This is totally one of my favourite ways to eat in Prague. Non-pretentious, easy going, simple but tasty traditional Czech food served without waiting and at a great price too!
If you’ve come to Prague to eat gourmet food at 5-star hotels, my favourite top self-service traditional Czech food canteens guide is probably not for you!
But if you are hungry, want to eat right away without waiting or perhaps would feel awkward in a high-end restaurant (that’s me, by the way!) and want to try traditional canteen-style Czech food, please carry on reading!
What are self-service canteens?
The traditional self-service canteens or restaurants are a great way to eat when you are visiting Prague. They make traditional Czech food and each day there are between 2-15 (or more- depending on the capacity of each canteen) different types of dishes to choose from, including soups, main dishes and sweet dishes.
Each restaurant is self-service, which means that it’s like a school canteen – you pick a tray, choose your meal and pay before you sit down to enjoy your meal.
Most canteens are open Monday to Friday only from early morning till 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon and the menu changes each day. Because the meals are pre-cooked, they are also incredibly good value. In most canteens, you can still get the main dish for the same price as a large coffee in an international coffee chain in the middle of Prague!
The self-catering canteens are catering for company employees, students and local people. Most Czech people are still used to having the main meal at lunchtime (and only a light supper when they get home), which is why these canteens are open mainly around that time.
Why visit self-service canteens
- Perfect if you are short of time (you’ll be served very quickly)
- Great value for money
- Experience traditional Czech food with no frills
What is traditional Czech food like?
Traditional Czech food is fairly heavy on meat, sauces and side dishes that are mainly potatoes, flour or potato dumplings. Most dishes will consist of meat, sauce and dumplings with practically no vegetables other than pickled gherkins or sauerkraut. It’s a good, honest food with no frills, that fills you up and gives you plenty of energy. It’s perfect in the winter or when you want some comfort food.
If you want to eat slightly lighter food, you can always leave out the side dish (dumplings) and add salad instead. Soups are also a great option as there are at least 1-3 choices at each canteen and they often have more vegetables in than the main dish!
If you prefer a gluten-free diet, then opt for potato dumplings, potatoes or rice as a side dish. Even if it’s not part of the dish description, the staff might be O.K to swap it for you (Havelska Korunka is different because you pay for individual items – you can build your meal whichever you like, each portion of food is priced separately).
My Top tip for tourists visiting self-service canteens
Be prepared – check the canteen opening times, menus etc. online before you arrive or at least have a look at the menu (displayed outside or as you are coming in) and work out what you’d like.
Most menus will be available only in Czech, so use Google translate app (or something similar) on your phone to translate the canteen’s current menu. You can also check my most common dishes list below. Havelska Koruna (Ceska Kuchyne in the centre) has English translations for each dish and also handy photos of each dish. Menza Strahov has photos of each dish on a display, so you can see what you are getting.
Be prepared to memorise the dish name or point to the dish when you arrive or write the name down (in Czech). Don’t expect people to speak English, since these places (mostly) are not used to dealing with tourists or non-Czech people.
Whilst each canteen will have plenty of options listed on their daily menu, the later in the day you visit, the more chances are that some of the dishes might be already sold out. This is quite normal, as all the food is freshly made in the morning and the canteens usually close after lunch, so they want to minimise any leftovers.
Food menu – most common dishes you are likely to see in self-service canteens
Bramborova polevka (Bramboracka) – potato soup
Gulasova polevka – goulash soup
Fazolova polevka – green bean soup
Hovezi polevka s nudlemi – Beef soup with fine noodles
Zelna polevka (Zelnacka) – cabbage soup
Smazeny syr – Fried cheese in bread crumbs
Gulas – Beef or other meat goulash
Rajska Omacka s masem a knedliky – tomato sauce with meat and dumplings
Svickova na smetane – Roast sirloin in creamy sauce
Rizek s bramborem a okurkou – schnitzel (pork or chicken) with potatoes and pickled gherkin
Pecena kachna se zelim – Roasted duck with sauerkraut
Koprova omacka s masem a knedliky – Dill sauce with meat and dumplings
Spanelsky ptacek – beef meat wrapped around sausage, egg and gherkin
Plnena paprika, rajska omacka, houskove knedliky – Meat filled sweet pepper with tomato sauce and dumplings
Houskove knedliky – dumplings made with flour (and bread rolls)
Bramborove knedliky – potato dumplings
Brambory – potatoes
Bramborova kase – mashed potatoes
Dusena ryze – boiled rice (plain)
Bramboraky – Potato pancakes
Hranolky – Fries
Palacinky – crepes – usually filled with jam or other fillings
Ovocne knedliky – Fruit dumplings
Strudl – apple strudel cake
Prices & Payment
It’s not the only thing I like about the Prague self-service canteens, but it certainly helps! For the price of a large coffee in an international chain in the centre of Prague you can have the main meal in one of these canteens!
