The Coolest Things To Do In The Czech Republic In The Winter
Most people visit the Czech Republic in the spring or in the summer, when the weather is pleasant and the days are long. That’s when it is possible to enjoy all the things to do in the Czech Republic.
I hardly care about seasons, though, and when I want to go to a place, I just go and embrace whichever weather I find. That’s how I ended up visiting Chernobyl last February, and that’s why I decided to visit the Czech Republic in the winter, despite my friend’s advice not to go – he’s been living there for a few years now and keeps telling me that it is cold, it rains, it snows and it is overall depressing.
To read more about my experience in Chernobyl, check my post “I did visit Chernobyl.”
I went to the Czech Republic last December, and it was an incredible experience. I had the chance to visit Prague Christmas markets; I enjoyed all the things to do in Prague; and checked out a bunch of other places to visit in the Czech Republic that looked like they had just come out of a fairytale, so beautiful they looked under the snow.
Sure enough it was cold (at some point it was -9 degree Celsius). And yes, I regularly complained about it. But I had a great time and I am glad I went to the Czech Republic when I did. So, for anybody hardly bothers with seasons when traveling, I have put together a post on the coolest (literally!) things to do in the Czech Republic in the winter.
The Coolest Things To Do In The Cezch Republic In The Winter
Prague remains the best starting point for a trip the Czech Republic, and it definitely is one of the top places to visit in the Czech Republic. It’s a fascinating city, that deserves to be discovered one bit at a time.
Yet, the average traveler doesn’t have that much time to enjoy all the things to do in Prague and it is fundamental to carefully select what to see in Prague and what to do in Prague, squeezing in some of the most popular attractions as well as some hidden gems in order to make the most of it.
So, here’s a selection of the things to do in Prague (and also of what not to do there).
Walking along Wenceslas Square
One of the nicest things to do in Prague, in any season, is a walk along Wenceslaw Square. This is actually a 750 meters long boulevard, that locals often compare to the Champs-Élysées. The name derives from the saint protector of the Czech Republic, Wenceslas, of whom there’s a large statue on one of the sides.
Located in Wenceslas Square there’s also the National Museum, one of the places to visit in Prague – which is currently under renovation. In October 1918, right in Wenceslas Square, independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire was declared.
Strolling around the Old Town…
Prague Old Town is full of charme, with its colorful buildings, the small souvenir shops, and the lovely cafés. It’s one of Prague tourist attractions that simply should not be missed.
Right in Old Town there’s the City Hall, which was built in the 14th century, and, on the southern side of the City Hall, there’s Prague Orloj, a medieval astronomical clock. Admiring the intricate mechanism of the clock is one of the most popular things to do in Prague, judging by the crowds that every day stare intently at it.
… until Charles Bridge and Malá Strana
Charles Bridge is one of the symbols of Prague, thought to be one of the most important Prague attractions. As such, one of the things to do in Prague definitely is walking along the bridge, whose construction (started in 1357 and terminated in 1402) was ordered by Charles IV, who wanted to connect the Old Town with Malá Strana.
Malá Strana is one of the nicest places to visit in Prague: in a way, it is a continuation of the Old Town, with lovely cobbled streets, small traditional shops, and colorful buildings. The view of it from Charles Bridge is stunning.
Embracing the view from Prague Castle
One of the nicest things to do in Prague is visiting Prague Castle. This can be reached from Malá Strana, and it is where Saint Vitus Cathedral, one of Prague tourist attractions, is located.
From the Castle there are marvelous views of the city, and if one looks carefully it is also possible to see the famous Dancing House, designed by architects Vlado Milunic and Frank Gehry (the same one who designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, in the Basque Country) and completed in 1996. The Dancing House is another one of the places to visit in Prague.
Visiting Saint Ludmilla Cathedral
Located in the heart of Prague there’s Saint Ludmilla Cathedral, a beautiful church built in neo-gothic style between 1888 and 1892 and that is one of the places to visit in Prague. It is located in a lovely, large square where there’s many lovely cafès and that during Christmas time is decorated by a beautiful Christmas tree and by one of the famous Prague Christmas markets.
