Unparalleled in beauty, Prague first captured my heart many years ago and has lured me back time-and-time again. While there is no single best time to visit Prague, it could be argued that a trip in December timed around Christmas – with the possibility of a sprinkling of snow – is the most magical time to visit. While Prague is famed for it’s cobbled lanes, hidden courtyards, cultural performances, museums and of course beer – there are certain things that make a visit to Prague in winter uniquely special. Soviet-bloc grey Eastern Europe this is not and there is always time for a quick trip to Prague! Read on to see all the beautiful things to do in Prague in December and discover one of the best Christmas destinations in Europe!
One magical highlight of Prague in December is undoubtably ice skating, which is popular amongst tourists and locals alike. Whether you’re a season pro and gracefully cut circles across the ice or are a slip-sliding first-timer, there is nothing like being out in the fresh air surrounded by beautiful lights and the historic buildings of Prague. There are many places to try ice skating in Prague, but a perennial favourite is Ovocny Trh, a free skating rink operated daily until 10pm by the Prague City Hall. If you don’t have your own ice skates you can rent ice skates in Prague for around 50 – 100CZK, but for the most fun you should of course bring your own! Check out this list for plenty of other cheap and fun things to do in Prague.
For an even more memorable experience Prague ice skating, wait until it’s well below 0 °C and the Vltava river freezes over becoming possibly the worlds most beautiful ice-skating location. Sadly however, this happens less frequently now as white winters in Prague are shorter and temperatures higher.
Christmas in Prague would not be complete without the festive Christmas Markets – and those of the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square give the famed Christmas Markets of Germany a run for their money. Open everyday from the 2nd of December til 6th of January, including all the big holidays, there is really is no better place to experience the festive atmosphere of Prague in December. Browse the handicraft markets, partake in Christmas carols, indulge in delicious snacks and warm up with hot drinks. The Christmas Markets of Prague really are a winter wonderland. But if the crowds at the main spots become a bit too much you can also look for the smaller (yet equally enjoyable) markets at Prague Castle, Havel’s Market, Kampa Island or on the Republic Square…or better yet, just visit them all!
Wondering where to stay in Prague? Consider contrasting the historic beauty of Prague in December – or really any time of year – with a stay in the only designer hotel in Prague, Hotel Josef. The antithesis of the old-world beauty of the Prague Old Town Square, Prague Castle or Charles Bridge, the Hotel Josef offers a modern-chic interior with plenty of instagrammable spots so your entire time in Prague is filled with beauty….And to truly indulge yourself you just have to book into one of their Premium Josef rooms with unparalleled views out over the UNESCO-listed Old Town of Prague so you can enjoy the sights of Prague day-or-night from the comfort of your own bed. It’s also my favorite hotel for a gaycation in Prague.
Hotel Josef in Prague is located on a quiet side street only a few blocks from the main square, yet in stark contrast to other bland shoebox hotels in the Prague Old Town here you have modern architecture, plenty of natural light and a bold colour scheme. With all the modern amenities you would expect in a designer hotel of this caliber, there are also a few unexpected surprises including a complimentary mini-bar stocked with goodies for your arrival, both ala carte and buffet breakfast options including a health corner and fresh-baked bread right in front of your eyes along with a penthouse gym and sauna – complete with the rather handsome private fitness coach Lukas who is onhand to provide free advice and work-out routines for guests. Hotel Josef is the best place to stay in Prague and ensures that even after a long-day of sight seeing you are still surrounded by beauty.
Just as stunning as watching the Opera in Vienna but at a much-cheaper price, Prague has a long musical traditional and when you visit in December you cannot pass up the opportunity for an evening of breath-taking orchestras, choirs and dance performances. Tickets book out far in advance, especially for shows on and around Christmas Day, so you should plan ahead and consider shows at either the prestigious National Theatre of Prague, the Estates Theatre or Karlin Theatre. Prague in December means theatres are guaranteed to trot out the classic’s like Swan Lake and the Nutcracker Ballet but you can also find more modern performances of ballet and Opera by both Czech and foreign authors if you look hard enough. And even if the ballet is not quite your cup of tea, the Neo-Renaissance and Rococo interiors put Prague’s theatres amongst the most beautiful theatres and opera buildings in Europe and are worth seeing in their own right. There are many ticket re-seller sites for Prague events but in most cases you should do directly through the venue website to avoid paying any extra fees.
Prague at Christmas can be rather hectic on-land so why not opt for a romantic Prague river cruise to take in all the top highlights of Prague from a different perspective as you cruise along the Vlatava River. With a full commentary along the way, the short cruises departing hourly offer the chance to take in the City of a Thousand Spires with a coffee in one hand and a camera in the other, no need to even get up. Don’t worry – there is full heating in winter, and air-conditioning in summer, plus an on-board bar if you need any help getting in the festive spirit!
Get into the Christmas mood by attending the Advent and Christmas concerts which take place regularly at the St Salvator Church in Prague – one of the most highly rated in Prague. Many of Prague’s historic churches however also have concerts taking place so ask for help from your hotel when visiting Prague in December to locate the best options for you. There are also seven Prague Advent Choral Meeting weekend’s throughout the year where groups from all over the world come together to perform at the churches in the Old Town of Prague. All concerts are open to the public and free of charge. Check out Prague Festival for dates and more information.