Soups start from 25 CZK and average 35-50 CZ.
Main dishes are from 100 CZK with most dishes around 130 CZ and some (like some specialities or seafood) just under 200 CZK.
Coffee or tea starts from 15-25 CZ and averages at about 35 CZK (this will be just a regular tea and regular coffee no fancy choca moka coffee…)
Desserts and salads start around 30-40 CZK.
Sweet dishes (pancakes or fruit dumplings mainly) around 100 CZ (we count them as main meals – cool right?)
Prices are clearly displayed next to the menu and there should not be any surprises when you come to pay. Most canteens have an inclusive price – say Fried Cheese (couldn’t help it…) with potatoes and mayonnaise will be 145 CZK and that’s what you’ll pay.
The only place (that I know of) that does things a little differently is Havelska Koruna, where they price things per item – for example, the cheese would be 90 CZK, potatoes 30 CZ and mayonnaise 20 CZK, but altogether it would be the same (or similar) price to the other canteens. This also gives you the chance to say if you want a different side dish with your fried cheese – for example, fries (chips) or mashed potatoes etc.
Whilst most canteens do take cards, it’s always worth checking that your chosen canteen does accept credit and debit card. Czech crowns will be accepted everywhere, but the staff won’t be able to accept dollars or euros (as cash).
How the self-service canteens work
Once you enter one of these fine establishments (I say this with the utmost respect!) you won’t have much time to think – things happen super fast in these places. Most people come here for their lunch and they have only limited time to grab a bite to eat and go back to work. Because of that, the staff serves their customers as quickly as possible and since everything is ready in front of them it really doesn’t take a very long time to dish out the meal.
Even if there is a queue, you will be served very quickly.
I never join the queue until I know exactly what I want. Sometimes I need to translate the dishes to my friends or people I’m with, so we stand slightly separate so that we are not in the way.
Once you know your dish, pick up a tray and be brave and join the queue. Be prepared to point, slowly pronounce or show a piece of paper with your chosen dish written on it ( in Czech). It will be all fine – the staff will have a giggle and you might even end up with something slightly different, but it’s all about the experience right?
Once you have your dish (on the tray) the queue will take you to the till where you pay for your meal. There will be also the chance to pick up any desserts, drinks or salads from the self-service shelves – just put anything you like on your tray. Make sure you also take your cutlery, paper napkins and salt or pepper (sometimes are on the table, sometimes they are just like a little sachet in the trays next to the cutlery)
Once you’ve paid, find any available place and enjoy your food. In some canteens, places might be limited, so it’s absolutely normal that people who don’t know each other would sit at the same table. Don’t worry, nod or smile and sit down – sometimes you might not even catch the other person’s eyes, because they are too busy eating their food.
My experience with traditional self-service canteens in prague
I’ve compiled this self-service canteen list based on my personal experience. I’ve visited them all at least once and some – like the Korunka or Havelska Koruna visit quite often because they are conveniently placed on the way to the centre from where I live or in the centre, when I’m visiting Prague tourist attractions.
I’ve tried to list the canteens in order of how close they are to the centre of Prague – starting in the centre.
As for my overall recommendation, you can’t go wrong with any of these canteens – I like them all. Quality wise – the food is always fresh and cooked on premises on the day and whether you like it or not will probably more depends on what’s on offer on a particular day and your taste buds!
