If you visit Prague in winter, you’ll find it at its most enchanting and atmospheric. Winter is a great time to visit Prague because many of the top things to do in Prague are indoors, ideal for visiting in the colder weather. Even the grey Prague winter days are beautiful, the domes and spires of the Prague skyline beautiful in almost monochrome or with their silhouettes peeking through the morning mist.
Outside the Christmas and New Year, winter is the Prague low season. The Prague tourist spots will still be busy, but you won’t have to walk far to escape the crowds in Prague in the winter months. It’s also the time when Prague hotels drop their rates to their lowest levels of the year.
We’ve also written a separate article on visiting Prague in December, because there are different considerations to visiting Prague in January and February. You may be planning to stay in Prague at Christmas, when Prague hotel prices are at their peak, or perhaps you’re planning to visit the Prague Christmas Markets and heading home before the holiday itself.
In our Prague city guide you plan what to visit in Prague in the winter. The low Prague temperatures are conducive to spending time indoors, so we suggest a wide range of Prague top attractions, many of which involve being inside. We’ll also help you get kitted out for the Prague winter weather, come rain, snow, shine or, most likely, cloud.
- 1 When is Winter in Prague?
- 2 How cold is Prague in winter?
- 3 Does it snow in Prague?
- 4 What about a Prague packing list for winter?
- 5 When is the best time to visit Prague in the winter?
- 6 Are any Prague attractions closed during the winter?
- 7 So – what to do in Prague in winter?
- 8 Walk the famous Charles Bridge
- 9 Prague Christmas Markets
- 10 Old Town Hall Tower
- 11 Strahov Library
- 12 Climb some of the lookout towers in Prague, especially Old Town Bridge Tower
- 13 Concert in Obecni Dum – Municipal House
- 14 Photographing Prague
- 15 Franz Kafka Museum Prague
- 16 Prague Museum of Communism
- 17 Prague Castle and Hradčany
- 18 Explore the many beautiful churches in Prague
- 19 Visit Some Old Prague Cafes
- 20 Try Some Hearty Prague Food
- 21 Czech Beer
When is Winter in Prague?
Winter in Prague is between December and February. This is when you would expect to experience the coldest Prague weather, though it’s not unknown for the most wintry conditions of the year to hit Prague in November or March – the latter encroaching into springtime in Prague.
How cold is Prague in winter?
Prague winter weather is mostly chilly and overcast. Prague average temperatures in winter normally rise only a few degrees above freezing.
The weather in Prague can vary from year to year, but you can usually expect the coldest weather in Prague in January. During January Prague daytime temperature averages around 1°C (34°F), though we had days as high as 10°C (50°F). Minimum Prague temperatures tend to average around -4°C (25°F) in January.
Prague weather in December isn’t significantly different, with temperatures perhaps a degree or so higher on average.
Likewise, Prague weather in February tends to be similar – perhaps a degree warmer than in January.
Whenever you’re visiting Prague in winter, you can expect a fairly similar weather pattern. Most days in winter in Prague tend to be cold and cloudy. On average, you can also expect a day or so of sunshine each week, and a comparable quota of rain. As for the white stuff….
Does it snow in Prague?
Prague snow is a rare phenomenon these days. Several friends we made in Prague told us the same story – ten years or so ago you could practically guarantee seeing Prague in the snow at least once in the winter, possibly several times. Not any more. We spent a whole winter in Prague, and got three or four brief snow flurries – each no more than 15-20 minutes long.
Everyone we met during our extended stay in the city felt the lack of Prague snowfall was down to climate change. We also stayed in the Moravian karst, in the south of the country, before visiting Prague, and this always used to get snow in winter. It was often very cold there, as low as -8°C (20°F) but again, hardly any of the white stuff, a common theme over the last decade or so.
What about a Prague packing list for winter?
