Updated 17 August 2018
From the start of advent several of Prague’s squares play host to traditional Christmas markets.
Martina and Nataly, our locals in Prague, shot this video in 2017 so you know what to expect.
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Eat, drink and be merry!
The main reason to visit the markets is the food and drink you can enjoy there. At all of the markets listed here you should find stalls selling hot alcoholic drinks of various kinds – mulled wine (svařák), warm honey-wine (medovina) and grog (a blend of Czech ‘domestic’ rum and hot water and sugar). If drinking on an empty stomach doesn’t suit, then get some of the typical market foods such as roasted chestnuts, smoked Prague ham, sausages or indulge your sweet tooth with pancakes (palačinky) or some Czech gingerbread (perník).
Shopping the markets for authentic souvenirs can be a bit hit & miss, as some stalls hawk factory-produced trinkets whilst others are more forthright in their approach, selling handmade Christmas tree ornaments and the like.
Where (and when) to find the markets
Old Town Square – 1 Dec 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
The market runs till the 6th of January. All the stalls are open from 10am to 10pm. Stalls serving food and drink can be open till midnight. By far Prague’s largest Christmas market, there’s also a stage where folk music and dancing performances take place.
Wenceslas Square – 1 Dec 2018 – 6 Jan 2019
The pedestrian area at the bottom of Wenceslas Square is where you’ll find another small Christmas market running till January 6th.
Namesti Republiky – 25 Nov – 24 Dec 2018
In front of the Celnice building there will be a small market with the usual array of stalls. The market runs till December 24th.
Out of the center
Getting away from the tourist center of the city is a good way to see a more local version of a Christmas market. You’ll also pay less for your mulled wine and gingerbread cookies. Prague 2 and 3 are good places to start, both have a metro stop with a market right above. Náměstí Míru (Prague 2)’s market starts earlier than most, on the the 20th of November and runs to the 24th of December. Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad in Prague 3 has a Christmas market too, it starts in late November and is also on till the 24th of December.
What to watch out for
As with anywhere there are large crowds and lots of tourists, be aware of your valuables. Check your change at stalls, and make sure you understand in your own currency how much you’re paying for anything you buy. One more thing – if you’re visiting one of these markets just a few days before Christmas (particularly the ones outside the center), don’t be alarmed by the large tubs full of icy water and live carp. That’s the traditional Czech christmas dinner. People can choose to take the fish home dead or alive, where it will likely be kept in the bathtub till it’s time to prepare it.
Here for Christmas?
If you’re in town for Christmas itself, bear in mind that almost everything will be closed from midday on the 24th and for most of the 25th, so unless you’ve made arrangements to eat at one of the Prague restaurants or hotels offering a special Christmas menu, you’ll want to get your shopping done before then. Czechs celebrate Christmas with their families on the evening of the 24th, then go out with friends on the evening 25th.
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Charlie is head of marketing at JayWay Travel. A long-term Prague resident, his interests are cooking, eating out, cycling, skiing and of course, travel.