It’s getting downright frosty here in London, and the sun has set by around 4:00 every day. Instead of finding this a depressing shock to the system, I’ve decided to get into the Christmas spirit early. The one good thing about living abroad where American Thanksgiving is strangely ignored, is that post-Halloween (another largely ignored holiday), it’s basically Christmastime.
I’ve booked a few trips for December, and planning them has me thinking about what an incredible trip I took over the puente last year in Spain. As I said before, it was a whirlwind trip from Berlin to Amsterdam to Prague to Poland. I only got around to writing about Berlin last year, but it’s time (or about 10 months past time) to talk about the others. Because they were fantastic.
I’m starting with Prague because Prague in December is quite literally the most magical place on earth. As much as I like to explore new places, had I found affordable tickets I’d be spending a weekend in Prague this December, without a doubt. While Berlin was a bit crowded and overwhelming, Prague was much less packed. It honestly looked and felt like we’d time traveled back a few dozen (hundred) years. The Christmas market was filled with wooden stalls where people were making their crafts–metal workers, jewelry makers, booksellers, wine vendors–it was a nice departure from the more modern and pricey markets I’d been to elsewhere. There were also animals around, and a little place where you could feed donkeys. While it got a bit crowded at night, it was never to the point where you couldn’t mill around comfortably, and take in the views of the beautiful tree or the church or the astronomical clock.
Stay close to the action. We stayed at Prague Square Hostel which I highly recommend. It wasn’t that expensive (about 10 euros a night for an 8 bed room), but only a two minute walk from Old Town Square, and an easy walk to all the other main things you’d want to see in Prague. If you stay around here, Cafe–Cafe had a few good breakfast options (including eggs!) and some really delicious cakes and coffees.
We did a loop, which ended up being a great walk around all the sites of the city.
We missed it, but I’d recommend starting with a trip to the Old Jewish Cemetery. Then walk across Manesuv Most bridge up to Prague Castle. This is up a hill and offers some great views of the city. Walking around this area is a look into what the less touristy side of Prague looks like, compared to Old Town Square. If I came back anytime other than December, I’d try to stay around here.
The Castle is incredible, and parts are free to walk around. We didn’t actually go inside, though if you have the time and money I’m sure it would be worth it. Instead we walked around the grounds–there’s an area called Golden Lane where Kafka used to have a house, that I’d recommend checking out, and a little old toy store built into the castle where I really regret not buying something for a future kid, because everything in it was wooden and gorgeous. When we were there were quite a few stalls selling food and mulled wine, and it was a really nice place to spend some time.
On our way to the bridge we found Lennon’s Wall, and joined the dozens of French tourists taking pictures in front of it. Then we made our way up to the bridge (this was actually fairly confusing and eventually a guard just walked us there). I was honestly not expecting much–how big of a deal can crossing an old bridge be, really? But it was so beautiful, the sun was close to setting, and there was live music playing that just heightened it all. It was definitely a, “how is this real life??” kind of moment, one of the ones that make traveling so special.
After the bridge we went back into Old Town Square, where we had a really great dinner right on the square, overlooking the market. I’d recommend being a bit picky about the restaurant you choose–so many were incredibly touristy, with the menu is dozens of languages and a bit void of heart. Instead we tried to pick one where it was mainly Czech people eating, which ended up being the right call. We ended up at Restaurant White Horse, which I highly recommend. We sat outside, because the Christmas market was a lovely view, but the inside looked incredible as well. I had Goulash and it was so, so yummy. Definitely give that a try, and the pork knuckle is meant to be delicious as well. We didn’t get to go to Svata Klara for dinner, but it’s on my list of places for if I ever return. If you go, please have dinner there and report back–it looks so cool!
We saved the actual market for the next day, and after a lie in and a detour to buy warmer jackets (it is literally freezing in Prague at that time of year, bring the heaviest winter coat you can find), we spent hours exploring the stalls, trying the food and drink (find a stall with honey wine, you won’t be disappointed!). We also used this time to go to the top of the Astronomical Clock, which is something you can’t miss. The views, especially when overlooking the market, were so pretty, and a great overview of everything you’re experiencing down below.
Prague was everything I ever dreamed a Christmas market could be, and though I see the value in visiting during other parts of the year, I’m already trying to figure out how to make annual December trips part of my life plan for the next few decades!