Ceska Kuchyne – Havelska Koruna
I should mention, that there is a certain way this restaurant works. As you enter the restaurant you’ll be given a white ticket. Next head over to the food areas.
The starters and puddings/sweets/hot drinks are at the front and the mains and cold drinks are at the back of the restaurant on the left-hand side. Try a beer or ‘pivo’ and you’ll be charged a fraction of the price you’d pay at a nearby restaurant.
Pick up a tray and wait your turn and point or say whatever you fancy eating. At the same time, give the lady at each counter your ticket and she will write a short code for the meal you’ve just requested.
The short-codes are not the prices and you’ll see special codes for individual portions and elements of the food (like dumplings, bread, cucumber, extra potatoes etc.) Don’t be alarmed if it looks like a long list and you’ve only ordered one plate!
The prices are written on the board and for mains you’ll want the meat element (for example ‘goulash’) and the side dish (for example ‘knedliky’ dumplings). You can pick and choose whatever you like, if you don’t want dumplings with your goulash you can have just bread or nothing, it’s your choice.
After you select your meal, it will get plated up for you straight away and you can choose where you want to sit. There are usually plenty of spaces and there is even a little conservatory with wicker chairs.
If at any point you want more food or want a pudding or coffee, just take your white ticket to the other counter and pick what you like.
The restaurant staff asks that you take your empty trays and dishes to a designated area in the middle of the restaurant.
When you are ready to leave, simply hand over your white ticket to the checkout lady and she will total everything up for you.
Location: 21 a 23, Havelská 501, Old Town, Prague 1 – Havelska street will be on your right as you walk from the Wenceslas Square to Old Town Square and it’s just round the corner from the beautiful Estates Theatre and Havelsky Street Market.
Svetozor is a little time capsule! Be prepared to be transported back in time as walk down the steps that will lead you to a very large and spacious place, which is the Svetozor canteen.
Prices are either quoted separately or you can take advantage of the daily menu. This is a soup, main and small dessert for a set price of 139 CZK. You get a choice of three different main dishes, but there is usually one type of soup and one type of dessert. Portions are a very good size.
Location: Svetozor Shopping Passage as you get off the tram at Vaclavske Namesti (Wenceslas Square) or a short walk from Muzeum or Mustek Underground Station. Svetozor is about in the middle of the historic Wenceslas Square so it’s a short walk from any of the underground stations. The same shopping passage also has one of the best ice-creams shops in Prague and an art film cinema with three screens.
Good selection of soups, mains and sweet dishes and prices are very reasonable too. This place is fairly small, but still has about 20-25 seating places.
Opening times: Monday – Friday 7 am – 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday shorter hours 8 am – 5 or 7 pm
Location: Charles Square – Karlovo Namesti Underground Station on Line B, Tram Stop Karlovo Namesti or Na Morani – the canteen is based in a row of shops as you get from the Na Morani Stop (Karlovo Namesti is just a few metres away).
Always very popular with the locals – the food is great, prices right and reasonable amount of space to sit.
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday – 11 -2 pm (normally)
Location: Tesnov, a short walk from Florenc Central Bus Station or Florence Underground Station (on line B) or Bila Labut or Tesnov Tram Stop
U Rozvarilu – Bila Labut (department store)
U Rozvarilu is a large-sized canteen on the top floor of the Bila Labut Department store with plenty of lunch time choices. I’ve had one of the best fried cheeses there (it was made fresh whilst I waited) and it’s never too busy to find a seat.
Opening times: Monday – Friday 10-5pm and Saturday – Sunday 10-4pm
Location: Na Porici 23, Prague 1. Top floor of the Bila Labut department store – tram stop Bila Labut or walking distance from Namesti Republiky Underground Station or Masarykovo Nadrazi Masaryk’s Train Station (one of the three main train stations in Prague).
Korunka is a fairly small canteen, but they always have at least 6-10 different types of food to choose from, plus salads, soft drinks, desserts, pancakes and tea and coffee. The canteen doesn’t have a sit-down table, but there are plenty of standing spaces with tables and people are in and out very quickly.
You can also buy any food to go with you and staff will provide you (at a small cost) with plastic boxes to reheat later (if you are, for example, staying in a self-catering apartment and you can reheat your food).
