10 Things to Do in Prague in December
Prague is a magical city. The Astronomical Clock chimes every hour, filling the city with vibrant sounds of time passing. The Charles Bridge provides a gateway between the two sides of the city, giving you a footpath over the Vltava River. Old Town Square is a common meeting place and hangout spot to sit, have a beer, and enjoy the ambiance.
The only thing that could enhance the magic of the city is to visit in wintertime, when snow, lights, and holiday cheer has taken over. Visiting Prague in December may arguably the best time of year to go, escaping the throngs of tourists in the summer months, and being able to enjoy all of the winter activities that the city has to offer.
1. Witness St. Nicholas Day – a cross between Halloween and Christmas
If you’re lucky enough to explore this city during the month of December, you won’t be disappointed. Regardless of the beautiful architecture, friendly people, and amazing food and drink, the special events during this month should not be missed.
First up, we have St. Nicholas Day on December 5. This interesting celebration has Mikulas and his fellow companions, an angel and a devil, socialize and interact with the local children. He walks around the streets for the day, passing out candy and treats, who in turn recite and sing memorized songs back to him, in order to impress St. Nick.
A combination between Halloween and Christmas, this holiday is surely not one to be missed, as you might find yourself walking down the street right in the path of saints, devils, and angels. Families and friends all take part in the day of dress-up, and enjoy deciding whether to give children treats, or lumps of coal to the bad ones.
Personally, I think this holiday alone is enough to see Prague, to see how the Czech children react to being handed lumps of coal. Here’s to hoping they take it with a grain of salt, and maybe just get better at singing for next year?
2. Find a gift for the in-laws at the famous Christmas markets
Next up, we have the famous Christmas markets. Possibly the most sought-after attraction in Prague during the winter months, these famous displays contain numerous stalls, with trinkets, food, drink, and anything else you could possibly think of. You can find Christmas gifts here no problem, with the markets offering boutique clothes, Czech souvenirs, and other items that would make great gifts for any family member or friend.
The market runs from the end of November through the first week of January, so you’ll have the whole month of December to wander around and decide your favorite item to pick. Old Town Square becomes filled with decorations, events, and Christmas-themed shows, all boosting the holiday spirit and giving everyone some cheerful entertainment.
We personally recommend grabbing a mouth-watering (and inexpensive) pastry, buying a mug of mulled wine, and sitting outside in the square, people-watching and listening to the sounds of locals conversing with foreigners, the Christmas music playing, and the kids finding their favorite gifts.
If you want to buy a traditional gift here for someone back home, we’d recommend something crystal, or locally-made items that can easily be packed away for Christmas Day. If Old Town Square is just too busy on the day you go, there are a few other markets you can check out before the day is up. The market at Prague Castle is a favorite, since the ancient architecture and old-time vibe combined with the Christmas theme just really puts us in the mood.
Next, we have Wenceslas Square, a slightly smaller choice than the Old Town market, but remains beautiful, less-crowded, and featuring a massive, and decorated, tree at the lower part of the square. Cozy up with your loved one or your family, enjoy some gingerbread, and gaze at the Christmas tree after the sun goes down.
Last, if you want a market that is a bit off the beaten path, we recommend checking out the Palladium Shopping Mall. yes, it seems like an oxymoron that the shopping mall may be less crowded than the Old Town Square, but we’ve found it to be true.
Cross the Charles Bridge, and head to the area around Jiřího z Poděbrad, Náměstí Míru – good luck trying to say that. Maybe show a Czech local your phone with that name, and they’ll direct you in the right location.
If you’re lucky enough to stay for multiple days, we recommend checking out all the different markets – they each have something unique to offer, and each one just as beautiful and charming as the last.
3. Check out a snowy Prague Castle
Next up on this list, visiting the Prague Castle is a must-do for your time in the city. Even though you may have already gone here for the Christmas market, a trip to this attraction all on its own is more than worth it. Hopefully you’ve been lucky enough to get some snow during your trip, and you can see just how magnificent the sight of this castle is after a fresh snowfall. Despite being normally crowded and slightly expensive for entrance, the architecture, design, and history all kept here make it definitely worth the price.
While visiting, we highly recommend seeing St. Vitus Cathedral, an exquisite place of worship, featuring lifelike paintings and stained glass windows.
After the cathedral, check out the Golden Lane, an extremely old and beautiful row of colored houses that were owned by goldsmiths. This 16th century housing area combines various bright colors, making it a great spot for photos.
If you’re a night owl, the whole complex stays open until 10 pm in the winter, so you can come here after dinner for a nighttime jaunt. If you come after 4 pm, you can check out the Golden Lane for free.
4. Move over Nastia Liukin, we’re going ice skating
Ringing in number four on top Prague activities in December, we have a childhood favorite – ice skating. The numerous ice rinks scattered around the city make it a great activity for families, couples, or solo aspiring professionals. Lucky for you, the various rinks make it easy to always find one somewhat nearby. There are definitely a few favorites, however.
Na Frantisku is a well-known spot among the locals, with an unbeatable location – right in the heart of the Old Town, next to the famous Jewish Quarter. You can glide around the ice, while admiring the surrounding buildings of the heart of historical Prague. Ovocny trh is another spot, controlled by Prague city hall, meaning there is no entrance fee – us budget travelers love that.
