Christmas market review: Prague

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Photograph: Davidlohr Bueso

Stashed away in the Czech Republic, Prague is a place that I’ve heard of so many times before and yet never thought of visiting. But with Christmas markets becoming an ever-popular winter destination choice, Prague is a truly spectacular place to visit for its mulled beverages and breath-taking architecture; and most of all, for the city’s Christmas spirit.

One of the best things about the Prague Christmas market is the way the stalls are spread out across the city, so whilst you’re wandering around getting a feel for the city, you’re never too far from hot mulled drinks. Over by Charles Bridge, there was a fantastic hot cherry wine stall that we frequently haunted, whilst the main part of the market was located in the Old Town Square a short walk from Charles Bridge and right next to the awe-inspiring Prague astronomical clock – built in 1410. The Prague Christmas markets are ideal if you get travel sick easily like I do, as the city is just big enough to walk absolutely everywhere. (It is also full of tramlines, so you can get about easily this way if you prefer.) Admittedly, it was cold to walk, but we stayed in a hotel about ten minutes away from the Old Town and it was fantastic to potter through the streets clutching a cup of honeywine to warm your hands – I realise I’ve talked a lot about the alcoholic beverages so far, but really, they were excellent.

Having never really been to a Christmas market before, other than the one in Alexandra Square – which sadly doesn’t even come close to comparing – I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. You can go to the markets free at any time of the day and wile away the hours, but it was undoubtably so much more beautiful in the dark. Fairy lights everywhere, brightly decorated wooden stalls selling trinkets, glassware, jewellery, toys, tree decorations, somewhat creepy dolls and so much food. Honestly, if you’re dieting for some mad reason over Christmas, be wary of the Prague Christmas market. It was jam-packed full of traditional food: hog roasts, sausages, pastries glazed in honey and sugared nuts, some sort of Czech pizza – which was basically a crispy dough that they coat in a tangy tomato sauce, sprinkle with finely grated cheese and practically drown in garlic oil. It was amazing. Much to my partner’s delight, they are also mad about their beers, and the honeywine, or mead, is like drinking liquid heaven. I think my only qualm during the whole trip was that whilst the delicacies on offer were extraordinary and I’ll probably never lose that extra Christmas weight, a lot of the stalls are very similar in what they offer; it felt like once I’d seen three or four of the stalls I’d practically seen them all.

Still, the animal lover and child in me loved the petting zoo, which had sheep, donkeys, ponies and little silky goats. I spent an awful lot of time there trying to get past kids just so I could stroke the animals. Unfortunately no reindeer, but still lovely. Best of all, the Old Town Square proudly sports a huge Christmas tree draped in sparkling lights and allegedly shipped in from the Krkonose mountains in the north of the Czech Republic. All in all, if you feel like doing some travelling next Christmas, Prague is definitely the place to go. The locals were friendly, the city is gorgeous and best of all for students on a budget, it’s relatively cheap and easy to get to.