Prague, Czech Republic may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but after spending a week there over Christmas, I’m convinced it should be. The pedestrian city is a walking wonder of history, stunning architecture and unparalleled views. Throw in the festive Christmas season, snowy days and the bustle of shoppers at the Christmas markets and it’s the perfect place to be in December. And did I mention Czech food? Oh yes, it’s as good and mysterious as it sounds! So good in fact, I can’t fit my whole week into one post. Instead, I’ll go over the places we visited and the sights by area. There’s no more perfect place to start than Old Town Square – the main hub of Prague.
Each year, Prague has a different theme for their Christmas season. This year, the theme was fairytales. In the center of Old Town Square, there was a wooden Christmas tree with a giant glitter slipper in the middle, which girls of all ages could stand in and get their picture taken in the Cinderella shoe. And I gotta say, seldom were there moments when that shoe was unoccupied! On the other side of the square, a large tiara was crafted from Christmas lights and sat in the grass where folks would take selfies and pictures. In addition, if you went up to a food stall, they all had names which matched the fairytale theme. My favorite was “The Three Mice,” where you could get Hot Apple Cider (non-alcoholic) and Goulash soup. Mmmm-hmmm!
The Christmas Tree
Perhaps the most iconic part of Old Town Square during Christmas is the tree, which was one of the tallest they’ve had in years. This tree was 23 meters tall (75 ft) and just beautiful. I don’t know about you, but I was curious how a tree like this is chosen, so I googled it and read a fascinating article on how the tree for Old Town Square is picked. First off, the people who donate the tree are not compensated in any way. They only get the enjoyment and prestige of knowing their tree was displayed in the square during the Christmas season that year. Second, the tree chosen this year was a candidate because it was too close to a house and needed removed. But, being in the open gave it a wonderful shape, as you can see from the photos! Y’all, they must have had a million lights on that thing! No branch was left dim! To top it off, every hour on the half hour after dark, the lights on the tree would dance to a Christmas song. It was absolutely beautiful!
The Astronomical Clock
On the other hand, let’s say you don’t have the opportunity to visit Prague at Christmas time. In that case, the most iconic thing you can do in Old Town Square is the Astronomical Clock. It was the first thing we did in Prague! The clock had been under construction for nine months and just reopened in September of 2018. To purchase our tickets, we went to the third building left of the tower and walked up to the third floor. After purchasing tickets we were instructed to follow the hall on the left, that would take us to the lift/elevator. Of course, there are two ways to the top of the tower – walking or riding. The lift itself was a sight to see, with a round shape and made of glass, it was a fun way to ride to the top. The other option was to walk up the ramps flanking each side of the four tower walls. In cases like these, I like to ride up and walk down! The clock tower was one of three recommended places to visit for a panoramic view of the city and when I first stepped out of the tower onto the observation deck, I knew why. Steeples dotted the landscape far and near, red rooftops snaked along narrow pedestrian streets and every angel of the city was visible from the top of the tower. Now, the observation deck itself was a narrow walk around the four sides of the tower, so you had to shuffle along with the crowd or let folks squeeze past you. But one thing was for sure, it wasn’t a moment to be rushed. In fact, we walked around the top twice! It wasn’t something we necessarily planned, but because we were there later in the day, the Christmas lights turned on in the square while we were up there, so we able to see the view in the daylight and at dusk. We also were up there at the top of the hour when the bell tolls and the twelve apostles make an appearance in two windows right above the clock. From the top of the tower, the people below lined up shoulder to shoulder and literally filled the street to see it! A few days later, we also joined one of those crowds and saw the engineering that showcased the twelve apostles in cuckoo clock fashion. Going up in the tower and seeing the clock at the top of the hour from below were both highlights of the trip for me and should be on the top of a “must see” list for first time travelers to Prague.
The Christmas Markets
Another main attraction of the area in December are the Christmas markets. Each square in the city has a Christmas Market with stalls that sell food, crafts and lots of things you can purchase for Christmas gifts. Because Old Town Square is the main hub for tourists, I found the square and stalls always bustling. I personally ate at the square a lot because of easy accessibility. Though the stalls with trinkets there were fun, the only thing I bought was food. Because it was the main hub, the stalls with ornaments, toys and gifts were priced higher than the other Christmas markets in the city. (And most of the time, the other markets had similar, if not the same things.)
Christmas Concerts on the Square
The best part about Old Town Square was after dusk when all the lights turned on and the entertainment began. Just off to the side of the Christmas tree was a small stage where every night a different group or artist would perform. One night there was a group of small children performing sign language to Christmas songs – which was so adorable! They even did “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen, and the soundtrack was sung in Czech. But my favorite had to be on Christmas Day. Parked in front of the stage was a truck with Cathedral bells arranged on the back and attached to pedals, that a lady played like a piano. She played all types of music, from the “Sugar Plum Fairy” to “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” “Jingle Bells” and “The Little Drummer Boy.” It was a very cool concert and folks were lined up shoulder to shoulder to hear and watch her play. She was an amazing artist!
Conclusion: Regardless of the crowds or high priced stalls, I always found myself in Old Town Square at night. The atmosphere was contagious with Christmas spirit and even if you didn’t want to eat there or buy anything, it was a great place to hang out at night to enjoy the Christmas lights and music. Though there were people everywhere, no one was ever in a rush and most were friendly. Plus, it was only a five minute walk from the apartment we rented through Wishlist in the Jewish District! There’s no better way to end your day of sightseeing than with a cup of hot apple cider, a gorgeous Christmas tree and beautiful buildings surrounding you on all sides!