Prague is made for walking. But Prague is made for walking only in comfortable shoes. The city's sidewalks are paved with beautiful cobblestones that are notorious heel pinchers. But if you haven't brought the right footwear for traipsing through Prague, don't despair. Almost every fourth shop in Prague's Nove Mesto district is a shoe store.
However, this makes a difficult choice of where to buy your walking shoes or snow boots when you have forgotten to pack these. (Remember: a thick pack of snow in winter is very usual.) It's a public secret, but one of the best shoe shops to go to in Prague is a Bata store.
Bata, five floors of shopping pleasure — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
Prague is dotted with Bata stores, both in the historic center and in the shopping malls in the suburbs. Head straight for the one on Wenceslas Square. This is by far the largest shoe shop in Prague, and it offers five floors of sheer shopping pleasure, from ankle strap pumps to court shoes, from mules to sexy boots and from slippers to stiletto heels. You can also expect fashionable shoes that survive Prague's pavements.
If you aren't interested in shoes or don't need them, visit the Bata store anyway. The building is a striking example of functionalist architecture. At the time, it was one of the most advanced department stores in Europe and one of the most important examples of Czech functionalism. Take the escalator to the top floor for a sweeping view of Wenceslas Square.
Bata Shoes at Wenceslas Square — Photo courtesy of Marianne Crone
Bata Shoes is a household name not only in the Czech Republic but all over the world. They are the brainchild of Tomas Bata, a descendent of a shoemaker family from the town of Zlin in the southeast of the country. Not only was he a brilliant entrepreneur, he was also a devoted city developer who initiated the social infrastructure of his hometown, Zlin. He provided social housing, employment and better working conditions.
In 1893, Tomas Bata put up a shoe factory in Zlin. His mission statement was to provide affordable shoes for everyone. The factory flourished during World War I, when the military needed large quantities of sturdy boots and shoes. His shoes were so popular that all men in the Austrian-Hungarian army wore them.
Bata Shoes had become famous the world over, and in 1930, the first shoe factories opened outside former Czechoslovakia. Tomas Bata became known as "the Henry Ford of Eastern Europe."
When Tomas Bata died in a plane crash in 1932, his half-brother Jan Antonin Bata took over the Bata firm, which at that time comprised more than 20 factories and 1600 stores. Today, Tomas Bata's grandson continues the family tradition.
Bata is still one of the largest manufacturers and distributers of shoes and accessories worldwide. Bata shoes are still very popular worldwide because of their excellent quality and price.