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13 Ways to Fall in Love With Prague in Winter

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Prague will always hold a special place in my heart, since I lived in Prague for six months while studying abroad in my junior year of college. I dove enthusiastically into life in Prague, learning (slash butchering) Czech, eating ridiculous amounts of česnečka, and confirming the propaganda that Prague is, indeed, a place where beer is cheaper than water.

I didn’t know it at the time, but living in Prague that semester would change my life. It was the kernel that brought me to Europe, time and again, and sparked my love in particular for post-communist Central and Eastern European countries. It got me deeply interested in Slavic languages, which would later be convenient when I moved to Bulgaria eight years later.

Still, it wasn’t all roses. I fell in love with summer beer gardens and fall young wine harvests, but winter took me a while to come around on. While I loved living in Prague, I was taken aback by how insanely cold Prague was in winter, even after having survived my first two winters in New York. If it weren’t for svařák (hot mulled wine) sold on the street corners, I likely never would have left my Prague dorm in winter.

While I think Prague is a magical city any time of year, I eventually came to think of Prague in winter as Prague at its best, despite being a pansy Californian who reaches for a thick jacket any time the mercury dips below 50°F / 10°C.

Gone were the hordes of tourists who clustered around the Astronomical Clock like –  well, clockwork – at the turning of every hour. The tour groups that clustered in the Old Town and around Charles Bridge magically got smaller day by day as the temperature dropped. And the snow that once captivated me and quickly became abhorred in New York (you’d understand if you ever saw the horror that is a NYC slush puddle on the first warm day after a blizzard) was actually magical again in Prague.

Note: While I know the Czech Republic has officially adopted the name Czechia, I’ve been told by Czechs that calling the country the Czech Republic is still very much acceptable. In fact, many Czechs feel lukewarm or even don’t like the name change to Czechia and still call their country Česká republika when speaking. I’ve chosen to call it the Czech Republic, as that’s how I think of the country having lived there during a time when that was its unequivocal name. In terms of how I think of it in the future, only time will tell whether the Czechia name catches on! 

What to Wear in Prague in Winter

In the winter, Prague is cold, cold, cold! The average high in December through February is around 36-40 °F (2-4 °C), and the average low is 29-32 °F (-2-0 °C). So, you’ll definitely want to bundle up – this is not the time to try to look cute in a peacoat, guys. (Trust me, I tried and it was miserable.)

If you’re coming from a cold climate (Canada, the Midwest, the East Coast) you will likely be decently equipped to dress for Prague in winter. But if you live somewhere where winter temperatures are a lot more pleasant, you’ll want to be sure to pack properly.

I have a full winter in Europe packing list here, but I’ll list a few essential things to pack for Prague in winter here.

A down jacket: In my (perhaps slightly California-stunted) opinion, a parka is a must in the winter. I’ve owned my North Face parka for seven years and I’m absolutely obsessed. It’s pricy to be sure, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee (which I’ve tested by sending in my zipper to be fixed after four years of use and abuse cycling in it all winter long – my jacket came back looking like new!). If you are on a budget, you can substitute a down jacket liner underneath the warmest jacket you own, but this won’t be nearly as warm as a parka.

Warm boots: Despite the picture of a snow-covered Prague you may have in your head, winter is not typically super snowy. For this reason you can get away with a stylish pair of waterproof leather boots, which are warm and comfortable yet sleek and stylish. I’m obsessed with these Blondo waterproof leather boots and have owned them for literally decade. This is the exact style I own – a classic equestrian boot in a waterproof, insulated, well-tractioned shoe.

Fleece-lined knit hat: I live in several different colors of knit hats in the winter. Since your jacket is likely a dark or neutral color, it’s fun to liven up your look (and photos) with a colorful hat or two. I like a snug knit hat lined in fleece and with a pom pom that does nothing to add warmth but tons to add cuteness.

