Prague is a magical city throughout the year, but it's especially beautiful at Christmas. Known throughout Europe as one of the finest, Prague's Christmas markets infuse the city with a fairytale charm that enchants me every time.
I love browsing the vibrant Christmas stalls and listening to the sweet melodies of Christmas carols while sampling hearty food and sipping aromatic mulled wine.
But the city's festive activities don't stop there. Beyond the markets, Prague offers many exciting experiences, sure to create unforgettable holiday memories.
Czechs celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. Unlike Americans, they give each other presents on the evening of the 24th after Christmas dinner.
Traditional Czech Christmas dinner consists of carp with potato salad and other treats. As bizarre as it may sound, Czechs buy a live carp and keep it in a water-filled bathtub. This is to ensure that it remains as fresh as possible.
Traditionally, people are supposed to fast all day on December 24th. There is a saying that you'll see a golden pig if you do not eat all day until Christmas dinner. However, resisting the temptation of delicious Christmas treats can make fasting all day a challenge.
Instead of Santa Claus, Czechs honour Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is a Christian saint born in the late third century and known for his generosity toward children and the poor.
Czechs celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 5th, when children receive sweets. Don’t be surprised if you see groups of three adults dressed as an angel, devil, and Saint Nicholas on this day. They visit the children's homes in the neighbourhoods to check if they have been well-behaved. This tradition is similar to many other European countries.
If you’re visiting Prague around Christmas, here are a few ways to enjoy this stunning city over the festive season.
The main Christmas markets in Prague are held at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square (a short walk from each other). They generally run from the end of November to early January and are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm.
The Old Town in Prague is beautiful any time of the year, but the atmosphere is especially magical around Christmas. Picture dozens of wooden stands, the aroma of roasted chestnuts and cinnamon in the air and twinkling Christmas lights.
The centrepiece of the Old Town Christmas market is a large Christmas tree and stage for Christmas-themed concerts and live performances. To get the best view of Prague's Christmas tree, climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower.
The local vendors sell everything from traditional food to handmade crafts like wooden toys, puppets, beeswax candles and Christmas decorations.
I remember the first thing I bought on the Christmas market in Prague was woollen gloves. I still have them and love how warm they keep my hands in winter. The weather gets pretty chilly in Prague in December, so come prepared.
The second best part of the markets, right after the magical atmosphere and stunning historical architecture, is the food.
The most popular Christmas market delicacies are Prague ham, roasted chestnuts, trdelník topped with cinnamon sugar(chimney cake), potato pancakes, local gourmet sausages, langoš and palačinky (crepes).
And, of course, I can't forget mulled wine (svařák) or warm mead (medovina). These drinks will pair perfectly with your snacks and keep your hands warm while wandering around the stalls.
If you prefer fewer crowds, there are other smaller markets scattered throughout Prague:
Peace Square - Náměstí Míru Prague Christmas Market
Republic Square - Náměstí Republiky Christmas Market
Tylovo Náměstí Prague Christmas Market
Manifesto Christmas Market
You can get a local guide who will take you to four Prague Christmas markets, tell you all about Czech Christmas stories and traditions and let you sample the local specialities.
Visiting a nativity scene is a popular Czech Christmas tradition.
In Our Lady of the Angels church, you can find one of Prague's most beautiful and oldest nativity scenes in the Czech Republic. This large, elaborate baroque nativity scene has life-size human and animal figurines.
While here, you can listen to the short Carillon Bells concert at Loreto Tower, just next door to the church. A special bell mechanism from the 17th century activates every hour.
If you’re in Prague on Christmas day (25th December), consider attending a live nativity scene performance at Loreto Prague.
If you're spending Christmas Eve in Prague, consider attending a Midnight Mass at Brevnov Monastery, which dates back to 993.
Christmas Midnight mass usually takes place late in the evening on 24th December and celebrates the birthday of Jesus.
Although the mass is in Czech, the atmosphere of this gathering and monastery makes it interesting nonetheless.
