Major markets are located around Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square while smaller ones can be found around Havelské Tržiště, Náměstí Míru and Náměstí Republiky. Another one is located at the Prague Exhibition Grounds (Výstaviště). But probably the most beautiful is the Old Town Square market where a giant Christmas tree lights up the centre of the square, while the space around is transformed into a marketplace with decorated wooden huts and market stalls selling all kinds of small crafts and Czech delicacies including carved toys, bobbin lace, ceramics, glass figurines and Christmas ornaments. To soak up the market atmosphere even more, try some tasty gingerbread cakes, barbecued sausages, hot punch and mulled wine while street performers, local and international choirs, along with musical ensembles, take care of your entertainment.
Prague Christmas markets start on 29th November and run daily throughout December until 1st January. Markets are open from 09.00 until 19.00 (during weekends until 20.00 or even later).
Christmas Markets Locations
Old Town Square, Prague 1 – Staré Město
November 29 – January 1
Wenceslas Square, Prague 1 – Nové Město
November 29 – January 1
Náměstí Republiky, Prague 1 – Nové Město
November 25 – December 24
Náměstí Míru, Prague 2 – Vinohrady
November 20 – December 24
Tylovo náměstí, Prague 2 – Vinohrady
November 23 – December 24
Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, Prague 3 – Vinohrady
December 1 – December 20
Prague Christmas markets have a long tradition
The main idea is to bring people together to share the holiday spirit and enjoy Christmas carols, hot food and mulled wine. But the markets are not just about shopping. They are all about feeling that special Christmas atmosphere. Sellers offer you not only a great opportunity to buy some unique gifts, but also the experience of strong traditions being kept alive. They bring the true meaning of Christmas to life.
Christmas is the most important celebration in the Czech calendar and from 24 December to 1 January most Czechs have extended family holidays; consequently the Prague streets become even more full of life. Just before Christmas, fishmongers bring in carp by the barrelful, drawing everyone into the Christmas mood. Christmas Eve is a day of abstinence from meat and for that occasion most families prepare fried carp served with a potato salad.
New Year’s Eve dinner is also a great celebration: some families serving boiled pig’s head with grated horseradish and apple; some do dinner in arty-style with plates of snacks and bottles of sparkling wine. But most young people head to the streets as on New Year’s Eve there are spectacular views of fireworks and a mellower pace at Prague Castle or Vyšehrad.
Tip: Néměstí Míru Christmas Market – It doesn’t have to be Christmas for you to enjoy this market. It is intimate and is still a shopping place for the locals. Located in Míru Square, the market features handmade goods rather than cheap touristy items you can pick up anywhere. Items include such goods as jewelry, wooden toys, crystal, scarves and lotions.
A Little History
The Christmas markets were phenomena that suggested that Christmas time is near, even in the 19th century. At that time, the people of Prague started shopping or at least walking around and seeing what the markets offer. It is interesting that when we read the memories of witnesses, everyone remembers the magic of Christmas markets the most. The range of products sold was of course focused on these holidays. But since there were Christmas markets throughout Advent, there were also figures of St Nicholas, devils, and of course toys.
The atmosphere of the Christmas market was complemented with carnival attractions; there were singers who showed the horrific scenes illustrating the story of songs. There were also shooting, sheds of puppeteers, and knightly games. The atmosphere in the square was magnified by the light of oil or kerosene lamps. The Christmas market culminated with the upcoming Christmas Eve. Wealthy people from the countryside came to snowy and freezing Prague on sledges to shop. Also, Prague cabmen changed their vehicles for sledges and the tinkling of jingle bells was heard everywhere.
The period of Advent sees not only the Christmas markets, but since the 18th century, this period is associated with the tradition of charitable events. For example, to display nativity scenes outside the temple premises, they had to pay and a part of the money was designated for charity. Another interesting event was the New Year’s gifts sheets. They originated from the highest burgrave, Chotek the count. He had so many well-wishers that he wasn’t able to meet them all. So in the twenties of the 19th century he introduced the New Year wishes to send congratulations with an apology.