With Old Prague now tourist central, David Farley follows local artists and hipsters to the Czech capital’s newly transformed outer neighbourhoods
The barista with the Salvador Dalí moustache refused to bring milk for my coffee. “Trust me,” he said, adjusting his man-bun. “It’s much better this way.” The snobbery didn’t surprise me. What did was that it happened in Prague, a place where, until the end of the last decade, coffee was little more than sludge. Even more shocking was that this was the Karlín district, a once-crime-ridden part of town closest to the Križíkova metro station that, until recently, offered little reason to visit. I was at Muj šálek kávy, one of a handful of speciality coffee spots sprinkled throughout the city. But a lot more than coffee culture has changed in the Czech capital.
When I lived in the Czech capital for three years in the mid-1990s, I spent my nights in the central Old Town and Malá Strana districts, where all the best places to eat, drink and shop existed. Now the centre of Prague, while still one of the most beautiful cities in the world, has given way to the march of mass tourism, and its denizens have retreated to the outer neighbourhoods. And although it’s hard for anywhere else in the city to compete with the aesthetics of Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and Old Town Square, I yearned for the other Prague, the one where locals – hipsters, scenesters and even coffee snobs – hung out.