Prague Cafes – Cafe Imperial Architectural Gem
When I first visited the Cafe Imperial in 1996 it was because I worked about 200 metres away. In those days despite the stunning interior it was just a “regular cafe” called the Imperial Kavarna and the hotel certainly wasn’t five star back then. People with long memories may recall that when you entered the cafe the serving area was on your right and on this serving area was a sign that warned customers that old doughnuts may be thrown in the cafe. Surreal stuff.
Both the original hotel and the associated Cafe Imperial opened in 1914 and although you do see references to Cubism throughout the building the original aim with the decor was more “fashionable oriental”. You see this in the unique interior ceramic walls and ceiling decor with frequent references to mediterranean scenes. A popular spot for German officers to relax in WW2, the building was nationalised after the 1948 Communist Coup, renamed the ROH Hotel (literally it would translate as the Hotel for Recreation) and access was only available to members of the communist party.
Architecture and Renovation
Then came the 2005 multi-million pound building renovation which reordered the Cafe Imperial and made better use of the space without affecting to unique decor of the place. Again, people with long memories will note that the alcove that used to be a kids play area is now the entry to the WC. That renovation reaffirmed the original early Art Deco building decor but check the bannisters on the stairs and you’ll still find some Cubism touches. In 1979 the building was declared a national cultural monument and it has been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992 along with the rest of the historic centre of the city.
Why Visit Cafe Imperial?
Remember if you are visiting in the morning that half of the Cafe Imperial is reserved as the breakfast room for the hotel. That said, my favourite time is between 8am and 10am when the other half is the regular cafe. I could come here from 7am if I wanted. So up to 10am is great for coffee and cake with professional servers but after 10am they’ll start to reconfigure the tables for lunchtime traffic and from then until 11am your choice of seating will be reduced. You won’t pay any more for a coffee here than you would at at Starbucks or Costa and you get the benefits of experiencing some First Republic history. Cafe Imperial does a range of modern International food with an A La Carte menu and more seasonal offers from the Daily menu (rabbit is popular here) but I warn you now that I get frequent feedback about the slow service here so be patient.
Few people realise that there are private rooms for hire in the building. If you like the ceramic interior of the cafe and you want to impress your friends with a memorable event location for a private meal/meeting etc then ask the hotel about hiring their Topaz Room (pictured) with it’s beautiful mosaic decor.
Read more on the Cafe Imperial Website