Prague offer excellent shopping choices and the selection have been through large improvements during the last two decades. A key difference between now and then is the rise of large shopping malls and hypermarkets, which transformed the market and selection of goods completely.
Modern retailing has a long history, though since the first Art Deco styled department store, Bilá Labút opened. This establishment marked the entry into a new era of shopping for the city and survived the system changes in 1948 and 1990. Two new stores were opened at the Vaclavské Naměstí to supplement it, namely “Dům Mody” (House of Clothing) and “Dům Potravin” (House of Food), which became main providers of those two categories of goods during the Communist era.
Later, a very centrally located department store, Máj, opened at Narodní Třida and became one of the last retailers opened by the government. This particular building was also center for a controversy about naming streetcar stops after businesses and a big question mark was put up about the name “Narodní Tesco” (the Máj was purchased by the British Tesco chain after the velvet revolution).
A Swedish designed department store also opened in the 70s, Kotva. This building is a very modernistic design of a very typical styling of the era, partly reminiscent of some suburban designs of Stockholm and provided a “Western Style” retail experience to the population and it is still up and running.
During this time, Prague were supplied through small stores, which also resulted in an under dimensioned retail system, which then became a huge market enabler later on. What happened during the period of 1990-2015 is almost a miracle; huge hypermarkets opened up in the different suburbs and shopping malls came into being at an astonishing rate, while Western brands flowed into the market and transformed the whole landscape. One example of this is the Nový Smíchov mall, which was constructed where the old Tatra/Ringhoffer streetcar and railway rolling stock factory were located. As late as the early 1990s, the vehicle production was going on before everything got closed down and later demolished, leaving a huge open space in a pretty central location. It took a couple of years to get all contracts sorted out but then, construction began and the large mall complete with a French Carrefour hypermarket opened its doors in 2001 (this chain abandoned the country shortly after and Tesco took over their stores, some of them under still construction).
One of the largest retail projects in the city was then devised in Letňany and started out with the Tesco Hypermarket as phase 1, followed by a swimming bath/fitness center and a mall with 206 shops, movie theatre, food court and also apartment renovation and new construction. An extension of the Metro line C then put all of this within convenient reaches and reduced the commuting times noticeably. Today, this complex is well worth a visit since it offers excellent shopping and entertainment possibilities paired with attractive pricing.
One product, which is very popular among tourists are fine Bohemian crystal items and the city center offer a lot of stores selling everything related to decent prices. It is interesting to note that the Prague 1 area around the Old Town Square is so well covered by those retailers that one can be seen in almost any direction.
The best way of finding a great selection of products is to move out of the most touristic parts of the city center, which requires just a short walk to a place such as the Palladium mall or Vaclavské Naměstí where the options appear. There are two types of store common in the pure tourist area, namely money exchange and crystal/souvenirs, which makes the detour worthwhile.