The name Prague inevitably conjures up images of romance and past splendor. With its elegant riverside promenades, its sidewalks cafes, its gorgeous architecture, and its magnificent cultural venues including the exquisite National Theatre and the 18th-century Estates Theater where Mozart’s Don Giovanni was first performanced, the Cezch capital exudes charm from its every pore.
Prague definitely warms the soul at Christmas. The city of a hundred soaring spires is an art-filled jewel that sparkles even more during the holiday season. Shaking off its winter mantle, the Bohemian capital is always alive with world-class productions of opera, ballet and classical music.
CHARLES IV BRIDGE
A Walk Through History
Founded by the greatest bohemian ruler Emperor Charles IV in 1357, the Gothic-style bridge that crosses the Vatlava river is undoubtedly one of the most romantic sights of Prague. Buzzing with artists and live performers, the 14th stone bridge connects the Old Town with the impossing Prague Castle, the seat of Czech Emperors and Kings.
The night we returned to Charles IV bridge to admire the views of Prague Castle and the sparkling stars was especially magical. I remember strolling amidst sculptures as a swing band filled the air with live music. The fabled skyline of spires and turrets of the Stare Mesto, or Old Town, seemed to float against the sky in the distance.
The Old Town
The charm of Prague lies in this unique, yet harmonious, mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. As we strolled hand-in-hand following the tiny little winding streets of Prague´s beloved Old town, we felt like if we had stepped right out of a romance novel. This quaint and enchanting area definitely stole our hearts with its cobblestone alley ways, hidden cafés, and fashionable boutiques.
During the most magical season, the sounds of christmas carols echo through the medieval cobbled streets as the Old Town streets aglow with twinkling lights and the merriment of the unique Old Town Christmas Market.
Old Town Square Christmas Market
Worlds can’t barely describe the sheer beauty of the Old Town Square at Christmas. With the magnificent multiple steeples of its Gothic Tyn church reaching majestically into the sky, its pastel colored buildings, and its famed Astronomical Clock, the oldest and most important square of the historical Prague is transformed into a sparkling christmas wonderland.
Lovingly decorated wooden stalls create a truly special ambiance as horse-drawn carriages await to transport visitors over medieval cobblestone streets to unforgettable sights.
Right there, in the magical heart of Prague, we spent the hours walking around, browsing for unique and traditional gifts to take back home and visiting the long wooden animals stable where we stroke sheep, goats, ponies and a donkey. The aroma of mulled wine, gingerbread and roasted chestnuts filled the air of the freezing Prague as traditional carols were sung by the local school choirs.
Under the massive Christmas tree beautifully draped in baubles and twinkling lights, we savored both the popular Pražská klobása sausage served with dense Czech brown bread and the typical brine cured, fully cooked and smoked, boneless ham internationally known as Prague Ham – pražská šunka.
Designed in a Spanish Moorish style by Vojtěch Ignátz Ullmann, the Spanish Synagogue is the newest of the six historic Prague synagogues. With a remarkable and spectacular interior imitating the Spanish Alhambra, the Spanish Synagogue forms part of the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Arabesques, gilt and polychrome motifs with a dazzling combination of rich green, blue and red hues absolutely mesmerized us.
The Klementinum, a beautiful example of Baroque library, could be considered as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. First opened in in 1722 as part of the Jesuit university, the library houses over 20000 books.
Prague has been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire for over 400 years. During all this time, the Viennese cafe culture extended beyond the borders of the imperial capital, reaching Prague as well as other cities. Czech coffee culture was at its height in the late 19th century to the 1930’s. The cafes were places designed for reflexion where artists, writers and political activists could meet. During our stay in this delightful city, we experienced classic café culture while relaxing with a warm mug of Czech coffee and traditional pastries.
We took a seat and watched Prague pass by at one of the city’s many street cafés. These were great winter days: blankets, faux fur throws and a big mug of warm coffee.
Choco Café is a little gem hidden down the old streets of Prague that offers delectable pastries, traditional Czech desserts and 50 flavors of hot chocolate. Imagine walking in from the cold and being immediately greeted with the warmth of the cafe along with the lovely aroma of cocoa. We had a mug of hot chocolate, a cappuccino and some genuine Horace Rolls with cream & chocolate. The flavour, smell, presentation and atmosphere is second to none. One visit to this family-owned pastry shop won’t suffice!!
Located on the second floor of a building on Národni street, Café Louvre has been a meeting spot for famous writers and intellects around the world since its founding in 1902. Among its guests were Karel Capek, Franz Kafka as well as Albert Einstein during his professorship in the city.
Bearing the name of the world’s famous gallery, the Belle Epoque inspired café is known for its decadent homemade desserts. We ordered a Grand Capuccino, a classic hot chocolate, and a delicious portion of Sacher Cake, a classic Austrian chocolate cake layered with apricot preserves.
From timeless antique stores, small bookstores to iconic and cutting-edge boutiques, Prague inspires a sudden desire to pack your bags and walk the city streets for a unique shopping spree. If sweets are your guilty pleasure, you will find adorable Czech cukrárna sweet shops in the most unexpected places. For us, gingerbread is a must during the christmas holidays. During our stay in Prague, we had super sweet days trying this sweet but spicy goodie.
Pure Christmas Deliciousness!!
Heading back down cobbled Nerudova Street in the old quarter of Mala Strana, we stumbled upon the Gingerbread Museum, where we bought delicious gingerbread cookies in order to eat them in the warmth of our hotel. The intricately designed cookies were absolutely to-die for. Each nibble brought back fond childhood memories of gingerbread cake, muffins or cookies at Christmastime.
Národní Banka Vín
Homemade Czech Cookies
Another day, we came across this cute store where we bought some homemade cookies and hot chocolate to warm our hands on our way to the hotel. Imagine hundred of handcrafted and carefully made gingerbread cookies, all of them with intricate designs of colorful icing dote cookie cutouts in fruit, flower, heart and animal shapes. I remember breathing deeply the delicious aroma that wafted in the air as a young artisan decorated some gingerbread treats before popping them into the oven.
The world’s largest toy store brings magical experiences and joy to everyone this time of the year!