25+ wonderful ways to welcome Advent in Prague in 2023

Today marks the first day of the countdown to Christmas. We've got a guide to less-crowded markets, tree-lightings, holiday lights, and much more.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 01.12.2023 15:54:00 (updated on 14.12.2023) Reading time: 11 minutes

Hit the Christmas markets

While some Christmas markets are already welcoming visitors, Prague's largest Christmas markets will begin on Dec. 2, 2023, at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. This year's Old Town Square market will have a Cinderella theme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Czech holiday fairy tale Three Wishes for Cinderella, and the Christmas tree at the center of the square will be lit up daily with animations set to the film's score. The last day when Prague markets are open until Jan. 6, although some of them, such as the ones located at Náměstí Míru and the Anděl pedestrian zone, close on Dec. 24.

Hit the Christmas markets minus the crowds

If you’re looking for Christmas markets off the beaten and oftentimes overcrowded path, the Christmas markets on Prague's Mariánské náměstí open on Dec. 1 with the lighting of the city-themed Christmas tree and run until Jan. 6, 2024. The event includes food and gift stalls, a children's wish-writing station, and a photo point with angel wings. Creative workshops, and charitable activities, including a food drive on Dec. 14, enhance the festive atmosphere. On Dec. 9, New Town Hall will host an Advent Market with theatrical performances and performances by choirs.

For the third consecutive year, the SmetanaQ Showroom in Prague 1 will host the highly anticipated Christmas on Smetana event from Dec. 5. This exclusive showcase will highlight the latest and key collections of 17 well-established Czech designers, featuring a 10-percent discount on the majority of products. Visitors have the opportunity to explore a wide selection of unique clothing items, a curated assortment of jewelry, and an array of fashionable accessories.

Lemarket will offer a selection of curated local brands perfect as seasonal gifts at Národní Dům Na Smíchově on Dec. 9 and 10. Also on Dec. 9 and 10, the winter edition of Dyzajn Market will be at Výstaviště and offer visitors the chance to see and buy original artwork and design pieces and indulge in tasty food.

Between Dec. 7 and 10, Silver Christmas Days at PVA Expo offers a diverse range of gifts, workshops, and a gluten-free Christmas market with tasty food. From Dec. 1 to Dec. 22, 2023, VERMONT hosts an Art & Design Pop-up Store, showcasing local designers' works, including glass objects by František Jungvirt, Tititi figurines, Veronika Pikrtová's lamps, Sojka letí brand bags, and pieces by Japanese-rooted painter Sota Sakuma.

On Dec. 10 at Saint Thomas Church experience Venezuelan Christmas market food, sweets, hot drinks, and crafts and a cultural program featuring traditional Venezuelan carols, live music, piñata, face painting, raffles, and a visit from St. Nicholas with gifts for kids. Free admission.

Knihex teamed up with the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague (Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze) for a Christmas book fair meant as a meeting place for smaller publishers and readers.

Have an angelic (or devilish) good time

Mikuláš 2023 arrives on Dec. 5 when the trio of angel, devil, and saint make the rounds fo the city. Prague celebrations will take place at the Old Town Christmas market as well as throughout the city. A full list of train rides, ice skating, boat rides, and more Mikuláš Eve events can be found here.

Visit Santa

Hard Rock's Rockin’ Breakfast with Santa is on Dec. 3 with entertainment and holiday face painting; Santa will also tour around the Czech lands as part of the Coca-Cola truck, hitting Prague Cestlice on Dec. 11.

Attend a tree lighting

The spruce on the Old Town Square will light up on Dec. 2. The lighting of the Christmas trees in front of the Church of St. Ludmila at Náměstí Míru, at Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrady and at the Ohrada tram stop will happen on Dec. 3. On the same day, tree lighting ceremonies will also take place at the Basilica of Saint Wenceslas at Smíchov, at Tilleho náměstí in Barrandov, at Strossmayerovo náměstí, and at the Prague Zoo.

The Christmas tree at Ortenově náměstí will be lit on Dec. 6. The Straka Academy will also open its doors to visitors keen on hearing Christmas carols and admiring the Christmas tree on Dec. 3, 10, and 17.

Travel to a castle market

Czech cities aren’t the only place to find Christmas markets; castles across the country will also light up and teem with holiday cheer for the festive season. Learn how the Czech aristocracy celebrated the holidays and browse the holiday market on Dec. 2 and 3 as part of the Lobkowicz Advent at the Nelahozeves Castle.

Zámek Dobříš will welcome visitors to its Christmas market on Dec. 9, with stalls selling handmade products and decorations made of glass, ceramics, chocolate and much more. Křivoklát will host an advent market on Dec. 10-11, featuring fencing demonstrations, period music, theater, and a daily royal procession.