Shopping at Prague Christmas Markets
Visiting Prague in December means enjoying one of the top things to do in Prague during that month: visiting all of Prague Christmas markets. These are scattered throughout the city, and offer some great shopping opportunities. It is possible to find anything – from Christmas decorations, to local souvenirs; from traditional food of the Czech Republich to street food and drinks such as grol and mulled wine.
Discovering modern Prague
If going for a walk in the city is one of the nicest things to do in Prague, this is also the best way to discover and admire buildings in functionalism style, an architectural current according to which all buildings should reflect the aim for which they were built.
Most functionalism buildings are still in use, and they are scattered across the country – one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republic is visiting at least a few.
Kostel Nejsvětějšího srdce páně church in Jiřího z Poděbrad square was built between 1929 and 1932, and it is a great example of functionalism. Oh, and since I visited in December, I also got to enjoy one of Prague Christmas markets right outside it.
Another good example of modern Prague, and nowadays considered one of Prague tourist attractions, is the Žižkov Tower, a tv tower 216 meters tall and that can be seen from various parts of town.
Even the train station and the small shopping mall Vinohradský Pavilon are good examples of modern architecture and interesting places to visit in Prague. The mall actually is an old factory that has been complitely restored, and where there now are a few beautiful shops and a lovely café.
Drinking coffee or eating a local dish to warm up
Needless to say, one of the nicest things to do in Prague in the winter is sipping a hot drink and eating some good traditional food. Prague is packed with beautiful restaurants and cafés, but beweare! Some are mere tourist traps. For example, the popular Trdelnik which can be seen in many places around town and sold as a traditional Czech sweet apparently have little to do with tradition.
Among the nicest places to visit in Prague to warm up with a good coffee or a traditional dish, there are Café Louvre, in 22 Narodni Trida, and which has a beautiful retrò atmosphere; Café Imperial, which serves traditional dishes in an elegant and cozy environment; and Mslnej Kocour, a pub particularly loved by locals and which has an extensive menu of local and international dishes.
Things not to do in Prague
As in all major tourist spots, scams in Prague are common and there also are a few tourist traps. Here’s a few of them.
Being ripped off with the exchange rate
One of the smart things to do in Prague is not to exchange currency in the small exchange place by the astronomical clock: make sure to know the exact value of the money to be changed. Though this and other places in town claim not to apply commissions to the exchange, they apply an exchange rate of around 15 Korunas per Euro. Keep in mind that the official exchange rate should be anything between 25 to 27 per Euro.
Not checking where souvenirs are from
If buying souvenirs is one of the nicest things to do in Prague, beware that some of the shops in the Old Town sell anything but local products: Italian leather bags; made in China stuff; Russian matrioska dolls and even Thai massage places are all out of place in the capital of the Czech Republic.
Riding fake vintage cars
Parked around Prague Old Town there’s a lot of vintage looking cars, that are anything but vintage. They are brand new and built to look antique. Needless to say, riding them is very expensive and one of the things to do in Prague that I recommend is to avoid them!
Participating in the exploitation of animals
Around the most famous places to visit in Prague and especially near Charles Bridge there’s often so called “street artists” that encourage tourists to take photos with doves whose feathers have been dyed of various colors – pink, yellow, green.
That I know of, doves in nature are not green or pink. One of the things to do in Prague should be completely avoiding this people and these traps: these animals have probably been ill treated and I encourage people who visit Prague to be responsible tourists and not contribute to the ill treatment of animals.
To find out more about the use of animals in tourist attractions, read my post “Don’t ride that elephant.”
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 and the ticket costs 30 Koruna, which is around €1,20 Euro. Using public transportation is definitely one of the things to do in Prague.
Where to sleep in Prague
Prague is packed with excellent accommodation option. Right outside the historical center of Prague and at about 7 minutes walk from Saint Ludmilla Cathedral there are Miss Sophie Boutique Hotel and the adjacent Sophie Hostel. Staying in either of them is one of the top things to do in Prague: rooms are spacious, cozy and beautifully decorated. The breakfast buffet and the added brunch are fabulous.
Brno is a fantastic city, though it is one of those cities one would ever think of visiting. Yet, visiting is one of the coolest things to do in the Czech Republic. What I loved about it is the incredibly relaxed atmosphere (even in the cold winter months) and the friendly, international vibe. It is worth visiting in any season.
