Soak up the Christmas Magic and enjoy the Fairytale Markets
Millions from around the world flock to experience Christmas in Prague and experience the spell-binding Christmas markets. One of the most impressive markets can be found in the gorgeous Old Town Square, which is perfect for strolling through the wooden stalls and sampling some local food whilst listening to live Czech music. Nearby, at the world-famous Wenceslas Square, there is another Christmas market that is an absolute must-see! Both are open from 01 December 2018 to 06 January 2019.
Stretching back thousands of years, the capital of the Czech Republic has been the heart of Christmas cheer for centuries. Make 2018 your Christmas holiday with a trip to a compact city filled with Czech treats, nativity-ready livestock, local foods & wines. Prague offers an eclectic mix of traditionally decorated tavernas, cute arts and crafts market stalls, families and friends swigging local beer and foodie lovers feasting on top quality meat!
Having experienced Prague at Christmas last year, I wanted to share insider tips on the best places to visit in Prague, top sights to see and glimmering Christmas markets that will steal your heart! <3
The majority of flights to Prague depart from Dublin and take you directly to the main airport in the area is Prague international (Václav Havel Airport). Depending on the time that you buy your tickets the price of the flights can be as low as €40 for a return flight from Dublin. I recommend using a trusted site such as my Flight Finderto get the cheapest price available!
Once you arrive at Prague airport, you will find it easy to reach the city with public transport. There are several options when it comes to getting downtown by public transport, which is by far the cheapest option. Each goes to a different metro line, so make sure to find out the closest metro station to your accommodation. All of the buses run at regular intervals throughout the day and evening, and signs at the Arrivals gates point to their pick-up points; the buses make stops at both terminals. Make sure you have a ticket before boarding, which you then must validate on the bus (tickets are not available from the driver).
1st December 2018 – 6th January 2019 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., food stands 10 a.m. – midnight The Old Town Square Christmas market is by far the largest and the most well known. Here you find lovely little stalls nestled around the Jan Hus statue and surrounded by centuries-old Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. To accompany this enchanting market, you have to stop and admire the huge Christmas tree, which is adorned with hundreds of lights and lit every evening at dusk, around 5 pm. A stage is put up every year where Christmas concerts and short plays are performed in the open air.
Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí)
1st December 2018 – 6th January 2019 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., food stands 10 a.m. – midnight
The second largest market in Prague is held in the lower part of Wenceslas Square in the heart of the historical heart of Prague. When it gets chilly, warm up with a glass of mulled wine (svařák in Czech), and sample some traditional Christmas specialities such as braided cake (vánočka). Most of the goods in this market are handmade so this is a great opportunity to pick up stocking fillers. You will find wooden toys, gifts made of glass and iron and steel presents as the blacksmiths sell their creations.
Peace Square (Náměstí Míru)
20th November – 24th December 2018 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily
Peace Square, in the heart of Vinohrady, is a must visit at any time of year. It’s draped in history and filled with breath-taking landmarks such as the National House of Vinohrady, the Church of St. Ludmila and the Vinohrady Theatre. This is usually the first market to open, hosting around sixty stalls and whilst it is smaller than the markets of the Old Town and Wenceslas Square, it predominantly attracts locals, ideal for an authentic experience!
Lots of smaller markets are dotted around town. I’ve listed several of them to help you:
Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky)
1st December – 30th December 2018
This Christmas market is just a short walk from the Old Town Square and close to the Náměstí Republiky metro station. If you’re a food lover, I recommend visiting this one as it said to be one one of the best markets for experiencing authentic Czech food. The hams are roasted on spits, sausages are prepared on the barbecue klobas) – not the healthiest snack but one you should try! If you have a sweet tooth then watch the cakes and pastries be prepared in front of you and then try the “trdelník”, a pastry coated with hot sugar. To accompany all these delicacies, enjoy the famous Czech beers – Pilsner Urquell, Budvar and Staropramen!
Prague Castle (Pražský hrad)
28th November 2018 – 3rd January 2019
Located within the grounds of the Prague castle, you will find an enchanting little Christmas market which is perfect for picking up last minute presents! Browse through wooden toys, puppets, tree decorations, garnet jewellery (a stone local to the Czech Bohemia region) and crystal sculptures. Warm up with a mulled wine and a spot of carol singing under the Christmas tree.
Old Town Square: 1st December 2018 – 6th January 2019
Wenceslas Square: 1st December 2018 – 6th January 2019
Prague Castle: 20th November – 24th December 2018
Prague’s Christmas market is ranked by many as one of the top 10 most beautiful ones in Europe as it has a longstanding tradition of providing enchanting stalls that steal people’s heart year after year. Be warned temperatures will be low, but spirits will be high, so come with your friends, family or lover and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Guru tip: The meat portions are large and extremely overpriced in the market. Locals tend to eat at nearby restaurants first, then just snack in the market. But DO try the mulled wine, called svařák in Czech.
Where are the best places to stay over Christmas?
