Christmas in Prague is a fairy tale that came true, it’s smell of cinnamon and gingerbread cookies, it’s a gentle jingling of a bell, it’s a time of bright lights, of kids laughter and of an enchanting feeling that magic is prevailing everywhere. It’s a spicy fragrance of mulled wine, the freshest Czech spit cake with a funny name “trdelník”, it’s Prague streets flooded with warm lights, and an unusual sensation of wonders floating in the air.
Prague in Christmas time.
I could tell you about multiple Christmas fairs filling up Prague squares, buzzling in the evening like a hive, causing with their delicious smells an excessive salivation with everybody who appears at a half-kilometer distance. I could tell you how tenderly an unknown old woman would smile to you in a cozy Prague tram and coquettishly fix a fox tail on the collar of her “vintage” coat. I could tell you about a lamplighter in a cape, an elegant white scarf and a top hat, who lits manually the gas lights on the Charles bridge.
I could tell you about gentle crisping of Christmas cookies prepared by Czech housewives much in advance. And how, many months before Christmas, they subscribe in the confectioneries to scoop up several kilos of divine sweets to feed fondly all their multitudinous relatives during the holidays. And how, a week before the Х-day, all around the city, merchants would appear with pots of water full of living carps. And how an entire Czech family stops taking bath because for a few days this notorious carp is swimming in it, until it becomes the centerpiece of the Christmas table. A carp for Christmas in Czech Republic is a similar tradition as we have our salad à la Russe for the New Year, it seems like you’re feed up of it, but you can’t go without it.
I could also tell you about the blaze of colors of marzipan figures, about the slight clinking of the glass balls on the street pin-trees, about the taste of the snow flakes flying by, which are so nice to be caught with your tongue. And about the beauty of the red Prague roofs, slightly covered with fluffy snow, and about delicious flagrance of the roasted chestnuts, and how pleasant a paper cone with them warms the hands. And about the melodies of an organ-grinder who turns the handle of his box with a naive smile, tapping to the beat with his boots decorated with sleigh-bells at the toes.
I could tell you about funny sheep bleating and pony neighing, about little moving ears of fluffy bunnies that live at the central and the most beautiful squares of the old town at the time of the Advent. And also how merry you would laugh noticing in a shop window that your nose is dusted with powdered sugar after you have been eating hot pancakes at a Christmas fair.
I could tell you about so much more, but… No words can express this sensation of pre-Christmas fever. You can read a hundred thousand stories about the beauty of Christmas Prague, but none of them will bring you the happiness to feel like a child again, who believes, even for a bit, in the angels and fairies. And the Prague will.
Prague before Christmas. Christmas markets in Prague.
I sincerely envy you, those who don’t know the Prague like the back of your hand and is able to enjoy the main Prague treasure. You can wander for hours in these streets, so similar and so different at the same time, get lost and get found again, look at the centuries-old fronts of the houses, open your mouth in amazement and point with your finger, slur trying to put your admiration into words. The atmosphere of the Prague is it’s most important tourist attraction, may Charles with his bridge and Saint Vitus with his cathedral forgive me.
My most patient readers, I have prepared a small present for you, for your attention: a piece of advice how to spend a perfect Christmas Eve in Prague. Should I tell you that all the beauty shines up to the December 24? Because later, for the whole three days the city gets totally empty. I still remind my first starving Christmas in Prague, when on December 25, totally blankly, like a lost puppy, I was nuzzling with my wet frozen nose at the closed doors of shops and restaurants, when, for the first time in my life, I decided to visit McDonalds, and, to my dismay, it also was closed! Let’s return to our mutto… presents.
Catholic Christmas in Prague
So, your preparation to a perfect day in a pre-Christmas Prague starts the evening before, when you deny yourself the pleasure of beer-and-porc libations and go to sleep before midnight. The next day you wake up as early as possible, at about 7 am, go to the central square, a.k.a Staromestske namesti, to have enough time to contemplate all these gingerbread houses and a decorated fair-tree and to take selfies at all possible and all impossible angles. And at this time there would be no millions of other people around you. There it is, a true pleasure of a proper tourist! After wandering in the empty neighboring streets and enjoying the Prague that shakes off the night dreams, the time comes for a cup of a fragrant drink. I would have recommended you Chokoladovna right near the square, but it can be considered as advertising (well, well, I’m on my way writing to them and demanding my hard-earned percent). So I won’t advise you any places where you can satisfy your sugar hunger. After having a snack and getting warm, we walk to the Wenceslas Square (Vaclavske namesti), and I still don’t get why they call it so, because it’s a long and wide avenue.
It’s more crowded, tourists have woken up and now lazily spread out of the hotels after rich breakfasts. They are sleepily wandering among the stalls of the Christmas fairs, thinking over from which of these multiple souvenirs it would be the most convenient to remove the dust for many upcoming years. The tanned sides of savoury and juicy sausages are drawing you to take a bite, but a piece of cake, carefully placed in the stomach beforehand, is politely hinting that it still feels fine not accompanied with the products of Czech meat-packing plants. So we swallow our saliva and climb towards the museum and the man on the horse whose name is Saint Wenceslas.
We look back, say wow to the most disputable square in the range of the architectural ensembles and direct to the Square of Peace (namesti Miru). Besides a picturesque and, what is quite important, a non-tourists fair, on this square you can find a pleasant bonus: a magnificent gothic cathedral. The stomach has already finished the pastry and starts to growl, because a porc, turning on a spit, smells so attractively. And the stomach informs its owner that it has no objections to get acquainted with this nice animal a little closer. At least with this part, it looks the juiciest.
I love dearly Vinogrady district (here it is, with a cathedral) and strongly encourage you to have at least a one-hour promenade there. There are no statues at every corner, it is not crowded with tourists and no one drums you up to an excursion-food-visit-a-castle, but the houses are luxurious, and the streets are lovely, right. I should say, this place is God blessed.
You hop in tram 22 and for about 20 minutes enjoy the views from the window, until, with a slight clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails, the tram brings you to the sanctum sanctorum of the Czech people—Prague Castle. Our target here is a fair-tree from the backside of the great cathedral (yeah-yeah, that huge and dark one, earlier you’ve called it a castle out of ignorance). And a Christmas market adjacent to it. After tasting Czech meals and diluting it with strong beverages, we can whether return to the hotel with a feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, or continue beating off the toes of our new boots against Prague stone paving. I strongly recommend to visit Loreta and the neighboring narrow streets, as well as to have a look at the breath-taking views from observation point located under the Strahov Monastery. If you are especially steadfast, you can take a taxi or a combination of tram 22 and the green underground branch, and return to the Old Town Square, to climb to the watchtower. You will gasp once again; the beauty opening before your eyes will leave you speechless, you will drain the camera battery and… Completely exhausted, you will crawl to the bed and fall into sound sleep.
And, of course, I totally forgot to mention that to complete the picture you vitally need a professional photographer. Right, here it comes up, the undisguised advertising. Otherwise how would you excitedly tell your friends about your impressions without any visual proofs? For what it’s worth, let them look at the photos!