Prague Christmas markets are among the most magical we have visited in Europe. Europe’s Christmas markets originated in Germany, dating back to the 14th century, but have long since spread across the continent and all around the world. We had already been to several Christmas markets in Germany and Austria, and decided to visit Prague in December, spending our first Christmas in Prague and trying the Prague Christmas markets to find out what they were like with a little Czech twist. Prague turned out to be one of the best Christmas cities in Europe.
Prague Old Town Square Christmas Market
Prague’s Old Town Square must be one of the most enchanting in Europe, and with two of the most beautiful churches in Prague it makes a stunning setting for the main Prague Christmas Market. On one side, the fairy-tale Gothic spires of the church of Our Lady before Týn overlook the tree and stalls. Opposite, the Old Town Hall, with its 15th century Astronomical Clock and tower on one corner make for a magical backdrop, as does the Baroque church of St Nicholas further along the north side of the Square.
The Town Hall Tower is a great place to get your bearings, with an outstanding view over the Square and, from the other side, to the skyline that has been unchanged for centuries – church domes, the distinctive towers of Charles Bridge and beyond, the New Town and Castle Hill, dominated by St Vitus’ Cathedral. It’s likely to be rather busy up there, so if you’re a vertigo-prone claustrophobe, stay downstairs. It’s one of the best viewpoints in Prague, hands down.
Once daylight has disappeared and the lights come on around the square for the blue hour, the Market is at its cosiest and most atmospheric. It’s also one of the best times for photographing Prague. Families climb a glittering staircase to a viewpoint close to the Týn church, and children make a beeline for the animal stable for a chance to pet a donkey, goat or sheep.
All around, the smells and flavours are as irresistible as the sights. Everywhere you sense the warmth staving off the winter cold, from the hot mulled wine to giant roast hams and klobasa sausages, to the sweet comfort food, everything from gingerbread to strudels to traditional Czech trdelnik, a round, sugar-frosted pastry cooked on a spit or stick. The bars also have a plentiful stock of Czech beers, possibly among the finest in the world, and medovina, the Czech take on the honey-based liqueur, mead.
Apart from the food and drink, the markets are a great way to stock up on Christmas presents. We found some beautiful traditional wooden toys, Christmas decorations and a characterful ceramic bird called Alfons. As we were in Prague at Christmas itself, we had already done most of next year’s present shopping before the end of our Christmas Day!
Christmas in Prague
We loved spending Christmas in Prague, and wholeheartedly recommend it. Be aware that if you arrive Christmas Eve evening – when Czechs have their biggest celebration – it’s a taxi or a trek from the airport. In our case it was a bus to Arbesovo namesti then an onward tram which ran as far as Ujezd, followed by a 20-minute walk before we reached our hotel in the Mala Strana (Little Town) district.
Apart from things winding down on Christmas Eve, the other five days we spent there didn’t really differ from any other winter days. The Christmas markets were in full flow the whole time, and most cafes, bars and restaurants were open.
Where are the Prague Christmas Markets held?
The two main Prague Christmas markets are held on Old Town Square (Staromestski Namesti) and on nearby Wenceslas Square (Vaclavski namesti).
There are other smaller markets around the city – on Republic Square, Kampa Island and (our secret tip) in Prague Castle, in the square between St George’s Basilica and St Vitus Cathedral.
Prague Christmas Market Dates
The Prague Christmas Markets dates tend to be fairly similar most years. They tend to open around the beginning of the Advent season, in late November or early December. They then continue until January 6th.
The 2020 Prague Christmas Markets are due to run from 28th November 2020 to 6th January 2021.
What About Other Czech Christmas Markets?
There are Christmas Markets in the other main Czech Republic cities and towns, including Cesky Krumlov, Olomouc, Ostrava and more. We visited the Brno Christmas Market over the fortnight we stayed nearby. It’s much smaller than the Christmas Markets in Prague, with markets on two Brno city squares and a nearby ice rink. ,