Prague in winter is incredibly beautiful. Even if you’re one of those who do mind the cold weather, fortunately there are still many things to do and enjoy. Winter might as well the best time of year to visit Prague.
Franz Kafka loved Prague most during the wintertime, probably because the city feels more magical and mysterious, and even more romantic. Lower number of winter tourists also helps the magical experience.
Christmas markets in Prague
If you’re visiting in December or early January (till the 6th to be specific), you should check out Prague Christmas markets. Actually, that’s one of the main things to do in Prague in winter – just strolling through the markets. The markets are essentially a reason why many people visit Prague in winter. Since Prague winter markets are almost everywhere around Christmas time, you can’t escape them anyway! :)
Old Town Square Christmas Market
The best and largest Christmas market is in the Old Town Square. Get a mulled wine and a pastry roll with cinnamon and sugar named Trdlo (or Trdelník). Trdlo is NOT originally Czech, but it’s still yummy. Just marvel at the enormous and majestic Christmas tree and see what performances there are on the stage.
If you want to experience a little light show on the tree, stop by between 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm. Every hour, the tree will be blinking and it’ll all be accompanied by festive music :)
The food stands covering the square offer a variety of delicious Czech meals and snacks to warm you up.
Wenceslas Square Christmas Market
In the middle of the Wenceslas Square, another Christmas market has sprung up in the last years. You can get the same things as everywhere else, including food, mulled wine and wooden toys. There’s always a cone-like Christmas tree and a hoard of tourists.
To be fully honest with you, this Christmas market is not my favorite one.
Prague Castle Christmas Market
A new tradition has developed and that’s hosting Christmas markets at the Prague Castle too! It’s indeed a special setting, to walk among the stands with the majestic St. Vitus Cathedral looming nearby. The market there closes already at 7 pm on a workday and at 8 pm on a weekend, so make sure you don’t show up too late.
Update: Since August 2016, security frames have been introduced by the entrance gates to the Prague Castle. That means, there are now very often long lines forming. If you wish to visit the Castle and the Christmas market, arm yourself with patience or just avoid coming on the weekend or weekday afternoon.
Smaller Christmas Markets in Prague
My personal favorite is the market at Náměstí Míru, easily accessible by the green metro line A. It has a more relaxed feel and the share of locals is considerably higher than at the most touristy markets.
Even us locals consider stopping for a chat with friends accompanied by a cup of mulled wine as one of the best things to do in Prague in winter. Other than staying on the couch. :D
Generally speaking, the markets don’t differ too much. The good news is that you’ll find mulled wine everywhere! It’s more about the surroundings and the people. Also, if you have kids with you, you might be more interested in markets with live animals like the one on the Old Town Square or even Náměstí Republiky (yellow metro line B).
Another good Christmas market is e.g. on Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, also on the green metro line A. There’s a Christmas market on the Wenceslas Square too, but it’s usually very small and not as interesting.
See a full list of Prague’s Christmas markets with their exact dates of operation here.
Ice-skating in Prague
To warm yourself up, other than just drinking mulled wine or hot mead, you can look into a few Prague winter activities. Ice skating is one of the main ones that can be done in the city. Each of the Prague ice skating rinks listed below offers a rental of ice skates.
On and off, Prague 1 hosts an outdoor ice-skating rink in the very city centre (at Ovocný trh). When it comes to sightseeing while ice skating, Prague can hardly be beat.
There’s still no official info about the rink for the 2018/2019 winter season, but usually it opens on December 5 and stays open every day from 10 am till 10 pm until the end of January. The location is really convenient as you can stroll to there easily from Wenceslas Square or the Old Town Square.
Also, if you don’t mint venturing slightly outside the city centre, an awesome rink is each year set up right under the TV Tower in Žižkov, Prague 3!
Sightseeing during winter in Prague
Other than the winter activities, there are amazing sightseeing opportunities that you can do at any time of the year. Visiting a museum is definitely one of the top things to do in Prague in winter.
Here’s a good list of the main traditional museums. For a unique one, especially if you’re a fan of all things Apple & Steve Jobs, check out the Apple Museum. We locals also love Dox, the Centre for Contemporary Art. They always have unique exhibitions on display!
