As I rolled up the hotel blinds in the morning, I was greeted with endless terracotta rooftops and gorgeous, elaborate church spires. I knew I was in Prague.
Mild yet crisp air greeted us as we wasted no time and stepped out for a short, seven-minute walk to the Old Town Centre, where the magic happens every morning leading up to Christmas.
Every year, at the Old Town Centre, the biggest and most beautiful tree is picked from the Krkonoše Mountains especially for the Old Town Centre Christmas tree to be erected at the end of November. Locals and visitors come from all around the world to enjoy this stunning sight and soak up the jolly spirit of Christmas.
It was very atmospheric at the Old Town Centre when I went last December, with plenty of open-air wooden huts around the square displaying their treats such as Trdelník, a sweet pastry with sugar and cinnamon, made from dough that is wrapped round a wooden stick and then baked over coals – a must-try when you go to the markets. You can get some of your Christmas presents there too, as many huts sells a lot of souvenirs and traditional arts & crafts.
One of the best ways to see a panoramic view of the Old Town Square is to climb on top of the Old Town Hall Tower, home to the Astronomical Clock. Be aware that the waiting time for the tower starts from 20 minutes and upwards at a busy time, as, at the top, it is a small space where not a lot of people can fit. When we went up, we were also lucky to catch a couple of trumpets players playing Christmas carols, which really added to the ambience and made it that bit more special. The views from up there are simply stunning. If you have time to wait around, it is also worth checking out the Astronomical Clock, which puts on a mechanical puppet-like performance at every hour of the day from 9am-9pm. The statues come out every hour and they have an interesting story behind them; each statue represent vanity, greed, death and and lust. You know it’s about to happen as there are lots of tourists that flock to the base of the Tower and wait in anticipation!
Things to do in Prague over Christmas
There are plenty of other things which are a must visit when you are in Prague such as the famous Charles Bridge
Tip: Go there early in the morning before the sunrise, as there are fewer people and it is totally magical to watch the first sun rays light up the town.
It is also worth checking out a concert. We went to a Christmas Concert held in Mirror Chapel at the Clementium. As it was December, it was really cold in Prague so the chapel was quite chilly but luckily we he had heated seats, and with the classical music playing and my bum being heated I might have dozed off a couple of times! I am hopeless at staying awake when I am still and comfy! Something not a lot of people know about me is that I really love classical music and Ludovico Einaudi is one of my all time favourite artists. There is something so calming listening to classical music…it reminds me of my childhood.
Go on a cruise..
My lovely then-boyfriend also arranged a cruise ride for us to see Prague from the boat, and I would also highly recommend doing that, as you get to see the famous sights from a different perspective, and enjoy a lovely gentleman playing accordion while you tuck into a traditional buffet lunch, where we picked out everything vegan that there was to have, which wasn’t much.
Near Charles Bridge, there is also the ancient Prague Castle, which dates back to 9th century, it is a bit of a hike though to get to it. It is the largest ancient castle in the world and the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. When the flag is up, it means he is at home. It it quite Gothic with a lot of black rimmed detailing, but absolutely stunning and very photogenic. There is a beautiful grand Cathedral on the grounds too, as well as more traditional wooden Christmas huts where you can buy hot food and traditional gifts, more or less the same what you get on the square.
One of the highlights for me was going for dinner at a classy vegan restaurant called Etnosvet. An international dinner menu is crafted with love by a French chef, and delivered by the friendliest and most helpful staff.
The basement of the restaurant is quite modern and romantic, yet there was a local family having dinner there with their kids playing quietly. It added such a homely feel to the restaurant at the same time, and the waiters were entertaining and talking to the kids, I loved that! Not a pretentious, uptight atmosphere at all.
We ordered a feast; some dishes were recommended to us by the waiter so all in all we opted for the coconut tempura (marinated tofu, crispy vegetables such as red pepper, asparagus and some baby corn with peanut satay, sweet sticky soy and tamarind sauce), vegan steak tarter which was quite salty but very delicious and different from the standard dishes served in vegan restaurants.
For mains we went for a fragrant nut roast wellington, which was incredible, especially on cold Christmasy evening. It was made from puff pastry, mushrooms, glazed carrots, celeriac & apple puree, shallot and onion. It was utterly delicious and I didn’t want it to end! We also tried the mock Peking duck, which was okay but didn’t quite taste like I remember the real thing tasting. It consisted of crispy marinated seitan, steamed Chinese pancakes, cucumber, spring onion, hoisin & plum sauce. However the taste of the seitan just didn’t really cut it for me, although it is quite a popular dish.
We also got a cheeky aperitif each, which I always regret as my body just doesn’t want or like alcohol. However, guess what the best part was? Everything came to around £35!!! I was astonished, we had so much food, it was all such amazing quality and it was all so cheap! The perks of being in Eastern Europe!
Prague is a beautiful city full of ancient buildings, cobbled streets laced with history and character, pretty colourful rooftops and friendly people. As most Czech people are Catholics, it is seen a lot in their monuments all around the city so its no wonder it is one of the best places to go for Christmas Markets. They have truly captured the essence of Christmas beautifully.