As ever with hotels, if you want to stay slap bang in the middle of it all, you can expect to pay a little more. Thanks to Prague’s excellent public transport system, I would recommend you save yourself a few koruna and stay a little further out and you commute by tram, bus or by foot. To help you make the best decision based on your interests, I’ve put together a description of each area so you can choose what suits you best!
The Old Town
Stay in Prague’s Old Town if you want to be in the heart of all the action; this a lively and popular area that most tourists want to stay in, so book early in advance. Staying here means you will be in an ideal location for visiting other major attractions! Be warned prices tend to be a little more expensive!
The Mala Stana
The historic castle district and ‘little quarter,’ Malá Strana is a winner for adventurers wanting to absorb the history and culture of the city, but in a more in a more laid-back and tranquil atmosphere.
The New Town
The New Town includes Wenceslas Square and Republic Square is seen as being a bit louder as it contains the bulk of the bars and hence the majority of the local Stag Party crowds. The New Town has many choices for shops and also contains the National Museum and main train station.
Castle & Surrounding Area
The immediate vicinity of the Castle has a few bars and no loud clubs so could be a great option for travellers that want a peaceful area but surrounded by some of the oldest buildings in the city. The Lesser Town is the area beneath the Castle but offers a greater choice of bars and restaurants than around the Castle. And is only an 8-minute walk to the Old Town Square.
Guru Tip: If you’re on a budget, staying in an Airbnb could be a cheap alternative to conventional hotels. If you like to have it all organised, hotel, flight and extras, Expedia and BlueSea provide excellent packages, so after a couple of clicks its time to start packing!
What to Eat & Drink in Prague Christmas Markets?
5 Essential things to try:
1. While visiting Prague, you will see ‘trdelnik’ around every corner. It’s a sweet pastry made from dough that is wrapped around a metal stick and grilled over an open flame. Give it a try – you can have it empty, sprinkled with sugar, or with a filling (ice cream is the most popular).
2. The Czech’s hot wine shares characteristics with English mulled wine or German gluhwein, but citrus hints of orange or lemon usually outweigh sugar and sweetness.
3. Taste the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Prague’s Christmas markets with Langoš, Hungarian flatbread topped with garlic (česnek), cheese (sýr) and ketchup.
4. You can usually smell “Prague Ham” in open-air Christmas markets before you come across this smoked, boneless ham roasting over an open flame. This highly prized meat is priced by weight in grams, so order accordingly and enjoy!
5. Christmas is not fully complete without some hearty German sausages! Among Prague Christmas markets, it’s one of the most ubiquitous snacks. Opt for Frankfurter-style párek sausages, or for the hungry, the larger Pražská Klobása, which are bright red, subtly spiced.
Be sure to sample typical Czech food, which is offered in most Christmas markets:
Spit-roasted ham (Sunka)
Barbecued sausages (Klobasy)
Salty potato pancakes (Bramboraky)
Traditional Czech Christmas braided cake ‘Vanocka’
Christmas cookies (Vanocni Cukrovi)
The following Christmas drinks will warm you up:
Mulled wine (Svarene vino or Svarak)
Mead/Honey wine (Medovina)
Eggnog (Vajecny Konak)
What are Czech Christmas Traditions?
St. Nicholas Day
If you’re in Prague on December 5th, don’t miss out on seeing the famous Mikuláš (St. Nicholas) celebration, whereby Santa is accompanied by devils and angels and they come to find out which children have been good and bad. A Mikuláš celebration is typically staged in every square with a Christmas market, including the Old Town Square around 5 pm. So don’t be surprised if you bump into jolly old St. Nick, a few hideous devilish creatures and several blissful angels!
The main Christmas celebrations take place on Christmas Eve. Some people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of ‘the golden pig’ appear on the wall before dinner! This is meant to be a sign of good luck! The Czech traditional Christmas dinner is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve and consists of fish soup (made of carp), and fried carp with potato salad.
Ježíšek ‘Little Jesus’ (the Czech version of Christkindl) brings presents during the Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the Christmas Tree. Religious families also usually sing Christmas carols by the tree, and go to church either at midnight or on Christmas Day.
Christmas Day and St. Stephens Day
These two days (December 25th and 26th) are known as First and Second Christmas Holidays in the Czech Republic. They are enjoyed by relaxing with friends and family and enjoying the special time of the year together with traditional Czech treats.
New Years Eve
Ring in the New Year Czech style by catching the midnight fireworks. Chances are if you’re in central Prague that evening you’ll see them dominating the skies from wherever you are. Fireworks are launched from Střelecký Island and can be seen from the bridges, river banks, Petřín Hill, and Prague Castle.
Fireworks in Prague
If you are a fireworks lover, you must not miss the traditional New Year’s fireworks show in the centre of Prague. The show will be launched on 1st January at 6.00 pm from Letná Park, so you will be able to see the best of it when stationed near the riverbanks in Prague’s Old Town. Make sure you beat the crowds to it and find yourself a good position on the bridge or a riverbank well in advance!
What Places should you visit?