Must see things in Prague, even in winter
Prague Castle is a must. As mentioned earlier in the Christmas market section, there are now security frames to go through when you want to enter the castle complex. That shouldn’t deter you, though.
Stroll inside and if you feel like it, buy a ticket to enter the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane. It’s well worth it.
Prague Castle winter opening hours can be found here.
Old Town Square
The Old Town Square with the main draw being the Astronomical Clock can be easily visited in winter. It’s going to be full of stands during Christmas time, but at least you can keep the supply of mulled wine or hot mead running :)
For a birds eye view of the Old Town Square, climb to the top of the Old Town Hall Tower. The views are amazing.
No matter the season or the number of days you have in Prague, there’s no excuse to leave out the Old Town Square as it’s a must do in Prague.
Dress especially warm for the bridge! And then stroll along it and enjoy the views of the Vltava River, the Prague Castle and all around. The colder it gets, the higher the chance the bridge will be less crowded. In winter, you don’t have to get up as early to have it all to yourself. Even 8am will do.
The Charles Bridge is simply another of the must sees in Prague. I love observing it from the top too – especially from the Old Town Bridge Tower, which offers the views of Prague Castle as well. The tower opens at 10am. See more info here.
Winter definitely brings magic to all the typical sights. The gargoyles on the outside of St. Vitus Cathedral, staring at every passerby, have unique beards of ice when it’s below zero. Frost-covered spears and icicles on the roof edges make for a fairy-tale like scenery.
If you’d like to go for a short sightseeing tour with a guide, I found these two fun ones for you: a Ghost Tour (spooky Old Town!) and a Sunrise Photo Tour (4 hours to get those beautiful people-free photos of Prague).
And, my personal favorite Prague winter activity: Riding a tram! Yes, you heard it right. If you’re too cold but still want to do some low-cost sightseeing, just hop on a tram and ride till the final stop. Try out e.g. tram no. 22 – it goes through the city centre and even near the Prague Castle.
Events in Prague in Winter
Unlike in other cities, the life in Prague doesn’t come to a stop when the winter rolls in. A lot of exhibitions, concerts and other organized events still take place in the city.
There’s usually a good overview of events on Prague.eu’s site, always for a month or so ahead.
Local Christmas Traditions
Most of the Christmas traditions are naturally packed into December. The whole advent time (December 1st until December 24th) is a time when people, to varying degrees, follow traditions. In my family, it’s lighting up a candle on a wreath each Advent Sunday.
On December 6th it’s Saint Nicholas Day in the Czech Republic. St. Nicholas, locally referred to as ‘Mikuláš’, roams the streets together with his helpers – an angel and a devil. On the evening of December 5th, you might come across groups of people dressed in long white gowns or wearing devil masks. They visit families, reprimand disobedient kids, and each child gets a little present, usually in the form of a candy package. In Prague the tradition is followed less rigorously than in the regions, though.
On Christmas Eve, December 24th, we locals celebrate the ‘main’ Christmas. That’s the time we feast on a Christmas dinner and afterwards gather by the Christmas tree to give gifts to each other. On December 24th, 25th and 26th it’s the official Christmas holiday and many places are closed down. Christmas markets, especially those in Prague, are where the most action’s at.
Other Prague Winter Events
Following in the timeline, we’re getting to New Year’s Eve! It’s actually quite a crazy time and I usually choose to travel to smaller towns during New Year’s. There are a few places where I wouldn’t go around midnight: Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square and perhaps also the Old Town Square. Pickpockets are at their prime time and there are drunk people, sometimes with fireworks in their hands.
