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Food, Dining, & Drinks in the Czech Republic

Culinary Influences

Czech food is essentially based on their short growing season and German influence. Due to the short growing season and historic availability of meat, Czech foods are based on meat and hearty vegetables like cabbage.

The Germans brought with them goose and sauerkraut among other foods. Since this time, these two ingredients have been fully integrated into many traditional Czech dishes and are now as Czech as they are German.

The last influence that deserves mention is that of Austria-Hungary, who ruled the region for a number of years, most recently in the early 1900s. This influence introduced popular dishes like schnitzel and goulash, which are still readily available; in fact goulash is one of the country's most popular dishes today, but with alterations from the original Hungarian version.

Staple Foods

The Czech Republic doesn't really have any staple foods, although a meat and a starch is used in just about every dish.

Regional Variations & Specialties

Knedliky: a side dish of wheat or potato dumplings sliced and served with gravy
Svickova: the national dish, marinated beef sirloin with vegetables cooked via boiling in cream

Dining Etiquette

Czech Food - Czech food
Czech food

Dining in the Czech Republic is fairly standard on European standards, except it falls more on the formal side. A good gift is wine for your host, but before entering a house, make sure the men enters first as this is Czech custom.

Your host will show you your seat then will start the meal with the words dobrou chut. The Czechs eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and keep their hands on the table so they can be seen at all times.

As you finish your meal, finish all the food on your plate; this will surely encourage your host to serve you more food, but if you want more you should turn this down initially and only accept after your host's insistence.

When eating at a sit down restaurant, rounding up is appropriate and all the locals will give nothing more than this, however at restaurants in Prague's tourist district, where service is unfortunately worse, tips of about 10-15% are expected. Instead of encouraging poor service, only tip what you feel is appropriate at tourist restaurants or follow the locals and just round up.

Drinks

Mineral water, juices, and tea are popular and commonly consumed in the Czech Republic. Of course other drinks are also available, including coffee, soft drinks, and milk.

However, Czech Republic is known for their alcoholic beverages and beer is the national beverage, something that is very apparent after just an hour or two in the country. While the Czechs do have some imports, most beers are local from breweries that have given the Czech Republic a reputation as having some of the world's best beers. If you're looking for a more localized and less available alcoholic drink try becherovka, an herb-based drink, or absinth, which can have some bad side effects so be careful. If you want something more familiar, Czech Republic has all the popular international beers, wines, and hard liquors available as well.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in the Czech Republic, but check with locals for any particular regional differences. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013