Is it your first time in Prague? Get ready to be swept off your feet and into a lifelong tryst! As a first-timer, focus on capturing the city’s energy and unbelievable beauty. It’s ok to only scrape the surface. Over time, this love-at-first-sight will beckon you back to Prague and strengthen the bond between the two of you.
Let me share what Christmas time is all about and what you should do in Prague if you decide to come during the holiday season. Rest assured you’ll be awe-struck by the sheer beauty of the Czech capital.
1. Visit Christmas markets
Usually, travelers don’t stray too far from the center, so they only get to see the most frequented markets. And if you have only a couple days, that makes sense. But, if you’ve got a week or so, do yourself a favor and explore Prague’s local markets as well – they just might surprise you!
The Christmas market in the Old Town Square of Prague is by far the largest and the most well known. It’s mostly for tourists, but the locals do love it as well. There are street stalls selling all kinds of snacks, including staples like Prague ham or cinnamon rolls called Trdelník. These pastries, sometimes called Trdlo, are sweet and tasty, but quite filling too.
A word of caution – the ham 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. It’s usually quite sour but you can add as much sugar as you want.
In December, there are usually some street stalls in Wenceslas Square as well. It might not be a prime spot for the markets, but it’s usually a little less crowded and you can find similar items to those in the Old Town.
A little further away from the city center, lie a ton of other Christmas markets found in individual city districts. Take Prague 2, for example. Placed right in front of a majestic church on Náměstí Míru, the market is relatively small but quite cheerful.
One metro ride away, you’ll find another market in Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad. This spacious square is a hotspot for market-goers year-round, and come December is packed with locals strolling around, tasting the delicacies on offer. As in every market, you’ll find mulled wine, cinnamon rolls and all sorts of decorative items.
2. Explore some of the great museums and galleries
Prague museums are open year-round, and only close on public holidays – December 24-26 and January 1. Some of the best museums we recommend checking out are:
- National Museum: The National Museum has some permanent exhibitions about the Environment, History, and Music, as well as temporary exhibitions.
- National Technical Museum: For some hands-on experience from the field of science and technology, the National Technical Museum is among the best in Prague.
- National Gallery: The National Gallery is an oasis within a busy city. Some famous European artists are featured and the gallery, spread over several buildings, is quite a lot to take in, but art enthusiasts will be thrilled.
- Museum of Communism: This relatively small exhibition of communism is rather dark but the tragedy is played down with occasional jokes and ridicule.
- Kampa Museum: Listed among the Guardian’s “Best Museums You’ve Never Heard of”, it focuses on Central European modern art
- Dox, the Centre for Contemporary Art: One of the most progressive art institutions in the Czech Republic features all forms of art including photography, film and new media.
3. Enjoy the festivities
Get into the Christmas spirit with the Czechs by singing some carols in the Old Town Square while enjoying the overall festive atmosphere that magically permeates the city during the holidays.
4. Get warm in cozy cafés
Like I said, 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 is truly deserving of its own number on our list. Really, it’s somewhat of a necessity here – and there are lots of options. For international coffee chain fans, of course, there’s Starbucks, Costa Coffee and the likes. But – to have a more authentic experience, you can try visiting one of the cafés below:
Café CafeFin–Really unique place with lots of interesting stuff. If you’re looking for a cool decor, this is definitely a place to visit. However, the staff is perfectly friendly, and the coffee is good.
Café Slavia – If you find yourself around the National Theatre, you should totally stop at Café Slavia! The space is completely old school, and you’ll find yourself envisioning men in tuxedos around every corner. You might even be able to listen to some live piano music. Václav Havel, the former Czech president and a big supporter of human rights, would often frequent this café with friends as they wrote Czech history. Btw. You can even have a taste of Absinthe in Café Slavia!
5. Just stroll around and admire the beauty
It’s funny how a season can transform the people. You know, Czechs are rather stony-faced individuals and they aren’t ones for smiling more than they should. But their hearts melt a little when Christmas time comes around, and you might even catch them smiling at strangers. You can actually feel the change when you visit in the days leading up to Christmas and afterwards. You’ll experience a transformation from stressed out, rushing, nerve-wracked people to peaceful loving humans. (For the Czechs reading this post: pardon the honesty but that’s just how we are!)
I guess that by now you know Prague is my favorite spot on Earth. And despite the clouds and cold that settle here from November to March, Prague stays special year-round. Winter in Prague and, specifically, the Christmas season, is crazy beautiful and will easily leave one nostalgic and in love with it all.
Have you experienced Prague’s Christmas markets and the city during the Christmas season? How was it? Have you been to any other city in Europe over Christmas? Let us know how it went, we’d love to hear from you!