Loket will have a Christmas market on the same dates, offering music, theater, handmade gifts, gingerbread house decorating, traditional cuisine, and mulled wine. The Dačice Castle and Museum will host a Christmas Fair on Dec. 10, showcasing traditional handicrafts, gifts, ornaments, gingerbread, and decorations. Horšovský Týn will hold a Christmas market on Dec. 17, including a live Nativity scene in the castle courtyard at 5 p.m.

Revel in holiday drama, comedy, and music

Prague Pop Symphonics celebrates Christmas with a cinematic showcase, Christmas in Hollywood, on Dec. 15 at the Prague Congress Centre, featuring renowned conductor Robert Kružík and singer Markéta Poulíčková. Over 150 artists will perform iconic tunes from films like Home Alone and Frozen, accompanied by visual, scenic, and light effects for a mesmerizing experience.

The Prague Mixed Choir and its guests will perform a concert devoted to the most beautiful Orthodox chants at the Evangelical Church U Salvatora on Dec. 10. Also at the  Evangelical Church U Salvatora, Rainbow gospel, the Prague gospel choir accompanied by a live band, will hold a Christmas concert on Dec. 18. 

The St. Clement’s Anglican Evangelical church has a calendar of events throughout the Advent season for the English-speaking community in Prague, including a fundraising concert on Dec. 6, and a Ukrainian Carol Service on Dec. 22. 

The Mad and Merry Man will stage Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story at Staré purkrabství Vyšehrad on Dec. 8. All the proceedings from ticket sales will go to United World Organisation, a group supporting orphanages, schools and hospitals in India, the Philippines, and Ukraine. 

Get into seasonal cheer with Drink Drank Drunk, a Christmas Special on Dec. 8 presented by Metro Comedy Club and Belinda Filippelli. Recently featured at the Brighton Fringe Fest, the show sees four comedians debate important life questions while doing shots.

The Nutcracker comes to life on screen on Dec. 17 at Kino Světozor, which airs a performance from The Royal Ballet company with ballerina Akane Takada performing the lead role. You can also see the Nutcracker at La Fabrika on Dec. 28 in a family-friendly fantasy performance by choreographer Jana Burkiewiczová, who reimagined Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classical ballet in a playful and original way.  

Rybovka na Hlaváku organizes the 21st edition of its annual concert on Dec. 23 at Hlavní nádraží, which welcomes all who want to play, sing, or just listen to the Czech Christmas Mass. If you are a musician, bring an instrument, a console, and sheet music, and if you are a singer in the choir,  bring sheet music if you don't already know the mass by heart. 

Marvel at holiday illuminations

See the Troja Chateau come to light for St. Lucy Day on Dec. 12-13. The Prague City Gallery and Signal Festival teamed up for a festival of lights, where light and sound installations will be presented by artists Jan Poš, Karel Šimek, Klára Horáčková, Chris Salter, and Alexandre Saunier.

One of the symbols of the Christmas season, the Bethlehem Light, will arrive in Prague on Dec. 16 to be distributed by the Scouts around the city until Dec. 24.

Admire twinkling lights

The newly opened Winter Wonderland light park dazzles with captivating light installations and interactive experiences, featuring beloved characters from Cinderella to The Lion King. The Lights Tell the Story exhibition at Žluty Lázně showcases half a million LED diodes, 3D sculptures, light chains, tunnels, and games, running until January 2024. Lumina Park at Džbán Reservoir offers a 1.5-kilometer trail of illuminated art installations amid forested areas, open through January after a year's hiatus.

This year Prague's Garden of Fulfilled Wishes at Slovanský dům offers a serene alternative to bustling markets. Amidst festive decorations, enjoy heated igloos, mulled wine, and unique slushie options. Open daily until Jan. 6, 2024, the garden features a light tunnel and photo booth. Delight in the beautiful light display by Decoled, enhancing the festive atmosphere with nearby restaurants and a multiplex for added enjoyment.

Watch holiday movies inside and out

Step into a winter wonderland, Narnia-esque surprise this December by going to the Prague 5 Sunset Cinema! Enter the magic wardrobe entrance to find a secret cinema nestled away from the cold, with plush seats and snacks. See a variety of movies (such as The Grinch and Frozen), say hello to the cinema elves and take pictures with them, and even send a real letter to Santa.

EDITOR'S PICK: Enter the enchanting world of Czech holiday cinema at Edison Filmhub on Dec. 18, where you can watch the Czech Three Nuts for Cinderella film with English subtitles! Join the festive experience with an introduction, discussion with curator Marie Barešová, and a post-screening Christmas celebration featuring Czech treats and a special Swap & Taste baking competition. 

