There is something about Prague covered in snow, lit up with holiday lights, with lively squares full of Christmas treats that make this city feel even more special around the holidays. Czech’s are very diligent in their Christmas preparations and they also know how to do it with taste. Shining Christmas trees, beautifully decorated shop windows, smells of freshly-cooked pastry and grog from cozy cafes – Prague embraces all the elements that make the winter magic come to life. It’s no wonder that the capital of the Czech Republic is considered one of the most beautiful European cities to visit during winter holidays. Here festivities start even before Christmas itself, and both locals and visitors are enjoying the joyful spirit of long holiday preparations. But what creates this atmosphere? And what exactly is going on in Prague during Christmas? We have a few secrets to share.
It all begins with Christmas markets, found all over Prague in some of the busier squares. Even miles away one can hear some traditional Christmas music or catch tempting smells of “trdelniks” (traditional medieval sweets) and roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and mead. As you walk through an arch entwined with shining garlands, you are greeted with stalls full of handmade locally produced goods – sweets, souvenirs, Christmas decorations, handmade winter hats, gloves, and much more.
Some Christmas markets are open for weeks, for example markets at Prague Castle, Náměstí Republiky, Na Kampa near the Charles Bridge or Anděl, while some are just a couple of days’ events often quite specified (what about Veggies Christmas market?) and serving charitable purposes. From December 1st through the 3rd, the charity Advent Market that will be held at The Grand Priory Palace. When it comes to choosing a market to attend, it is difficult to pick up a favorite, especially considering the variety. We at Sophie’s particularly like small markets tucked away in neighborhoods not far from the I.P. Pavlova metro station. At Tylovo Náměstí, where you can find wonderful handmade souvenirs and try delicious gingerbread cookies, and in front of the church of St Ludmila at Náměsti Míru – they have the most delicious crepes and lavender hot wine! If you venture all the way to Jiřího z Poděbrad, you will find yourself in the center of a locally loved square that is half farmer’s market half Christmas market during December.
Christmas Tree Lighting
The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony coincides with the opening of the Christmas markets at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square. Legend has it that every year the highest Christmas tree is selected, chopped down, brought to Prague, and decorated just to be lit before the holiday. This year, the event will take place on December 2nd in Old Town Square. Once the tree is lit up, Christmas has officially begun! Attending the ceremony is always exciting – a tiny bit of fairy tale world soaked into reality with music and bright colors.
Advent Concerts and Masses
If you are a lover of classical music and Christmas carols, advent concerts are something not to miss. They are usually held in chapels and churches of the Old Town Square and Mala Strana, under the vaults of which one feels transported back to medieval times. When on a stroll around the old part of the city, take a minute to drop by and listen to some concert at the St Nicholas church, the Klementinum, the Czech National Symphony at the Rudolfium, or the Smetana Hall of Municipal House – it is a great way to experience all the beauty of Christmas singing and performance traditions.
Mikuláš (or St Nicholas Day)
Have you been a good boy/girl this year? St Nicholas Day is a great occasion to find that out! On December 5th, St Nicholas Eve, you may catch a strange trio walking around the Christmas Markets. It comprises St Nicholas or Mikuláš, (who looks a bit like Santa Claus) accompanied by the Angel (anděl) and the Devil (čert). Together they are asking children one same question – whether they have behaved well this year. If the answer is positive, the child would get a candy, if negative – a piece of coal. Of course, now the event has a more playful manner than it might have had decades ago, and both children and parents find it enjoyable – especially considering the events like concerts and various interactive games and activities organized all around the city on this day.
New Year’s Fireworks
On the evening of January 1st, the skies of Prague will be illuminated up by dozens of colorful fireworks in the celebration of the beginning of the brand new year. The fireworks can be watched from a couple different vantage points in the center – the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square or Letna park. If you are looking for a less crowded spot and a more unique experience, head up to Vítkov hill or Riegrovy sady, where you can take it in from a bird’s eye view. Going closer to the river, the scene changes quite a bit – fireworks rocketing up to the sky, are reflected in the waters of the Vltava creating a picture mesmerizing to watch – it is as if you suddenly became a witness to a grand “starfall”.
How does Sophie‘s celebrate winter holidays?
New Year’s is a special time for Sophie’s since it is closely associated with a movie “Dinner for One” (or “The 90th Birthday”) that gave the property its name. Originally a British classic, this short film later became extremely popular in a number of European countries including Germany, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Every year it is broadcasted non-stop on German television for New Year’s Eve. The plot of the movie rotates around the main character – an elderly, upper-class lady Miss Sophie, who organizes a party for her friends. What Miss Sophie does not realize is that most of her friends are no longer alive, thus her butler James “acts out” their roles to appease Miss Sophie’s wishes of spending the evening with friends. By the end of the evening, (as many years before that) James finds himself quite drunk while Miss Sophie doesn’t seem to notice anything.
What is happening at Sophie’s?
On the 15th of December, the decoration of Christmas trees will take place both at Sophie’s Hostel and Miss Sophie’s Hotel. Both properties will put on their holiday dresses with garlands, mistletoe, and Christmas lights. On Christmas eve, guests will be invited to a traditional Czech Christmas dinner, with traditional schnitzel and potato salad, mulled wine, sweets, some good music, a bit of pleasant company, and, of course, holiday spirit!
So, are you already eager to celebrate the holidays with us?