I went to Prague on a Christmas Market shopping trip, and stayed in a hotel on the outskirts, it’s easy to get around on the metro. The weather was cold and dry, no snow unfortunately as that would have added to the festive atmosphere.The cobbled streets of the old town were filled with wooden market stalls selling traditional Christmas gifts and decorations, hand-painted glass baubles and carved wooden toys. My favourites however were the stalls selling hot glühwein?, and freshly baked sugary dough spirals called Trdlo.I went into the fascinating library in the Klementinum and climbed the 172 steep steps in the Astronomical Tower, well worth the effort for stunning views over the city. From the gallery I took a photo of the Tyn Church, in my opinion the most beautiful building I have ever seen. It’s many black spires have windows all the way up them which are illuminated at night, truly stunning.The Charles Bridge over the River Vltava is worth crossing to see the statues that are along both sides, and near one end of the bridge is a museum of torture instruments, although I can’t comment if it is worth visiting as I drew the line at that!The Astronomical Clock on the tower of the Old Town Hall in Starom?stské nám?stí draws a crowd on the hour, with rotating gilded dials and animated figures, it’s so ornate it’s difficult to tell the time. There are plenty of shops selling jewellery and Bohemian crystal, one real eye-catcher is the Swarovski shop on Celetná with the glitziest doorway imaginable.Although there are plenty of cafés and restaurants, like “>Palac Kinskych I found it quite difficult to find vegetarian food, until I discovered Bona Vita down an alley just off Wenceslas Square (which isn’t square, more of a long rectangle). They have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes, the ones I tried were very tasty. So much so that I went back the following night, and the waiter was very patient with me trying to order the meal in Czech from my phrasebook. There was an enormous Christmas tree at one end of Wenceslas Square, very impressive and covered in sparkling lights.A short tram ride up the hill took me to the Castle, quite a plain looking building. Within the castle is the far prettier gothic St Vitus Cathedral, housing ornate silver tombs and a beautiful stained glass window by Czech artist Alphonse Mucha. I had been to the Mucha Museum on Panská earlier in the day, I love his paintings.Near the castle but not very easy to find is the beautiful baroque Loreta. I was amazed by this place, with it’s displays of jewelled treasures, and Church of the Nativity of Our Lord. inside which it seems that every inch is decorated and gilded, and either side of the altar at the front are the slightly bizarre preserved bodies of two saints wearing wax death masks in glass cases. Back down in the city centre, I went for a steaming mug of hot chocolate in the vaulted room in the Hotel ?erná Liška, on the edge of the Old Town Square. The bill seemed expensive compared to the menu prices, I didn’t realise the service charged was already added and the waiter didn’t point this out when I queried it, so he got tipped twice. A lovely place though, and a great location. I intend to go to Prague again someday, and wholeheartedly recommend it, especially at Christmas time.
Story written by Diane Halliwell Lustig | Since 2006 Holiday Velvet offers Prague accommodation.