Tři oříšky pro Popelku / Three Nuts for Cinderella is a beloved Czech Christmas fairy tale.
Tři oříšky pro Popelku / Three Nuts for Cinderella is a beloved Czech Christmas fairy tale.

If you fancy braving the winter chill, go to the Holešovice Market every Thursday in December, where you can enjoy Christmas classics such as Home Alone with a serving of svařák (mulled wine).

Follow the Prague lamplighter’s footsteps

Embrace the magic of Prague's historical gas lamps this Advent as the lamplighter adorns Charles Bridge this December, starting Sunday. Originating in 1847, these lamps dotted the city until 1985, making a comeback in 2010 on the iconic Charles Bridge. Wander the Royal Route, from Powder Gate Tower to Hradčanské náměstí, and witness the romantic allure these gaslights bring to the holiday season. 

Experience this captivating tradition, where the lamplighter – wearing traditional 19th-century attire – adds a nostalgic touch to Prague's vibrant history. The lighting of lamps will occur daily between Dec. 3 and 23.

Lamplighter on Charles Bridge. Photo: Jan Žákovec.
Lamplighter on Charles Bridge. Photo: Jan Žákovec.

From yurts to gingerbread: Explore nativity scenes

Experience the magic of Bethlehem at the Botanical Garden in Prague 7! Follow a thematic trail through the garden leading to the Bethlehem Yurt, featuring an interactive exhibition depicting the Christmas story of Jesus' birth.

Enjoy Christmas tea and poetry from Czech writer Radek Malý, and craft your figurines on-site. Join Advent workshops on December weekends for eco-friendly Christmas decorations from recycled materials and wooden toy-making with the family. The yurt will be open from Dec. 1 to Jan. 7. Workshops will take place on the weekends of Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

Several parts of Prague will show their own nativity scenes, including the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Vyšehrad, which consists of 13 characters (made at the turn of the 20th century) including the life-sized Holy Family and five figures of animals. This runs from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1, 2024.

Nativity scenes with wooden models dating back to the 19th century will also be on display at the Old Town’s Church of Our Lady before Týn (from Dec. 8 to Jan. 7, 2024), as well as at Saint Matthew’s Church, which features a special gingerbread nativity scene (with over 300 hand-decorated gingerbread pieces).

Strap on your skates

Prague offers a huge amount of options for ice skating this Christmas season – whether you’re a seasoned pro or novice. Opening on Dec. 1 is the ice rink beside Žižkov Tower, open until the end of February. Also opening this Friday is the ice rink at Vinohrady’s Havlíčkovy sady, which closes Feb. 28.

For a scenic view of Prague Castle and the Vltava River, glide on the Čapadlo ice rink at Prague’s embankment – complete with hot drinks, you can skate here until Feb. 25. Enjoy two large ice rinks (and a children’s ice rink) at Prague’s Letná Plain, which opens Dec. 1. For those looking indoor, stadium-based ice rinks, check out Škoda Icerink and Hasa Winter Stadium in Prague 10, which are open for most of the year.

For an extensive list of the city’s ice rinks, please see our article from last year, which is being updated.

Track the festive fleet

On Saturday, Dec. 2, join the festive lighting of the Christmas fleet. The event starts at 5 p.m. with a vehicle display at the Public Transport Museum in Střešovice, followed by a welcome speech, fleet lighting at 5:15 p.m., and a procession starting at 5:30 p.m. The route takes approximately 30 minutes from Střešovice Depot to Mánesův Bridge, with a group photo opportunity. Afterward, the vehicles return to their depots.

Celebrate advent at the museum

Come to the Karel Zeman museum that remembers the late Czech screenwriter and director to usher in the Advent season. On Dec. 1, snuggle up in fuzzy blankets, drink cocoa, and watch fairy tales at this Malá Strana museum, complete with lighting up a Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols with a children’s choir.

On Dec. 16, get into the Christmas spirit with multiple workshops (including doll-making, making glass, and creating figurines) and a session of Christmas baking at the National Museum of Agriculture! Try your hand at making festive gingerbread cookies and enjoy the tasty rewards afterward.

Send the kids to a holiday build

If your kids love LEGO, this is the perfect event. The Kiddům - Young Discoverers Center is hosting a four-hour LEGO and robotics workshop on Dec. 17, giving children the chance to work in groups to develop their very own creations they can take home with them!

PARTNER TIP: The Museum of Fantastic Illusions offers over 150 interactive exhibits of optical illusions where visitors of all ages can enjoy a captivating experience, take unique and fun photos, and immerse themselves in a variety of fantasies, from historical encounters to mind-bending illusions. The museum is located in the center of Prague and promises a unique and entertaining visit.

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