Take some time to reflect and appreciate the beauty of this ancient place.
The Midnight Mass is also traditionally celebrated at the St. Vitus Cathedral or Mirror Chapel in Prague Klementinum.
This is an excellent opportunity to experience the city's vibrant cultural scene, and there is nothing quite as festive as a performance of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet.
You can watch this timeless classic at Prague's National Theater, which has an impressive historical interior. While here, make sure to look up at the ornate ceiling.
The music, composed by Tchaikovsky, is enchanting and perfectly captures the essence of the festive season. With its stunning costumes, elaborate sets, and intricate choreography, the Nutcracker is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
You'll get to see a top-quality performance at a fraction of the price you would pay in other European capitals.
Otherwise, if ballet doesn't sound appealing, head to a classical music concert instead.
Prague has stunning historical concert halls and churches, which make for a hauntingly beautiful experience. I recommend booking a concert in the Dvořák Hall in Rudolfinum, Prague's biggest music hall. The acoustics and the interior are unbeatable.
Many Christmas concerts also take place in the church of Simon and Jude, St Nicholas church at Old Town Square or the Spanish Synagogue.
If you plan to shop for Christmas gifts at Prague Christmas markets, there are many cool traditional Czech souvenirs to choose from.
The most popular souvenirs are wooden toys, hand-painted pottery, handmade Christmas ornaments, traditional Czech lace and Bohemia crystal glass.
You can also pick up a bottle of mead (honey wine) or homemade Christmas cookies (Vanoční cukroví). My favorite are linzer cookies (linecké cukroví) or vanilla crescents (vanilkové rohlíčky).
The Christmas cookies are a perfect treat to share with your friends and family when you return from your Prague holiday.
If you prefer more conventional Christmas shopping, head to one of the many Prague shopping malls. Palladium Shopping Center is a good place to start.
A fun way to experience Prague in December is a 3-hour dinner cruise aboard an open-top glass boat. You can admire the city illuminated at night and its iconic landmarks, such as Charles Bridge, Dancing House, Prague Castle and Petrin Hill.
Onboard you'll be welcomed with a festive drink and enjoy a delicious buffet-style dinner. The menu includes traditional Czech and international dishes.
The cruise features live music, making for a pleasant holiday experience. It also runs on Christmas Day, making it a festive activity if you're in the city.
An ice rink opens every winter in Prague from December to January at Ovocný trh near Wenceslas Square.
You can rent ice skates here and enjoy the festive atmosphere of downtown Prague. Imagine gliding across the ice, surrounded by the stunning Prague architecture.
When you get cold, visit one of the nearby cafes or restaurants for some hot chocolate or more mulled wine.
If you're lucky enough to get some snow during your Christmas stay in Prague, you can also go on a sledging adventure.
Petrin Hill is one of the best places for sledging in Prague, with fantastic scenic views of Prague Castle.
You can take a funicular ride to the top of the Petřín Hill or get some exercise and walk all the way up. The funicular runs every 10 to 15 minutes from Újezd to the Petřín Lookout Tower, which resembles Eiffel Tower.
A horse-drawn carriage ride is a unique way to experience the beauty of Prague, especially during the Christmas season.
There's no better way to take in Prague sights than by snuggling up under a warm blanket on a cozy carriage ride.
The carriage ride will bring you through the city's historic Old Town, where you can marvel at the stunning architecture, beautiful squares, and picturesque streets decorated by holiday lights.
After your carriage ride, warm up with a hot chocolate at Choco Café. The café is a paradise for any chocolate lover and takes hot chocolate to another level.
Their hot chocolate flavours range from coconut and ginger to raspberry and white chocolate with caramel. And yes, the texture is smooth and creamy. Different chocolate varieties from around the world are available.
You can also choose from a great selection of desserts. All the cakes are freshly made in-house. Their cheesecakes are to die for.
Want to unwind after all these Christmas activities? Relax in a beer spa with unlimited Czech beer on tap.
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Last Updated 20 December 2023