At this time of year, it’s tempting to go into hibernation mode and cocoon ourselves at home to binge-watch TV and make use of the slow cooker, whiling away the weeks until the sun comes out and we are ready to emerge in spring as social butterflies. But while beer-garden weather and al-fresco dining might seem unfathomably in the distant future, there are plenty of Prague restaurants that make the most of what daylight we do have in the form of winter gardens, giving a welcome illusion of fresh air, freedom, and vitamin D as you dine out.
Chinese and Mediterranean cuisine might not seem the likeliest of bedfellows, but at Zelená Zahrada in Vinohrady the menu is broadly Asian fusion, with Italian specials and a list of Chinese favorites put together by Vaclav Malik. The interior is warm and welcoming for winter, with modern décor, an aquarium of live lobsters to choose from, a roaring fireplace and a sizeable sunroom that looks out onto the lush courtyard garden. www.zelena-zahrada.eu
For a welcome excursion to the city’s suburbs, consider heading to Zbraslav in Prague 5 for a meal at the pretty Patium Zbraslav, which has a bright and airy winter garden out back. The menu has a focus on seafood and light, international dishes. And if you’d rather work up a hunger indoors than hiking the many trails nearby, the restaurant is also connected to a bowling alley. www.patium.cz
This Prague 4-Michle restaurant has long held its name as one of Prague’s more interesting interiors, and its winter garden features a wall of windows looking out over the linden trees of the summer terrace, quirky lanterns and a sizeable children’s play area. The menu is varied and eclectic, meaning even the pickiest of diners should be able to find something to satisfy. www.magickazahrada.cz/en/restaurant
Arguably Prague’s most whimsical restaurant, Luka Lu is a burst of sunshine bound to brighten any gray day. With a maze of rooms colorfully decorated by Balkan artists with strategic clutter, skylight windows and chirping canaries, it’s easy to pretend you are far, far away. The menu comprises confident Balkan and Mediterranean dishes complemented by a respectable wine list. www.lukalu.cz
Fans of the pizza and pasta dishes at the Grosseto Marina chain of restaurants in Prague will know that the Marina outpost – located on a converted barge on the Vltava – boasts some of the most prime dining real estate and sunset views. While service can be hit-or-miss at times and there can be a long wait for a table, it’s worth it to sit cozily on the candlelit upper deck, which is sheltered in the colder months without compromising the views or the atmosphere. www.grosseto.cz
Down the riverbank in Podolí, the longstanding Soho restaurant revamped its winter garden last year, and the result is an elegant, whimsical dining room of white tree branches and Baroque accents with views out over the Vltava. In addition to be popular for its international fusion menu, Soho also hosts a weekly family brunch that pulls in a crowd of regulars. www.soho.cz
Long one of the city’s most popular venues for wedding receptions, Nebozízek has an enviable spot halfway up Petřín Hill with postcard-worthy views out over the city. After reaching here by either food through the slope’s wooded paths or by the funicular from Ujezd, you can admire the views from the restaurant’s glassed-in winter garden and either sample a full meal or just a coffee and cake to warm up with after a walk in the park. www.nebozizek.cz
If you’re going to imagine yourself somewhere sunny and warm, Greece is always an easy fantasy, especially while sipping on Retsina and nibbling from an array of meze plates. Olympos in Žižkov is a stalwart, and it’s entire back room comprises a large winter garden with windows looking out over the courtyard. An ideal place for a group to kick back and pretend it’s six months past or future. www.taverna-olympos.eu
This restaurant, part of the Žofín Palace on Žofín Island, is popular for its large garden space (including outdoor grills and chefs) year-round, as well as for its child-friendly Sunday family brunches. In winter months, the garden is walled in and heated, still yielding views out over the surroundings and the river. Its easy downtown location, too, makes it convenient for a last-minute stop. www.zofingarden.cz
With arguably some of the city’s most enviable views of Charles Bridge, Kampa Park has a maze of rooms each with their own theme, which makes dining there a treat even before the food comes. The riverside terrace, in particular, has a romantic, chalet feel to it, with a wood-beamed roof and front-row seating for watching the river go past. www.kampagroup.com
Where do you catch some indoor rays while dining out?