Another local tip: The official Prague city fireworks don’t happen at midnight. There’s enough madness already. The official time is usually in the evening of January 1st, typically at 6pm. The news is not yet out on when it’s going to be in 2019 but I’ll keep you posted :)
January 6th marks the Day of the Three Kings. It’s officially the end of Christmas time and on this day it’s also when many people take down their Christmas tree. The three kings, or rather people dressed as them, visit homes of others, are hosted in a way (candy/alcohol/I don’t know) and then they mark K+M+B and the current year on the host’s door. This tradition is not adhered to as strongly as in other Czech regions. In my 10 years+ residence in Prague I’ve never been visited by the three kings :)
End of February sees the carnivals in the streets. Officially, it’s the end of the feast season and pre-Easter fasting lies ahead. If you see people wearing masks in the street, it’s this carnival’s fault :) We call it Masopust and the festival is especially strong in villages. I don’t remember it being celebrated in the streets of Prague as much as it has been in the recent years.
Don’t forget to spend a lot of time inside!
To escape the cold weather, you should stop often at Prague’s numerous cafés and restaurants.
Here are 5 great new cafés to choose from, and many more. If you want a personal recommendation, just let me know what areas you’ll plan to visit and I’ll suggest some awesome cafés for you ;)
I’ve also compiled a list of fun indoor activities (all highly rated):
- Indoor Skydiving: Skydiving in a wind tunnel is the ultimate indoor adventure!
- Traditional Czech Cooking Class: Learn how to make typical Czech dishes
- Medieval dinner with unlimited drinks: Enjoy a lively medieval performance (belly dancers and snakes included!) and feast on some hearty Czech meals
- Christmas Folklore Dinner with music and dance: Insight into the real old school folklore at one of Prague’s classic restaurants
- The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky in Prague’s Hybernia Theatre: See the Czech adaptation of the world-famous ballet
- Alice in Wonderland Performance in a Black Light Theatre: See a couple scenes of the famous story in a unique black-light setting, includes an interactive workshop
Saunas in Prague
If you’ve had enough of all this cold around you, why not give yourself a heat boost? You might have an amazing sauna in your hotel, but if that’s not the case, here are a few locals’ favorites:
Sauna on the River
This small sauna has the most special setting – it’s located on a boat on the Vltava River, by the Náplavka riverbank. See more info here.
Saunia has already 4 branches of their awesome saunas, with most of them located in shopping malls. While I haven’t been in either yet, I know the guy who’s behind the concept so I’d absolutely trust the quality. Details can be found here (you’ll need Google Translate).
Back when I used to go to sauna with friends, we went to Infinit most of the time. It used to be the biggest Prague sauna area. It’s a little further away from the city center, though, and not ideal to reach if you don’t have a car. See more here.
Where to Stay When Visiting Prague in Winter?
The closest to the sights, of course, so that you don’t freeze before reaching the Charles Bridge. Or, if your budget is rather constricted, near a stop of a tram/metro. I’d stay away from bus stops, because they tend to have the longest interval. Here’s a few options for you, all located neatly in or within a walking distance from the city center.
If luxury is what you’re after, you really have a vast array of 5-star hotels to choose from. These are not only top notch, but also within short walking distance from all the main sights in the Old Town.
Four Seasons Hotel
You know what you’re getting when you check into Four Seasons – only the best of the best. Four Seasons Hotel in Prague is located right by the river, within a few steps from the Charles Bridge. That becomes handy when temperatures drop below zero!
This hotel belongs to the international Luxury Collection of Hotels worldwide, guaranteeing top quality. Augustine Hotel is located in a quiet street in the picturesque Lesser Town, right between the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle. It’s actually built in a 13th century monastery and has a bar with a brewery in place where the monastery brewery used to be.
Design Hotel Neruda
When a 4-star hotel feels as special as Neruda Hotel, it’s more than easy to include it in the top luxury category. Located in a quiet street near the Prague Castle, this boutique hotel is one of the best in Prague in its category. The rooms have been designed by famous Czech designers and are spacious and comfortable.
Affordable & Cool Luxury Accommodation
This uber cool design hotel, all sustainable and green, has numerous levels of rooms fitting your budget and comfort level. From the cheapest shared dorms to absolutely beautiful rooms with a view of the Prague Castle, this is one of the best accommodation options in Prague. Most sights are not too far from the hotel.
Located on one of Prague’s best party streets in the city center, the Travellers Hostel has nice rooms and, in my opinion, also a cool hostel vibe. There are several dorms and private rooms, so you can decide based on your budget.
