Who doesn’t love a last pre-Christmas getaway? After a year of holidays (still to be written about) which took a lot of planning and a fair amount of cash, I wanted a short break that was easy to get to, didn’t pull on the purse strings too much while I was there, with some picturesque scenery thrown in. Oh, and ideally a Christmas market or two! Enter… Prague! The perfect place to tick all my requirements.
Capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague is full of historic charm and affordable accommodation and dining options. I did have some reservations that I’d be fighting for bar space with rowdy stag dos, but I didn’t see one stag do the whole weekend, not even on the flights! Perhaps the Christmas markets had done a good job of attracting like-minded people looking for a festive getaway, but everywhere was full of other couples, friends and families enjoying the festivities.
- Of course the Christmas markets. Spread all over the city, we visited the main markets in the Old Town Square, as well as the ones at Prague castle and Wenceslas Square. Wenceslas Square markets were a little underwhelming and I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to get to them. But the Old Town Square and castle markets were exactly what you’d want – an array of gifts and festive decorations, food and drink at a much more reasonable price than the UK, surrounded by twinkling lights and Christmas trees.
- The beer! Not to sound like a rowdy tourist, but a few beers on holiday is kind of an expectation of mine. Particularly when it’s local, good quality and cheap! After our last holiday in Singapore and Bali, where alcohol was particularly expensive, it was nice not to debate whether you can afford a drink just because you feel like one! The local beer is Pilsner Irkwell, but there are also several craft beer places where you can sample a variety of locally brewed beers. We particularly enjoyed U Kunstatu, just a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town Square. The staff were friendly and helpful when selecting which beers to have in our tasting flight, and you weren’t pushed to keep buying more drinks. Slightly pricier than just a regular bar, but definitely worth it. If you really want to push the boat out on a beer-related treat, visit the beer spa! As it says on the tin, a spa where you soak in beer whilst pouring your own, unlimited supply of local beer.
- The scenery. Prague really is a fairytale landscape, with the many squares, church towers and quaint buildings surrounded by river and joined by a variety of bridges to the surrounding areas, overlooked by the majestic castle perched at the top a (fairly steep) hill. The castle itself was a definite highlight. There are various tour options available to see different parts, or you can just wander around the grounds and admire the towering architecture around you. You can also purchase tickets to go up one of the castle towers, which gives you a 360 degree view of Prague.
- For me, good food is also an important part of any trip. I like to try local cuisine, which in Prague’s case included a lot of duck, pork knee, goulash and dumplings. Not only was the savoury food incredibly tasty, but you could barely go a single street without passing a chocolate, sweet, or gingerbread shop. As someone with a very sweet tooth, this was heaven for me! Does eating copious amounts of freshly made gingerbread count as trying local food? It does to me! I’d avoid eating in the restaurants lining the Old Town Square, as they are much pricier than the others around them and with no better food. There’s lots of choice on all the streets around the square and we also had a few meals in Mala Strana back across the bridge from the old town, where there are lots of good family run restaurants with locally sourced food.
If you’re visiting in the winter, my advice would be to wrap up well and be prepared for bad weather! We had a mixture of snow, rain and icy temperatures, but this won’t spoil the fun if you’re wrapped up (several bar/café stops won’t hurt either)!