Prague is the impossibly pretty capital of the Czech Republic. Boasting a rich history – and buildings to match – the city’s historic core is its crowning glory. That’s not to mention its imposing castle, iconic 700-year-old bridge and the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world.
Although summer brings long days and warm evenings (and plenty of Czech beer to keep you refreshed!), winter is most definitely the best time to visit Prague to really savor the splendor and romance of this European capital city. With a long list of museums, cozy cafes and historic sights to warm up in, as well as seasonal events like ice skating rinks and Christmas markets, it’s a true winter wonderland.
Curious to find out more? Continue reading then. I have been to Prague in winter and I will share everything you need to know to plan your trip, and the best things to see and do.
Make sure to also read my posts A Guide To Winter In The Czech Republic and The Best Things To Do In Brno.
What You Must Know Before Visiting Prague In Winter
What’s the weather like in Prague in winter?
In winter, like most of Europe, Prague is cold. For some of us who are from warmer places, it may actually be almost unbearably cold! The weather starts getting chilly in November, a month that sees average temperatures drop to lows of between 2°C (35.6°F) and 9°C (48.2°F). But it’s not dry – November sees quite a lot of rainfall, so make sure you bring a waterproof jacket and/or an umbrella.
Temperatures drop even further as winter starts proper in December, with nighttime lows of -3°C (26.6°F). On average, there’s a 42% chance of snow this month in Prague, which can be expected when the daily highs are only around 1°C (33.8°F). So a white Christmas is certainly possible if you visit Prague during the festive season!
January is even colder – the coldest month of the year, in fact, so be prepared to dress for the occasion (thermal under-layers, for example). Temperatures hover between -4°C (24.8°F) and 2°C (35.6°F). February is slightly warmer than January, but it’s still definitely cold with average highs of 2°C (35.6°F).
What to wear in Prague in winter
Those cold winter temperatures mean you will need to be prepared in terms of what clothing you bring along on your trip. Your wardrobe will definitely need to be warm – think plenty of layers to insulate you against the cold winter air, but then you can strip off a layer or two when you’re sitting inside a cozy bar or cafe.
However, you don’t just need layers. You actually do need adequate, technical winter gear for a winter trip to Prague. I had plenty of layers on when I visited in December, but despite that I felt terribly cold any time I stepped outside, and that’s because I was not wearing the right coats and pants. So, here’s a selection of items that are guaranteed to protect you even against the most bitter cold:
Thermal under-clothing can help to stave off the effects of freezing temperatures – think thermal pants such as these Kuhl Impulse Tight which you can wear under a pair of regular winter pants to keep you extra warm. You should also wear a thermal shirt such as Kuhl Akkomplice Krew.
Long-sleeve shirts and thick sweaters help with layering – I love Kuhl Flight Jacket.
When it comes to jackets, nothing beats the Artik Parka by Kuhl. It’s honestly the warmest jacket I have ever tried and traveled with, so cozy and with lots of pockets. I also love Kuhl Skyfire Down Parka as it is certified cruelty free.
You will want to bring a good, warm hat, a nice thick scarf, and a pair of gloves, best if you can use a touchscreen so you don’t need to take them off to use your camera.
Your footwear will be pretty important too. A warm, comfortable pair of boots will be perfect for walking around Prague in winter – and if they’re waterproofed, then that’s a plus. Thick socks will also help keep you warm (something that’s easily overlooked).
Best Things To Do In Prague In Winter
Now that you know how cold it’s going to be in Prague in winter – and, more importantly, what you should be wearing – it’s time to start carving out your itinerary. There are tons of things you could be getting up to during the city’s coldest time of the year.
Visit the Christmas markets
Christmas markets have become a staple of Prague’s winter season. There are a number of different markets for visitors to explore, with the main ones in Prague’s Old Town Square and the aptly named Wenceslas Square in the center of the city.
Other markets can be found at Prague Castle and over on Kampa Island. Generally, Prague’s Christmas markets begin from the start of December and run to the beginning of January. They’re great places to pick up unique gifts or Christmas ornaments, and get into the spirit of the season – not to mention eat and drink some festive fare.
Make sure to check out my post The Best Christmas Markets In Europe.
Explore Prague Castle
Prague Castle has been an important building since its construction in 870, remaining today as the seat of the Czech government. The historic complex sits high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River – a view seen by a long list of leaders over the centuries. These include the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors, and the Presidents of Czechoslovakia. In fact, it’s still home to the Bohemian Crown Jewels.
