Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the Czech Republic. Families get together to exchange gifts, and everyone gets into the festive and easy-going mood. The preparations for Christmas traditionally start four weeks before the day itself: at the beginning of Advent, the season of long dark nights, illuminated with the lights of city markets and concerts.
Famous Christmas MarketsChristmas markets are a popular and beautiful pastime that helps us counteract the dark evenings and chilly weather of winter. In Prague, there are several markets that you should not miss. The Christmas market at Old Town Square is the largest in the Czech Republic, and it is also one of the most beautiful seasonal markets in all of Europe. It is so striking, in fact, that it has won accolades all over Europe, and in 2016 it was rated one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in the world by CNN, and in 2017 it won the same title from U.S. News & World Report. This year, the market starts on 1 December and will remain open until 6 January. There will be dozens of decorated stalls where you can admire typical Czech Christmas goods such as pottery, ceramics, wooden toys, Czech puppets, and traditional Czech Christmas cookies. There will also be stalls with refreshments, for example mulled wine and trdelník – a unique cake roasted on a spit and served with vanilla and cinnamon. The organisers have also prepared a cultural programme and demonstrations of traditional crafts. And children in particular will definitely enjoy the living nativity scene with real animals! The Christmas tree lighting and the official opening of the market will take place on Saturday, 30 November, at 4.30 p.m. Don’t worry if you can’t make it as the tree will be lit every day from 4.30pm to 9.30pm. A visit to the market is also a great time to see the restored Old Town Astronomical Clock on the tower of the Old Town City Hall, both of which have been reconstructed to forms that would have been recognisable centuries ago. You can watch the clock chime every hour on the hour with a cup of hot mulled wine in your hand. There is also a market at nearby St Wenceslas Square.
You can visit another market at Náměstí Míru in Vinohrady, which you can reach by arriving at the A line metro station conveniently called Náměstí Míru. It is a smaller market than the one at Old Town Square, but it starts on 20 November and it is popular with locals and families with children. You can also enjoy the festive Christmas atmosphere at the market on the Prague Castle, open every day from 23 November to 6 January in the area behind St Vitus Cathedral. A market at Republic Square will be open from 30 November to 30 December, along with one at Tylovo Square in Vinohrady from 26 November to 24 December, and one in Smíchov by the Anděl shopping centre from 30 November to 23 December.
Exhibitions for Children and AdultsThe Bethlehem Chapel, located in Prague Old Town, organizes a traditional Advent exhibition. The 40th exhibition this year is entitled Christmas in Retrospect. The first visitors are welcomed on 30 November and the exhibition will be open until 2 January. The exhibition is about Czech folk crafts with live demonstrations by craftsmen in stylised workshops, as well as traditional Christmas decorations and nativity scenes.
You can visit the exhibition of nativity scenes (1/12/2019 – 2/2/2020) in the Charles Bridge Museum. There will be unique nativity scenes, such as the life-sized Straw Nativity Scene by Polish artist Andrzej Wrzecionek, the Vltava Fish Nativity Scene recorded in the Czech Guinness Book of Records, African Nativity Scene made from ebony wood, Naval Nativity Scene, or one made of dry corn husks.
The uniqueness and unforgettable atmosphere of the Třešť nativity scenes can be admired on the second and third floors of the Jindřišská tower. The traditional exhibition (29/11/2019 – 2/2/2020) of hand-carved nativity scenes, fragrant with fresh moss and fir needles is an example of the craftsmanship of nativity scene makers from Třešť.
This year’s Advent will take you to the National Gallery site at Schwarzenberg Palace across from Prague Castle. There is a newly opened permanent collection exhibition on Old Masters and you can see there the works of Dürer, El Greco, Brueghel, Škréta or Brandl.
The reopened historical building of the National Museum has prepared several interesting exhibitions for the end of the year. For example, the Labyrinth of Information and Paradise of Printing to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first newspaper published in Czech, or Tutankhamon – RealExperience, a travelling multimedia exhibition about life in ancient Egypt.
Advent Prague also remembers the postmodern era of the 1990s. The Dancing House Gallery has an exhibition of the works of Czech artist, designer and architect Bořek Šípek from 13/11 to 22/3. He is also the author of the Prague Castle reconstruction under President Václav Havel.
Where to Go SkatingThe winter months in Prague are made not only for visiting the Advent markets, but also for renting skates and going to an ice rink. But where to go? There are several options. The largest ice rink is at Letná. But you can also skate near the Vltava River in an area called Na Františku. There is an ice rink nearby the Convent of Saint Agnes. And the most popular place is the Fruit Market. It awaits you and your sports performances behind the Estates Theatre all December and January.
Buy Something Nice. Or Tasty.The Manifesto Market, a popular street-food concept, has prepared an Advent version for the winter. It means that the market is not closing its gates in Florenc and Smíchov this winter! Starting on 20 November, until the end of the year, you can explore great restaurants, design brands, heated igloos, outdoor heaters and bonfires, and the unusual holiday charm of winter markets. This is a Christmas market in a new style in the centre of Prague for all lovers of design and crafted products, as well as those who have a soft spot for good food.
And if you are in Prague on the weekend of 14 and 15 December, come to the Mánes Gallery for the winter Lemarket. There you can enjoy a Christmas atmosphere, buy gifts for your loved ones and personally meet Czech and Slovak fashion designers and other designers, and manufacturers of natural cosmetics or chocolate.
You can also see a lot of original gifts during the first weekend of Advent (30/11 – 1/12/2019) at the largest open-air fair of authors’ works. The Winter Dyzajn Market takes place at the Václav Havel Square, the piazzetta at the National Theatre.
Concerts That Caress the SoulWhere else to go for an Advent concert than the National Theatre? There will be four concerts given by the Prague Philharmonic Children’s Choir along with soloists and the orchestra of the National Theatre. You can enjoy their music every Sunday in December before Christmas – 1, 8, 15, and 22 December – starting at 11am in the National Theatre. However, we recommend buying your tickets in advance, as the concerts are very popular! You can also buy tickets online at the National Theatre website.
Classical Christmas music will also be offered in the Municipal House, the Rudolfinum, St Nicholas’s Church at Old Town Square, and in the Klementinum; just pop in and see what has been prepared for you.