Holiday Magic in Prague

One of my dreams and bucket list items that I’ve been wanting to fufill for some time  now has been to visit a Christmas market in Europe.
Instead of flying back to California this past holiday season, I decided that I would spend my Christmas in one of the most enchanting cities in the world, Prague.
I knew when I moved abroad this past October that purchasing a round trip ticket to and from California for Christmas would be quite expensive. So, I put the idea in my mind that instead I could travel to a country or two during my holiday break.
As I was researching lists of the most recommended Christmas markets to visit in Europe, Prague was repeatedly mentioned. I read up on the city and was immediately drawn in by its architecture and fairytale-esque enchantment. 

I opened a new window, scoped out the cheapest prices on google flights, and voilà purchased a one way ticket to Prague for under 70 euros.Situated in the north west part of the Czech Republic, Praha is home to over 1.3 million people, making it the largest city in the country. With history that dates back to 870 A.D, it was difficult to schedule my three day itineray but I did my best in ensuring that I included a bit of Christmas, history, art, and off the beaten path locations.I landed in Praha on the morning of Christmas Eve and hit the ground running once I touched foot in the city. I took a taxi from the Václav Havel Airport to my hostel, which was located in the Holesovice neighborhood, the Brooklyn of Prague if you will.Check in wasn´t until 1pm but the staff were kind enough to let me get ready in the guest restroom and store my luggage in the closet downstairs. With a city map, 50 Czech korunas, and absolutely no data on my phone, I managed to make it to the historic Old Town Square within 30 minutes on the bus.I´m sure you´ve heard this one before but like a scene straight out of a movie, I walked into a Christmas wonderland. Festive stands of food and artisanal crafts and goods surrounded the cheerful square. The beautiful 72 foot Christmas tree stood proud and erect in the center of the square, creating the perfect backdrop for each patron. With no food in my system, I happily indulged in some of the local food that makes one salivate on sight. Old Prague ham, which is brine-cured and smoked on spits, was the first item I ordered. Served with a side of bread and boiled potatoes, they don´t charge by the plate but rather by the weight. After I placed my order, the man began carving the ham then piling on the pieces. I was a bit taken back because he wouldn´t stop. I quickly waved my hands and stated that I was only ordering for myself and only needed three pieces at most. He settled for five and piled on the bread, I said no to the potatoes.Satisfied with what I had just eaten I walked off my meal by roaming the busy market and the side streets. There were people from all over the world in this small space, at times it felt like Disneyland to me. The ambience, music, and long lines reminded me of Fantasy Land but I kept reminding myself that no, this was real life. I´m sure Walt Disney used this city as his inspiration for some of his movies.The sun started to set at around 4:45 p.m so I figured it was time to head back to the hostel. A little confused as to what bus to take back, I asked a random girl for directions and it turned out that she was also in Prague alone, staying at the same hostel, and get this, staying in the same room that I was in! What are the odds.That night the hostel hosted a free dinner for all of its guest. There were about 50 guest packed at the bar waiting for the buffet style meal to begin when we walked down around 6:50 p.m. Chicken, potatoes, bread, some other hardy foods, and beer of course, served as our Christmas dinner. Far from the tamales that I´m used to but it was good and what made it even more special was the group that I sat with. We were all in Prague alone, far from home, away from the cultural traditions were used to but it just worked. I wouldn´t have had it any other way.The following day I ventured off with Joe, the girl I met from China, to walk the famous Charles Bridge, which was constructed around the 14th century. The bridge leads into the Mala Strana and Castle District, which weren´t as filled with tourist like the Old Town Square.Mala Strana, which in English translates into “lesser side” is located on the left west bank of the river Vltava. Here is where you can find the John Lennon Wall, Lovers´Bridge, and the beautiful Prague Castle.When I travel it´s no secret that I spend about 40% of my time in touristy spots, that is if it´s a new city I´m visiting, and the rest in the “other” neighborhoods or districts that are a bit more untouched by tourist. I spent the remainder of my time back in Holesovice. A majority of the galleries I wanted to visit were closed but I did get to make it to the National Gallery in Prague and the DOX. My stay in Prague wasn’t long enough to dive into the underground scene but it´s okay, my priority was the Chirstmas market. I had a wonderful Christmas away from home. I don´t think I´ll ever do it again but Prague made it a Christmas to remember.

Below are some recommendations:

Sir Toby´s Hostel– For just 8 euros a night this cozy hostel is the perfect home away from home. Located in the neighborhood of Holesovice, one can get the local experience as well as easy accesibility to the historic center within 10 mintues by tram. If you don´t feel like being in the hustle and bustle of the center,  venture off in the hood and find yourself amongst trendy galleries, clubs, and markets or chill in the hostel and order yourself some tasty beer.

Old Town Square– The most famous Christmas market takes place in this square and it´s an absolute must. Not only are you surrounded by historic landmarks but the simple magic of the giant tree, artisinal goods, and scent of delicious food is a good enough reason to send anyone off to this location. Don´t forget to try the trdelník! A spit cake made of  rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. Yummy goodness.

Charles Bridge– The Charles bridge is listed on every “What To Do in Prague” list, and after having walked it, I believe it is something you should totally do. Construction for the bridge began in 1357 and after surviving several disasters it is standing just as strong as ever. Famous for it´s gothic style and line of statues, you can´t help but feel that you are taking a walk back in the old world.

Holesovice- Deemed the coolest district, this neighborhood is located in the north of Prague. It gives off a Brooklyn vibe with it´s industrial makeup and hip cafe´s, galleries, and shops. I can´t give you an exact location but wander aimlessly and you are bound to run into some cool street art and what have you.

Mala Strana– The “Little Side”, is just that, little, but worth the walk over the Charles Bridge. On your way to the Prague Castle I suggest scoping out this beautiful district. Made up of baroque architecture you are sure to walk away with at least 5 worthy IG pictures.


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