For some reason, most times I have a meal here, I also see chimney sweepers who come here at the end of their shifts to have lunch. I always consider it to be my lucky day!
Prices start from 30-40CZK for soup and 80-120 CZK for the main meal.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday 7 am – 4 pm (closed at weekends)
Location: Arbesovo Namesti
This is another little gem canteen I recently found in the middle of Prague – If I hadn’t walked by during lunchtime I would have missed it. This canteen is located on the ground floor of a building with various businesses (mostly doctors surgeries, but also a film company). The canteen is very compact, with about 9-12 tables, but people eat quickly, so you can always find a seat.
There are about 3-5 different main dishes, a choice of soup and desserts. You get lightly flavoured water on the table for free. The ladies behind the counter were very cheerful when they were telling us about the menu specials and from what I could hear, they seem to know most people who came in to eat (as they were the medical staff or employees of the various companies in the building). This was also one of the places that I found that had quite a lot of vegetables (as a side dish or in the main dish) and they also made traditional Czech food with few modern twists.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday, lunchtime only 11-2 or 2.30 pm (menu is displayed on a sign outside in the street and also as you walk into the canteen (you need to walk through the house lobby first to get into a courtyard and then walk into another building straight ahead (it’s not signposted).
Location: Senovazne Square 980, Prague 1, New Town – the nearest tram stop is ‘Senovazna’ on tram lines 9, 3 and it’s also easy walking distance from Masarykovo Train Station (about 5-10 minutes) and Hlavni Nadrazi – the Main Prague Train Station (about 7 min walk).
Menza – University Canteen – Strahov
This is a great place – the capacity is really big with a lot of seating places in a modern (ish) building with glass windows, green plants and a super cool automatic tray collector!
The menu is displayed on the entrance door and also on a display board above the food serving area.
Although this is an official university canteen for students, it’s open to the public too. Registered students have an online ticket system, where their meals are slightly cheaper than the prices displayed on the menu (for us – the general public). Still, the portions are super generous, and prices are much lower than in the Havelska Koruna in the centre of Prague.
Since there are quite a lot of international students studying at Charles University in Prague, the staff are used to different languages being spoken. Not that they might be able to converse with you, but at least you won’t feel self-conscious walking in.
And if you are worried, that you ‘don’t look like a student’ anymore, don’t worry! Everyone is welcome – the last time I visited, I saw a group of workmen having lunch together as well as a few pensioners enjoying tea and cake.
My tip – there are actually two canteens in this location – one (on the left-hand side as you enter) that serves the breakfast, lunch and dinner set menu (that’s the cheaper one as the menu is set) and one (on the right-hand side as you enter) that serves dishes through the day from a longer menu list. The second canteen is only slightly more expensive (and I think the students don’t get a discount, which is why the canteens are separate), but it’s on the same level as Havelska Kuchyne in the centre of Prague.
Opening Times: 7 am – 22 pm – Monday – Friday
Location: Strahov Student’s Accommodation Area – the closest bus stop is ‘Koleje Strahov’ on bus number 196 (from Na Knizeci – Andel all the way to Prague Vaclav Havel Airport) or you can walk up from the top of Kinsky Garden Park or from the side of the Petrin Park (you can see Petrin Tower between the university buildings.
Proste Ceska Jidelna – Novy Smichov
If walking into a local canteen where as a tourist you are very likely to stand out slightly scares you, then this place is for you!
The canteen is located in a food court on the top floor of a shopping centre where you can get different types of food including traditional Czech Food. The ‘Proste Ceska Jidelna’ is towards the back of the food court.
The prices are slightly higher (about 30-50CZ per dish) than in the very local canteens, but it’s perhaps only a little bit more than Havelska Koruna, that’s close to the Old Town Square.
There are plenty of spaces to sit and if you are coming with a group, everyone can choose a different dish from various places around the food court and sit together.
Opening Times: Monday – Sunday – 9 am – 9 pm
Location: Novy Smichov Shopping Centre (top floor food court), nearest underground station is Andel on line B. The nearest tram stop is called Andel and it stops right outside the centre. Trams number 7,9,10,15,16 and 12,20, 5 are just round the corner.
