Prague, in the Czech Republic, is known as the ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, because of its abundant Gothic buildings and old-world charm. But, around Christmas time, it might as well be called the ‘city of a hundred Christmas markets’. Seemingly every square or street is lined with festive cheer. The snow-covered rooftops make it the perfect winter wonderland to spend a Christmas getaway.
It’s a perfect stop on any winter tour of Eastern Europe. And to prove it, we’ve compiled a list of unmissable things to do, should you spend a few days of winter in Prague.
Make no mistake, it gets cold in Prague in winter. In December, the temperature averages around 4°C. So, it’s advisable to pack lots of warm layers. At the very least, make sure you remember these:
Now that you’re packed, it’s time to enjoy the amazing atmosphere of the city and its people.
More than 1,000 years old, the Prague Castle complex is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. But, over the years it’s been the home of emperors, kings and presidents. Prague Castle is also a famed UNESCO World Heritage site.
Within the castle complex, is the old Roman Catholic Cathedral that is known in part for containing the tombs of many patron saints, ancient kings and emperors. It is the largest temple in the city.
Another religious building steeped in Roman and Catholic history, St. George’s Basilica was originally built by Prince Vratislav in 920AD. Today, it serves as a museum of fine art and concert hall for classical performances.
Wenceslas Square is where you want to be. You’ll find major brands and smaller specialist shops here, as well as the national museum. At night, the area comes alive with bars and pubs. And yes, it is named after the king and patron saint from the popular Christmas carol.
If you’re going to cross a river, you’d want to use a bridge like this one. Along its 500 metres, you’ll find street performers, musicians and statues. There are also many legends and myths associated with the bridge, like the one about the builder who mixed raw egg into the mortar.
Why would you take a boat cruise in near-zero temperatures, you ask? Quite simply, it’s an experience like no other, offering a breathtaking view of the city and its landmarks. It’s also a wonderfully romantic date idea, especially if you take a dinner cruise at sunset.
Prague carries a painful and tragic legacy from World War II, especially for the Jewish community. The Jewish Museum, established before the war in 1906, is one of the oldest of its kind in the world and provides a moving experience to visitors.
It is committed to preserving and recording the history of the Jewish community in Bohemia. Some of its most prized exhibitions involve items that were rescued from the synagogues destroyed during the occupation.
You’re not going to walk past the Nationale-Nederlanden building without a double-take. Its design is so whimsical and unique, it’s been dubbed Fred and Ginger, or more commonly The Dancing House.
The buildings in Prague are known for their classical gothic or Roman design. But the modern Dancing House seems to be swaying, as if in a dance. From a certain angle, you might even think it’s collapsing! It’s not.
This park has a number of fun things to enjoy (besides occasional snow). Hitch a ride on the funicular, wander around the mirror maze, or go up in the lookout tower for a terrific view of the city.
Besides the beautiful and historical monuments, the Prague December offers its own specific gifts to the Prague winter visitor.
Christmas in Prague is all about markets. Many of the city’s squares host Christmas markets all the way through December. There’s little to compare to wandering the stalls and little shops while enjoying a delicious mulled wine and a gingerbread man.
There’ll be food and bakes to try, street performances to watch and a generally festive atmosphere that’s hard to beat. Find larger markets at Prague Castle, Wenceslas Square and Republic Square.
For the Czech people, St. Nicholas Day on December 6th marks the start of the Christmas season. The previous day, December 5th sees a celebration in the form of an odd bit of dress-up.
St Nicholas, an angel and a devil roam the streets, quizzing kids (or trying to scare them), and then giving them candy. Most of the Mikuláš festivities take place around the Old Town Square in the early evening. Bring candy.
While Prague does not forget its proud classical history, there’s music for all tastes in December. Around the city – especially at the Rudolfinum – you’ll find classical concerts galore, many Christmas-themed. There’s also Magnetic, an electronic dance music festival if you’re feeling up to a workout. And don’t forget all the street musicians!
Besides the traditional celebration at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Prague celebrates New Year’s Day itself with a fireworks display in the early evening. Festivities centre around Letna Park.
January 6th is The Epiphany in Christian culture. In many European cities, a procession depicting the Three Wise Men or kings from the east who visited the infant Jesus takes place. The three kings ride their camels from Malostranské Náměstí to the Old Town Square.
Prague is the perfect city for fans of old European culture. It might be the combination of the crisp winter air and the thousands of lights in the trees around the Christmas markets. It might be the tall Gothic spires or even the whimsical feeling of the public celebrations on special days.
Whichever, Prague delivers on a promise of a memorable winter holiday, especially over Christmas time. So, pack your coat and a pair of boots, and start planning Prague winter getaway.