Warm leggings: You have two options for ultra-warm leggings in winter – fleece-lined for people with sensitive skin like me, and merino wool for people who don’t find wool itchy like I do. I own several pairs of these fleece-lined leggings in a variety of colors (I have black, gray, and maroon). If it’s really cold I may wear these layered underneath some jeans. For people who like wool, merino wool leggings are the way to go – the absolute warmest you can get.

Thermal tops: Again, this’ll depend on if you like wool or not. I don’t, so I go for thin performance thermals like this Heat Plus layer from 32 Degrees. However, if you’re a fan of wool, a merino wool base layer will keep you insanely warm.

An enormously wrappable scarf: The bigger and thicker the scarf, the better. I tend to opt for bright, bold colors to liven up my look.

Touchscreen friendly globes: Taking off your gloves to use your phone when navigating on Google Maps, looking up something you’ve bookmarked, etc. is so annoying. Most gloves these days tend to be touchscreen friendly, but check before you buy. These gloves are adorable, touchscreen-compatible, and affordable.

Things to Do in Prague in Winter

Browse the Prague Christmas Markets

If your Prague winter trip happens to overlap with the Christmas markets, you’re in luck – this is one of the best times of year to visit Prague! However, keep in mind that you’ll also be among several thousand of your closest tourist friends, as Prague in December and early January is peak winter season (Prague empties out again in mid January and Feburary).

Despite the crowds in winter, Prague’s atmosphere – already charming and lovely – becomes even more festive as Czech meals and drinks are doled out by market vendors and craftspeople sell their Christmas-themed ornaments and trinkets, clustered around an enormous, insanely blinged-out Christmas tree.

On weekends, visiting the Old Town of Prague is especially chaotic. While I found the main Christmas market area tolerable during the weekdays, it had me running for safe haven in a craft beer bar on the only Saturday I spent there, due to my fear of crowds (which can seemingly only be cured by beer).

If you have a few days in Prague around Christmas and want to see the markets, I recommend spending your weekdays around the Old Town area, and visit off the beaten path Prague on the weekends or at the least visit the less crowded Christmas markets. I’d recommend the area around Jiřího z Poděbrad, Náměstí Míru, the markets just to the left when you cross the Charles Bridge in Malá Strana, and the area around Palladium Shopping Mall – none are totally “offbeat,” but they won’t be nearly as crowded as the Old Town.

If you’re visiting Prague in January, one added bonus is that the Christmas markets in Prague have one of the longer runs of all the Christmas markets in Europe, staying open weeks after Christmas and well into the New Year in order to coincide with Eastern Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 7th. The crowds will be reduced as many people don’t realize the markets run past Christmas!

The main Christmas market is in Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí). There are also smaller markets in Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí), Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky), and Peace Square (Náměstí Míru), as well as a few others around the city. Fun fact – the escalator at Náměstí Míru is the longest escalator in Europe, and takes a whopping 3 minutes to go up, even though the elevator goes crazy-fast. Definitely worth a visit!

Note: The trdelník you see everywhere on Instagram is not traditional to Prague, but rather an import from Hungary, where they are called kürtőskalács– and ice cream is definitely not traditionally served with either! If you’d like to taste a true Czech dessert, be sure to try fruit-filled dumplings, called ovocné knedlíky. It’s one of my favorite Czech treats and it’s ultra-traditional!

Explore the magical Prague Castle

Ahh, Prague Castle. This place is a straight up fairy tale every day of the year, even despite the insane crush of tourists. But in the winter, Prague Castle is even more ridiculously gorgeous, especially if you’re lucky enough to see the city with a dusting of snow. One of the biggest and most-loved castles in the world, Prague Castle is home to an enormous amount of history, secrets, and treasures, making it a worthwhile stop despite the crowds and price.