Prima Basta is another traditional Czech-style restaurant that’s in the food courts in other shopping centres around Prague.
Prima Basta has 8 different locations in shopping centres mainly in the outer centre of Prague, including ‘Sestka Shopping Centre’ which is the closest shopping centre to the Prague Airport (10 minutes by bus)
Opening times: Monday – Sunday – 9 am – 9 pm
Location: Flora Shopping Centre, Vinohradska 2828/151, Prague 3. The closest tram (5, 10, 15) and underground station is Flora
Tucked away in a side street just from the Andel Underground Station, this canteen is a bit of a hidden gem! Every day they serve a choice of 3 types of soups and 15 main dishes with eat least 2 vegetarian dishes on offer. The canteen is fairly compact, but there are plenty of spaces inside and in the summer they also have a little courtyard open outside.
But the best bit about this place is that it’s open 24/7! Yes, if you’ve just arrived in Prague at 2 am in the morning and you are hungry, the supermarkets are all closed, but you can get a hot meal here! I’m quite often late coming back from my day trips, so having a place on my list that’s open later in the evening is great.
Opening Times: – non-stop 24/7
Location: Na Bělidle 38, Prague 5, just across Andel Underground Station on line B, and tram stops Andel number 9, 20, 10, 16, 15, 5, 7, 12.
PRE staff canteen
This is a very spacious and modern canteen in an old building (you’ll love the courtyard as you are entering the house…) for staff of one of the largest electric and gas companies – PRE.
The canteen is open for lunch only during weekdays and the PRE staff have a right to be served before the general public. The canteen is open to the general public after around 1 pm to allow the PRE staff to go first. Even if you arrive after 1 pm and see somebody jumping the queue, that’s the PRE staff, so let them be served before you.
I find that this canteen is always very quiet and there is always one or two main dishes to choose from.
As a side note, whilst this canteen is officially open to the general public after 1 pm, there are probably not expecting tourists to wander in. If you do venture in, make sure that you are happy to point to the food or have your food choice written on a piece of paper (in Czech) and don’t expect people to understand English. If you are polite, smile and eat your food without too much loud conversation, I’m sure nobody will mind buying food there and using their staff canteen.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday – lunchtime only 11-2pm
Location: Narodni Trida Street 37, Prague 1 – first floor of a building on your right hand as you enter the house courtyard.
General University Hospital
This canteen is in a large complex of hospital buildings and it’s open to all the public visiting the hospital. It’s not a problem to visit, but just be aware that this is not a tourist place. The canteen is modern with plenty of space to sit (even outside in a little courtyard) and prices are very reasonable. There are always a few different choices, including fusion dishes and non-traditional dishes (last time I had a vegetable curry and it was really good!)
Location: U Nemocnice 499/2, Prague 2 – Just off Charles Square – Karlovo Namesti – the main entrance to the hospital complex is through a house as you are walking up on the side of the square.
If you are following my self guided tour of David Cerny Statutes in Prague, you might like to know about this canteen.
The modern and spacious Automat Aviatica is located inside the large blue building square as you walk past the Speederman statue.
This is a modern version of the lunch self-service canteen that serves Czech food. Prices are very affordable and start at 45 CZK for soup, 160 – 200 CZK for mains and there are usually 2 choices of soup and 5 choices of main dishes.
Opening Times – Monday – Friday – 7 – 4 pm – closed weekends
Location: Walter Square, Prague 5 – the nearest underground station is Jinonice on the B-Line and then about a 5-8 min walk to the square.
This is an absolute gem! I found this canteen when I was looking at places to eat on the way to the historic Vysehrad Park and I visited it on one cold day in early December. The canteen is in the modern building in the courtyard of a well-established college originally built in 1868. You need to walk through the main entrance and into the courtyard to get to the canteen.
The canteen is fairly compact, but with enough table space to enjoy your lunch. You can check the daily menu as you enter the room (it’s usually on the door). The ordering system here is slightly different – you first need to tell the cashier what dish you’d like (including any drinks or desserts), then you pay and walk over to the serving counter when you get your meal.
