When a friend and I decided that we needed to experience a few European Christmas markets, we asked around about which ones are the best. Everyone had different opinions, and for a wide variety of reasons; we eventually narrowed it down to Prague because we were drawn to the descriptions of the markets being charming, laid back, and in a classic European market style (and, TBH, because I really wanted to visit the Mucha Museum- see below). When we went in December 2014, we did in fact love the markets, as well as the city in the midst of winter. And one day, I want to return in the summer to the city from a different perspective!
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Art: beauty, in all its forms, found at that site
Description of the location in three words
Views and sites to see
Entertainment unique to the location
Noshing: all the best food & drink
Transportation & Tours: all the ways to get around & learn more!
Ultimate: site, art, restaurant, etc- my absolute favorite person/ place/ thing
Real world details: anything you might need to know to make life easier as a visitor
Experts: books, websites, and other information to check out
Shopping: Items to look for as souvenirs or gifts
One of the primary reasons I wanted to visit Prague? Two words: Alphonse Mucha. I've been a big fan of his artwork for years, and even contemplated a tattoo of one of his pieces (only to discover that it's been done- a lot). I had heard there was a museum dedicated to his work, as well as other sites designed or decorated by him (there's even a massive stained glass window at St. Vitus Cathedral which Mucha designed himself- picture below). I was not disappointed! If you love the art nouveau style, the city of Prague is steeped in it! Everywhere you turn, there are hotels, apartment building, shops, and churches decorated in that distinctive style. Some photos below:
The museum is small but contains many original pieces by Mucha. There are small placards on the wall that tell you a bit about his life, as well. The gift shop has an extensive collection of his prints for sale. I bought two and had them framed back home; I still get effusive compliments on them both!
7, Panská 890, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
more information about Mucha Museum
Three words to describe Prague at Christmas Time:
festive cold! historic
Views & Sites
Old Town Square (Staromestske namesti)
more information about Old Town Square
more information about Prague Castle
When we arrived in Prague, we were not aware that the city virtually shuts down for several days over Christmas. Luckily, we had purchased tickets in advance to Swan Lake on Christmas Day! We got dressed up to witness an incredible performance by the Czech National Ballet. And the opera house itself was a stunning work of art! We marveled at neo Rococo decor and the rich red velvet and gold details. Perfect for those who enjoy fine arts and architecture.
State Opera/ Statni opera (currently under reconstruction)
Wilsonova 4, 110 00 Vinohrady, Czechia
more information about the State Opera
One of the best things about Prague at Christmas: trdelnik! It's a delicious strip of pastry wrapped around large wooden posts, covered in cinnamon and walnuts, and then roasted to a delicious golden brown. This is so comforting on a freezing cold, windy afternoon of shopping at the Christmas markets.
Though it has been several years, I still haven't forgotten our dinner at Delice, which is now called Santini Gardens. We had the most amazing dinners and glasses of wine. If you're in Prague during the summer, their back garden looks divine... We also highly recommend dinner and drinks at the Dancing House and the Beer Monastery (see below in the Ultimate Experiences section).
Jánský vršek 323/13, 118 00 Malá Strana, Czechia
Prague is a very walkable city. Plan to stay downtown, and you can see most sites easily. If you stay further out, the metro is easy to use and runs very regularly. We felt safe using the metro even in the evenings.
Three of my favorite experiences:
III. nádvoří 48/2, 119 01 Praha 1-Hradčany, Czechia
more information about St. Vitus
The Dancing House
more information about the Dancing House
Strahovské nádvoří 133/3, 118 00 Praha 1-Hradčany-Hradčany, Czechia
more information about Pelko
Real world details
If you plan to go to Prague over Christmas, the city really will shut down from December 23rd to December 26th. Many restaurants and even the markets either aren't open, or only for limited hours. My friend and I were warned and made sure to get an Airbnb with a stocked kitchen, then shopped for the groceries we'd need for several days. It turned out to be an adventure... we made a full Christmas dinner of roast pork, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and baked apples on Christmas Day! We made sure to have some movies downloaded, played board games, and had the chance to Skype with family back home... super cozy!
Here are a few other blogs to check out:
Something that Prague is well known for is a variety of folk art, including marionettes. There are a wide variety of marionettes for sale in the Christmas markets, but these are generally more generic. In the speciality marionette shops, you'll find traditional, modern, and artistic puppets of every shape and size, and often one-of-a-kind. I spent more time than I'd like to admit checking out all the cool puppets and debating which ones to purchase for others and myself. I especially admired the marionettes in the shop Loutky Michael. Eventually, I decided on a traditional Czech female puppet for myself and a postmodern, roughly carved male puppet for my brother. Both are unique pieces that can be displayed with pride. You can even buy your own online here!