If there’s a forecast for snow in Prague, or there’s a chance of icy weather during your winter trip to Prague, the cobbled streets can be uneven and slippery, it’s well worth having a pair of ice grippers to hand. These have rubber soles with around ten spikes, and they stretch over your shoes. The spikes give a great grip in the snow and ice – you’ll walk a lot more comfortably and confidently with them than without. Essentially they’re a mini-crampon, and ideal if you’re going to travelling in Europe in the snow.
These will help you stay on your feet – now what about staying warm in Prague in winter? For our recent Prague trip I bought a fantastic calf-length winter greatcoat from a thrift store elsewhere in the Czech Republic. It is very high quality, incredibly warm and perfect for anywhere in Europe in winter. This option wouldn’t be available for everyone, so your main consideration when you visit Prague in winter should be to have a warm, heavy coat for winter.
If you’re travelling in Europe in the winter, you should always bring a thermal base layer with you. You’ll need both a top and leggings, especially when the temperature drops below freezing point.
After that, it’s all a question of layering, and adjusting according to whatever winter coat you’re planning to wear. I’ve found wearing a pair of combat trousers or jeans (plus the thermal layer) have kept me warm enough during the Czech winter. On top, I’ve found that two t-shirts – one long-sleeved – plus my thermal layer and greatcoat – kept me as warm as toast through an entire Prague winter. Add a scarf or two and a warm hat, and you’re done.
When is the best time to visit Prague in the winter?
We’ve written a separate article on Prague in December because it’s a markedly different experience to Prague in January or February. December in Prague can be very busy, as many visit to experience the Prague Christmas Markets, and in our experience it’s one of the best Christmas cities in Europe. We once spent Christmas in Prague, something we can also recommend.
Prague in January is generally quieter than in December, and we expected the number of visitors to fall after the Prague Christmas Market season finished on January 6th. They did, but not as much as we expected. The main Prague tourist places – the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square – were continually packed with tourists throughout the winter, but the side streets were considerably quieter.
Prague in February was similar, with plenty of visitors thronging the usual places. We had expected Prague to be similar to Venice in winter, with a noticeable lull in visitor numbers and a concomitant drop in prices. This wasn’t the case, with rooms still around 60-70% of their rates in high season – whereas you can get Venice accommodation for 20-30% of peak season rates in January.
Are any Prague attractions closed during the winter?
Yes. Most Prague tourist attractions remain open through the winter, but some close down for the season. All of the main gardens in Prague close for winter, which isn’t a particularly great loss as no plants, flowers and trees are in bloom anyway.
The one thing you may miss out on is visiting castles in the Czech Republic during winter. Prague is close to several of the best Czech Republic castles, including Karlštejn. Castle, which is one of the most popular day trips from Prague. Sadly, Karlštejn and other castles in Czech Republic are closed in winter – even the likes of Česky Krumlov, in the far south of the country.
So – what to do in Prague in winter?
Now that you’re fully prepared, here’s our must see Prague list, with many a winter twist.
Walk the famous Charles Bridge
There are several beautiful bridges in Prague, but most visitors are only visited in one – the Charles Bridge, or Karluv Most, a medieval masterpiece spanning the River Vltava, linking the Old Town Stare Mesto) with the Lesser Town (Mala Straná).
It’s where many visitors begin their Prague sightseeing, walking the bridge lined with Baroque statues of saints and religious figures. It’s one of the best places to see and appreciate the City of a Hundred Spires. Whether you look west towards Mala Strana and Prague Castle, or east towards the skyline of Old Town Prague, the views are incredible. This is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and this is where you’ll find some of the best views in Prague.
The only drawback with the Charles Bridge is the crowds it continually attracts. Whenever you visit Prague in the winter, it’ll be the same, thronged with visitors even if the rest of the city is very quiet. Seeing it is one of the best things to do in Prague, but if you venture onto the Bridge you’ll be in the company of hundreds of people, maybe even a thousand or two. If you’re expecting a romantic, serene Prague experience, it won’t happen here.
The best time to visit the Charles Bridge is either an hour before dawn or at night, after 10 pm, when there are usually far less people about. If you want to shoot the perfect Charles Bridge sunrise, even on a bitterly cold Prague winter morning you’ll often be confronted by a phalanx of photographers lined up across the Bridge waiting for the perfect shot while ruining everyone else’s. Fear not – walk 200-300 metres along the Bridge and you won’t be able to see them.