While visiting Prague Castle, you can’t miss the St. Vitus Cathedral, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world, with gorgeous paintings and stained glass windows. It’s truly majestic to visit, with an air that inspires an air of awe and silence, even as people around you photograph away madly. The Old Palace Hall and Vladislav Hall, with its cheery yellow facade, are both lovely to visit and great places to take photos of the castle complex.

Finally, while you have your ticket for Prague Castle, don’t miss Golden Lane, a 16th-century row of houses owned by goldsmiths back several centuries ago. Around 70 years ago they were painted in colorful hues, making it a much-loved photo spot for Instagrammers from around the world now. Fun fact: house number 22 used to be the home of Franz Kafka’s sister, and he lived and wrote here for two years. So if you’re a fan of his work, you should stop by here.

Pro tip: The Prague Castle has insane lines pretty much all day long, which grow to hellacious proportions if you visit Prague in December. Save hours by booking a skip-the-line ticket for just a few dollars more, which you can present on your mobile (no need to print).

See some of the city’s best museums

While in summer it’s hard for me to drag myself to museums, in the winter it’s a whole different story! I love visiting museums in the winter because my California ass can’t handle the cold, and I don’t like to go more than a few hours walking around if temperatures are below freezing

The National Museum (Národní muzeum) in upper Wenceslas Square partially re-opened after a 7-year-long closure literally just a few months ago, so it’s well-worth checking out the museum now that it’s back in action. However, lines have been insane since reopening – according to my food tour guide, up to two hours at peak times. So be prepared to abandon ship and check out one of the other museums instead. Instead, visit another one of Prague’s excellent museums. One of my favorite museums in Prague, and a must for any literature enthusiast, is the Franz Kafka Museum in Malá Strana.

Finally, if you’re into weird and quirky museums, Prague seems to specialize in them. There’s a Museum of Alchemists and Magicians, a Museum of Historical Chamber Pots and Toilets, and an Apple Museum – for whatever reason. If you’re into finding the weirder side of a city, I recommend checking out the Atlas Obscura for Prague, which does not disappoint.

Prague also has some excellent contemporary art museums. I visited the DOX Museum of Contemporary Art recently and absolutely loved it. It was incredibly thought provoking – I especially loved their exhibition on data and privacy.

Skip the tourist trap museums: Museum of Senses, Museum of Sex Machines, Museum of Torture – they’re kitschy (but not in a good way), not worth the money, and filled with other tourists.

Catch a surprisingly affordable show

Note: The Prague State Opera is currently closed for renovations, but you can still see an opera at the Karlin in Prague! I haven’t visited this theater personally, but it is the second largest in Prague and over 100 years old and is supposed to be beautifully done in the traditional Baroque style.

If you had told 17-year-old me that 19-year-old me would be going to the opera in Prague, I’d definitely have snort-laughed in your face.

The reality is that going to an opera in Prague feels like going to an insanely luxe event that you’re definitely underdressed for, when in fact it is perfectly affordable, even on a student budget. While I’d reckon a guess that the opera has gotten a bit pricier since I attended a performance of Carmen a decade ago, it’s not by much (and I paid less than $10 USD for my floor-level ticket).

While I’m not necessarily an opera enthusiast, there’s no denying that it’s a magical atmosphere, both in terms of the wonder in the air that accompanies every live performance but also the adornments of the opera house that surround you. While currently closed for renovations, the Prague Opera House is truly stunning, ornate with the kind of grandeur that made my American self go slack-jawed taking in all the traditionally grand European details and flourishes.

If you’re worried about not understanding the opera, don’t worry – even back in 2009, the Prague Opera was ridiculously modern and had subtitles in three different languages (I believe English, Czech, and German) so that you could follow along. The current theater where all the operas are now taking place, the Karlin Theater, also has subtitles for their performances.

Since Prague is so cold in the winter, it’s great to have affordable (indoors) arts at your fingertips. Finally, I should mention that an opera isn’t the only performance worth visiting in Prague to escape the winter weather. Here are a few other recommendations!