The food here is really good and I’m sure it will taste even better when I tell you that this school is specialising in supporting young people with low learning difficulties to learn. Since the college has as one of the options to study to become a chef, baker or a patissier, this is where the young people do their practice!
As you are walking back out, make sure that you pop into the ‘bakery’. This is just a small room behind a regular door in the entrance hall of the school. The school bakery makes daily bread, rolls, cakes, brownies and since it was before Christmas, I bought delicious gingerbreads and Christmas cookies.
Prices from 70 CKZ for non-meat dishes and from 95CZK for meat dishes. There are usually just two dishes options for lunch.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday – 7.30 am – 1.30 pm (closed during school holidays) – general public can visit between 12 and 1.30 pm.
Location: Vratislavova 31/6, Vysehrad, Prague 2 – the nearest tram stop is ‘Vyton’ on tram numbers 7, 17, 3
Vozovna Motol – Kantyna Depak
This canteen is part of the Motol tram depo and also transport college. Whilst the depo and school are not usually open to the public, you can join the locals and the tram drivers at the Kantyna Depak, which serves a simple menu at lunchtime. Portions are great and prices are very affordable too.
Prices – soups are 30CZ and main meals from 90 CZK – 110 CZK.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday, 7 am – 2pm – closed weekends
Location: Tram Stop Vozovna Motol on Tram number 9 – the canteen is inside the Vozovna Motol (Tram Depo) as you are coming in – straight from the tram stop
Another pretty cool place to visit, if you want to pick up on any tram-related gossip, because that’s where all the tram drivers go to eat!
Prices are super cool in this place, large food portions and all the meat comes from a local butcher. Each Thursday they also have homemade sausages. You can have the main dish for 103 CZK or have soup and the main dish for 130 CZK.
The breakfast here is also great, with plenty of choices, that you probably won’t get in your hotel! For breakfast, you can have soup, hot dog, ham & eggs, scrambled eggs with onion and bacon, sausages, baked meat, potato pancakes, spam (cold or hot!), open sandwiches and chicken or pork schnitzel. I mean, that’s some breakfast! It’s not surprising because the tram drivers come here after their night shift for breakfast.
Opening Times: Monday – Friday, 6.30 – 2 pm
Location: Biskupcova 2905/54, Prague 3, the nearest tram stop is ‘Vozovna Zizkov’ and trams number 1,5,9 or 11.
Mezi Radky – In between the lines
Mezi Radky is a bit different type of canteen, but I thought I should mention it here too. If you’d preferred a slightly more different setting for your lunch than the traditional self-catering canteen, this might fit the bill.
Mezi Radky is a lovely cafe place, that also has a lunch menu that has only three options. Before and after lunchtime (finishes about 2 pm or whenever they sell out), the place is just a regular cafe place, so you can come any time and have tea, coffee, homemade cakes and sandwiches.
The Mezi Radky cafe is also special because it supports people with learning and physical disabilities by providing employment and also doing a lot of fundraising. Your lunch will taste even better, knowing that you are supporting a good cause.
Location: City Town Hall, Philosophical Faculty – Marianske Namesti – Marianske Square – nearest Underground stop is Staromestska and it’s within walking distance from the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square.
Obecni Dum – The Municipal House
I thought I’d include the Municipal House on my list of self-service canteens in Prague simply because it’s very close to the centre, it’s set in one of the most lavish buildings in Prague and it’s also really big – space-wise. The Municipal House has several restaurants, but the one you’ll want is called the Pivnice (or Plzenska Restaurace) and it’s in the basement of the building.
It’s open all day, but the lunchtime set menu is only available for a few hours Monday to Friday.
Opening Time: the lunchtime set menu is available Monday – Friday – 11-2pm only (otherwise the restaurant is open every day until late.
Location: Namesti Republiky 5, Prague 1, Old Town, the nearest underground station is Namesti Republiky on line B, there are no trams or buses as the area from the Namesti Republiky is pedestrianised.
The Municipal House is next to the historic Powder Tower at the beginning of the original start of the Kings route to Prague Castle.
This blog post was originally written on 13 June 2023 and last updated on 13 June 2023