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CZECH REPUBLIC

Location:
Prague

29 Nov - 11 January 2015

Stop press - our award as the best Christmas Tree display in the Old Town Square

Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true 'winter wonderland' setting.

The main markets are at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky & Havelske Trziste.

The Prague Christmas markets consist of rows of brightly decorated wooden huts, selling Czech handicrafts, hot food (corn on the cob, sausages and local specialties) and warm drinks. Outdoor Christmas shopping is much easier with a cup of hot wine (svarene vino) in your hand!

Some interesting Christmas stocking fillers can be found in the markets, which stock a variety of Czech glass, wooden toys, scented candles, Christmas tree ornaments, hand-made jewellery and, of course, puppets, always puppets!

Christmas markets are not just about shopping though. In Prague's Old Town Square there is also a mini zoo. Children can enjoy pony rides and stroke sheep, goats and even a lama. Next to this is a Bethlehem manger scene - a large wooden stable with a straw floor shows Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the three kings.

Most impressive of all is the Christmas tree, shipped from the Sumava mountains in the South of the Czech Republic. Erected in the Old Town Square, the tree is draped in a blaze of lights. Set against a dark gothic skyline, this is a spectacular sight.

But what would Christmas be without carols? Local and International choirs, along with musical ensembles, take to the stage in the Old Town Square, entertaining visitors as they browse the market stalls.

School children from throughout the Czech Republic also come to entertain. The highlight of their year, the school children dress in traditional costume to dance and sing for the crowd.

Smaller markets can also be found at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) and Náměstí Republiky (Republic Square). A traditional Christmas fair takes place at the second and third weekends in November in the courtyard of the baroque Kuks chateau in Eastern Bohemia (http://www.ceska-apatyka.cz/). Be sure not to miss the Old Czech Christmas markets in Český Krumlov (http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/cz/atr176.xml) which take place every Advent weekend.

Christmas in Prague is simply wonderful. Opening times
09.00 - 19.00 daily for main markets

www.pragueexperience.com
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How to say "Merry Christmas" in Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok

Good buys
Crystal, ceramics and wooden toys.

Local dishes: Czech cuisine is basically central European, with German, Hungarian and Polish influences. Expect lots of meat dishes served with generous portions of dumplings, potatoes or rice and thick sauces, plus heavily cooked vegetables or sauerkraut. A typical example is knedlo-zelo-vepro (dumplings, sauerkraut and roast pork).

Funny fact: Czechs are the biggest consumers of beer per male in the world. Incidentally, a Czech man called Jan Honza Zampa holds the record for beer guzzling, after drinking one litre of beer in 4.11 seconds.

What else to see in Prague

Charles Bridge
One of Prague's most romantic sights, a stroll on Charles Bridge presents fine views of Prague Castle, the Vltava River and many of Prague's famous riverside attractions. Charles Bridge connects the Old Town to Mala Strana

Golden Lane
Golden Lane, an ancient street lined by 11 historic houses, forms part of the Prague Castle complex. Inside the houses are displays of armoury, textiles & other attractions, along with some tourist shops

Jewish Museum
Containing over 40,000 exhibits and 100,000 books, the Jewish Museum has one of the most extensive collections of Judaic art and culture in the world

Mala Strana
Mala Strana (Lesser Town) clusters around the foot of Prague Castle. Most tourists climb up to the castle along the Royal Way of Mostecka & Nerudova. But, the narrow side streets of this wonderful baroque quarter also offer plenty of attractions

Mucha Museum
The world's first Mucha Museum, dedicated to the life and works of the world-acclaimed Czech Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), is housed in the Baroque Kaunicky Palace in Prague

Wenceslas Square, Prague

Czech Christmas traditions and customs,
The sweetest of Czech Christmas traditions is baking Christmas pastries. The special kinds called "beehives", "bear paws", Linzer cookies and vanilla crescents have all been baked in Czech households since long ago.

On Christmas Eve many people fast until the evening meal. Impatient children are promised to see a golden piglet if they manage to fast all day. Everyone gathers for family supper when the first star appears in the sky which is fortunately quite soon in December. Czech Christmas supper typically includes fish soup, potato salad and fried fish - carp. Several carp scales are traditionally placed under the plates to bring everyone wealth in the coming year. One extra plate is prepared on the table for a random guest. A popular custom is apple cutting. According to the pattern of the seeds inside the apple after cutting, we will learn of the health we will enjoy in the coming year. The shape of a star denotes good health, while a cross symbolises illness.
After the dinner all family meets in front of the Christmas tree where the presents were left by the Infant Jesus in the mean time. Everybody enjoys the festive evening with unwrapping the presents, enjoying Christmas pastries and company of their loved ones.
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