Prague Christmas Market

Prague Christmas markets already have their most prominent feature. The best Christmas market is in the Old Town Square, but there are two others in Prague.

You will discover details about how to get to Prague Christmas Markets, about opening times and short brief about history the Crib.

Prague Christmas markets already have their most prominent feature. Every year, after careful and considered selection from the Czech Republic, a burly Christmas tree is chosen to highlight these markets. The best Christmas market is in the Old Town Square, in the picture below.

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Prague Christmas Market
Prague Christmas Market in the Old Town Square

When and where you can visit Prague Christmas Markets

The official start of the Christmas markets in Prague is signified by a giant Christmas tree on the Old Town Square being lit up; a spectacular event always held on the first day in December. Christmas markets in Old Town Square then continue until 6 January. The Three Kings on the 6 January sees their closure until the following year.

Prague Christmas Market Tree Illumination

The festive Christmas tree illumination starts on the last weekend in November. It is always something worth seeing, and many locals attend this customary ceremony, it's not just for tourists. It certainly has to be seen to be believed!

Prague Christmas Lighting
Prague Christmas Tree Lighting

At the same time, the markets start at Wenceslas Square, where they continue until the 6 January.

The seasonal atmosphere also stimulates "Náměstí Míru" (Peace Square) in Prague 2 district, and remains until 31 December. The same applies to "Tylovo náměstí" Tyl's Square, Prague 2 district as well.

Updated in 11/2018:

In 2018, there are only going to be 3 main christmas markets, Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square and Peace Square. Prague Christmas markets are opening daily from 10.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m.

How to get to the Old Town Square

If you stay in a hotel in Prague 1, Christmas markets are within walking distance. If not, the best way is by metro or tram. The nearest subway station is "Staroměstská," the green line "A," about 200 meters away. After leaving the station, turn onto Kaprova street (google street view here) and continue straight ahead (easterly direction). The closest tram stop is "Staroměstská," and it is supported by trams number 17, 18 and at night, tram 53. Search here to plan your route with public transport. If you go directly from the airport, you will find additional information there about how to get to Prague's city center.

The history of Prague's Christmas Markets

Christmas markets have long been a tradition. If you're thinking about them and the cities who hold them, the ones which automatically come to mind are likely to be Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This event makes the statement that Christmas is at hand. Prague Christmas markets started during the 19th century and during that time, the people of Prague embarked on shopping or at least walking around and seeing what the sellers in the markets had to offer. It is interesting, when you read articles and other content about the markets which has been published over the years , almost everyone has something to say about these magical markets.

The range of products available has always been naturally focused on these holidays. However, since they have always occurred over Advent, figures of St. Nicholas, small devils and, of course, toys were also sold.

Fairground attractions enriched the atmosphere of the Prague Christmas markets and singers would show horrific scenes, illustrated through their song stories. There was also shooting, puppeteers' kennels, and knightly games. The mood of the square was manifested by the light of burning oil or kerosene lamps, and the arrival of Christmas Eve saw the markets finish.

Into a snowy and cold Prague, many wealthy people from the countryside took to their sleds. The Prague cabmen and coachmen swapped their carriages for sleds, and everywhere you could hear the tinkling of bells.

During Advent, there are not just markets. Since the 18th century, the time has been associated with a tradition of charitable events. For example, for the display of nativity scenes outside the temple where a portion of the money donated by the people goes to the charity. Another exciting event was the New Year's apology papers.

This custom originated during the days of the highest Burgrave, count Chotek. He had so many well-wishers, that he was not able to meet them all and thus, in the 1920's, he started to send New Year congratulations with an apology for his non-attendance.

The Crib

The first crib appeared in 1223 in the Italian Umbria, when Francis of Assisi brought a live donkey and an ox manger which served as the altar during the Christmas mass. The custom of building Nativity scenes in the Czech Lands started with the Jesuits which is a bit ironic, given the notoriety they gained during the Battle of White Mountain. The Jesuits used the nativity scenes from the 16th century as a means of recanalization.

The crib at the Old Town Square - Prague
The crib at the Old Town Square - Prague

St. Francis of Assisi, dressed in deacon’s vestments, (it is told that out of humility he never attempted to become a priest) sang the Gospel. Then he preached a delightful sermon to the people. It is recorded that after the Mass, St. Francis went to the crib and stretched out his arms as though the Holy Child was there, and brought into being by the intensity of his devotion, the Babe appeared and the empty manger filled with the radiance of the newborn King.

St. Francis' idea of bringing Bethlehem into the towns quickly spread all over the Christian world, and soon there were Christmas cribs in many churches and homes.

The Moravian Germans brought this custom to the United States. They called it Putz. The oldest known picture is a “Nativity scene” dating from about 380 that was a wall decoration in a Christian family’s burial chamber, discovered in the Roman catacombs of St. Sebastian in 1877.

Christmas Tree

The first Christmas tree was brought to Prague in 1812 by the Estates Theater Director, Karl Liebich.

On Christmas Eve he invited the company to his villa on the top of Čertův hill in Libeň, where at midnight, to the sounds of Christmas music, he showed to the guests, as a surprise, a decorated fir with burning candles and gifts hanging on it. The following Christmas a fir graced many of the Prague apartments and salons.

At this year's Christmas markets on the Peace Square, Czech civic associations will be present and will occupy three stands. Organizations like The Way Home, The Association for Helping Children with Disabilities, Shamanka, The Nepalis, Impuls are just some among many. The Prague people may by buying their products to support a good cause and help those who have not had much luck in their lives, at least not as much as others.

What you can see

The visitors may visit 20 typical Christmas stalls with assortment such as the:

  • old Czech trdelník
  • pancakes
  • homemade Christmas cookies
  • dried fruits
  • honey
  • gingerbread
  • cheese specialties
  • British and Balkan delicacies
  • Christmas decorations
  • retro toys
  • small gift items       

And all this is possible while enjoying the smell of or tasting delicious food and mulled wine, not to mention the Christmas punch! The Christmas markets on Tyl's Square begin on 2 December and last until Christmas Eve.

Activities For Children at the Christmas Markets

Children will naturally find the lights and the general ambiance of the Christmas Markets a great delight, but there are also some activities solely for them.

Next to the Bethlehem scene and the animals stable (described above) is a long wooden cabin where a kids' workshop runs inside. Children can participate in making Christmas decorations and watch puppet theater (shows are in Czech, but are still entertaining for visitors).

  • Bethlehem scene and animals - Old Town Square: Daily 10:00 - 22:00.
  • Children's Wooden Cabin - Old Town Square: Monday - Friday 15:00 - 19:00. Saturday - Sunday 10:00 - 19:00. (Except: 24 of Dec. 10:00 - 15:00. 25-26 of Dec. 12:00 - 19:00.)
  • Puppet Theater - Old Town Square: Monday - Friday at 17:00. Saturday - Sunday 15:00 & 17:00. (Except 24 of Dec. 14:00. 25-26 of Dec. 17:00.)

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