If you’re looking to combine your souvenir shopping with your Christmas gift search, save yourself the stress and exhaustion, and make your way to one of Europe’s Christmas markets. Keep warm and jolly with delicious food and drink as you enjoy the easiest shopping experience ever in Prague!
By now, the svarak (hot mulled wine) vendors have set up their carts all across town, offering a tasty sneak peek at what’s to come in the next couple of weeks. By the first week of December, Prague’s well-known Christmas markets are bustling spots, sprawling across the city’s largest plazas–the biggest and best of which can be found on Old Town Square (Staromestke Namesti), Wencelas Square (Vaclavske Namesti) and the Square of Peace (Namesti Miru). But each one certainly has its own unique character—and flavor.
The Square of Peace Namesti Miru (metro stop of same name) is one of my favorite Prague Christmas markets for its cozy feel. This is a smaller plaza, so the vendors, and visitors, are also fewer in number. With a gorgeous Gothic church and a single delicate Christmas tree towering overhead as you weave your way through the friendly vendors, a true feeling of Christmas descends upon you.
Old Town Square, Staromestke Namesti (a few minutes walk from Staromestska metro/tram stop), offers a constant schedule of dance and musical performances (mostly by local and regional acts) that keeps you entertained as you sip your svarak, and take in the smoky scent of the nearby rotisserie pork or the irresistible appeal of the truhlik pastries being made, rolled and baked right before your hungry eyes. To keep in character of the medieval theme that Prague likes to play up for its tourists, a costumed blacksmith clangs away in his little open stall, ready to create a smoldering souvenir just for you. However, Czech wooden and lace crafts are also very popular and some might be worth a look. Beware that the same, exact souvenir might be selling at two different prices by vendors at opposite ends of the market. If you have the time, take a long stroll around, and you’ll see what I mean.
Visit this market, especially after dark (which comes at around 3.30 pm!), for the full effect of the beautifully lit stalls and the play of shadow and light on the lovely buildings surrounding the square. Just be sure to watch your purses and pocketbooks.
Wencelas Square, Vaclavske Namesti (Mustek metro stop), is probably the most well-known and well-described in the guidebooks, and the crowds reflect this. The variety of gifts and souvenirs is certainly worth a gander, but the food and drink at this market while excellent, will cost you much more than at other markets.
There is one more market that should be mentioned–the Andel market. Located right off the Andel metro/tram stop in Prague 5, this market offers less expensive svarak, sausages, pastries and gifts. The only reason for this is the market’s non-central location. But, it is still very conveniently accessible from the center, or anywhere else, if you prefer to avoid the touristy crowds and touristy prices of the bigger and more central markets. There is even a special French market section in front of the entrance to the big mall (Centrum Smichov) at Andel, where you can treat yourself to excellent (and rather inexpensive) French sausages and wines.
Written by Suchi Rudra Vasquez for EuropeUpClose.com