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Prague—A Winter Wonderland

Christmas at Nam. Miru, PragueJust last week a light dusting of snow on the cars in my street welcomed me one morning, signalling the onset of winter—in my mind anyway. Walking through snow-covered parks might not be your cup of tea, but as the snow grows deeper, cross country (Nordic) skiing becomes a popular pastime in some of the city’s larger parks. It’s a bit early for it now, but when the snow falls, head to Divoká Šárka or Kunratický Les.

Prague’s main sights are especially beautiful at this time of year. Winter’s soft light brings a warm glow to the multi-coloured houses. Old Town Square is always beautiful, as is Charles Bridge. Sprinkled with white, or glimpsed through mist, they are prettier than ever—especially after a cup of warm, mulled wine.

The Christmas Markets are open until 6 January, complete with kitsch Czech souvenirs, but also with warm scarves and slippers, mulled wine and Trdelnik. Most tourists will head to Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, but the locals love the markets in front of the spectacular neo-gothic St Ludmila Church in Namesti Miru. These markets have the added bonus of being just a few steps from our school and the home of LiveTEFL Prague.

Nativity sceneBeautifully decorated Christmas trees adorn the Christmas markets and many of the shopping centres, but you can see others in less commercial settings, in front of churches. And keep your eyes open for Nativity scenes. They are popular in the region and come in many varieties—I’ve seen cardboard ones for  sale, and wooden cut-outs and, just last year, I saw one made completely from straw. If you’ve had enough of the markets, lace up your skates and enjoy some open-air skating action. The rink in Old Town is free, and you can hire skates for 50 Czech crowns.

At this time of year, many of my female friends are busy baking their Vánoční cukroví (usually translated as Christmas cookies). But if baking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of places where you can buy them ready made. They are eaten as part of the traditional Czech Christmas dinner, which also includes soup, fried carp and potato salad. I love hearing my students speak of how, when they were young, they used to sneak spoonfuls of the potato salad, carefully smoothing over the top in the hope that their parents wouldn’t notice.

All year round Prague is full of music. Christmas is no exception. The Czech Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba will be performed at St Nicholas Church, Lesser Town on 25 December, but there’s plenty more to hear and see with concerts covering the full spectrum of musical styles.

Prague in winter                    

Prague—A Winter Wonderland

Enter this gallery.

Moving into the New Year and beyond, February sees a festival of world music—Songfest 2015. You will be able to welcome the Year of the Sheep at Palác Akropolis from 12 to 28 February. If you’re a Queen fan, make sure you get your tickets for Queen + Adam Lambert on 17 February, or maybe Katy Perry’s more your style—she’s playing Prague on 23 February.

It really doesn’t matter what time of year you come to Prague. There’s always something happening.

By Dalice Trost, 19 December 2014

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