Brno is home to the largest university in the Czech Republic, so it is packed with students. It also is the judiciary center of the country (it’s where the Constitutional Court is located) and a city full of life and interesting sights, making it one of the nicest places to visit in the Czech Republic.
Surrounding the city, there’s some beautiful vineyards producing some of the best wines of the country – though I would not mention visiting them as one of the things to do in the Czech Republic in the winter.
The following is a list of things to do in the Czech Republich that can be enjoyed in Brno.
Admiring more examples of interesting architecture
The second biggest city of the Czech Republic is a series of large boulevards and beautiful historical buildings. The streets of the historic center are closed to traffic and there’s many tiny cobbled alleys and interesting sights – exploring them is one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republic.
One of the unmissable places to visit in the Czech Republic and that is located in Brno is the beautiful old City Council building, the oldest building in Brno where the City Council was located from the second half of the 13th century (the offices were moves to Dominikanska square in 1935).
The gothic portal of the old City Council with its small towers is beautiful. One of them looks like it is melting. According to history, the artist who had to carve it was annoyed for a delay in payment and decided to carve it this way to show he could even mould stone. Visiting surely is one of the things to do in the Czech Republic.
From the City Hall it is possible to access the tower, from where there is a lovely view of the city, including that of Saint Peter and Paul’s Cathedral, a Romanic style basilica re-built in gothic style that is one of the places to see in the Czech Republic. And in December, there’s a view to the Christmas market in the square below.
Visiting the Christmas markets
Who said that only Prague Christmas markets are worth visiting? In fact, one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republich in December is traveling around the country in search for the most local ones.
As Brno received significantly less tourists than Prague, its Christmas markets surely have a more local feel. There’s various ones scattered around the city, some are even covered (quite important when it is cold outside). The most famous one is in the square behind the old City Council and sells souvenirs, local and international food, and drinks – one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republic when it is cold is having a glass of mulled wine to warm up!!
Visiting more functionalist buildings
Located in Brno there’s the beautiful Villa Tugendhat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. This is one of the most interesting places to visit in the Czech Republic. It is located outside the center of Brno, and commissioned in the 1930s by the Tugendhats, a Jewish couple who inherited the land and employed the famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohes to design it.
The architect embraced the concept of “less is more” and as such the large rooms of the villa may at times appear quite empty, but they surely are functional. The most innovative thing (especially considering the time during which the house was built) is the air conditioning system. The large windows and doors all face a gorgeous park and have stunning views of the city – in fact, admiring the sunset from Villa Tugendhat may well be one of the nicest things do to in the Czech Republich.
During the Nazi occupation, the owners of Villa Tugendhat had to leave the villa, which was confiscated. Since 1994 the Villa became a museum, which can only be visited upon previous appointment. Those who visit the Czech Republich should consider planning a visit, as it is truly worth it.
Not far from Villa Tugendhat there’s Café Era, which not only is a lovely place to have a warm drink – one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republich when it is freezing cold outside; buti t also is another great example of functionalism, with a beautiful colorful staircase.
Trying more traditional food
If trying local food is one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republic, Brno may well be the place to go. There’s way less tourists than in Prague, so there’s simply more authentic places to try the local cuisine. A good place to do so is Stopkova, on Ceska 5. And while eating, don’t forget that drinking some freshly brewed pilsner beer is a must for those who visit the Czech Republic.
How to get to Brno
Brno is well connected to Prague via a good and cheap public transportation system, which includes trains and buses. Using public tranportation is one of the nicest things to do in the Czech Republic to travel around.
Where to sleep in Brno
Best Western International Hotel is located in a historic building, dating to the 1960s. The seemingly anonymous facade actually hides large, comfortable rooms and a cozy hall. It is centrally located, the perfect starting point to explore the city and to engage in all the things to do in the Czech Republic.
Ride a steam train
Every year, around Christmas time and just for that one day traditional steam trains go around the Czech Republic, taking a (small) crowd of enthusiastic locals to more remote villages where they can attend festivals and enjoy a family day out. Needless to say, riding the steam train is one of the greatest things to do in the Czech Republic in the winter.
The sight of the train from a distance is mighty, with the thick dark smoke against the white of the snow. The engine is a work of art. There are trains going around the country. I recommend taking the one that goes from Valašské Meziříčí, a couple of hours drive from Brno, to Valašké Kloubouky, one of the loveliest places to visit in the Czech Republic. The ride lasts little over one hour.