  • The Lobkowicz Palace in Prague Castle has a 1-hour classical museum performance every day at noon. Pre-book tickets here as availability is limited. Be sure to book it on the day you are visiting the Prague Castle so you don’t have to pay for admission twice (admission to the castle is not included in the concert ticket).
  • The Hybernia Theater near Namesti Republika has several performances of Swan Lake a week from November through March. Be sure to book in advance as some days have already started selling out this winter.
  • You can pair a 1-hour opera performance with a 3-course dinner at the Boccaccio Ballroom, part of the Grand Hotel Bohemia. Again, I recommend pre-booking your ticket as it is a popular option.

Warm up with a perfectly poured Czech beer

While in the summer, you’ll find Prague locals practically glued to their seats in the outdoor beer gardens throughout the city, Prague in winter is definitely more indoor-oriented — though generally with just as much beer.

Yes, for better or worse, the Czech Republic is synonymous with beer. While this brings an abundance of the infamous “lads on tour” who just want a cheap drinking holiday, beer is also an inextricable part of most Czechs daily lives, so indulge away – it’s just part of getting cultured, right?

The Czech Republic is best known for creating pilsener, a pale lager which is now one of the most common types of beer you’ll find around the world, just done not nearly as well. There’s nothing like drinking Pilsner Urquell (the original pilsener) straight from the tank less than 100 kilometers from where it was brewed!

Note that a properly poured Pilsner has a lot more foam than you’re probably used to – about 3 fingers or 2 inches of foam. This is the mark of a correctly poured beer so don’t make a fool of yourself by complaining! Just try it – it’s absolutely delicious.

There are countless bars and taprooms you can go to experience about Czech beer firsthand – my favorite is U Pinkasu, where the first Pilsner Urquell was tapped. If you want to understand the history of beer brewing in the Czech Republic, I recommend a visit to the Czech Beer Museum. Honestly, it’s not a huge or particularly amazing museum, but it is entertaining and informative, and you get four 0.2 liter samples of beer at the end included in the price of admission (for research, of course.)

And for the truly extra amongst us, you can actually leave the museum with your own personally customized beer bottle – which also makes a great souvenir for a beer fan back home.

This tour includes museum entry, a guided tour, 4 samples, and your own custom bottle to take home. Book your online ticket here (no need to print – you can present it on mobile!)

Taste Czech wines at a local wine bar

Yes, I’m aware that putting two alcohol-related things so close to each other on this guide may make me out to be a bit of an alcoholic, but I truly can’t help myself in Prague – the beer and wine are just so good!

While many people know about the vibrant Czech beer scene, few people know just how delicious Czech wine is. Even fewer people know that a huge swath of central Prague used to be vineyards – Vinohrady, the neighborhood I lived in when I lived in Prague.

I have a huge soft spot for burčák, the Czech young wine that tastes almost like apple cider and according to local lore, continues to ferment in your stomach (resulting in surprise hangovers). Unfortunately you won’t be able to find this in Prague in winter. It is, however, 100% worth planning a return trip in autumn for!

Still, Prague still has a ton of wine options that are better suited for the season. While the Czech Republic is best known for its excellent white wines, you can find some great red wines as well, if that is more your speed. I tend to prefer Welschriesling (ryzlink vlašský) or regular riesling (ryzlink rýnský) for whites, and Blaufränkisch (frankovka) for red, but that’s just me personally.

If you’re familiar with German and Austrian wines, Czech wines use a lot of similar grapes but to me, a Czech wine still is very different than its neighbors. There are several wine bars in Prague worth visiting, and luckily, wine by the glass – while not as cheap as beer – is quite affordable in Prague as it’s not considered a luxury to have a good glass of wine. Czech wines are rarely exported outside the county, so you might as well try it while you’re in Prague this winter if you’re a fan of wine!

