Largely untouched during the first and second World Wars, Prague is often referred to as the most well preserved Medieval city in Europe, and, in 1992, its entire city center was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
As you walk along the picturesque cobblestone streets (past gothic cathedrals and the world’s largest castle), you will undoubtedly feel as though you’re strolling through the pages of a storybook. There’s just one thing that could make it all feel more enchanting – Vánoční trhytrdelník, or in English… Christmas markets. Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and charming wooden chalet’s fill Prague’s medieval squares during the holidays, making this fairytale town feel even more magical.
Heading to the Czech capital this Christmas? Here are some things to know before you go.
Prague’s Old Town Square is lined with several notable historical buildings including the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, and the magnificent Týn Cathedral and Church of St. Nicholas. During the holidays, this colourful square becomes the site of the city’s most vibrant and most popular holiday market. It also tends to be the most crowded… but for good reason.
A massive live Christmas tree, covered in lights, towers over the bustling square, and cute wooden huts selling traditional foods, souvenirs, and yuletide beverages tempt market goers as they pass. All the while, carol singers provide a merry soundtrack to the square’s joyous celebration. It is the idyllic scene for a European holiday market, and is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
Locals know tip: Come in the afternoon to catch the ceremonial lighting of the tree which takes place daily at 4:30pm.
From the Old Town Square, head to the Christmas Market at Wenceslas Square, located just a five-minute walk away. Though it isn’t as big and dazzling as the Old Town Square Market, it’s no less busy.
To avoid the crowds, visit these two Christmas market squares during the week, or head to one of the city’s smaller markets like the one at Republic Square. It is a lot quieter than the previously mentioned market squares… and is also known to be considerably cheaper.
For an even more authentic (and less crowded) Christmas market experience, head to Peace Square in Prague 2. Located on the square in front of the the beautiful new-Gothic Church of St. Ludmila, this was easily my favourite Christmas market we visited while in Prague.
Primarily frequented by locals, this is typically the first market to begin each season. The lack of crowds means more opportunities to properly browse the stalls for trinkets and gifts, less rubbing elbows with strangers, and shorter lines for mead and mulled wine. Though it’s a bit outside the city centre, it is definitely worth the trip.
The Charles Bridge Museum hosts a holiday exhibition of nativity displays that are quite unlike the traditional “baby in a manger, three wise men” scenes you may be accustomed to. Each holiday season, these nativity displays are constructed using only one material, and, in last year’s straw exhibition, there were some very interesting nativity renditions… including a life-size fish nativity scene.
This is a great place to see unique nativity displays made by artists from all over the world, to learn more about the history of the Charles Bridge, and, on particularly cold winter days, it’s also a great spot to warm up! Grab a mug of svařák (mulled wine) and a plate of vanocni cukrovi (Christmas cookies) at the museums cozy café.
Not a fan of mulled wine and Christmas cookies? Okay, Scrooge… ya SURE you want to do this whole Christmas market thing? Though I think you’re SERIOUSLY missing out, no worries – there are loads of other festive foods and drinks sold at Prague’s holiday markets that might strike your fancy instead.
Try some traditional sunka (spit-roasted ham), bramboraky (salty potato pancakes), or klobasy (barbequed sausages), with an obligatory, sweet trdelník (chimney cake) for dessert. Then wash it down with some hot (hand warming) beverages like horká čokoláda (hot chocolate) and medovina (honey wine), or try one of the famous Czech beers like Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen.
Locals know tip: Most stalls at the Christmas markets don’t generally accept credit cards, so don’t forget to bring cash for all of your holiday market food, drink, and souvenir purchases (Czech Crowns not Euros)!
Come experience the magic of Christmas in this fairy tale town for yourself with an Urban Adventures guide by your side.
This year’s markets at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square run from November 30th to January 6th, and the markets at Peace Square and Republic square run from November 20th and 25th to December 24th.