SAPA: Little Vietnam in Prague
Have you heard about the Vietnamese district in Prague called SAPA or Prague’s “Little Hanoi”? It is a genuinely different world with authentic Vietnamese food, Buddhist temple, and street vendors. Let’s explore more what this place can offer to one day visitor.
What is SAPA in Prague
You might already notice that we don’t have any cultural districts in Prague, referring to inhabitants from different countries. The only exception is the Vietnamese district on the outskirt of Prague. Vietnamese are the third-largest minority of foreigners in Prague, just after Ukrainians and Slovakians. Vietnamese came to former communist Czechoslovakia for work and studies. With the fall of communism in 1989, the majority of them decided to stay and made the Czech Republic as their permanent home.
SAPA became a cultural and trading district of the Vietnamese community in Prague around 2000 when the former poultry farm closed and the whole compound became available. It is not particularly nice, but it is definitely an interesting place to visit. SAPA is called by media as “city inside the city,” where you can find many authentic Vietnamese restaurants, food stands, specialized grocery stores, but also schools, places for various social events and weddings, and of course, the Buddhist temple.
Explore Little Vietnam
SAPA is an excellent place for food lovers. It does not matter if you would prefer to eat authentic Vietnamese food in a restaurant, order something quickly in a street stand or shop a grocery for your culinary experiments back home.
What you should not miss is the traditional Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk at the bottom. Do you know that Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee just after Brazil? Vietnamese coffee beans are mostly Robusta beans with cocoa or chocolate flavors, so definitely worthwhile to try. You can buy it easily from street vendors for about 30 CZK (about 1 EUR). You can have it with a wide choice of traditional Vietnamese snacks that you won’t find anywhere else in Prague.
If you would prefer to shop for unusual Asian ingredients for your cooking at home, SAPA is the right place where to find it. You can find here various rice noodles, cilantro, fish sauce, sweet potatoes, dried mushrooms, durian, and many others. The majority of products are transported right from Asia since the SAPA market serves as the main transit area for the whole of Eastern Europe. Besides the Vietnamese specialties, you can find here also the Korean market with traditional kimchi, Korean pears, sesame oil, gochujang, or various Korean snacks.
Besides the food, SAPA is also a central place for shopping for products made in Asia. You can find here various clothing, accessories such as sunglasses, kitchenware, but also Vietnamese books, hair salons, and manicures. Just don’t forget to bargain while shopping here!
What I like the most about SAPA is its small Buddhist temple. It is hidden in the corner of the district. You can recognize it by the sculpture of sitting Buddha outside together with two plastic trees. It is not easy to find it, as the orientation is not straightforward in SAPA. I would recommend you to download a SAPAMAPA that is in Czech, but Google translate might help.
As a better option, I would recommend having a guide who will show you the whole area in your language. With your guide, you will not be embarrassed to enter the Buddhist temple, find the best restaurant in SAPA and have support with translation. Once you enter the SAPA, you will understand that Czech, English or any other language except Vietnamese is going to be useless.
We took a guided trip with David/Duc from the Sapa trip. David is a Czech-Vietnamese who called himself a banana generation – meaning yellow at first sight and white at second sight. David speaks perfectly Czech and English and he provides you a great insight into the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic. As a part of the trip, David took us to the temple, we also enjoyed lunch together and I had a chance to ask many questions I had.
Cooking Course of Vietnamese Food
Since we enjoyed the guided tour with David so much, we continued our exploration of Vietnamese culture with the cooking course of Vietnamese food. David invited us for a celebration of the Chinese New Year and we cooked together traditional Bún bò Nam Bộ. If you are interested in such an experience as well, check the website of Rejža doma (in Czech, but David can do it in English as well). You can choose an option to visit David in his home as we did, or you can decide to have it comfortable at your home.
How to get to SAPA
You can find SAPA on the outskirt of Prague. From the city center, you can take a metro red line to metro stop Kačerov, and then bus 113 to Sídliště Písnice. The entrance to SAPA is just in front of the bus stop. It takes about 30 minutes to get there. Another option is from Smíchovské nádraží (yellow metro line) and takes bus 197 directly to Sídliště Písnice. Once you enter the SAPA, you will be in a different world…