Prague has quickly gained a reputation for being a wonderful place to enjoy a cosmopolitan city break but over the Christmas period the area is transformed into a winter wonderland for the whole family to enjoy.
The Christmas Market in Prague is one of the best in Europe, boasting countless stalls, locally produced gastronomic delights and the chance to escape and experience a completely different festive season.
A guide to Prague Christmas Market
The market in Prague is one of the most popular in Europe and has grown in size over the years, and now spreads out over both Old Town and Wencelas Square with a Christmas tree in each.
The Christmas trees themselves are a sight to behold, shipped in directly from the Krkonose Mountains in the north of the country, they stand tall and proud, towering over the festivities and lighting up the dark night sky.
Down in the squares, there is an animal stable, designed to be reminiscent of Jesus’ manger, where children can stroke goats, sheep and donkeys. There is also a recreation of the Bethlehem Nativity scene, with Joseph, Mary, the Baby Jesus plus the Three Wise Men all in a wooden stable.
These traditional festive additions are set in the heart of the market, and surrounded by wooden chalet-style booths where stall holders offer their handcrafted products for sale. Almost every type of craft is on display; ceramics, scented candles, embroidery, jewellery, Bohemian crystals, puppets and wooden toys to name just a few. It’s also possible to purchase gloves, hands and scarves in case the chilly night air has caught you unawares!
But visitors don’t need to rely on wrapping up against the elements to keep out the cold; there’s plenty of delicious food and drink to help start a warm glow from the inside out! Local specialities include svarak, a type of hot wine – but fans of ale may find the array of Czech beers difficult to resist!
The smell of barbecued sausages and huge spit-roast hams can send your taste-buds into overdrive as soon as you enter the market but if you fancy something a little bit different, try the wonderful Tredelnik, a hot, sweet, sugar-coated traditional Czech pastry.
On Mikulas Day (St Nicholas Day) on 5th December, the market enjoys a special procession. In attendance is Mikulas himself, along with an angel and a devil. Czech children are taught that you must learn a song, dance or poem to entertain Mikulas and earn sweets or other goodies from his bag of treats. Mikulas asks the children if they have been good and of course they say yes – legend tells that naughty children get put in the devil’s sack and taken away!
Top attractions in Prague
No matter how irresistible the Christmas market is, there is plenty more things to see and do whilst you are in Prague.
The city is known for its sublime classical concerts and what better time to enjoy one than at Christmas? The city has a number of different concert halls and it’s usually possible to get tickets to enjoy one of the magical shows.
One way to see the city is from up high and there is a building which offers wonderful aerial views across the river and to the castle. With a bar on the ground floor and rooftop terrace, the ‘Fred and Ginger House’ offers an unparalled panorama of Prague. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story as the building itself draws tourists from far and wide.
A tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the building seems to lean and be squeezed almost to the point of being ridiculous yet somehow just oozes elegance. A post-modernist design nestled amongst the more traditional art nouveau buildings around it; its playful and dynamic facade is guaranteed to intrigue!
Another great way to see more of the city is to take a guided walking tour. But rather than the usual itinerary, why not go on a Ghost Tour of Prague? The city is full of narrow and winding streets, with ancient buildings and historical sites – such as the location of the Knights Templar headquarters – and provides a fascinating insight into Prague’s spiritual and mysterious past.
Hotels and accommodation when visiting Prague Christmas Market
Having become a popular choice for breaks all year round, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding a hotel.
There’s something for all budgets but for those looking to treat themselves and experience a Prague Christmas in style, the Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa is one of the highest rated luxury stays (like Fusion Hotel pictured below) in the area. With home-made cheesecake and chocolates in the on-site cafe, palatial suites and a glass of champagne on arrival, guests will feel like VIPs. The hotel even hosts free wine and cheese tasting evenings every night to bring the guests together!
One of the cheapest places to stay near the centre of Prague is Hotel Julian, an independent hotel which offers great facilities for budget prices. Despite being one of the most inexpensive hotels that can be found in Prague, the facilities on-site are impressive and include a communal library, roof-top terrace plus a basement restaurant.
Transport connections and getting to Prague
Prague Airport – its full name being Vaclav Havel Airport Prague – lies around 10km west of the city. Visitors can book a flight to Prague through airlines such as British Airways, Jet2, Easyjet and Wizzair from the UK.
It is easy to reach the city centre from Prague airport, simply take either the number 119, 100, 179 or the 510 to connect to either the main railway or the subway, both of which will then take you right to the heart of the city. Alternatively taxis can be caught from the airport; there are two regulated taxi firms, AAA Radiotaxi and Radiocab Taxi.
Sightseeing in Prague can be managed quite easily on foot although the tram and underground metro service are both clean and reliable. It is possible to buy a pass which covers both methods of transport so you can hop on and off as you want.
There are bicycles for hire in the city and whilst it is possible to cycle around, it can be rather uncomfortable due to the number of cobbled streets – pretty but rather bumpy!
Prague is not just w great place to visit to enjoy a long weekend away; visitors can be transported to a different world at Christmas time and enjoy the hospitality of the Czech capital. With the market offering the chance to grab bargains aplenty, ideal for stocking fillers and more besides, and the city providing a fascinating backdrop with lots to see and do, the only worry will be whether you have booked a long enough trip!