Travelling as a Vegetarian in Prague
Sitting in the second-floor restaurant, Vegan’s Prague, which overlooked the old city, I couldn’t believe I’d almost let my food fears keep me from travelling here. I’d been thinking about traveling to Prague for years, but I always had some excuse– my friend wanted to go elsewhere; the airfare was too expensive; blah blah blah. There was always a reason not to go.
In reality though, I had been holding back because of the meat-centric cuisine of the Czech Republic that I’d heard about. I was afraid of being a vegetarian in Prague. This fear seems laughable now. A few days of eating fruit wouldn’t have been the end of the world. However, my real fear was limiting my cultural exposure.
As a vegetarian for nearly 10 years, I had all sorts of nightmares about language barriers, food scarcity, and self-inflicted food poisoning (which I had experienced in other cities already). As a self-proclaimed “foodie” (why does a meatless diet have to mean a lack of culinary interest?), I had been presented faux-vegetarian food through miscommunication and found myself sick. I feared days of being ill from other misunderstandings.
Just because I wasn’t consuming “traditional” foods, doesn’t mean I was missing out on Prague.
Traditional Czech food is often meat heavy, like stews and dumplings. These dishes sustain the Czech people during long, harsh winters. They don’t make for great vegetarian options though.
After traveling through areas of Europe that I could vocalize my vegetarian diet– places like England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Spain– I decided to take the leap and visit Prague. Friends and travel writers had spoken well of the city, and I decided not to let my fears overcome my sense of adventure. So, I booked a solo trip to the Czech Republic’s capital city.
A quick Google search had yielded some vegetarian and vegan restaurants that quelled my food concerns. Restaurants like Vegan’s Prague and Maitrea had great ratings and offered unique vegetarian and vegan takes on traditional Czech dishes. The dumplings and smoked tempeh was a delicious take on the traditional version that is made with beef.
This unique city helped me overcome my nightmares of being foodless in a foreign city, and opened my eyes to new potentials.
When I didn’t understand the options on the menu, or was uncertain about something, I felt comfortable asking for assistance. That being said, vegetarian doesn’t always mean the same thing to everyone, so you need to know when to trust your gut. Sometimes, that questionable-sounding soup isn’t worth the possibility of illness later.
Breakfast and snacks were easy– traditional Slovak grilled sweets topped with a sugar and walnut mix became my regular daily pick-me-up. Cafes served spectacular teas, coffees and cakes. Markets offered seasonal fruit options to take away. There were plenty of food options for me to choose from. Additionally, I came to realize these options also played into a cultural experience. Whether it was enjoying the view at a cafe with a treat or purchasing fresh produce at a market, it’s all part of the Czech lifestyle. Just because I wasn’t consuming “traditional” foods, doesn’t mean I was missing out on Prague.
As I explored Prague, I found the language barrier wasn’t an issue. While I would receive strange looks when I’d say “vegetarian” or “no meat”, I was easily understood. English is a widely known and spoken language in Prague. Prague wasn’t just a “leap of faith” but a launching point for my travels. This unique city helped me overcome my nightmares of being foodless in a foreign city, and opened my eyes to new potentials. Three years later, it continues to encourage my travels and remind me to not let fear dictate where to explore.