The abundance of delicious street-food is a massive highlight of visiting Prague in December, which is not readily available in most other months of the year. But as Christmas (or Easter) rolls around each year, the streets of Prague are filled with a smorgasbord of options to eat, so many infact that the average tourist might never step foot in a restaurant of cafe. The top food to try in Prague has to be longose (a kind of friend bread with tomato sauce and grated cheese), chlebicky (an open sandwiches with cheese, ham, egg, salami and gherkins), Czech sausages (like German bratwurst) and Palacinky (French style pancakes). To drink you cannot go past svarak (Czech mulled wine with apples instead of lemons or organes) and of course you must try the current food sensation in Prague, Trdelnik – a soft dough in a cylinder form with cinnamon and sugar- stuffed with ice-cream and chocolate. There really is nothing like it in the world (and they seemed to be on every street corner in Prague now!)
Take advantage of the lower prices and abundance of high-quality handicrafts to get all your gift buying done in Prague at Christmas. Of course there are plenty of generic mugs, magnets and kitsch items on display which could make a nice present, but for an authentic Prague souvenir you really can’t go wrong with Marionettes, Becherovka Herbal Liqueur or Bohemian Glass. Hand-crafted and hand-carved marionettes are a serious business in Prague and you can find plenty of high-quality stores around Charles Bridge with pretty much every size and theme you can imagine. If these beautifully creepy puppets are not for you there is always the famous Becherovka Herbal Liqueur with it’s delightful tastes of ginger which is the most famous drink in the Czech Republic or you could consider Bohemian glass, cut and engraved in small factories for generations with the best pieces sold through the official Moser store.
Prague is a big place so to save time you should focus your efforts on the main Prague shopping area that runs from Wenceslas Square to Republic Square and in the Old Town Square where you can find small shops selling art, crystal and tourist knick-knacks. For international brands and chains you can either head to Myslbek Shopping Gallery or Wenceslas Square – but I mean honestly, how could you go past the Marionettes??
For a stylish and contemporary Czech restaurant with a stellar reputation and views to die for you can’t go past Mlynec with its large windows with views out over Charles Bridge and live jazz evenings. With a seasonal menu reflecting traditional dishes of the region with a ‘oh-so-modern’ twist Mlynec restaurant is probably the best place to eat in Prague, and if you are lucky enough to organise reservations for their Christmas dinner special you will not be disappointed. For those on a budget – or simply looking for a more relaxing environment Café Lávka next to the Smetana Statue is a nice alternative just around the corner. Right on the river with heaters and blankets you can enjoy a simple coffee or snack while the swans gather on the river below you.
Yes, as cliche’d as it might sound- one of the most beautiful things to do in Prague in December is simply to wander around, get lost in the narrow cobble-stone streets and enjoy the unique Christmas atmosphere in Prague. Plenty of buildings have beautiful shop displays, there are lights aplenty and the city really does come alive after dark so don’t think about skipping out early – unless you have one of the Josef Suites at the Josef Hotel then I would completely understand! Take the side-street, avoid the crowds, wander by the river, stop to listen to the Christmas carolers and head up the the castle at night to really take in everything Prague Xmas has to offer.
Not just in Europe for the glorious Old Town of Prague and it’s incredible Christmas Markets? Here are some great other guides and cities to continue on your Euro Trip From Prague. Make sure you get your Eurail train ticket before you enter Europe for big savings and the freedom to hop-on and off almost any train in Europe on a whim! What could be better right!
Vienna – Filled to the brim with imperial architecture, world-class museums, refined Kaffeehäuser (coffee houses) and an air or elegance, it’s easy to see why Vienna is world-renown for it’s old world charm and as one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. But there is also a modern, contemporary scene here like no other in Europe. Find out all Vienna’s secrets with these Twenty-Five Top Things to Do in Vienna!
Budapest – The joint capital with Vienna under Austro-Hungarian rule, Budapest is famed for it’s ruin pubs, cheap prices, spa culture and Parliament building. Find out everything you need to know for the perfect Budapest weekend away!
Romania – Ok, so it’s one country over but Romania is probably one of my favourite countries in Europe and deserves to be on every adventure travellers bucket list. Not convinced? See these 50 incredible places you can’t miss on a epic Romania road trip and then tell me I am wrong! And then of course your only a short hop to Chișinău, Europe’s ugliest capital!
Munich– A more boring version of Vienna in my mind, there is still a lot to love about Munich and it does have almost as much history. If you can plan your visit around the one-of-a-kind Oktoberfest or the German Christmas Market season. Otherwise a day trip To Neuschwanstein Castle is always a winner, no matter which season you visit it and all these awesome things to do in Salzburg are right on your doorstep!
A special thanks to Hotel Josef – the best place to stay in Prague – for helping me with my stay, including hosting me and providing plenty of great local hints and tips that you can find included above. As always all opinions are my own and was in love with Prague even before my most recent stay!