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A Bohemian Christmas

Christmas markets in PraguePrague, the vibrant Czech capital and centre of Bohemia, provides a hugely rewarding blend of fascinating history and cutting-edge style. It’s the equal of Paris in terms of beauty and boasts numerous architectural, artistic and cultural treasures. And, while the spring and summer months see Praguers and the city’s many visitors in their element – with café and pub terraces spilling onto the streets and squares, and fantastic picnic-with-a-view opportunities in Letna Park – the build-up to Christmas is an equally magical time to visit the Czech capital, perhaps even more so…

A winter wonderland

Christmas markets in PragueWrap up warm (it can get cold; very cold!) and stroll the frosty, cobbled streets of this once-sleepy Eastern Bloc capital, admiring the way the energetic and open-minded Czechs have transformed it into a cosy and endlessly fascinating winter wonderland. Huddle together as you cross the iconic Charles Bridge, a steamy looking mist hanging above the chilly waters of the mighty River Vltava, and continue through delightful Mala Straná (the Little Quarter) on your way to Hradčany, Prague’s magnificent castle district, dominated by the spires of St Vitus Cathedral and criss-crossed by a maze of eerily quiet streets. Then, whenever you feel the chill, hunker down in one of the city’s atmospheric bars, coffee shops and restaurants – there seems to be one on every corner!

Christmas markets

Christmas markets in PragueVisitors flock from far and wide to take in the festive atmosphere and spectacular Christmas Markets in Old Town Square (Stároměstské náměstí), and while you certainly won’t have them to yourselves, they are well worth a visit – if not several visits – during your stay. There are countless stalls selling gifts, warming food and hot wine, and thousands of lights illuminating what is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful squares. (Our tip: make sure you take the lift – or walk – up to the top of the Old Town Hall tower at night for a truly unforgettable panorama.) There are markets located in other areas of the city, too: Wenceslas Square is an obvious draw, but one that we particularly enjoyed takes place in náměstí Míru (Peace Square), on the edge of the quiet and attractive neighbourhood of Vinohrady.

Other festive activities

Christmas markets in PragueAs well as indulging in the ubiquitous cups of hot wine, gingerbread and tempting food on display throughout the city, why not make the most of Prague’s musical heritage by attending a Christmas concert while you are here? Although mainly geared towards tourists, this might be no bad thing, as they tend to held centrally in beautiful locations and last no longer than an hour (tickets are readily available just prior to performances). You could also seek out one of the charming nativity displays or Christmas exhibitions being shown at various churches and museums throughout the city (the one we found in the large crypt at Bethlehem Chapel was certainly worth a look).

Eating, drinking & getting around

Christmas markets in PragueAs well as following our detailed city walking routes, don’t be afraid of making good use of Prague’s excellent transport network. There’s something special about the old red-and-white trams rattling through the wintry streets at night, and hopping on and off these – and the plentiful local buses and efficient metro trains – is a great way to travel between the sights and to seek out some of the best places to eat and drink. As far as the latter is concerned, you will be spoilt for choice, but here are just a handful (many more are included in our holiday notes) to whet your appetite:

Christmas markets in PragueSvejk (Betlémské náměstí): very close to our hotel, The Leonardo, this is the handiest branch of this small chain, a Prague institution for both food & beer. Just look for the sign with the chubby soldier's face on it (a character from the darkly comic novel by Jaroslav Hašek).
Hemingway Bar (Karolíny Světlé): nothing to do with the writer, but just as you might expect: dark, atmospheric, and with a great selection of cocktails. And literally a few steps from our hotel.
U Magistra Kelly (Sporkova 5): a quiet little bar tucked away in the maze of streets just below Prague Castle (you’ll need to winkle it out, but it’s down a steep, narrow lane off Nerudova).
Choco Café (Liliová): Part café, part shop, part postcard museum, but definitely the place to go if you love chocolate and right in the heart of the Old Town very close to our hotel.
Oblaca at Tower Park (Žižkov TV Tower, Žižkov): a rather swanky restaurant and cocktail bar for the very best views in Prague, 66 metres up the iconic TV Tower in Žižkov. Book ahead!

To experience all this for yourself, take one of our 3-night breaks to splendid Prague & its Christmas Markets this December.

Christmas markets in Prague
Posted: 11/10/2013 14:00:51 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Czech, festivals, gastronomy, heritage, lifestyle, opinions, snow

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