Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas and Christmas Markets in Prague

Christmas in the Czech Republic

Christmas is the most important holiday of the year for Christians and even non-Christians in the Czech Republic. The major day of Czech Christmas is December 24th, called Štědrý den (Christmas Day). On this day all family members get together and enjoy the relaxing and magical atmosphere. In the evening they have a festive dinner, mostly fried carp (or other fish) with cold potatoe salad.

After dinner they gather around the Christmas tree and unpack the presents they bought to each other. Kids believe that the presents are brought by Ježíšek (Baby Jesus) but nobody really knows what he looks like. People of all ages also like to watch fairy tales on TV and some families attend the Midnight Mass. Two other Christmas days are December 25th and 26th. That is time when people visit distant relatives and friends.

Czech Christmas traditions

Czech Christmas is very rich in traditions, some of them even hundreds of years old. A Christmas dinner, giving gifts or decorating a Christmas tree are just few of them. Kids are told that if they don't eat all day they will see a golden piglet in the evening. Unmarried girls throw a shoe over their shoulder towards the door and if the shoe lands with the toe pointing towards the door, the girl will marry within a year. Some families pour a melted lead into a water and then the shape should tell them their destiny.
Also cutting of an apple is very popular - all family members cut an apple in half and if the core has a star shape then everyone will get together next year in good health. Another nice tradition is to make little boats from empty walnut shells, put inside the water and place a burning candle inside them. If the shell makes it across the bowl, its owner will live a long and healthy life.
Most families bake vánočka (sweet Christmas bread) or kuba (mushroom dish). Very common is to buy a live carp before Christmas, place it in the bathtub for a day or two and kill (or release) it on the Christmas day.

Prague Christmas markets

The Christmas season begins four weeks before Christmas itself with the start of the Advent period. That's the time when people buy presents, adorn their homes with Christmas decorations and bake Christmas sweets, which is another hugely popular tradition in the Czech Republic.
Starting the last weekend of November in most Czech towns you can visit beautiful Advent markets. And the most popular Christmas markets are, of course, in Prague. Recently the beauty of Prague Christmas markets was appreciated by US News & World Report - it was voted the Best Christmas Vacation Destination, followed by Vienna, Taos, London and New York City: "For the month of December, the capital of the Czech Republic turns into a winter wonderland you've got to see to believe. Its medieval architecture is blanketed in twinkling lights and the Christmas markets are some of the best in the world."
But there is not just one Christmas market in Prague, you can visit more than 10 larger or smaller markets. If you stay with Prague City Apartments you will have all the beauty right at your doorstep as all the apartments are situated in the very center of Prague.

Old Town Square

The Old Town Square market is definitely the most visited and most beautiful in Prague. In 2017 it starts on December 2nd and ends in early January. The square is full of cute little wooden stalls selling various products. Most visitors enjoy a mulled wine, typical hot beverage for most Christmas markets all over the Czech Republic. If you don't want to drink it from the recyclable cups, buy a nice ceramic mug with Czech motifs and use it over and over. Other popular beverages are hot mead (medovina) or grog (rum with hot water). Also don't forget to taste Czech Christmas sweets (cukroví)! Other popular products and goods are traditional Czech wooden toys, handmade cosmetics, clothing accessories or candles.
Enjoy a magical Christmas atmosphere while listening Czech carols and drinking mulled wine among the architectural treasures of the Old Town and a large Christmas tree! Every day numerous Czech and even foreign choirs sing Christmas carols and visitors can attend many concerts and other events.
But be careful, the Old Town Square can get very crowded, especially before the tree lighting (every hour from 5.30 P.M. to 8.30 P.M.). To beware of the worst tourist traps, check our post The Worst Tourist Traps in Prague. And if you like less crowded and more relaxing atmosphere, visit one of the smaller markets, further from the very center of Prague.

Stalls opening hours: every day 10 A.M. - 10 P.M. (food stalls until midnight)

Wenceslas Square

The second large Christmas market in the very center. You will find it in a lower part of the square. The offer is pretty similar to the Old Town square market - mulled wine and other hot beverages, wooden toys and other gifts or stalls with examples of traditional folk crafts. Same as the Old Town Square, this market can get very crowded, especially in the evening.

Stalls opening hours: every day 10 A.M. - 10 P.M. (food stalls until midnight)

Republic Square

The market at the Republic Square (Náměstí republiky) is the perfect place for those who seek less crowded Christmas market in the center of Prague. You will find it next to the Palladium shopping center. Stop by, feel the magical Christmas atmosphere, get a few cups of mulled wine to warm up and buy some handmade Czech gifts, wooden toys, candles or decorations. In 2017 the market is open until December 30th.
The market is within walking distance from the Old Town Square and just a few minutes' walk from our residences Masna and Rybna. Or you can use yellow "B" metro line (Náměstí Republiky station) and trams 5, 8, 24 and 26 (Náměstí Republiky stop).

Stalls opening hours: every day from 10 A.M.

Náměstí Míru

Another market close to the city center. Although it's not that centrally located as the ones mentioned before, this market is well accessible by tram 22 and green "A" metro (Náměstí Míru station). You will meet a lot of residents enjoying their time with friends and families at this market. The market is located just in front of the impressive Church of St. Ludmila.

Stalls opening hours: every day from 10 A.M

Tylovo Náměstí

Just a few minutes from the Náměstí Míru market there is another popular market. Tylovo Náměstí is situated right next to I.P. Pavlova metro and tram stops, easily accessible from the city center. Just go by tram No. 22 from the National Theatre, it takes less than 10 minutes.

Prague Castle

The market is organized in St. George's Square (náměstí U Svatého Jiří), right next to the majestic Prague Castle. More than 70 stalls with hot beverages, Czech Christmas sweets, traditional decorations and other products. Expect also accompanying program with carols, blacksmith, coinage or making decorations.

Other Christmas markets

If the markets mentioned above are still too large for you and you would like to visit even smaller one with more intimate atmosphere, don't worry, in Prague there are many other local ones. For example:
- Karlínské náměstí (Prague 8 - yellow "B" metro line, Křižíkova station)
- náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad (Prague 3 - green "A" metro line, Jiřího z Poděbrad station)
- Smíchov - Anděl (Prague 5 - yellow "B" metro line, Anděl station)
- Kulaťák (Prague 6 - green "A" metro line, Dejvická station)

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