But this enormous castle is not just a place for elite leadership – it’s also a popular visitor attraction, with certain parts open to the public. That means you can wander around the castle grounds, peek into chapels and see collections of historic artifacts. That’s not to mention the amazing views you can get from here across the rest of Prague.
To make the most of the Castle, you should consider joining a guided tour. Here are my top recommendations:
Prague Castle: Tour with Local Guide and Entry Ticket – this is the best rated tour of the Castle. It lasts 2.5 hours and includes a visit of St. Vitus Cathedral and even a tram ticket.
Prague Castle Tour with entry ticket – it’s similar to the one above, but does not include the tram ticket.
If you just want to explore on your own, you may wish to get tickets in advance here.
Visit the Historic Center of Prague
The Historic Center of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s filled with countless old buildings and a warren of streets where you can get lost exploring the history of the city. Constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries, the historic center of Prague reflects the city’s fortunes, with many grand buildings and large residences reflecting the success of the city over the years.
Particularly notable sights in the area include the Cathedral of St Vitus, Hradcany Square and the Valdstejn Palace – to name just a few. There’s also Prague University; founded in 1348, it is one of the oldest in Europe and comprises a cluster of 14th-century buildings. In short, it’s not to be missed – especially on a crisp, frosty morning in winter.
To make the most of the Historic Center, you may want to join a guided tour. I recommend this 3-hour walking tour of Prague that also goes to the Castle.
Hang out in the Old Town Square
Prague’s Old Town Square is a historic square tucked between Wenceslas Square and Charles Bridge. If you’re visiting Prague, this is somewhere that you have to go or, at least, you’ll most likely find yourself there at some point during your trip.
This large open space dates back to the 12th century and has seen many events throughout the centuries. Of the many historic events that took place here, one is marked with a memorial stone – dedicated to the 27 Czech lords who were executed here in 1621.
The square plays host to a number of historic buildings, too. These include the Old Town Hall, which features a medieval astronomical clock installed in 1410 on its tower – the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world, and it’s still in operation. The clock, called Prague Orloj, draws crowds of visitors.
Make sure to get your Old Town Hall & Astronomical Clock entrance tickets before visiting!
There’s also the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas, as well as the Kinsky Palace with its ornate Rococo design.
Take photos of Charles Bridge
Charles Bridge is a landmark river crossing that was built between 1337 and 1402 upon orders of Charles IV. It’s the oldest bridge that crosses the Vltava River that’s still standing. Constructed out of sandstone and edged by fortified towers, it connects Prague’s Old Town with Malá Strana.
It’s a beautiful bridge, particularly because it’s decorated with 30 statues of saints created between 1683 and 1928 – the most iconic being the statue of St John of Nepomuk. Snapping a picture of the bridge (maybe coated in snow or frost) is a must, and even more so when it comes to sunset on a cloudless day.
To book a Vltava River cruise, click here.
Wander around Malá Strana
Translating to “Little Quarter” or “Lesser Town”, Malá Strana is an attractive corner of the city that hugs the slopes of Prague Castle. Here visitors can spend time wandering a warren of medieval streets, taking time to stop off at the district’s main square, browsing boutique shops and peering into old churches. One of the best parts of strolling these cobbled lanes is the option to enjoy some traditional Czech food in the charming pubs and restaurants in the district (more on food later!).
And the Jewish Quarter
Situated between the Old Town Square and Vltava River, Prague’s Jewish Quarter – also known as Josefov – has had a connection to the Jewish community of Prague for many centuries. From the 13th century, it was home to a walled Jewish Ghetto, but its fortunes turned when the 16th century Jewish mayor of Prague, Mordecai Maisal, used his wealth to develop it.
Sadly, much of the quarter was demolished during an initiative to remodel the city on Paris in the late-19th and early 20th century. Some of the district’s historic synagogues and the old Jewish cemetery still remain, however, and survived even through Nazi occupation. Literary enthusiasts should also note that the Jewish Quarter of Prague is the birthplace of influential writer Franz Kafka.
Consider joining a guided tour to take in all the Jewish history of Prague. Here are my top recommendations:
Jewish Quarter walking tour – available in a variety of languages, this is one of the best tours of the area and includes admission to Pinkas Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue, Maisel Synagogue, Jewish Cemetery, and the Spanish synagogue.
Admission ticket to Jewish Prague – not a tour per se, but you do get an introduction to what you will see and tickets to the main attractions in the area.
Check out Prague’s famous Dancing House
Nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”, this eye-catching building – an example of Deconstructivist architecture – was built between 1992 and 1996, and is named like that because two parts of the building appear to be dancing with each other (almost, anyway).