Prague Christmas Markets
The Christmas Markets in Prague are among the best in Europe. We rate them so highly because of the setting of the Old Town Square Christmas Market, which is breathtaking. There are additional Christmas Markets on nearby Wenceslas Square and up the hill in Prague Castle, between St Vitus’ Cathedral and St George’s Basilica.
In some ways the Prague Christmas Market doesn’t differ that much from other European Christmas Markets. They’re a winter wonderland, with many stalls serving hot mulled wine, or glühwein, at all the markets. One unique aspect of Czech Christmas markets is that you can also indulge in some Czech beer, which is among the best in the world.
You can also pick up all kinds of Czech Christmas gifts around the markets, with many different kinds of handicrafts for sale.
Old Town Hall Tower
The Old Town Hall Tower is one of the best-known landmarks of Prague, and it dominates Prague Old Town Square (Staromestské Namestí), the stunning centrepiece of the historic Old Town. It’s also one of the best viewpoints in Prague, with a breathtaking view over the Old Town Square and the magical Gothic church of Our Lady Before Tyn. Over the Christmas and New Year period, this is more often than not packed solid.
The Baroque Strahov Library is one of the must sees in Prague. It’s housed in a Premonstratensian monastery complex next to Hradčany, the Prague Castle district. You can get there via the #22 tram from Malostranské Namestí, but I’d recommend the walk up from there along Nerudova and Uvoz, two of the most beautiful Prague streets, instead.
It’s natural to gravitate indoors, especially if the Prague winter weather is bitterly cold. Both Baroque libraries in the complex are magnificent, enough to warm your soul. If you just turn up on spec and buy a ticket, you get to see the two libraries, but only from the doorway of each. They are both magnificent, but on reflection I wish I had booked a guided tour of the Strahov Library instead.
If you opt to visit the Czech National Library in the Klementinum, just across the Charles Bridge, you are obliged to join a guided tour, whether you book in advance or not. This may be better in a way, as you certainly get to see more.
Climb some of the lookout towers in Prague, especially Old Town Bridge Tower
Prague is traditionally known as the City of a Hundred Spires, and it has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, with a few towers, domes and cupolas thrown in for good measure. Several of these towers in Prague are open, giving some of the best views of the city.
Aside from the Old Town Hall Tower, the other Prague towers tend to be less crowded. The Old Town Bridge Tower, at the Old Town end of the Charles Bridge, is one of the true Prague highlights. It’s an extraordinary vantage point, with incredible views over the Charles Bridge to the Lesser Town and Prague Castle in one direction, and the Old Town Prague skyline in the other. Dusk is the best time to visit, but you might have some company.
This is less likely at the Powder Tower (Prasna Brana), back across the Old Town next door to the Obecni Dum concert hall (below). This has tremendous views over Prague, the best of which is the view east to the spires of the Tyn Church with St Vitus Cathedral on Castle Hill in the background. As it’s slightly off the beaten path Prague, only one other person was up there with me to share the glorious spectacle of the sky turning pink behind the two churches.
Concert in Obecni Dum – Municipal House
You’ll see many a poster, or some soul made to dress up as a Habsburg courtier, advertising classical music concerts in Prague. Many churches in Prague are used for this purpose, including St Salvator in the Klementinum and St Giles’ Church, also in Prague Old Town. For our first classical concert in Prague, we opted for the Obecni Dum, one of the most beautiful buildings in Prague.
Obecni Dum, or Municipal House, is a Prague Art Nouveau masterpiece. It’s next to Namesti Republiky, a busy square in Prague city centre, and it’s one of the finest examples of Prague architecture to look out for during your visit. The exterior is flamboyant Art Nouveau, with a superb dome above the entrance. Look for details like the stained glass near the main door, and the gorgeous signage in the upstairs bar.
