Design devotees will find plenty in Prague to swoon over. Not only is the Czech capital a living masterclass in past design movements, now a new generation of creative talent are busy subverting tradition and producing beautiful, unconventional objects and spaces to explore. Here are the best things to see and do in Prague for design lovers. 

An aerial view of the cubist lightbulb staircase at the Museum of Decorative Arts
The lightbulb staircase at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague © Museum of Decorative Arts

1. Fall in love with Czech glass

With a tradition dating to the Middle Ages, it’s little wonder Czech glass is synonymous with quality. But it’s the combination of craftsmanship and innovation which really makes it shine.

To spend a few hours surrounded by iridescent beauty, visit both Prague’s Museum of Decorative Arts and Museum Portheimka. The former houses its impressive glass collection in an opulent Neo-Renaissance building in the old Jewish quarter. The latter – Prague’s only dedicated glass art museum – is based in a Baroque summer palace in the handsome district of Smíchov.

For those wanting their own glistening keepsake, heritage Czech brand Moser sells colourful, contemporary pieces as well as classic, handcrafted designs. ARTĚL’s design store, a short stroll from the Charles Bridge, is also worth a browse.

The ornate interior of the Cafe Orient, Prague
It's hard to know where to look first in the Cafe Orient © Veronika Primm / Lonely Planet

2. Stop for coffee in the world’s only cubist café

Between 1911 – 1914, a group of Czech artists, inspired by Picasso and Braque’s paintings, began to apply the principals of Cubism to architecture and design. The result was some of the most charmingly angular buildings and interiors in the world.

Grand Café Orient in the Old Town is the perfect spot for coffee and cake while delighting in this unique Czech style. Based on the first floor of Gočár’s masterpiece, the House of the Black Madonna, even the chandeliers and the coat hooks are a Cubist tour de force.

Providing further proof that it’s hip to be square is the Museum of Decorative Art’s Cubist collection on the upper floors of the building. Skip the lift and instead climb the swirling lightbulb staircase. Once outside, take a stroll past the world’s only Cubist lamppost on nearby Jungmannovo náměstí.

External view of the Villa Muller
Villa Müller is a must-see for design fans – prebooking is essential © Dietmar Rauscher / Shutterstock

3. Step into modernist heaven in a suburban villa

Tucked away in the leafy suburb of Střešovice, at first glance Villa Müller seems an unlikely National Cultural Monument. But behind its simple box-like exterior lies an arresting polychrome creation, where each room seeks to surprise.

Designed by celebrated Modernist architect Adolf Loos in the 1920s, the villa is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. Tours must be booked in advance.

Although photography isn’t allowed, visions of purple walls with lacquered yellow furniture and hard marble coupled with luxurious oriental rugs and salmon-pink chairs make for indelible memories.

The ornate tiled interior of the Plzenska restaurant
Plzenska is a feast for the appetite and the eyes © Ivan Král

4. Savour a local beer surrounded by Art Nouveau glamour

Prague is awash with Art Nouveau style as well as excellent beer. Combine the pleasures of both with a trip to the Plzenska Restaurant in Prague’s Municipal House. With a traditional beer hall atmosphere, it is possible to enjoy a classic Czech meal alongside a glass of Pilsner Urquell. The resplendent stained-glass and cornflower-blue tiled walls add a touch of splendour to the proceedings.

The Municipal House is also home to a cafe, French restaurant, gallery space and concert hall. To fully experience the building’s ornate details and sumptuous furnishings, it's advisable to book a tour. This includes the Mayor’s Hall, created by the Czech Art Nouveau pioneer, Alfons Mucha.

Committed Mucha fans can also find his work, including his famous Parisian posters, at the Mucha Museum. His stained-glass panel adds to the ethereal quality of the St. Vitus Cathedral.

External view of DOX gallery and its striking wooden airship
Galleries like DOX have reinvigorated Holešovice © DOX / Jan Slavik

5. Explore a re-imagined industrial space in hip Holešovice

To discover Prague’s present-day creative pulse, jump on a tram and head to Holešovice. Once rather down-at-heel, this district now boasts some of the city’s most cutting-edge galleries and boutiques.

At its heart is the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. This former factory has been transformed into a sleek gallery space, notable for the striking wooden airship which appears to hover over the building. Inside, visitors can climb aboard the airship Gulliver, as well as check out the often-provocative exhibitions and innovative design shop, Dox by Qubus.

Nearby Jatka78 is a further masterclass in urban regeneration.  Now a contemporary circus venue, gallery and bar, a trip to this old meat factory makes for an exhilarating evening out. Or, just down the road, laid-back Vnitroblock is a fun place for a coffee and sneaker shopping while basking in industrial charm.

Every October, Holešovice’s industrial palace plays host to Designblok International Festival. Always a highlight of the city’s calendar, it showcases Czech talent, both established and new.

The John Lennon Wall in Prague, covered with graffiti tributes to the late singer
Find the hidden doorway in the John Lennon Wall that leads to a beautiful design shop © Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet

6. Hunt for unusual souvenirs by local designers

Find the hidden door in the graffiti-covered John Lennon Wall and step into a tranquil garden courtyard, home to Artisème. Filled with treasures, this is a good place to find handmade glassware by young Czech designers.

Retro junkies will enjoy inspecting the Czech design classics in Modernista. The branch at the Museum of Czech Cubism (also know as the House of the Black Madonna) sells particularly covetable replicas of Cubist ceramics. For those who prefer to wear their vintage collection, Botas 66 concept stores sell their 1966 trainers with a present-day twist.

To stock up on stylish city mementos, Pragtique has a branch in the heart of the New Town, as well as one a few steps from the Charles Bridge.

Exterior of the Zizkov TV Tower in Prague with giant model babies on the sides
No one expects fibreglass babies climbing a TV Tower but that is what Žižkov gives you © Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet

7. Stay in a design icon

Once voted one of the world’s ugliest buildings, the TV Tower in Žižkov has achieved cult status among those with a penchant for high-tech architecture. The tower’s popularity grew with the somewhat surprising addition of sixteen giant, fibreglass babies – designed by provocative Czech artist David Černy.  A stay in the luxurious  One Room Hotel in the 216m tower provides some unbeatable city views.

Affectionately nicknamed ‘Fred and Ginger’, due to the building’s lyrical shape, Frank Gehry’s deconstructivist Dancing House is also home to a hotel. Its rooms offer four-star comfort on the banks of the Vltava river, whereas its popular restaurant mirrors the exterior flair for visual panache.

Looking for cool interiors and an affordable price tag? A stone’s throw from the cultural attractions of Holešovice, Mama Shelter ticks both boxes. Although its 1960's building may not be iconic, the blend of original communist-era features with vibrant colours and playful decor will be sure to please design aficionados.

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