It was the work of Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic and Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry (the same of Bilbao’s Guggenheim, to be clear). The bold building takes up space on a plot of land formerly occupied by an old house, destroyed by American bombing in 1945.
And Prague street art
There’s a lot of street art in Prague – murals, statues and more. Wandering around town you will probably come across several statues by Czech sculptor David Černý – the most famous one is the head of Kafka located just outside the Quadrio shopping mall. Other famous pieces include “the”Piss” – the statues of two men urinating into a pond near Franz Kafka Museum; John Lennon Wall; and the crawling babies on Prague’s famous TV Tower in Kampa Park.
This guided walking tour of alternative Prague will take you to see some of the best murals and also goes to the Vietnamese Market, one of the most up and coming new attractions in town.
Visit the Church of St Ludmila
The Church of St Ludmila is a neo-Gothic structure that overlooks Namesti Miru – or Freedom Square in English. Built between 1888 and 1893, this imposing structure features two 60-meter-tall towers and appears to be very much in the style of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (perhaps in line with a plan to redesign Prague in the image of the French capital).
Inside the church, you’ll find opulent adornments with colorful stained glass windows, sculptures and paintings. If you arrange it in advance, you can even hop on a tour of the church. Either way, stepping inside is a good way to beat the cold!
Comes December, the square outside the church is home to a small but lovely Christmas Market.
Sip a hot drink in one of the lovely cafés
With all that exploring and wandering around the cold streets of Prague in winter, nothing beats a visit to one of the city’s storied cafes. These long-standing establishments are the best places in town to grab a hot drink – maybe a snack, too – and enjoy the ambience of their rich interiors.
There are a few famous spots to hit up. Oozing decadence, Café Louvre, in 22 Narodni Trida, has been in business for over 100 years; it’s played host to notable figures throughout its existence, including Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. You’ll find it close to the National Theatre.
Then there’s Café Imperial, an effortlessly classy spot with over a century of history – think high ceilings and mosaic walls, traditional food and impeccable service. There’s also Mslnej Kocour, a traditional coffee shop serving local dishes and hot drinks in a down-to-earth setting.
And check out Wenceslas Square
One of the main squares in Prague, Wenceslas Square – once known as the horse market – is more like a boulevard than a square, owing to its long, thin shape. The square takes its name from a statue of King Wenceslas that once stood here. This is where in October 1918, independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire was declared.
It’s traditionally been a place for public gatherings and has played host to demonstrations and rallies over the years. In winter, however, it’s festively decorated, strung with lights and home to a popular Christmas market. Unmissable if you’re a particular fan of the holiday season.
Visit the many museums
Among the best things to do in Prague in winter that allow you to step in from the cold and warm up for a couple of hours, there’s visiting museums. Thankfully Prague has a fantastic array of museums that allow visitors to explore and warm up at the same time. From the fascinating Strahov Library, an impressive Baroque edifice filled with rare books, to the Museum of Communism, which houses a collection of artifacts from the era of Communist rule.
There’s also the family-friendly Museum of Agriculture and the intriguing Museum of Decorative arts for those interested in all things aesthetic. Prague is certainly not short of culture and history.
For tickets to the Museum of Communism, click here.
For National Museum tickets, click here.
Discover modern Prague
The Functionalist architectural movement – one that prizes practicality and purpose over superfluous ornamentation – is well represented in Prague. There are several buildings that adhere to the principles of this Modernist style of architecture to be found across the city. Discovering them is a must for anybody interested in design.
There are many more icons of modern Prague architecture to find, too. One is the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord (or Kostel Nejsvětějšího Srdce Páně in Czech), situated in Prague’s Jiřího z Poděbrad Square, in the Vinohrady district of the city. Constructed between 1929 and 1932, the architecture takes cues from early Christian design and ancient iconography.
There’s also the Vinohradský Pavilion, a hundred-year-old shopping mall with industrial interiors, and the space-age Žižkov Tower, the 216-meter TV tower that was built between 1985 and 1992, representing the tail-end of the city’s Communist era. Prague Train Station, built in the late 19th-century, is a particularly large example of Prague’s modern architecture.
For a guided tour of Art Nouveau and Cubist Architecture in Prague, click here.
For tickets to go up Žižkov Tower, click here.
Make sure to also read my post Where To See The Best Examples Of Functionalism In The Czech Republic.
Go ice skating
If you’re in Prague in winter, one of the most magical things you can do is head to an outdoor ice skating rink. There are a number of places where you can get your skates on in the winter months, usually open between December and February.
