There’s something atmospheric about Europe’s Christmas markets that put you in the right holiday mood. No more can that spirit be found then in Prague. Jacy Meyer takes us shopping.
Prague’s Christmas markets are a bit mixed-up. On the one hand, you have the distinctive architecture from gothic to baroque surrounding your shopping experience. Unfortunately, at times though the goods don’t seem to match the Christmas ambiance. There is some balance at all the markets however, and if gifts aren’t on your agenda, you’ll be able to indulge in a variety of fun market food.
Old Town Square and the city centre
The biggest Christmas market is located appropriately enough on Old Town Square. With the Týn Church, Old Town Hall and St. Nicolas Church encircling the area, this is one of the most beautiful markets. There’s a towering Christmas tree, a stage which regularly shows music and dance performances, plus a small petting farm and cottage where children can create Christmas crafts. Better bits to look out for include hand-painted wooden Santa’s, decorated gingerbread (perník) and cornstalk items; while perhaps not technically Czech are still slightly distinctive. There are a variety of Christmas decorations, both wooden and ceramic as well as the not so unique touristy mugs, magnets and the like.
A bit down the way, at the end of Wenceslas Square is a second market. This too, has a tree and a number of booths. These two markets are run by the same company so some of the vendors are replicated.
Head down Na Príkopi Street from the Wenceslas Square market and you’ll find a smaller one located at Námestí Republiky. Hats and mittens are plentiful here, but you can also pick up some tablecloths and other textiles. Beautiful plush animals for the kids, beaded jewellery and Czech honey are some other items to look out for.
Second in charm after the Old Town Square location, is the market at Námestí Míru – thanks to the towering St. Ludmila Church. Also probably second in quality of goods – the market here always has some individual vendors selling their hand produced wares. Wooden puzzles, candles, soaps and bath salts…there’s a touch more authenticity at this market. You’ll also find a selection of unique kitchen textiles and fun cat and dog imprinted shirts and bags. Christmas ornaments and cookies, ceramics and woven baskets give the Námestí Míru market an air of discovery and fun.
Hop onto the metro at Námestí Míru and take it one stop to visit another smaller market at Námestí Jirího z Pode;brad. The modern church here offers a different vibe, and while the space is larger there are fewer merchants. You’ll still find some nice items for sale, including loose leaf tea and jam. The requisite mittens and hats and Christmas decorations are also available.
What to eat?
A big part of the market experience is trying the food. December in Prague is not warm, so warm your belly with a steaming glass of svarené víno (mulled wine) or grog. Growing in popularity at all the markets are coffee stands, complete with sweets. If hunger strikes, grab yourself a klobása with chélb (sausage and brown bread) or a trdlo, a traditional cinnamon and nut rolled pastry. Other tasty treats include roasted almonds and langoš – fried bread with your choice of savoury or sweet toppings.