As for the concert, we saw a Czech orchestra play a selection from Mozart to Mahler and Verdi to Vivaldi. The concert venue, the Smetana Hall, is one of the best in Prague. If you’re going to be tempted to see classical concert in Prague, be tempted here.
One of the best times for Prague photography is during the winter. If you happen to get lucky with some sunshine, Prague at winter time looks magical in the low light, especially at the beginning and end of the day. It’s also the best time of year to photograph Prague at night, with the ‘blue hour’ of twilight between 4.30 and 6pm in the winter months. Many of the most famous Prague landmarks are lit up at night. If you visit Prague in winter and plan to devote some of tour time to photographing Prague the blue hour and beyond may well be your most productive time of day.
Franz Kafka Museum Prague
Winter is the ideal time to explore some of the best museums in Prague.
What better time is there than the short, dark, overcast days of winter in Prague to indulge in some Franz Kafka? One of the most famous Prague writers, Kafka was relatively unknown during his short lifetime, but he became well-known in the literary world within a few years of his death in 1924. There are several Kafka-related things to see in Prague, but the most rewarding is the Franz Kafka Museum, housed in a brickworks on the left bank of the Vltava River in Mala Strana, a few minutes’ walk north of Charles Bridge.
Prague Museum of Communism
Kafka’s writing prefigured the totalitarian state, and you can learn something about how this panned out – and eventually went down the pan – in the Prague Museum of Communism. Here you’ll find all kinds of memorabilia related to the 40-plus years in which the then Czechoslovakia lived under the yoke of Communism imposed by the USSR that was. It’s one of the most curious Prague museums, and if you haven’t visited a similar one before then it’s quite a good introduction to life under Communism. There’s just one thing that’s missing from the narrative, that many older Czechs actually miss the security that life under Communism provided.
Prague Castle and Hradčany
Prague Castle – Pražsky Hrad – is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, and according to some sources the largest medieval castle complex in the world. The surrounding area, Hradčany, translates as ‘Castle Hill’ and together they’re among the premier attractions of Prague.
It’s one of the absolutely essential places to go in Prague – it’s the seat of political power in the Czech Republic, and the spiritual home of the Czech nation as well. The mighty Gothic St Vitus Cathedral houses the shrine of the country’s patron saint, St Wenceslas (of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ fame) in its most beautiful chapel. If you visit the Castle in Prague December and early January have an extra attraction, with the Christmas Market between St Vitus’ and St George’s Basilica.
There is free access to the Prague Castle precincts, but to enter St Vitus, St George’s Basilica and some of the palace sites, including the Vladislav Hall, the venue for coronations of Bohemian kings, you need to buy tickets for a self-guided tour around the various locations. Winter is a great time to visit Prague Castle, as much of what you’ll be seeing is inside buildings. The Prague Castle tickets also include access to Golden Lane, a gorgeous historic street lined with picturesque painted cottages.
Many opt for the convenience of a Prague city tour, as you get the ride up the moderately steep hill and the information from the guides gives you more insight than the multi-lingual panels around the site.
Explore the many beautiful churches in Prague
The city’s many churches are among the most interesting places in Prague to visit. The two oldest Prague churches date back almost a thousand years, and there are superb examples of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and 20th century architecture among the city’s churches.
Winter in Prague is the ideal time to explore some of the city’s ecclesiastical treasures. Aside from St Vitus’ Cathedral (see Prague Castle below), the most famous church in Prague is the iconic Our Lady Before Tyn (Tynsky chram in Czech). It’s one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the world from the outside, with its two fairytale spires and pinnacles. The church entrance is hidden on an arcade in Old Town Square – seek it out to see the simple Gothic-baroque interior, its silence and peacefulness a far cry from the Square outside.
There is a particular wealth of Baroque churches in Prague. If you have time, it’s well worth the short walk to St Giles Church on Husova, five minutes’ walk from the Charles Bridge. Its exterior is a bit of a Gothic hotch-potch, while the interior is exquisite Baroque, with a beautiful series of sky-blue paintings. It’s a wonderful place to retreat from the Prague winter cold for a while.
