Europe’s Christmas markets warm up an otherwise cold season, as crowds gather to enjoy hot mulled wine and local delicacies. In Prague, there are several Christmas markets to put travelers in the holiday spirit. We asked two of our local guides in Prague for their tips on making the most of a visit to one of Prague’s great Christmas markets.
Thanks to the dark days of Soviet occupation, Prague once had a reputation for serving up stodgy knedlíky (dumplings) and little else in its restaurants. Nowadays all this has changed and the city’s cuisine is moving on up, able once more to draw on its eastern European influences. Indeed the famous dish of goulash was borrowed from neighboring Hungary, where it was enjoyed by Magyar shepherds as far back as the ninth century.
Christmas in Prague reveals the city at its romantic best; the pedestrianized streets of the gorgeous Staré Město (Old Town) are strung with fairy lights and the stores are all immaculately dressed with festive decorations. If you’re lucky, there may even be a carpeting of snow.
Encompassing all genres of music from classical to jazz, early music to contemporary world music, the Strings of Autumn Festival in Prague spreads across the city into every sizeable venue from the mainstream Rudolfinium and Prague State Opera to the Prague Crossroads at St Anna’s Church and the on-trend Lucerna. The festival also takes to the streets of Prague, with performances popping up on many street corners and in main squares.
The Czech Republic is famous for producing highly decorative Bohemian crystal and also for the sheer volume of beer (‘pivo’ in Czech) the nation consumes. The favourite drink of Prague locals and tourists alike is light lager and classic Czech brands include Staropramen and Budvar as well as the dark beer Kelt but the most popular is Pilsner Urquell. To see both beer and glass being produced, take a day trip to Pilsen.
Several spa towns in Bohemia within easy reach of Prague offer short therapeutic treatments, Turkish baths, saunas, plunge pools and massages as well as long-stay residential medicinal treatments. Undoubtedly the swankiest of the spa towns around Prague is elegant Karlovy Vary, sitting 80 miles (126 km) northwest of Prague in forested west Bohemia.