The largest ancient castle in the world, as well as one of the most gorgeous, Prague Castle, has served as the home to many different Czech heads of state ever since the 9th century. Baroque churches, a royal palace, flagstone courtyards and bejewelled reliquaries are all beautifully manicured parts that comprise of Prague Castle. This complex of buildings perched regally on a hilltop above Prague offers sweeping views across the city’s spires and domes. Here you find St. Vitus Cathedral, a fantastic example of Gothic architecture at its finest, and is the largest church in the country as well as one of the most important.
Old Town Square
The Old Town Square is an absolute must-see! Around winter time it will be full of stands selling ornate souvenirs, mulled wine and decorations for your Christmas time. For a birds-eye view of the Old Town Square, climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower. The views are spectacular say make sure you take a few selfies!
One of the main draws of the Old Square is the Astronomical Clock which dates back to 1410, this astronomical clock is the third-oldest in the world and the oldest still in operation. Don’t miss its fantastic moving display on the hour, every hour.
Wenceslas Square is Prague’s other main square, located in the centre of the Old Town. Wenceslas Square has been through a very rocky history – throughout the second world war the Nazis would use the square for huge demonstrations. However, it is now lined with many modern shops, cafes, hotels, and restaurants, and is dominated by the Czech National Museum at its north end.
Dress especially warm for the bridge! Then stroll along it and enjoy the views of the Vltava River, Prague Castle and sweeping city views. The Charles Bridge is a statue-lined bridge that connects the Old Town to the Little Quarter and Prague Castle. Whether it is a nonchalant evening stroll or specially timed sun-setting moment, holding hands at this stunning location is a no-brainer for lovers.
With its untouched architecture and stunning setting, on the banks of the Vltava River with views up to the majestic castle, Prague looks like a film set and often is one. A river cruise through the heart of the city is the most relaxing way to discover the well-regarded attractions that are nestled along the river and is an unquestionably romantic way of experiencing Prague.
Petřín Lookout Tower
Similar in style to the Eiffel Tower, Petřín Tower was built in 1891 and is 63.5 metres tall. It is located on the top of Prague’s Petřín hill, making the top of the tower the perfect spot to get jaw-dropping views over the city.
What Activities should you do?
Ice-Skating in the Old Town
One magical highlight of Prague in December is ice skating – a popular activity among tourists and locals alike. Whether you’re a seasoned pro and gracefully cut circles across the ice or are a slip-sliding first-timer, there is nothing like being out in the fresh air surrounded by sparkling lights and historic relics of Prague. There are many places to try ice skating in Prague, but a favourite amongst travellers is Ovocny Trh, a free skating rink operated daily until 10 pm by the Prague City Hall.
Relaxing River Cruise
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of on-land, why not opt for a romantic Prague river cruise to take in all the top highlights from a different perspective as you cruise along the Vltava River. With a full commentary along the way, the short cruises depart hourly and offer the chance to take in the City of a Thousand Spires with a coffee in one hand and a camera in the other, no need to even get up. Don’t worry – there is full heating in winter plus an onboard bar if you need any help getting in the festive spirit!
Attend a Christmas Concert at The St. Salvator Church
Get into the Christmas mood by attending the Advent and Christmas concerts which take place regularly at the St. Salvator Church in Prague – one of the most highly rated in Prague. As you enter you will be blown away by the beauty of the organ!
Stop in a nice café or two to warm up
Cuddling up in a pleasant warm café, sipping coffee or tea while relaxing and watching the world go by is quite a nice winter experience, and therefore deserves its own number on my list. I would recommend avoiding major coffee shop chains and visit one of the cafés listed below tohave a more authentic experience:
Café Savoy – Located in a gorgeous building with a beautiful interior, this coffee shop has a high-society feel. However, I found the staff to be very friendly and the coffee is great. Budget more if you want to eat there though, as it’s quite expensive.
Café Imperial – Art Nouveau fills the walls and ambience of this café so you can expect to be dazzled. The coffee and food are delicious and the central location near Náměstí Republiky which is convenient to reach from the city. You won’t be disappointed by the splendour of this place!
Café Slavia – If you decided to watch one of the classic performances at the National Theatre, you should stop at Café Slavia! The café oozes charm and old-school vibes!
Café Mistral – Located just off the Old Town Square, very close to the metro station Staroměstská, Mistral is a spacious café with good food and high-quality coffee. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow light to flood in and is ideal for sharing breakfast with your bestie or partner before you venture out to explore!
I hope I’ve convinced you that Prague should on bucket list this year, especially if you’re in search of the best Christmas markets. A trip to the Czech capital will be a wonderful way to start the festive season and get some original Christmas gifts or decorations.
It’s cold in the Czech Republic in December (expect temperatures below zero degree Celsius), so dress warmly.
Most stalls don’t accept credit cards as they are just small vendors, so bring cash with you (the local currency is Czech koruna, not Euro).
The best time to visit the Christmas markets is after it gets dark and the stalls light up, it’s a truly magical experience (especially if it snows).
If you’re looking for an enchanting winter escape, Prague is a winner!
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