to be more enticing to travelers because the traditional cuisine is less widely-known than other European destinations.”
I recently had the chance to join an Eating Prague tour group. (Having experienced Prague’s other food tour I was curious to see how the two would compare). I had 4 hours to make up my mind.
Our traveling dinner party, comprised of a group of 7 – tours are limited to 12 people – began in an obscured Old Town garden café which I had passed by plenty of times but had never actually ventured inside of. This was the first of many firsts for me that day: munching on malt barley and green hops at a local brewery, a soup course in the belfry of one of Prague’s Gothic towers, sampling some serious poppy seed pastries at a local bakery, and trying an unusual Czech dessert with an EU-protected name.
Also impressive was the fact that the vegetarian in our group was given a chlebíček with beetroot spread and one with herbed-egg salad in lieu of the mackerel and other fishy varieties of the signature Czech appetizer we sampled. At the butcher shop, a tangy fresh horseradish spread on dense sourdough replaced the variations on Přeštice pig the rest of us enjoyed. (The meatloaf was among the most mouthwatering I’ve ever tasted!)
The day didn’t go off without a few missteps. The switch between sweet, savory, and beer was a little too swift for my taste, while the helping of cultural trivia felt a bit on the light side. And, as with the other Prague food tour I’d taken, it occasionally seemed like authentic Czech food culture was sacrificed to farm-to-table trendiness. When an institution like Ovocný Světozor Hajek is passed over for its “unhealthy” additives, I have to wonder: How can you truly experience Czech cuisine without eating a starchy white bread open-faced sandwich topped with starchy potato salad in an overheated space that reeks of warm mayo and mild b.o.? Plus where were the food heroes (including celeb chefs Hana Michopulu and Zdeněk Pohlreich) the website promised us we’d meet?
Then again, maybe I’ve just gone completely native.
According to Dunn the tour has plenty to offer locals. “Our core market is definitely tourists, but we have always found that our tours resonate strongly with expats as well. In fact, during our testing phase our clients were predominantly expats and the feedback was resoundingly that our tour provided them with new insights.”
Dunn adds that the biggest benefit for locals is that, unlike visitors, we can return to any of the tour’s eateries anytime we want to.
Despite the kinks, which I’m told have been smoothed out as the high season picks up steam, I found the Eating Prague tour to be an affordable, good value tour (65 EUR) that’s ideal for hungry tourists – and their local minders – who seek a peek into Prague’s burgeoning food scene and less well-known dining establishments. Though I wholeheartedly agree with Dunn that, given the rise in popularity of authenticity tours, these “secret” spaces won’t remain such for long. Like he says, “The svíčková word is spreading!”
Eating Prague Tour
Departs every Mon–Sat at 11:30
What are your favorite dining-out spots for showing visitors how Czechs really eat?