If you’d like to stay in the city center while not spending too much on accommodation, this hostel is one of the best low-cost options. The hostel is not especially charming, but it’s clean and decent. Plus the staff is friendly too.
And of course, there’s Airbnb. You can stay comfortable in an apartment to your liking. Just make sure you book long in advance, Prague is popular! (Don’t know what Airbnb is? Read this article). Don’t forget to read the reviews carefully. There are apparently all kinds of standards in Prague Airbnbs when it comes to cleanliness and maintenance. (Just something I’ve heard.)
Prague Winter Weather
December in Prague could be either not yet that cold or already very cold :) On average, the temperature in Prague in December hovers around -0.5°C (31.3°F) but it can be as warm as 2.1°C (35.8°F) or as cold as -3.2°C (26.2°F). If you’re curious what to wear in Prague in December, see some of my tips in the section below.
January tends to be the coldest month. The average temperature in January in Prague is -2.0°C (28.4°F). The warmest it could be is 0.8°C (33.4°F) or it might go as low as -4.9°C (23.2°F). The most rewarding part about visiting Prague in January is the lack of crowds.
In February, Prague starts to get warmer again, albeit by a hardly visible degree. The temperature averages -0.6°C (30.9°F). However, it might feel like spring is in the air with 3.0°C (37.4°F) or, on the opposite, as cold as -3.9°C (25°F). In the recent years, Prague February weather has not been the nicest. The only thing that helps is that the days are finally getting longer again.
Weather data taken from yr.no.
And the most pressing question of all:
Does it snow in Prague in winter?
Of course it does! The only question is when. There’s a high chance there would be snow in Prague winter months – December, January and February. But you never know. There’s no such thing as snow season and each winter is different. So don’t rely on snow and just take it as a bonus when you come and Prague’s all beautifully white.
As you can see from my photos from the winters of 2017 and 2018, it’s hit and miss with the snow. It might snow beautifully one day, and be all gone the next. The snow might surprise you in early December and then not show up for weeks.
What to wear in Prague in winter?
As you could see above, Prague winter temperatures can vary greatly. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to dress especially warm. While the typical Prague winter fashion is usually just dark coats, don’t hesitate to bring some color to the streets :)
The key is layers. To stay out for hours on end, especially if you’re not used to cold weather, you need to prepare. Like this:
- Wear warm underwear, including tights for ladies or long underwear for men
- Wear a hat! They can look stylish too.
- Don’t forget gloves
- Bring a warm jacket
- If your shoes are not warm enough, wear several socks
- If it snows heavily, use an umbrella.
Prague Winter Public Transport
Travelling around Prague is convenient any time of year. The metro, the trams, buses – everything is heated. Sometimes a little too much. The worst part about using public transport in Prague in winter is when you need to transfer and wait on a tram/bus stop.
If you’re too sensitive to cold, plan accordingly :) Stay near the main sights, travel by metro and avoid complicated public transport transfers on Sundays when the wait times are longer. Use dpp.cz to plan your journey around Prague.
How many days to spend in Prague in winter?
Another burning question.. While in summer, you could easily spend a week in Prague and still have enough to do, I think in winter you’d be fine with 3 – 5 days. It depends how much cold-resistant you are and whether you enjoy winter. Coming from, say, Scandinavia, you might even feel like the winter in Prague is quite warm. Coming from the Philippines… not so much ;)
Do you need to get some work done while in Prague?
Apart from the many, many cool cafés in Prague with good wifi, I can strongly suggest the beautiful K10 Coworking space in the quiet neighborhood of Prague 2, Vinohrady.
So don’t shy away from travelling to Prague during winter. Come and experience Prague from a different perspective, the winter one. Because travelling off season can be much more rewarding!
The best time of year to go to Prague might as well be winter. So don’t shy away from Prague winter travel and come on over! Do you dare?
In case you made plans to come in summer, I still have suggested local activities for you to do. Read the post on summer in Prague.
Have you been to Prague during the wintertime? Or what other city did you find incredibly beautiful when visiting in winter?
For a *very* different winter experience, why don’t you check out my article on Winter in the Finnish Lapland?
This post was originally published in 2015.
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