Sapa what? There’s an enormous, authentic Vietnamese market in Prague? That is correct. After initially moving here to work in communist Czechoslovakia, many Vietnamese decided to stay after the country’s liberation and others arrived after. They now constitute the third largest ethnic minority in the Czech Republic. Along with their relocation, an entire Vietnamese community has sprouted up and Sapa, arguably, is at its heart. Everything from the large Vietnamese signs to the bold reds and greens to the smell of Asian spices in the air scream Vietnam. Walking through the streets here will almost make you forget you’re in Europe and not in Southeast Asia.
Restaurants & Street Food
Nothing will satisfy your Vietnamese food cravings more than the authentic, cheap food found at Sapa. Do not, however, expect frills from these tiny bistros which look like bistros on any street corner in Vietnam and are modest and small. At Sapa, their pho and meat dishes are packed with flavor and craft. A hearty bowl of Bún bò Huế, a noodle soup with shrimp dumplings, was a personal favorite at the restaurant Huế Xưa, which was filled with Vietnamese locals. Keep in mind though, they only speak Vietnamese and Czech so tag along with a friend who speaks either or prepare to point and use body language. Another popular dish in the area is the meat dishes, such as grilled duck with noodles called Bún Ngan Nướng – we recommend the bistro Hoáng Anh Quán for this dish. These authentic restaurants with their own specialties offer the perfect opportunity to try a new dish over the well-known pho.
As Sapa is a bit difficult to navigate, we recommend using this Sapa map that has recommendations on where to shop and eat:
Another thing that makes Sapa unique is the street vendors, which closely resemble the ones in Vietnam. They sell their famous Vietnamese coffee and, for example, fresh-squeezed juice. The orange juice was a delicious, healthy way to wash down the meat broth. Another type of vendor served a dessert with red bean and jellies. And a third vendor sold variations of fried snacks. Other than the drink street vendors, a few stores also sold bubble tea.
The Vietnamese grocery stores contain the essentials of Vietnamese or Asian cooking, such as Sriracha, rice noodles, fish sauce, cilantro, and even a pack of MSG, which may be difficult or expensive to find elsewhere. Tropical fruit and Asian produce can be seen (or smelled) such as durian, sweet potatoes, and Korean pears. There is also one Korean mart that sells basic ingredients such as sesame oil, gochujang, and kimchi. A few more items include Korean snacks, rice cookers, Barley tea, and Citron tea. These markets are a great place to stock up on Asian ingredients and for a cheaper price than can be had from Vietnamese shops closer to the center.
In addition to food items, Sapa offers a plethora of almost every item imaginable. Their indoor warehouse bazaars include beanies, intimate wear, men’s suits, coats, bags, and jewelry. They sell gadgets such as speakers, key chains, and phone cases. They have kitchenware, such as plastic wrap, utensils, and plates. They have toys from plush dolls to child-size cars and that mini-cooper a child may have been eyeing. A pure delight to see are the Christmas decorations which are sold here. Other types of stores present were hair salons, a car mechanic, and Vietnamese books. And don’t forget to bargain once you’re shopping in the big hall; as soon as you start to walk away, vendors will usually offer a lower price.
Sapa is located in a district that not many tourists reach. In reality, thanks to Prague’s great public transportation system, Sapa is not hard to reach at all. The following directions are from the top of Wensceslas Square, leaving from Muzeum metro stop (Red line).
Take the red line to the stop “Kačerov”. From Kačerov you will need to find bus 113 to “Sidliště Písnice” – just ask a young Czech person if you have trouble locating the bus stop. Sapa is right there when you get off the bus. You will need two 32 CZK transport tickets (one is for the return journey), which will cover you for the bus and metro. A mere 27 minute trip on public transportation and you’re transported to another world.
And don’t forget, Prague has many off the beaten spots in the historic center and beyond. Get a copy of our Prague City Guide and you’ll be your way to discovering a local’s Prague.
Address: Libušská 319/126, Prague 4
8:00-18:00 (some shops open until 20:00; open on holidays)
Credit cards: No
Contributors: Helen Kim & Amanda Bell