utumn and winter are ideal times for a city break in Europe. As the beach no longer beckons, a weekend strolling the streets of a major capital can be an appealing prospect – full of mornings spent shopping, afternoons of culture, and evenings cosied up in lively bars and restaurants.
Prague more than fits this picture. Not only is the Czech capital easily reached when you book with British Airways Holidays (just a two-hour flight from London), but it comes alive in the colder seasons – twinkling on the map as a haven of art, food and festive fun.
Historic delights and photo ops in the Old Town
It is no wild claim to say that Prague is one of the prettiest cities in Europe. It escaped the war relatively unscathed, and retains a medieval grandeur that is a magnet for cameras and social media photo feeds. Key to this is the Old Town (Stare Mesto), an enclave of narrow lanes and visible history, on the east bank of the River Vltava.
The Charles Bridge, which crosses the water here, is a monument to 14th-century wonder, dotted with statues that seem to move in the morning mist. A little beyond, Old Town Square (Staromestske Namesti) is the pulsating heart of the historic city, framed by towering churches, and home to a famous astronomical clock on the town hall, which charts the seasons as well as the time.
Christmas markets full of festive delights
Prague is celebrated for its Christmas markets – and the Old Town Square takes a prime role in the merriment. Between the end of November and the new year (26 November-6 January this winter), it is awash with stalls selling toys, trinkets, tree decorations and hand-made crafts.
Better still, the scene plays out to the strains of cinnamon and spices – the aroma of the myriad pastries and glasses of mulled wine that sustain visitors as they shop. Nor is this a lone location. You will find a festive market at almost every street corner in December – notably also in Wenceslas Square, which spreads out a short walk south of the Old Town.
Seasonal music throughout the city
Christmas in Prague is not just about what you can see, eat or buy. It is also about what you can hear. Concerts and recitals are a crucial element of the season, and you can lose yourself in the music at a range of venues. For example, the Klementinum will stage a series of festive performances during December – the Dvorak Symphony Orchestra playing seasonal works by Mozart and Vivaldi. And the Czech Philharmonic’s Christmas Concert – held at the Rudolfinum (the city’s most prestigious concert hall) on 20 December this year – is always a major event.
Hilltop walks, majestic castles and stunning views
Prague’s setting in the steep-sided Vltava valley can make for epic views across its rooftops and steeples, especially if you wander on the west side of the river. Hradcany – the Castle District – holds court on a hilltop directly opposite the Old Town, the palace in question dating back to the ninth century. More attractive still is the adjacent Petrin Hill – a leafy park zone whose summit offers the best snapshot of the centre. You can reach it via an unhurried hike – or on the funicular railway which has tamed the slope since 1891.
Arty elegance and cafe culture
Elsewhere on the west bank, the Mala Strana and Kampa districts offer another vibe – elegant echoes of the 18th century amid grand townhouses and Baroque architecture. There are cafes, restaurants and bars here. And culture – especially the Museum Kampa which shows its modern sculptures in a former mill at the waterside.
To book your perfect winter city break to Prague, please visit ba.com/prague