My favorite neighborhoods to drink in are lovely Vinohrady and trendy Žižkov, which are a nice blend of catering to their local communities while still being centrally located. Prices are more affordable here than in the area around Old Town, and it’s a lot less touristic. My favorites are Vinotéka U Jiřího z Poděbrad on Přemyslovská 4 and U Posledního Soudu on Jagellonská 8.

Scale the Petřín Lookout Tower

There are several places you can go in Prague to get fairytale-worthy views over the entire city but I have a soft spot for Petřín Hill and its lookout tower as it’s a little quieter than some of the other popular lookout spots, like the Old Town Bridge Tower which is swarmed with people wanting that Instagram-perfect shot over Prague.

More than a hundred years ago, the Petřín Lookout Tower was conceived to be a replica of the Eiffel Tower, only smaller, at 63.5 meters tall. It’s one step shy of 300 steps to the lookout point, but it’s well worth it (though I definitely don’t recommend going to Petrin right after a lot of beer, as those 299 steps will feel like quite a bit more… not that I speak from experience…)

You can walk to the Petřín Lookout Tower from the Castle, which takes about half an hour, but it’s more popular to take the Petřín funicular. At the top, you’re immediately rewarded with some of the most impressive sweeping views of Prague over the Castle District, Malá Strana, and the Old Town.

Stay warm while you sightsee in a vintage car tour

While there is no shortage of affordable or even free walking tours in Prague, in winter you probably want to be indoors as much as possible. So, compromise on a city tour of Prague with a specialized tour by a vintage car (don’t worry, the cars have heating, blankets, and even removable flap windows to keep out the cold in the winter!)

You can ride around the city in classic vintage cars, which fit up a group up to five people, in cozy comfort – all the while getting insight from a local on their city on a your 1.5 hour drive through the city.

If the car tour is for a special occasion, you can even add certain romantic touches like roses and champagne – fancy. Book a private tour here.

Stroll the Charles’ Bridge

From the Old Town side of Charles’ Bridge to Prague Castle is a quick 30-minute walk among some of the most charming buildings in the city, making the Charles Bridge an indispensable part of any Prague winter itinerary.

I have a soft spot for the Charles’ Bridge as it made quite an impact on my life – literally, as my boat captain (who I assume must had a few too many Pilsners) rammed into this historic bridge not once but twice while on a tour. Luckily, the bridge seems to have taken this hit in stride as it’s still standing, still as beautiful as ever.

Also known by its local name (Karlov Most), this medieval bridge is one of Prague’s most unique landmarks and has seen a lot throughout the centuries. Its central position connecting Prague’s Old Town with the castle district means that Charles’ Bridge is nearly impossible to avoid during your stay and given how beautiful it is, why would you want to avoid it? Yes, it’s crowded, and yes, it’s touristy, but it’s also one of the most beautiful places in Prague, in winter or summer.

My top tip for seeing Charles’ Bridge in winter is to walk across it with a steaming hot cup of mulled wine, called svařák, or if you want something sweeter some medovina (honey wine).

There’s nothing quite like holding a warm drink in your be-gloved hands as you gaze over the unparalleled Vltava River. Merely crossing this bridge over the Vltava River among all the statues covered in snow was so magical I barely even noticed the cold… though that might have been all the medovina.

Eat traditional Czech food

Czech food is often written off as heavy and dull, and I’m here with an impassioned plea to reconsider! I absolutely adore Czech food, although I will readily admit that it is not the healthiest nor the most vegetarian or vegan-friendly cuisine. It is, however, a fantastic way to warm up in the Prague winter!

A few of my favorite traditional Czech dishes include guláš s knedlíky (Czech-style goulash stew with handmade sliced bread dumplings), vepřo-knedlozelo (roast pork with cabbage and bread dumplings), and česnečka, a delicious garlicky broth laced with caraway seeds and topped with rye bread croutons.