One of the most popular rinks can be found at Capadlo, which has views of Prague Castle in the background – ideal for an evening of wintry romance. Elsewhere there’s an open-air ice skating rink in Ovocny Trh, a charming narrow square in Prague’s Old Town, as well as the pretty ice rink at Riegrovy Sady Park.
Sip a delicious Czech Beer
Czech beer is renowned the world over, with one town in particular giving its name to a well-known style of beer – Pilsner (from Pilsen). Beer is so loved in the Czech Republic that the country consumes the most beer per capita in the world! Czech beer in Prague is connected to the city’s monasteries; beer-brewing in the capital began in 993 at the Benedictine Brevnov Monastery.
Today, the city has a total of 40 breweries and brewpubs. The oldest of them all is U Fleku, which was founded in 1449 and has been constantly brewing beer ever since. There’s nothing quite like arriving on a cold winter’s evening to a warm and welcoming Prague pub for a few glasses of delicious local beer.
You can even go on beer tasting tours or pub experiences to make the most of your beer.
For a Czech Beer tasting experience, click here.
For a brewery tour of Prague, click here.
For a tour of historic pubs, click here.
You can even go on a beer spa experience such as this one!
Gorge on traditional food
There’s nothing quite like eating a hearty meal indoors when it’s cold outside – and luckily Prague is not short of places to do just that. For something upscale but cozy, U Modre Kachnicky is a must. This venerable restaurant serves up an array of meaty stews followed by a choice of delicious desserts.
For some traditional fare in rustic surroundings, there’s Restaurace Mlejnice, where you can devour Czech dishes washed down with an enormous selection of local (and regional) beers. The very traditional U Bulinu serves up a solid menu of rabbit in mustard sauce and beef tartare, among other Czech specialities.
To make the most of local food, you may even want to join a guided food tour. For more information, click here.
For a medieval dinner in Prague, click here.
Attend a show
One of the nicest things to do in Prague in winter is attending a show, and thankfully the city has an incredible array of performances you can attend. Some of them include dinner, others are in gorgeous settings – theaters, synagogues and more.
The choice includes a Mozart Ballroom Concert with 3-Course Dinner, which is perfect if you like classical music; the unique show of a classical concert in the Spanish Synagogue; a concert at Reduta Jazz Club; a midday concert at Lobkowicz Palace; and the very Christmassy ballet Nutcracker.
Take a day trip to Český Krumlov
If you run out of things to do, or if you feel like exploring further afield, then taking a day trip out of Prague is a great way to see more of the country while on a city break. One of the most rewarding is to Český Krumlov, which is a two-and-a-half-hour train journey from the Czech capital. Situated in South Bohemia, this small town is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you can see why.
The whole town looks like something out of a fairytale, with plenty of medieval streets, Baroque and Gothic churches, and even its own castle. It’s a compact place to visit – you can walk across the town in around half an hour. In winter, Český Krumlov becomes even more attractive, with its red rooftops dusted with white snow.
You can book your day trip to Český Krumlov from Prague here.
Tours in Prague
Other than the already mentioned tours, there are some more that may help you get a better understanding of the city, or simply allow you to take in all the amazing sights. Here are some tours you may want to consider:
Prague City Highlights Tour – a 4-hour introduction to the city.
Prague World War II Tour – a very interesting tour for travelers who enjoy history.
Prague: Ghosts and Legends Nighttime Guided Walking Tour – a very interesting tour that reveals some of the lesser known and more gruesome bits of local history.
Prague complete bike tour – if you can take the cold of Prague in winter, this is a good way of exploring the city.
Prague Communism walking tour – the best tour if you want to discover the most recent past of the Czech capital.
To save some money on attractions and keep all your tickets in one place, you may consider getting the Prague Pass.
How to get to Prague from the airport
Prague airport is well connected to the city. Bus number 119 departs every 10 minutes and arrives to Dejvicka metro station, from where there’s the subway to the city center. The overall trip lasts about 40 minutes.
If you’d rather use private transportation, you can book your transfer on Welcome Pickups here.
Where to stay in Prague
Prague is packed with excellent accommodation option. These are some of the best places to stay in Prague:
Miss Sophie Boutique Hotel is right outside the historical center of Prague and at about 7 minutes walk from Saint Ludmila Cathedral. It has incredibly cozy rooms decorated in vintage, retro style. Breakfast is served in the hostel lounge in front of it and it’s absolutely delicious.
Adjacent to Miss Sophie, there’s Sophie Hostel for travelers on a budget. You’ll have a choice of well equipped dorms and private rooms. Breakfast is included in the rate of your stay. You even have the option of paying a bit extra for a hot brunch.