Written by Dominic Swire
While many countries in the western world are cracking down on smoking in public places, the Czech Republic is somewhat lagging behind - and wheezing with a smoker´s cough. Unfortunately for non-smokers, all too often a potentially great restaurant here is ruined when the person at the next table sparks up, and along with a mouthful of goulash you get an additional lungful of second hand smoke.
It´s not that these places don´t have non-smoking sections, but all too often they´re just ineffective. Frequently the non-smoking section is within breathing distance of the smoking section with no extractor fans in the room, as if the smoke itself is expected to read the signs.
But don´t fear this is definitely not the case for everywhere in Prague. Great non-smoking places (or at least places with effective non-smoking sections) do exist. You just have to look a little harder, which is why we have compiled this brief selection of recommended pubs and cafes around the city that the non-smoker can enjoy without ending up smelling like, er a Czech pub.
Firstly, let´s take a look at cafes in Prague. If you´re in the centre of town and want to order some good caffeine without someone else´s nicotine, look no further than Fuzion, around the corner from Wenceslas Square by Václavské námestí tramstop. Here you´ll find a great selection of coffee, cakes and sandwiches, etc, along with free wifi in a pleasant smoke-free atmosphere.
Following the number 9 tram round to Národní třída, is Café Louvre, one of the most famous cafes in the city - you can read its history on the placemats. The huge rooms are impressive with a cloakroom, fountain and billiard tables. Luckily the prices are not as grand as the surroundings. Turn into the room on the left once you enter the main dining room for the non-smoking section.
Don´t smoke or eat meat? In that case you need to check out the vegetarian mecca that is Country Life. Here you can eat tofu burgers to your hearts content along with a number of other tasty offerings. They also sell many other health foods that are difficult to find elsewhere in Prague. You can sit in or take away. Country Life has two locations - one on Jungmannova 1, just round the corner from Vodičkova tram stop, and one on Melantrichova 15 near Old Town Square.
Lehká Hlava, (or Clear Head in English) is another very stylish non-smoking vegetarian restaurant. They have offer a selection of tapas dishes, or main meals that range from 70 - 115kc. You´ll find it on Borsov 2 in Old Town.
If you´re into organic food as well as breathing, no, you´re not asking too much. Check out the Bio Cafés at Broadway, just off Na Příkopě; and Americká 8, near Náměstí Míru. Perhaps more than anywhere this brand new, er, brand of café reflects the changing face of Prague. Virtually everything they sell is organic from the daily soup to the cans of coke. The prices are reasonable, too, along with stylish interiors accompanied by meditative sound effects of crashing waves or birdsong. A new branch is set to open in Anděl at the end of 2006.
Other smokeless cafes to note in Old Town are Bohemia Bagel on Masna St and in Újezd, and Jasper Divadlo on Celetna; in New Town, look for Café Vesmirna on Ve Smeckach and Xpress Sandwich on Anglicka St; and in Lesser Town, check out Kaficko on Míšeňská 10. If you are in or around Stromovka, have a look for Serpentyna Café at the end of Kaminicka St. in Prague 7. The homemade cakes have been particularly recommended. Not too far from here is the Alchemist Café behind Sparta football stadium on Jana Zajice Ulice that sports (no pun intended) great coffee, ice cream and cakes in a smoke-free atmosphere.
If you´re looking for something more substantial than a sandwich in the centre of town but don´t want to pay tourist-inflated prices, have a look at Ferdinanda on the corner of Opletalova and Politických vězňů St, a stones throw from the National Museum. It´s a well designed restaurant with a non-smoking room upstairs, very good food and waiters that understand the importance of fast service at lunchtime.
Throwing a stone in the other direction will just about hit Therapy on Školská near Vodičkova tram stop: a nice bar with a big non-smoking room at the back that includes a play area for children.
For more non-smoking restaurants, you could try Tiger Tiger on Letenské, Vinohrady, which does great Thai food and has a non-smoking room in the back. Not so far away is Hospůdka u Klíčů on náměstí Míru 4 which is completely non-smoking and has a good selection of salads. Aromi on Mánesova 78 offers tasty Italian food and has a non-smoking room. On the same road is Ambiente restaurant on Mánesova 59 which has a non-smoking section and offers a good selection of tex-mex, as does its sister restaurant, Ambiente Pizza Nuova on Revoluční 1. The Fusion Center on Nebušice in Prague 6 also has good food, as does the Italian restaurant Rugantino on dušní 4 in Old Town. If you´re up near the castle, try heading up a little further towards Malý Buddha on Úvoz 46 for great far-eastern fare.
For finer dining options, the CzecHouse Grill & Rotisserie at the Hilton Prague is an entirely non-smoking restaurant.
For somewhere to go after eating, have a look at Ungelt Jazz and Blues Club on Týn 2 just round the corner from Old Town Square. They have concerts seven days a week and the main lounge is non-smoking.
And, last but not least, let´s not forget Czech Airlines: completely smoke free with the fastest service in the country - around 500mph, to be exact.
Dominic Swire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org