Prague has long been a must-see European city, with tourists from all over the world heading to the historic Czech capital to experience the culture and take in its best-loved sites over the colder winter months. Why this seems to be couldn’t be clearer when looking at the stunning architecture — a unique combination of brightly-coloured Baroque buildings, Gothic churches and picturesque streets — intertwined with a unique atmosphere that truly comes alive during the festive season.
Known as the City of a Hundred Spires, Prague is a spectacular place to spend your next winter city break. This is why…
#1 Famous Christmas Markets
One of the reasons tourists flock to Prague, particularly at such a festive time of year, is to immerse themselves in the seasonal celebrations and winter culture. An obligatory activity is to visit the Prague Christmas Markets. Widely renowned as some of the best in Europe, they are open from December 1 until January 6 and cannot be missed.
The two main markets are based in Old Town Square and Wenceslaus Square. The picturesque surroundings and combination of glittering Christmas decorations, traditional stalls and the scent of local delicacies on the cold winter air make this a one of a kind experience. Tourists can expect to try some amazing food and pick up unique gifts (such as fine jewelry and wooden toys) all under the shadow of a huge twinkling Christmas tree. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds then Prague Castle, Peace Square, and Republic Square also have their own smaller Christmas markets too.
#2 Incredible Architecture
As mentioned above, Prague’s unique architecture is almost fairytale-like. Head over to Prague Castle to witness the beautiful 9th-century fortress and immerse yourself in the history of the city. While currently the official office of the President of the Czech Republic, in the past the castle has housed everyone from kings of Bohemia to Holy Roman emperors.
Another must-see during the winter is Prague Old Town. There you’ll find the beautiful Tyn church lit up to mark the Christmas period with the area’s streets adorned in lights. The architectural highlight of a trip to Prague’s Old Town has to be the Old Town Hall. Built in the 14th century, the hall also features an astronomical clock, which is currently the 3rd oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still in operation. There are also some truly beautiful luxury hotels in the heart of the city that are architecturally admirable in their own right. The imposing facade of Carlo IV, The Dedica Anthology Hotel is just 10 minutes walk from Wenceslas Square and boasts impressive 19th-century décor throughout. Don’t forget there are walking tours available across the city, to ensure you don’t miss anything during your stay.
#3 Unmissable Food and Drink
When it comes to food in Prague, nothing beats sampling the local cuisine. Top of the list for any visitor has to be zelňačka or saurkraut cabbage soup. While this dish may not sound appetising to outsiders, the soup is sure to warm you up when temperatures are falling around freezing. Zelňačka is also widely-renowned to be the city’s best hangover cure, should you find yourself in the area after too many New Year’s Eve drinks. Other must-tries are Palačinky (Czech crepes) which can be filled with sweet treats including jam, cream and nuts, or savoury options like spinach, cheese and meat.
Another warming winter snack is trdelník, a traditional rolled pastry dusted with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Finally, when it comes to drinks, svařák (mulled wine) warmed with spices and enjoyed over a catch up in one of the local bars provides the perfect end to a day of sightseeing.
#4 Unique Cultural Events
Aside from all the usual sights to see and gastronomical delights to sample, there are many other events taking place this time of year that make a winter visit to Prague a unique experience. One of the most long-awaited events in the city’s calendar is St Nicholas (Mikulas) Eve on December 5th. You’re likely to see groups of locals dressed as angels, devils and Saint Mikulas himself approaching children in the streets and asking them to recite a poem or story. The 3 characters determine whether children have behaved well enough throughout the year, giving those who have a gift while those who haven’t are given potatoes or coal. The tradition goes these naughty children are also forced into the devil’s sack and taken away. It’s a fascinating sight to behold with the main event taking place between 5pm and 8pm in Wenceslas Square.
During the winter you can also watch the talented choirs and musicians at the International Festival of Advent and Christmas Music. One of the oldest of its kind, the festival sees choirs from around the world take to the stage for a series of outdoor concerts in the Old Town Square. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be in Prague for New Year’s Eve, don’t miss the unforgettable firework display. You can look forward to the spectacular event as the clock strikes 12am, with crowds gathering along the banks of the Vltava River, as well as in Wenceslas Square to watch.