One of my favorite restaurants in the Old Town for traditional food is U Provaznice, which is often also called “The Ropemaker’s Wife,” located just a tiny bit away from the Old Town near Wenceslas Square. Local lore say it’s haunted and the space supposedly has a grim history. Let’s just say the Ropemaker’s Wife met her end in an unsavory way, and there’s a noose in the bar as a reminder. While I never saw anything supernatural, I am still haunted by memories of česnečka and bramborák (Czech potato pancakes), so I guess the locals are half-right.

Another fantastic thing to do in Prague in the winter is go on a food tour! I did a food tour this winter and absolutely loved it. We tried 3 traditional pastries, a selection of meats, a selection of mini open-faced sandwiches called chlebíčky, an appetizer, a soup, a main dish, and an apple strudel for dessert. I don’t want to spoil what all the delicious things we tried were, but trust me when I tell you that you should definitely skip lunch and you’ll be hard-pressed to find room after dinner. Spots are limited so check out and book your tour here.

Go ice skating in Ovocný  Trh

Is it even a European winter trip if you don’t go ice skating? Ice skating is one of the most-loved winter pasttimes, and when you combine it with the historic spot of Ovocný Trh it becomes even better.

This ice rink is found behind the Czech Estates, and even though it’s open for a relatively short time, it’s free for everyone during that time – though in practice, since you will likely have to rent skates unless you’re the kind of person that has ice skates in their suitcase (weird flex, but okay). However, even skate rental is rather affordable – about 100 CZK per hour, less than $5 USD.

Despite the prime location, it was never crowded when I walked past it, even on the weekend – so it’s a great place to while away some time (and if you need to warm up, it being Prague in winter, there’s a mulled wine booth just a few meters away from the rink).

Take a cruise on the Vltava River

While generally I try to avoid most touristy things, I’m a huge fan of doing river cruises and make it a point to do one whenever possible, no matter the season. There’s something magical about cities built on water and seeing it from water level adds a new dimension to a place you’ve traversed several times on foot. Just as my boat trip on the Danube was a highlight of my Budapest trip, a cruise on the Vltava river is a must on any Prague winter trip.

The boats are fitted with glass so you don’t have to worry about being too cold as you zip up and down the Vltava river, passing views such as the Prague Castle and passing underneath (and hopefully not into) the Charles Bridge. If you’re cold, you can warm up while holding a drink and taking in the information presented by your guide, who will explain the current function of the historic buildings as well as their unique pasts.

You can opt for a 3-hour cruise including a buffet dinner and live music (check out availability here) or you can opt for a 45-minute cruise if you are crunched for time or money (check it out here)

Take a sauna on the river

If you want to get a bit away from the Christmas market crowds and warm up in an unconditional manner, head to the Naplavka Riverbank under the shadow of the Vysehrad fortifications. This river walkway is lively and often likened to a beach party in the summer, but it’s extremely quiet and peaceful in the winter.

Since Prague’s weather in winter is rather arctic, just walking along the water is a bit chilly. Instead, take advantage of the genius sauna-on-a-boat concept at Lázně na Lodi. Here, for about $6 per hour (140 CZK) you can enjoy a peaceful sauna and even go for a dip in the freezing cold Vltava if you’re brave (or Finnish). I recommend reserving a place if you really want to visit as it can get crowded at times.

An important note: this is an all-gender nude sauna, though people wear sheets to cover themselves, so if you’re shy this isn’t the place for you!

Bonus: Escape to Český Krumlov

Photo: Our Escape Clause

If Prague in winter just simply isn’t enough fairy-tale magic for you, you diva you, then hightail it to one of the most beautiful cities in the Czech Republic: Český Krumlov!

I have only been here in the fall but I can certify that it is absolutely delightful any time of year – and likely doubly so under a layer of snow! Read here for some tips on what to do if you visit Český Krumlov in winter.

Have you visited Prague in winter? Do you have any more recommendations for what to see in the colder months?

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