Coffee and people-watching in Prague’s Obecní dům cafe

Obecni dum, PragueI moved to Prague right after graduating from university – ions ago. I used to work as a journalist and between interviews and my shifts at the radio and television stations where I worked, I used to come to this fabulous cafe and write up my stories, slowly nursing a coffee and admiring the faded splendor all around me.

There’s nothing faded about the splendor of this cafe now. Obecní dům (Municipal House) has been renovated and looks as brand spanking new as it must have when it opened in 1912.

Obecni dum, PragueIn reality, the origins of the building stretch back much farther. This was the site of the King’s Court in the late 14th century, the general area of King Wenceslas IV’s residence. The official residence would later move back to the Castle.

But the architectural competition that took place in 1903 to design the new project brought many of the biggest names in the new art nouveau style to submit their designs.

Obecni dum, PragueMany of the leading Czech artists were commissioned to decorate the new municipal house, including the well-known Czech artist of the era, Alfons Mucha.

Even though the cafe is gorgeous and shiny bright inside, something in me still romanticizes those days when it was dusty, dark and reeking of smoke, with plush red velvet seats very worn out from thousands of clients passing through.

Obecni dum, PragueThere were the surly waiters, whom you almost had to beg to serve you. And forget about actually getting the bill from them. After ignoring your polite pleas for the check at least a dozen times, the only method that seemed to work a charm was getting on your coat and pretending you were going to skip out without paying. Only then, faster than Superman, your unsmiling waiter would arrive with the bill.

But the atmosphere was still great, and I have fond memories of time spent here. It’s one of the reasons I’m back every trip.

Today service is crisp and efficient, and the cafe is full of light and devoid of smoke. Don’t miss out on a visit here to this historic cafe on your next trip to Prague.


  1. evelyneholingue on December 2, 2016 at 12:08 am

    Isn’t it strange to walk back to places that once were familiar but have changed a lot? I feel this way in Paris so often. Funny that the same things changed in the Parisian and Czech cafes. Did you learn how to speak Czech when you lived there? Great post filled with evocative sensory details, Kimberly.

    • kimberlysullivan on December 6, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Thanks, Evelyne. Yes, it is fun and odd at the same time revisiting places that have changed so much from your memories. Yes, I did learn Czech when I was in Prague, and I worked in it a lot. I still practice it when I get back.

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