No matter what time of the year you go, everything there is to see in Prague makes it a magical city capable of fascinating its visitors from the very moment they start strolling through its streets. From its splendid castle to its baroque buildings, passing through the history hidden in the Jewish quarter or the beauty of the Charles Bridge, the Czech capital never disappoints anyone.
All the magic it exudes seems to intensify when you travel to Prague for Christmas. Its streets, monuments and shop windows acquire another dimension thanks to the Christmas illumination and its squares are filled with fabulous markets that serve as a meeting point for visitors and locals. If you decide to visit on that date, here are some activities that you can not miss.
1. Unhurried visit to the Christmas Market at the Old Town Square
One of the great attractions of Prague during Christmas are, without a doubt, the Christmas markets that are installed in many of its squares. The most important is the one in the Old Town Square, where you should go with the intention of strolling leisurely and enjoy the great atmosphere that is generated.
Throughout the month of December, this square becomes one of the centers of Christmas in Europe. The Christmas market in the Old Town Square is made up of around 30 stalls selling everything from handicrafts to the classic Christmas dishes of the country's gastronomy.
Throughout the day, from early in the morning, there is an unforgettable atmosphere all over the square. If you go at night, you can take a night tour of Prague, one of the best tours of the city, to discover its corners with Christmas lights.
2. Search for other Christmas markets not to be missed
Despite the fame of the market in the Old Town Square, in Prague you will find many other places where this type of markets are installed. I recommend that you try to get closer to some of them:
- Prague Castle Market: if you have already made any of these tours to the Prague Castle you will have seen that his fame is well deserved. What you may not know is that at Christmas there is a flea market that, despite its smaller size, is a must-see for the environment that surrounds it. Specifically, the stalls are located inside the walled area, just behind the cathedral.
- Wenceslas Square Market: it is the only one in the whole city that can compete in size with the one in the Old Town Square. In their booths offer typical foods of these dates, in addition to handmade products. It also stands out for its large Christmas tree. This market usually opens at 10:00 in the morning and does not close until 22:00, although the food stalls extend these hours until midnight.
- Námêsti Republiky square market: in another of the squares located in the center of the city is installed a Christmas market specializing in food. Part of its charm lies in its atmosphere composed almost exclusively by local people, as usually few tourists come to visit it. It is open from 10:00 to 19:00 hours.
- Havel Market: if you want to travel back in time, this market is perfect for it. For starters, it has been held since the thirteenth century and its organizers have tried to preserve the same aesthetics for the enjoyment of its visitors. It opens at 6:00 in the morning and closes at 18:30.
3. Feel like the protagonist of a fairy tale in the Golden Alley
If you have researched what to do in the castle district, you will surely have on your list a walk through the so-called Gold Alley. If you go at Christmas, the visit is even more essential, as you will feel as if you were inside a fairy tale.
In addition to the charms of this place, at Christmas there is a decoration that increases its magic, starting with the mistletoe that is placed in the small doors of each building.
In this area lived in ancient times (according to legend) alchemists who tried to turn metals into gold. From this quest comes the name of the alley, which today has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city.
Fortunately, if you go to Prague in December, in addition to enjoying the Christmas atmosphere, you will be able to visit the area without the typical crowds of the high season.
4. Climb the Town Hall tower to see the Christmas tree on the Old Town Square.
The views from the Town Hall tower are magnificent no matter when you climb it. However, if you do it at Christmas you will find a different spectacle. From the heights you will be able to have a full view of the market in the Old Town Square and, in addition, you can see from the best possible place the huge tree that is installed at that time.
This Christmas tree is about 19 meters high and is transported every year from the Central Bohemian region. To make it even more spectacular, thousands of ornaments are placed on it, in addition to fantastic lighting.
Precisely, a good time to climb the tower is around 16:30 in the afternoon, when the tree is lit with a show of lights and music totally unforgettable. If you can not at that time do not worry: the show is repeated every hour until 20:30.
And be sure to visit the Nativity Scene in the square
To get the most out of the square you can not miss the sensational living Nativity scene that is installed in it. It is undoubtedly one of the best things to do if you have traveled to Prague with children, as they will be able to see, in addition to the classic characters of the nativity scene, some animals like goats and donkeys.
5. Be amazed by the Christmas illumination of the Charles Bridge and nearby streets
No one who comes to Prague can miss all that the Charles Bridge has to offer. Walking across it is one of the best experiences in the city and allows you to enjoy wonderful views of the castle. At Christmas, that charm is enhanced by the addition of beautiful illumination and, sometimes, snow.
The oldest bridge in the city, since it was built in 1402, is beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. If it snows, the walk becomes absolutely magical. I recommend stopping to see the image of the castle also illuminated and, if you can, take a picture of it.
Not only the Charles Bridge benefits from the Christmas illumination. All the main streets of the city are decorated from the last days of November with lights, Christmas figures and garlands. Among the most recommended areas are Karlova Street or the Malá Strana district, on the other side of the river.
6. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Prague
If you have planned to spend New Year's Eve in the Czech capital I can only congratulate you. Despite the cold, there are few places like Prague to say goodbye to the year and welcome the new year.
The city celebrates this occasion in style. The central place for the celebrations is the Old Town Square, where the Astronomical Clock counts down the last seconds of the year. As soon as the countdown is over, Prague's sky is illuminated by a huge fireworks display.