For the daredevils, Galerie harfa features a skating rink – on the rooftop of a massive shopping center. These are just a few of the local and tourist favorites, while the many other options let you easily choose whichever one calls to you. You can be rest assured, there will be people on the ice at almost any time of day, so you’ll be sharing the ice with people from all backgrounds – which we think is pretty cool.
5. Sip on some local beerFor number five on this list, we recommend something pretty broad – ‘Czeching’ out the local beer scene. Sure, this can be done all year round – and you can be certain that locals definitely drink all year. No questions asked. But, especially in December, the cozy beer halls, pubs, and bars all have a cozier feel to them, with dimly lit spaces, Christmas lights for decoration, and holiday cheer in the air.
We can’t think of anything much better than coming into a warm and welcoming restaurant after a long day in the cold, and being served a hearty pint. Once you enter one of the bars and pubs of your choice, you’ll find most adults around you having the Pilsner – a pale lager, that is definitely best when drank in Prague.
Pilsner Urquell, the original pilsner, comes straight from the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Drinking locally just makes more sense, doesn’t it? Especially when the beer you’re drinking is good – like, very good.
Make sure when you’re enjoying your pint that the place poured it properly – you want a good 2-3 inches of foam on the top, so please don’t complain that it’s too much foam for you. They’ll just look at you like you’re a crazy tourist – which you very well may be.
For a good pour, we’d go to U Pinksau, Zly casy, or U zlateho tygra. All traditional and local pubs, these are real Czech spots that will know what they’re doing.
6. Hope you’re not afraid of heights, because we’re headed to the Petřín Lookout TowerNumber six for December activities, we highly recommend catching some insane views over this beautiful city at the Petřín Lookout Tower. This tall-tower was built in 1891, and slightly resembles the famous Eiffel Tower.
Different from the Old Town Bridge Tower (and the Eiffel Tower), this spot has a lot less tourists flocking the area, and threatening to push you off the side to get the best Instagram shot.
You can walk from the castle, taking about 30 minutes on foot, or decide to take the funicular up to the top. Both offer different positives, with the walk helping to burn off some of the holiday calories, and the funicular offering views all the way up. Either way, once you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of all of the main Prague attractions, like the castle, Old Town, and Mala Strana, a famous historic neighborhood.
A little off the beaten path, this is a great all-year-round activity that really stands out in the winter and December, when you can see the beautiful lights, snow-covered buildings, and Christmas decorations.
7. Celebrate Christmas Eve – the Czech way
Lucky number seven, we bring to you the Christmas Eve celebrations in Prague. If you’re lucky enough to be in the city for this festive day, you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying various Czech traditions – and much quieter surroundings than you might expect.
This day is the most important day of Christmas for the Czech people, so most of the Prague locals will be staying at home with their families. This gives you (and other tourists) the chance to explore much of Prague on foot, without the crowds, and be able to experience some of the bigger attractions and sights without the people.
Being around the castle and the different squares without people all around really gives it a special feel, and one that doesn’t come often. For Christmas Eve dinner, you can head to any local and traditional restaurant to enjoy the usual feast, comprised of carp and potato salad. We recommend making a reservation, for either lunch or dinner – or both – as most places will have limited hours and fill up quickly.
8. Cruise down the Vltava in style – and warmthNext up, you can cruise down the Vltava River, taking in street-level sights of the surroundings, and enjoying seeing both sides of the city. Don’t worry – you won’t be too cold. The boats are surrounded by glass, so you can comfortably sit inside and check out the Prague Castle, and slip underneath the famous Charles Bridge, waving up to the tourists on the bridge.
The guide will be able to tell you important historical information, interesting facts, and answer any questions you may have about the beautiful city. Since it will be a winter boat ride, you may get lucky and be cruising down icy water, gazing out at the snow falling around you. Either way, this is a unique and fun way to be able to see the wintry surroundings.
9. Ring in the new year in styleFor number nine, we really hope you’ve decided to enjoy the last day of December here – New Year’s Eve. If you’re lucky enough to spend Christmas or New Year’s Eve in this city, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the most beautiful times of year in this exquisite place. There are so many different ways to celebrate this holiday here, with most of them being free.
You can head to the castle, Wenceslas Square, or Old Town Square, and see the fireworks being launched from any of these spots. If you never got a chance for that boat ride, you can save it for this moment – some companies offer New Year’s Eve cruises that let you see the extravagant fireworks from the water. Either way, seeing the fireworks light up the architecture against the dark skies is a once-in-a-lifetime event that shouldn’t be missed.
10. Time to light up the famous Charles Bridge
Lastly on our foolproof list, you have the chance to see the famous Lamplighting at Charles Bridge. A lamplighter, dressed in traditional clothing, lights every single lamp along the bridge. This event starts at 4 pm, and lasts from December 1 – 23rd. This ‘event’ is really only a few minutes long, but the people gathered on the bridge, the lamplighter dressed in period clothing, and the setting sun behind you all create a magical atmosphere that gets everyone in the holiday spirit, and sets you up for a good night out in the bustling city.