I love Christmas, who doesn’t? The bright lights, Christmas trees (bonus if they’re REAL!), carols…Growing up in the only Catholic country in Asia – Christmas is a huge thing in the Philippines. It’s probably the biggest and most important and anticipated event of the year.
I spent a good 19 Christmasses before I left to live in a non-Christian country (my first Christmas in Japan wasn’t what I expected it to be) and sure there are lights and Christmas decors there, it’s never the same. After 10 years in Japan, we moved to Dubai. There are Christmas decors here too but then it crossed my mind – what would Christmas look like somewhere else where Christmas is traditionally celebrated? Like in Europe perhaps?
Prague is about 6.5 hours flight from Dubai so I chose it as destination for the plane tickets I won from a contest by Fly Dubai. I can only take one companion so I took my preteen daughter Pristine to embark on a new adventure – a trip to Prague, Czech Republic for the main purpose of hopefully experiencing a bit of Christmas a few days before the actual big day – by visiting the Christmas market for the first time!
This is our first travel alone together and I was excited to see how she’d take it. She has not been to Czech Republic (neither have I) so we explored it together, got lost together and massaged each other’s feet after hours of walking.
Tourists and locals alike flock to the Christmas market to buy presents, eat traditional food or sip hot wine or simply marvel at the sight of the huge tree at the center of the square. The tree is of course, real!
We visited the oldest and biggest Christmas market in the capital city of Prague located at the Old Town Square which was only 5 minutes walk from our hotel.
On our first day in Prague, we joined a walking tour, had lunch and went back to the hotel to rest. When night came, we bundled up to go out and see the Christmas market all lit up. I cringed at the idea of going out in the cold but it would be a shame not to – it’s at night time when everything comes alive!
It was drizzling so I couldn’t take my proper camera out. So tip if you’re traveling during winter and want to take good photos using an SLR camera, either you could check the weather forecast first before you travel or have a waterproof photography gear.
It’s just so much different during the night, isn’t it? I love the photos I took even though these were just from my iPhone.
The dates during which Prague Christmas markets are open are usually different from year to year. In general, you’ll find at least some markets running from the last week of November into the first week of January. The Prague Christmas markets run from 28th November to 3rd January.
What’s so enchanting about Christmas markets are all the little things that never change: children gathered round the crib; grown-ups gathered round the hot mulled wine (svarené víno or svarák) stalls; the nutcrackers, the carols, the candlelight. Foreigners come here to stock up with gifts and delicacies. Locals often just drop in for a few drinks and a bite to eat.
We loved everything about the Christmas Market in Prague, most impressive of all is the Christmas tree, shipped in from Ceská Lípa, which is north of Prague. The tree is erected at the Old Town Square and draped in a blaze of lights. It is switched on every night around 5pm, and makes a spectacular sight, set against Prague’s dark gothic skyline.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF PRAGUE’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS
1. Book a hotel around Prague 1, that’s the nearest to the Old Town and Wenceslas Square soyou can leave your hotel and be in the midst of the markets in minutes. Grab a drink, browse the stalls, and soak up the atmosphere. And when you’re ready for a warm bath, it’s just a short walk home.
During our visit to Prague, we stayed for two nights at The Intercontinental Prague using the loyalty points I got from the IHG® Rewards Club. The hotel is located on the fashionable Parížská shopping street in the Old Town area of Prague, a fantastic location that allowed us to walk to most important tourist spots including the Old Town Square where the Christmas market was taking place.
2. Take your time. Remember, this is a market. There will likely be more than one vendor selling similar products so there’s no need to impulse buy at all. And the price of the same item will differ from one vendor to another!
3. The market usually gets busier at night, so if you want more time to check things out at a slower pace, a daytime trip would be better. Also, you can take more photos of everything in the market without too many tourists crossing in front of you during daytime.
4. Take it easy on the mulled wine. Hot alcohol hits harder. No, really.
5. Keep warm. It was around 0 degrees celsius at night when we were there early December. No snow yet but it was raining on the our first night in Prague. You might be better off wearing waterproof winter jacket as well.
Prague is a picturesque city throughout the year, although the spirit of the city during Christmas time is extra magical. We could not forget the time we spent in Prague even if it was a short one. We would love to go back again, Christmas or not, next time, bringing the whole family.