Neighbourhood Christmas Markets, Nativity Scenes and Ice skating
If you are spending Christmas in Prague, be sure to go to one of the many a neighborhood Christmas markets and avoid the downtown markets as they are very crowded. Look out for carp swimming in large tanks. Visit displays of nativity scenes. Go Christmas trees hunting, you will find them beautifully decorated all over Prague. Go ice-skating on one of the (pop-up) ice rinks, you can rent skates!
CHRISTMAS MARKET OPENING HOURS: from the last week in November to the first week in January
1. Discover neighbourhood Christmas markets
2. Look out for beautifully decorated Christmas trees
3. Visit nativity scenes exhibitions
4. Watch live carp swimming in a tank
5. Go ice-skating on one of the ice rinks
Discover Six Neighbourhood Christmas Markets
Almost every neighbourhood in Prague has its own Christmas market, smaller than the ones in the centre but just as beautiful and often less crowded.
1. Kampa Christmas Market
When standing on Charles Bridge, the twinkling lights of the Kampa Christmas tree and the chalets selling Christmas goodies greet you. Located on the main square of Kampa Island, this Christmas market is best known for handmade trinkets to decorate the tree and hand-painted glasses and mugs. Besides svarak, hot wine, this is the place to drink hot chocolate.
2. Jiřího z Poděbrad Christmas Market
This Christmas market is just far enough away from the centre and is still quite central and has two advantages: It is relatively quiet, yet enough visitors for the perfect Christmas feel and the prices are much lower than those in the markets in the centre. Extra bonus is that this Christmas market is easy to reach by metro. (Metro station Jiřího z Poděbrad) The Poděbrad Christmas Market offers a number of events, including concerts, carol singing and craft workshops, fun for young and old. There are plenty of food stalls with traditional delicacies that you can eat on the benches in the square or at the standing tables.
3. The Anděl Christmas Market
This Christmas Market is in the open on the wide sidewalk in front of Anděl metro station. At other times of the year, you will find here farmers’ markets which are popular not only for fresh fruit and vegetables, but also for pastries and regional farm produce. The assortment changes during the Christmas season. There are no fruit or vegetables, but a wide selection of freshly baked loaves, Christmas bread and pastries as well as wooden spoons, bowls and brooms and also candles and wooden toys, Christmas wreaths and silvery-mistletoe. If you need a Christmas tree, you can buy it here.
4. Havelský Market
Throughout the year Havelský Market is a fresh vegetable market and some souvenirs as the market is located in the middle of Prague’s tourist area. During the Christmas season, this market changes character and there are many Christmas products including Bohemian glassware, wooden toys and Christmas tree decorations. You will find this market in Havelská street, close to Wenceslas Square.
5. Tylovo Náměstí Christmas Market
A small neighbourhood Christmas Market in the Vinohrady district, close to the larger Christmas market on Namesti Miru. The main attractions at this market are the traditional treats including trdelník, a crispy rolled pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. And also wooden toys, tree decorations and hand-blown Christmas balls.
6. Nativity scene Made of Gingerbread
A very special nativity scene is on display in St Matthew’s Church in the Baba district of Prague, it is a gingerbread nativity scene and is made up of some 400 Christmas figures, Mary, Joseph, the Infant Jesus, angels, shepherds and many more, all made of gingerbread. In 1972, artist Helena Horálková baked some gingerbread Christmas figures for the church to say ‘thank you’ for taking good care of her mother. Over the years the baking got a bit out of hand, and now a professional pastry chef with artistic talent helps her to bake all these figures.
Address: St. Mattheus Church, Kostel sv. Matěje, U Matěje 24, Baba, Prague, open Sunday afternoons in December
Christmas Market outside Prague
Karlštejn Castle Christmas Market
Karlstejn Castle is a 40-minute train ride from Prague. Although the Christmas market here is not as big as the ones in Prague and is not really within the castle grounds, a trip to the Karlštejn Christmas Market is highly recommended. The street leading to the castle is lined with stalls selling Christmas goodies. Visit the Museum of Nativity Scenes, a beautiful collection of forty Christmas figures including Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus figurines made of wood, porcelain and sugar!
Go on the Christmas Trees Trail in Prague
The largest and most beautiful Christmas tree is in Old Town Square and is lit on the last Saturday in November with a short ceremony. Christmas trees are dotted all over Prague. Follow the Christmas trees trail in the centre: Wenceslas Square, cross Vodickova and Jungmannova streets, in front of the new town hall on Marianske namesti, and on Namesti republiky just in front of the Palladium shopping centre, on namesti Miru and on Kampa Island is where you will find the Christmas trees. Very special are the miniature trees at Kubanske namesti and Namesti Miru. They have been decorated by primary school pupils.
In the second week of January, Prague municipality removes all Christmas trees. The wood of the largest trees is used for making furniture for nursing homes and the branches go to the zoo as food for the animals.
Visit Nativity Scenes and Exhibitions
Although there are few Catholics in the Czech Republic, there are many large and small nativity scenes, mostly in churches, everywhere in the country. The most beautiful is in St Vitus Cathedral and and Tyn Church in Prague. There is another one with large wooden figures on Old Town Square under the Christmas tree and next to it a small shelter with live animals that can be fed. In Bethlehem Chapel (Betlémské náměstí 4) is an exhibition of large and small nativity scenes.
Nativity Scenes Outside Prague
Jindrchuv Hradec (135 km south of Prague)
‘Kryzovy jeslicky’, (Krýza crib) was made by Tomáš Krýza (1838-1918) and consists of 1.398 wooden human and animal figures, 133 of which are moveable. Initially, the figures were driven by a hand crank, but now by an electric motor.
Karlštejn (30 km north-east of Prague)
The Museum of Nativity Scenes features not only classic wooden Nativity scenes but also some made from unusual materials, like wax, sugar and bread. There are also a number of mechanical nativity scenes. The showpiece is the ‘Royal Nativity Scene of Karlštejn’ on a display of 80 m2. There are 46 wooden dolls dressed in period costume. Karlštejn is known for gingerbread for sale at the Karlštejn Christmas Market.
Watch live Carp
In the week before Christmas, all over Prague, large tanks with live carp swimming around appear in the streetd. They are at the exit of metro stations, near shopping centres or in front of large stores. Carp is the traditional dish on Christmas Eve and the Czechs are of opinion that the carp must be fresh from the water: choose one and the seller will kill it with one blow right in front of you. The carp is breaded and fried and served with potato salad.
Go ice-skating on one of the ice rinks
Outdoor ice rinks are popular in Prague. Usually, you pay a small entrance fee and you can rent skates. Opening hours are from early December to February. Along the Vltava River, there are pop-up ice rinks that are located in different places every year.
A centrally located ice rink is on Ovocny trh, which is behind the Estates Theatre and just off Celetna Street in the Old Town district. The ice rink at Letna and at the Zizkov television tower are not too far from the historic centre of Prague and it is easy to get there by metro.
Almost all major shopping centres have ice rinks. The disadvantage is that they are in the suburbs, the advantage is that you will see few tourists there.
If you are lucky, you can hop on the festively decorated Christmas tram. They run on on various routes from early december to early January.
Mikulas or St Nicolas Day is on the 5th December and marks the beginning of December festivities. Mikulas is accompanied by an angel and a devil and usually followed by a throng of children. The children will sing a song for Mikulas and then they are rewarded with sweets or a small present. You will find Mikulas in the streets in the Old Town and near Wenceslas Square, or in the larhe shopping malls in the suburbs. The tradition of Mikulas gies back to the Christian saint st. Nicolas of Myra (in present-day Turkey), who handed out gifts.
Christmas markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square