These fireworks can not only be seen from the square, as there are other places that offer spectacular views, such as the Charles Bridge itself or one of the viewpoints located in the castle district.
To enjoy the New Year's Eve dinner you will be able to choose between several interesting options. For those looking for something informal, it is best to go to a Christmas market and order a typical dish at the food stalls that are installed.
Those who prefer a more formal dinner will have no problem either, as some of the best restaurants in the city offer a menu for that night.
Dinner aboard a boat on the Vltava River
Among the existing options to spend New Year's Eve there is a very special one: to hire a small cruise on the Vltava River. These cruises include dinner, live music and dancing until dawn, without forgetting the great location to watch the fireworks show.
7. Dare to ice skate in the center of Prague
One of the most anticipated winter activities for Czechs in Prague is ice skating. At Christmas, with more free time, there are more and more people looking for some of the rinks that are set up throughout the city to spend a few hours of fun. If you want to join them, don't hesitate to rent some skates and take the plunge.
As several of these rinks are open, you won't have any trouble finding one that you like. To guide you, here are some of the most popular ones:
- Letná Park: in this beautiful park there are usually two different skating rinks, one for adults and one for children. In addition, it also has bleachers with heated seats in case you have to wait for those who have dared to skate.
- Prague fruit market: in the heart of Prague, within walking distance of the State Theater, is the fruit market. Here is installed a rink considered the most beautiful in the city, something that contributes to its surroundings full of historic buildings. Entrance to the rink is free, although you will have to rent skates.
- Prague TV Tower: the picnic area under this large tower also hosts a busy skating rink every year.
- Shopping malls: in case the weather is not good but you do not want to miss this activity, several shopping malls in the city install their own skating rink. The best known are located in the Harfa Gallery and in the Arkády Pankrác shopping center.
8. Take advantage of discounts at theaters and other cultural events
One of the advantages of traveling to Prague at Christmas is that you will be able to take advantage of interesting discounts in the cultural life of the city. Being low season, many theaters offer tickets at cheaper prices than usual.
The cultural offer of the Czech capital is quite intense and Christmas is no exception. Thus, you will be able to attend theatrical performances, ballet, opera or concerts in churches for much less than usual.
In addition, the locals themselves use a trick when they have not been able to buy the ticket in advance: go to the box office shortly before the event starts to see if there is a free seat. If so, the price is usually reduced even further.
Among the most interesting events to attend at Christmas are the concerts of the Prague Opera, although those organized in some churches are not far behind in terms of quality. In any case, if you can not attend any of them you will always have the option of listening to the many street musicians that are installed in the main squares of the city.
9. Taste typical Prague Christmas food and beverages
If you have done any gastronomic tour you will already have some idea of what Czech gastronomy is like. If not, here is my article about what to eat in Prague. However, as in all countries, there are some dishes that are traditionally eaten at Christmas and that you should not miss.
Most of them you will find in the Christmas markets that are installed in the squares of the city. If there is something that is not going to be missing in any of them is the svařák, the local version of the mulled wine typical of all Central Europe. In this case, the drink is somewhat stronger in citrus than in other countries.
Another drink that Czechs consume in quantities during Christmas is hot chocolate. Like wine, it is a perfect drink to alleviate the cold of these dates, besides being absolutely delicious.
In addition to these drinks, you cannot leave Prague without having tried one of the following dishes:
- Trdelnik: the sweet par excellence of the city's stalls. It is a cinnamon roll that is offered in a multitude of stores in all the streets of the center.
- Pražká šunka: boiled ham usually served with bread.
- Sausages: at Christmas markets you will find an almost endless number of traditionally made sausages.
- Halusky: a dish that is usually sold by weight and consists of potatoes, sauerkraut and bacon.
10. Feel like a kid on St. Nicholas Day
Those who find themselves in Prague on St. Nicholas' Day will see the streets flooded with devils and angels. This is not a kind of Halloween, but one of the most beloved celebrations of the Czechs.
Even if you don't dress up, the atmosphere in the city is extraordinary and you will feel like you are in some kind of medieval fairy tale. In a certain sense, this kind of celebration is connected with the history of the city, which you will get to know if you go on a ghost tour through the Czech capital.
On that day, the city center is filled with people dressed up as Čertí (the Devil in Czech) and Anděl (the Angel) in a party that has children as the main characters.
According to tradition, St. Nicholas visits the homes of the little ones accompanied by these two characters. There, he asks the children how they have behaved and those who have been good recite a poem or sing a song and then receive a prize in the form of sweets from the Angel.
On the other hand, those children who have not behaved so well will only receive a sack of coal, as well as a warning from the Devil who threatens to take them away if they do not change.
Prague Christmas weather in Prague
I don't think anyone will be surprised if I say that Christmas in Prague is quite cold. The maximum temperatures do not usually go above 2°C, while the minimum temperatures easily reach -4°C.
On the other hand, snowfalls are quite common at this time of the year, although the advantage is that the days when it snows are usually a little less cold.
What to wear in Prague at Christmas
Although it is always a good idea to check the weather forecastbefore traveling, there are certainly some items that you cannot miss in your suitcase.
For starters, don't forget to pack a good coat, as well as some thermal T-shirts or even leggings to wear under your pants.
You should also bring a scarf, a hat and good gloves. As for shoes, make sure they are warm and comfortable. It is also interesting that they have good soles in case it snows.