The holidays bring with them a flurry of festive activities no matter where you live. Here in the Czech Republic the good times start in late November and don’t stop till Silvester, the Czech New Year’s Eve. We’ve made a list (and checked it twice!) of fun things to do in Prague during the 2014 season.
Check out the Old Town Tree
Each year an impressive Christmas tree is erected in the Old Town—shipped in from the Krkonoše mountains and adorned with hundreds of lights; it is a stunning centerpiece to the Christmas markets on the square. The carolers on the main stage add to the festive mood.
Browse the Christmas Markets
Prague is renowned for its holiday markets, and if you’re visiting at this time of year it’s nearly impossible to escape them—and who would want to? Many offer live entertainment and activities in addition to food, drink, and the sale of festive tchotchkes. See our Guide to Prague Christmas Markets for a round-up of the best.
Christmas markets opened in late November, and run through the first week of the New Year.
Lace up at the Ice Skating Rink
The pedestrian area behind Prague’s majestic Estates Theatre, known as Ovocný trh, was once a medieval fruit market. Every winter it is transformed into a jolly public ice-skating rink courtesy of the Prague 1 district. Skating is free, and skate rentals are available so there’s no reason not to take a twirl.
Open: December 16–24, 2014 at 10 am – 9.30 pm
Behold a Sacred Scene
Churches throughout Prague typically have elaborate crèches on display throughout the holiday season; that includes St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle, the Loreto, and the Church of Our Lady before Týn on Old Town Square. This year the Bethlehem Chapel will exhibit, in addition to the traditional nativity scene, a collection of bells.
Nativity scenes are displayed from December 24 through early February.
Celebrate Hanukkah at Jan Palach Square
Jan Palach Square, the area in front of Prague’s Rudolfinum concert venue, a stone’s throw from the Jewish Quarter, has traditionally been the locale for the lighting of a large Menorah by Prague’s Chabad community, as well as dreidel, dancing, and donut festivities. Visit chabadprague.cz for this year’s exact dates and times.
This year Hanukkah is from December 16–24, 2014
Attend a Christmas Mass
Caroling and Christmas music date to the 14th Century in the Czech lands. The penultimate Christmas carol? Jan Jakub Ryba’s 17th century Czech Christmas Mass, a performance of which takes place every year at the Church of St. Simon and Jude on Christmas Day (5 pm). An earlier December 10 performance of the same piece will be held in the Clementinum’s Chapel of Mirrors. An open-air Christmas Eve mass is held annually on December 24 at 9 pm on the main stage of Prague’s Old Town Square.
Take an Icy Plunge in the Vltava
Every year on St. Stephan’s Day, the oldest swimming club in the Czech Republic organizes a cold-weather swim in the Vltava River. Not for the faint of heart! But if you are made of hardier stock we suggest taking the plunge in the midst of historic Prague. The swim takes place in front of the National Theatre.
December 26, 2014 at 11 am
Ring in the New Year with Parties and Fireworks
Ring in the New Year Czech style by catching the midnight fireworks. Chances are if you’re in central Prague that evening you’ll see them anyway—fireworks are launched from Střelecký Island and can be seen from the bridges, river banks, Petřín Hill, and Prague Castle. But the best seat in the house is Old Town Square, where huge crowds of rambunctious revelers gather to celebrate.
Fireworks: December 31, 2014 at 12 midnight (a second family-friendly performance usually takes place on January 1, 2015 at 6 pm).