Visit Valašké Kloubouky
Those who visit the Czech Republic in December have the change to enjoy Prague Christmas markets. But as I have already stated, there’s many more places to visit in the Czech Republic, including for Christmas markets. One of the nicest ones is that of Valašké Kloubouky, whose opening is marked by the Jarmark festival.
Visiting Valašké Kloubouky during the festival is one of the top things to do in the Czech Republic, and a great opportunity to get a bit of local action. There’s a lot of tourists around, but I’d say that a good 90% of them are locals who are all to enjoy the market, eating gingerbread cookies, drinking Medovina (a sort of hot wine prepared with liquor and honey) and obviously doing some Christmas shopping.
Get off the beaten path in Roznov
Roznov is a lovely small town at around 4 hours drive from Prague, and one of the places to visit in the Czech Republic to get a bif off the beaten path. After the crowds of Prague and the international atmosphere of Brno, it makes for a nice, welcome change.
The city is home to the incredible Wallachian Open Air Museum, which was founded in 1925 and where original buildings from the late 19th century have been moved to re-create a perfect Wallachian style village. This is definitely one of the most interesting places to see in the Czech Republic to learn a bit more about its traditions and history.
Where to sleep in Roznov
Roznov is a great starting point to enjoy more places to visit in the Czech Republic, and has a good selection of accommodation options. I stayed at Wellness Resort Energetic, which has plain, but spacious and clean room and a fabulous breakfast hall.
Drink some good beer…
One of the best things to do in the Czech Republic is drinking freshly brewed beer. Roznov happens to be an excellent place to do that, as there is a great brewery, called Roznovsky Pivovar, that produces some excellent pilseners and ales, and has an annexed refined restaurant as well as a pub.
… while enjoying a beer spa
Apparently, one of the most unique things to do in the Czech Republic is going to a beer spa. Needless to say, this is very tempting. There’s many spas in Prague, but I opt to go to the one annexed to the brewery in Roznov: I assume there’s no better place to go for a beer treatment than the place where beer is actually made!
The spa is a truly relaxing experience, that starts with a hot beer bath, taken while sipping a good beer, and a yeast mask, and then continues with relaxation on a warm bed. It’s definitely something that those who visit the Czech Republic in the winter should do at the end of a cold day.
Go for a hike in the snow
Pustevny is one of the nicest places to visit in the Czech Republic. It is a lovely mountain station that can be reached from Trojanovice, at around 15 minutes drive from Roznov. In order to get there, it is necessary to ride a cable car which stops right at the mountain station, in front of a series of quirky looking buildings.
Pustevny is supposed to have a great view of the mountains and to be a great place to hike. I can’t really comment about the view (it was snowing when I went and the visibility was very limited) but hiking in the snow is actually a lot of fun, and one of the coolest (literally!) things to do in the Czech Republic.
What to pack for a winter trip to the Czech Republic
As a frequent traveler, I have learned it is important to pack wisely for just about any trip. One of the most important things to do in the Czech Republic in the winter is going prepared for the extremely cold weather. Here’s what I recommend packing:
- Snow or ski pants. They may not be necessary in Prague or Brno, but whenever going to one of the off the beaten path places to visit in the Czech Republic, they will provide some comfort
- Warm pants – jeans really won’t do.
- Heavy duty winter hiking boots, and thick hiking socks– anything to keep the feet warm when spending the entire day out
- Thermal underwear – it is not sexy, but blue skin isn’t either
- Thermal shirts, preferably with long sleeves
- A good, warm hat
- A thick scarf
- Gloves, the warmer, the better – I had to often take mine off to use the camera, and my hands froze each time. So, opt for those that allow to use a touchscreen – it probably is one of the smartest things to do in the Czech Republich in the winter
- A couple of good fleece sweaters – I love Kuhl Alska.
- An extra thick goose down parka – I love Kuhl Artik as it is certified cruelty free.
- Plenty of lip balm and hand moistourizer – the extreme cold has terrible effects on hands and lips
To find out what I typically pack, check My Ultimate Packing List.
Would you ever visit the Czech Republich in the winter?
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