Written by Elizabeth A. Haas
Scenes from an American Christmas for you: My two-year-old nephew sits amid a pile of wrapping paper, tissue, and empty boxes, strewn about the living room like so many Christmas carcasses, refusing to open any more gifts. Here comes my sister, video camera in hand, imploring, pleading, begging him to reconsider the mound of garishly bowed and bedecked packages under the tree, to which this pint-sized wise man replied: “No more presents, mommy.” He had simply had it with opening gifts. I have to say I saw his point.
And I still do—all that fanfare can be off-putting. As someone who detests malls (a recent visit to the Palladium was practically seizure-inducing—all those bright lights and people, bah!) and the commercial hustle and bustle of the holidays, living in Prague has given me a fresh perspective on the Christmas shopping experience. I mean, really: Who wouldn´t find himself moved by the spirit whilst browsing the Old Town stalls, hopped up on hot wine or mead, the strains of a children´s choir or group of madrigals tickling the ears?
Then again, if you´re burned out on nativity scene fridge magnets and straw ornaments, our holiday shopping guide will point you in the right direction. And if you´re shopping for precocious little lads of three a word to the wise: wooden trains beat out puppets but Haribo gummy frogs and Kinder Eggs—lots of them—win every time.
Frocks and baubles for the well-heeled Czech designer Gabina Horáková (www.glsh.cz) makes oversize, functional totes in candy colors (tangerine and bubble-gum pink) that provide a bold back drop for quirky retro graphics. Available at Nation Street (Národní 39) and Tribo (Lidická 8). Those who´ve painted the town red in the city of spires know just how colorful a place Prague can be—and so does makeup artist Sue Devitt who has dubbed a shimmery green shade in her Silky Sheen Eyeshadow collection, “Prague” ($18). The luxe shadow is available on-line at suedevittestudio.com. Art students and rising-star designers comprise the brains behind kamikaze boutique Fashionshop Parazit (Karlova 25, www.parazit.cz). Pour Pour, (Voršilská 6, www.pourpour.com) another must-visit boutique, is also an outlet for the talents of up-and-coming fashion students. Snap up original creations—flouncy feminine skirts and sleek urban looks—as well as second hand stuff on the cheap at both of these shops. The boutiques on Dlouhá and Dušní, check out the sleek, fitted styles at Bohěme (Dušní 8, www.boheme.cz), are Prague´s hottest fashion destination.
For more fashion ideas see our article here.
Gifts for the home Bohemian crystal may take the cake as Prague gift du jour, but cookie-cutter wares churned out by factories are best left in grandma´s parlor. Shoppers with a sharper eye will gravitate to Artěl Glass (Celetná 29, www.artelglass.com), where proprietor and designer Karen Feldman has given the classic Czech craft a brilliant new spin with her sophisticated stemware, decorative bowls and vases, and delicate hand-painted glassware. All pay homage to early 20th-century style and are conceived and crafted with a pinprick attention to detail. Drawing raves from all corners of the globe (Oprah is a fan), Feldman´s just-opened flagship store is not to be missed. Modernista (Celetná 12, www.modernista.cz) is beloved by visiting celebs and locals alike for its wide selection of reproduction Czech Cubist ceramics to Modernist furniture, lighting, and toys as well as contemporary glass, jewelry, and china. Kubista (Ovocný trh 19, www.kubista.cz) is located on the ground floor of the Black Madonna Museum and sells ceramics, furniture, and metalwork in the Cubist and art deco styles, drawing on designs from some of the Czech Republic´s most gifted artists. Kubista also stocks papergoods like to-do-die for wrapping paper, maps, books, and colorful, wool blankets. Nábytek ProByt (Krocínova 5, www.pro-byt.cz) is a lovely alternative to IKEA with unique furniture and housewares—glass, iron, ceramics, and woodwork—at a very nice price.
For more shops, galleries, and ideas for the home see our article here.
For the lover of arts and crafts and antiquity Prague is a paradise for those who covet antiques, textiles, paper, and art supplies. If the person on your list can´t get enough of ancient tobacco tins, milk glass, and other antique gems, get thee to Bric-a-Brac (Týnská 7). This teeny-tiny, cluttered-to-capacity shop is actually two stores next door to each other. And the owner speaks English impeccably. Manekin (Korunní 60) is a friendly mom-and-pop shop that´s sure to supply artists with plenty of inspiration. MarLen (Karolíny Světlé12, www.marlen.cz) is DYI-headquarters for up-and-coming fashionistas. Here you´ll find everything from buttons to fabric to yarn.
For more on Prague´s antique shops and flea markets see our aritlce here.
Goodies for gourmands The foodie in your life will sing—or rather salivate—your praises when you shop for: Beer at Pivní Galerie (U Průhonu 9, www.pivnigalerie.cz), a small brewery that offers gift packs of lesser-known lagers and ales in traditional wooden carrying cases. Choose from more than 180 brands of beer from 34 small Czech breweries; Sweet boxes from Flambée Restaurant (Husova 5, www.flambee.cz)—including handmade Talisker single malt whisky ganache coated in white chocolate and cappuccino chocolate filled with cream nougat and hazelnut in caramel; Gourmet gift baskets from Culinaria (Skořepka 9, www.culinaria.cz) or Re Gourmet (Římská 29; Italská 12, www.regourmet.cz); Maurer´s Selection Grand Restaurant Guide 2007, the final word on Prague´s dining-out scene, available at Prague´s English speaking bookstores for just under 200 CZK.
For more gourmet gift ideas see our article here.
For the impossible to buy for If you´ve found yourself in this familiar conundrum, these eclectic establishments are worth a try. 22 (Na Výšinách 22, www.22.cz) deals in kites, frisbees, power balls, juggling gear, Technicolor hacky sacks, and futuristic-look beanbag chairs. Interzone (Kubelíkova 45, www.inter.zone.cz) is a hipster haven devoted to silkscreen pieces by underground designers, comic books, toys, jewelry, and original artwork. If you can´t find a gift here you just aren´t looking hard enough. Café Bookshop Fra (Šafaříkova 15, www.fra.cz) specializes in small-press tomes and translations of Czech and Central European writers. You can also pick up soft Moleskin diaries and other instruments of the craft.
For more gift ideas for bookworms see our article here.
Best bets for bambinos Mc Toy (Náměstí Republiky 8, www.Mc-Toy.com) is where all the young ones—and the young at heart—scoop up miniatures of everything from cowboys to dinosaurs. More traditional toys are also sold at Mc Toy but tiny is the name of the game at this Prague favorite. Pohádka (Celetná 32 and Zlatá ulička, č. p. 16, www.czechtoys.cz) has raised the bar on toy-making in a town where wooden playthings are a dime a dozen. Here you´ll find expertly crafted marionettes and hand-puppets, wooden toys, a special chess section with a variety of themed boards, and a mini-museum of puzzles. Bim Bam Bum (Karolíny Světlé 19) is where to go to outfit your wee one in designer togs. Art Hobby Centrum (Opletalova 22) encourages the budding Picasso with its arts-and-crafts supplies and toys. Souped-up hot rods and tricycles for tots at Kettler (Husovo náměstí 14, www.kettler.cz).