December in Prague: Christmas Markets and Carp

December is filled with cultural, entertaining and festive events. Music lovers, gourmets, fun-loving tourists - there is something going on for everybody's taste. The Christmas tree in Old Town Square glitters with thousands of sparkling lights. The Christmas markets do a roaring trade. Praguers buy live carp: the traditional Czech Christmas fare. Check out the following annual events in Prague for 2012.

Vanocni trh, Christmas Markets, 1 December 2012 – 6 January 2013

Brightly decorated wooden chalets sell traditional Czech products from bohemian crystal to wooden angels, from sausages doused in mustard to mulled wine. Watch how pastry dough is wrapped around a metal rod then placed over a fire until it is crispy outside, sprinkled with a cinnamon and sugar mixture. The result is Trldo, a mouthwatering treat. Blacksmiths, glassmakers, woodcarvers and makers of holiday decorations demonstrate their craft during the Christmas market festival.

The two largest Christmas markets are located at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, opening hours Monday – Friday 9 am – 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday until 8 pm. More markets are scattered throughout Prague.

* Havel Market, Havelské tržište, very touristy and not only open at Christmas, but all year.

* Námestí Republiky near the Municipal House and opposite Kotva Department store, until 24 December.

* Námestí Míru in front of the Church of St Ludmilla, very few tourists as this market is very much a local affair, until 24 December.

* Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, also a local affair, until 24 December.

Mikulas, St Nicolas, 5 December 2012
In late afternoon, the streets and squares of Town Square are swarmed with people dressed up as St Nicolas, accompanied by an angel and a devil who hand out sweets to children who have been good and coal or potatoes to the naughty ones. If they are incorrigible they are placed in the devil's sack and travel with him to hell. The best place to witness this December event is at Old Town Square from 4 pm until early evening.

Tubs full of Live Carp

Several days before Christmas fisherman with plastic pools brimming with live carp appear on the streets. Carp is what turkey is to the Anglo-Saxon world.

Select a carp from the tub and take it home in a plastic bag. The carp will spend the last days of its life in the bath tub, because Czechs like to eat the fish as fresh as possible.

The fish is covered in flour, breadcrumb and egg and then fried. Traditionally carp is served with potato salad made of potatoes, peas, onions, carrots, parsley, celery, pickled gherkins, eggs and mayonnaise.

You will find live carp sellers in front of Kotva Department store in Republic Square, Námestí Republiky, close to the old town. And in many other places, often just outside metro stations.

Christmas Food Treats
Join the thousands of people who come to soak up the atmosphere, do some holiday shopping and sample local culinary delights including gingerbread, sausages with big dollops of mustard and langose, fried dough smothered with melted cheese and ketchup. Wash it down with mulled wine, svařák in Czech, or medovina, sweet tasting mead. And of course there is Pilsner Urquell, Gambrinus or Kozel to help clear your palette.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and St Stephen's Day, 24 – 25 – 26 December 2012
Christmas Eve is spent at home, the carp is served. Baby Jesus leaves presents under the tree in each home. He lights the candles then disappears. At the tinkle of the bell, the children open their presents. Midnight mass is celebrated in many churches the most famous is in St Vitus Cathedral. An open air mass is said at Old Town Square, all join in to sing along with the carols. The 25th and 26th are holiday, marked by family lunches and dinners. Christmas Markets and some shops are open but with limited opening times.

New Year's Eve, 31 December 2012
Fireworks spark off at midnight. Revelers gather at Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square and set off fireworks. Charles Bridge is the best place to see sparkling colours against the background of Prague castle. The best view of fireworks in the old town is at Letna Hill or Petrin. The best firework display is on 1 January at 5 pm. They are set off on Letna Hill. Head to Charles bridge or the Vltava embankment for the best views.


  1. I would to experience Prague's Christmas Markets and it doesn't get any better than fireworks with a castle in the background.

  2. Interesting read about the Czech Christmas traditions. I particularly like the carp menu.

  3. I just visited Prague and enjoyed the Christmas Markets very much -- especially the one at Old Town Square. Love the svařák, trdelnik & mulled wine!

  4. Very interesting post. Not sure about having a carp in the bath tub for even a moment! (How do they shower, then?)