If you venture into the Prague suburbs you’ll also encounter some more modern Prague architecture. The Church of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Vinohrady is one of the finest works by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and it’s the focal point of Jiriho z Podebrad Square, in the shadow of the Žižkov TV Tower. Also look out for the twin spires of SS Peter and Paul church, a lovely mixture of Gothic Revival and Art Nouveau, in the riverside fortress of Vyšehrad. This is one of the hidden gems of Prague, and it’s next door to a cemetery housing the graves of many Czech luminaries, including composers Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana. Fortunately there’s a hole-in-the-wall café serving glühwein, grog, hot punch and coffee to fortify you against the Prague winter cold.
Visit Some Old Prague Cafes
During your trip to Prague in winter, you could also retreat from the weather to some of the best cafes in Prague. Cafes are a huge tradition in Central Europe, and Prague has some wonderful historic cafes to explore. They’re spread around the city centre of Prague, and are great places to stop by for a coffee or enjoy a very reasonably priced meal. When visiting historic cafes in Vienna, we also found that you can get a great deal on main courses, and that you only pay relatively high prices if you order coffee and cake.
Two of the best Prague cafes are on the same street, Narodni. The striking Art Deco Café Slavia is on the corner of the street, opposite Narodni Divadlo, the Czech National Theatre. The elegant Café Louvre is around 300 metres down this street on the south side. It’s the full Prague café experience, with high ceilings, chandeliers and the gentle tinkling of the piano in the background. There’s also a games room, with billiard tables and table football – it’s one of the best cafes in. Prague for families, and reminded me very much of the smaller Café Sperl in Vienna.
For something completely different, head a mile or so out of the Old Town to Karlin. The Karlin Barracks – Kasarna Karlin – date from the 19th century Habsburg era. The Barracks are one of the most unusual things to do in Prague – it’s partly a cultural centre, with one of the quirkiest cafes in Prague. The room off to the right of the entrance is the old soldiers’ swimming pool, now drained of course. The large room in which it’s housed is very atmospheric in winter, lit by a few lamps and the last glimmer of daylight outside. It’s just around the corner from Florenc metro station.
Try Some Hearty Prague Food
Czech food – and, in general, central European food – has two purposes, and it fulfils both extremely well. It fills you up and it warms you up, perfect for a cold Prague winter day.
Many Prague restaurants serve similar dishes, from the high-end cafes to the traditional street corner pivnice (Czech pub).
Pork, potatoes and dumplings are all mainstays of traditional Czech cuisine. One of our favourite dishes is Svickova na smetane, sirloin cooked with vegetables and served with a cream sauce and cranberries. Roast pork with dumplings and cabbage – vepro-knedlo-zelo – is another hugely popular dish, as is gulas, which is different to Hungarian goulash, which is more of a soup.
For me, winter is the best time to try these Czech dishes, and a fine Czech pilsner is the perfect accompaniment.
One of the best things to do in Prague at night is to sample a glass or four of Czech beer.
The best-known Czech beer brands internationally are Pilsner Urquell (Plzensky Prazdroj in Czech), Budvar (also known as Budweiser, and far better than its American namesake) and Staropramen. If you’re interested in a Czech brewery tour, the Staropramen brewery just so happens to be a short tram ride away from Prague city center in Smichov, on the west side of the river.
One thing I’ve discovered living in Prague is that there is a truly vast range of beer available. The main Czech brands all produce several different beers, and there is a profusion of smaller breweries around the Czech Republic. The local beer Branik is now brewed at the Staropramen brewery in Prague, and other brands such as Radegast, Gambrinus and Kozel also have some great brews.
One of the main reasons the Prague stag do has become so popular is the relative cheapness of the beer compared to elsewhere in Europe. This is because of the stiffness of the competition, which has always kept prices low. There’s also the attraction of getting completely blotto in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, of course.
When you visit bars in Prague, the etiquette is to find yourself a seat, then the bartender will come to you. He/she will return at intervals, adding each drink to your tab, which you pay when you leave.