The Prague Christmas Markets: Shopping, Sweets, and Music
The lovely smell of mulled wine, cinnamon and spices. Heat emanating from the grills where roasting chestnuts are crackling away. Thousands of glittering lights. Choirs at every street corner. You are definitely amidst a Prague Christmas market. And with a bit of luck, a few snowflakes drift down from overhead to complete this magical tableau of Advent time in an exceptional city where the Christmas period remains one of the best times of the year to plan your visit.
It's the traditional inauguration of the Prague Christmas markets: come along to Old Town Square on the 29th of November to take in the solemn ritual illumination of the giant Christmas tree that is traditionally installed in the city centre of the Czech capital. This year, the 26 metre-tall tree comes from the Benešov region and will be installed overnight between November 24th and 25th in order to be ready for the launch of the Christmas market a few days later. An unmissable spectacle to behold for children and adults alike!
The tree will dominate the old square with the lovely, gabled, coloured houses up until the 1st of January 2015, a square that throughout the whole festive season will be sprinkled with little wooden stalls selling refreshments as well as various artisanal products. It's kind of the ideal place to find nice gift ideas to put under the tree: original objects that will perfectly complete your Christmas offerings if you choose to sojourn in Prague at this time of year.
Gift Ideas Galore...
The Czech Republic is a country with a long tradition of handcrafting wooden toys. Rather than buying the umpteenth Lego set for the family little ones, it's a good time to stage a “return to your roots” with pretty wooden toys! Same thing for Christmas decorations, which continue to be carefully handmade: little people or stars or snowflakes out of woven straw, light filigreed wood pendants, and nativity scenes sculpted and painted with minute care...Seeing the things being sold at some of these stands, you really feel just how much Christmas remains a living tradition in this country.
Obviously, you can also find a thousand and one other trinkets to take back home with you: soaps, tablecloths, oven mitts and dishtowels out of lovely cloth, candles and candleholders, Advent calendars, honey, spoons and other kitchen utensils made out of wood, spices, jewelry, toys, artisanal paper items, leather products, gloves and scarves to protect against the winter's chill, and much more...
...And Lots to Enjoy Musically
And because it is well-known that shopping is hungry work, there's nothing quite like stopping to warm your hands back up with a good hot mulled wine (“svařák”), biting into a “trdelník,” a delicious, cylindrical, unpronounceable puff pastry rolled in sugar and cinnamon, or giving in to the pork offerings of sausages topped with mustard and horseradish (“klobása”) and mouthwatering rashers of grilled pork. It's actually difficult to resist the tantalizing aroma of the pig turning all day on its spit!
A musical programme is also planned for Old Town Square, where a large stage is installed: throughout the entire month of December, choirs, children's choruses, dance, theatre and musical groups will perform every afternoon, especially interpreting classic Christmas songs or offering concerts of ancient music. And that's without counting all the street choirs that are everywhere around the city throughout the entire time around Advent!
Numerous Christmas Markets in the City
Though the Prague Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) Christmas market is the best-known and the most “photogenic” because of its geographic location, numerous other squares in the Czech capital have their own markets, starting with the one in Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) that will run over the same dates as the above market. Also don't miss the smaller, but not less pleasant markets, like the one held in Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky) from the 25th of November to the 24th of December, the one in Peace Square (Náměstí míru) from the 20th of November to the 24th of December, and the one in Tyl Square (Tylovo náměstí) from the 23rd of November to the 24th of December.