Prague is arguably Europe’s prettiest capital.
Travelers come in droves to stroll the cobblestones and admire the many historic buildings whose architectural styles stretch back some eight centuries. The view to Prague Castle from statue-lined Charles Bridge is breathtaking. The narrow alleyways of the Old Town spill out onto the grand Old Town Square, where a 15th-century Astronomical Clock keeps time to the rhythms of the Middle Ages.
It’s no surprise, then, that Prague has evolved into one of the continent’s most-popular destinations, and much of its medieval charm can quickly evaporate on a hot day in summer when those pretty backstreets are choked with thousands of other people.
Fortunately, it’s possible to time your visit in order to experience some of the city’s magic for yourself.
High season (June to August) is hot, sunny and crowded
Most visitors come during the Czech Republic’s short summer, when the weather is warm and the days reliably sun-drenched. All the attractions are open, parks and gardens are in full bloom, cafes and restaurants have put out sidewalk seating, and daylight stretches as late as 10pm near the summer solstice. The downside is that Prague is packed to the rafters. Expect higher prices for lodging and meals and long waits to see A-list sights like St Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Jewish Museum.
Spring and fall (April, May and September, October) are better times to visit
The spring and autumn months draw fewer crowds but offer the possibility of sunny days and warm weather (though bring a jacket and umbrella just in case). April and May are particularly beautiful as trees and flowers bud and bloom. Book in advance during the busy Easter holiday, which heralds the unofficial beginning of the tourist season. The cultural calendar re-starts in the autumn, and concert halls and theaters open up after the summer recess.
Budget travelers should visit in low season (November to March)
The pace slows considerably through the winter months, which bring on weeks of gray skies and cold, rainy and (occasionally) snowy weather. Some parks and gardens close for the season, though most attractions and museums remain open year-round. The downsides of cold temps and mid-afternoon darkness are compensated by lower prices for hotels, fewer throngs on the squares, the undeniable delights of a cozy Prague pub, and the chance to see Charles Bridge covered in snow.
Here’s a monthly guide to what you can expect through the year in Prague (although events are always subject to change).
January starts out with a bang
New Year’s Eve festivities on Old Town Square linger well into the early morning of January 1; later in the day, the city holds its annual fireworks display. The rest of the month is quiet as Praguers nurse hangovers and hide from the cold. Expect a mix of rain and snow, few visitors and bargain-basement prices.
February can be sleepy
Residents leave the city for ski holidays or ride out the snow huddled in pubs or cafes. The winter blues are broken up by annual Mardi Gras festivals – Masopust in Czech – where people come out onto the streets in costume to sing, parade and roast pigs.
March’s weather is unpredictable
Most days are overcast and chilly (it can snow anytime), but March also sees the first shoots of sunshine that remind us that nicer days are coming. The popular Saturday-morning farmers markets around the city, including the best-known one at Náplavka on the Vltava, start up by mid-month.
Key event: One World Film Festival.
April usually means Easter
Depending on the calendar, April is given over to Easter and a festive, three-week Easter market on Old Town Square. Tourists come enjoy the first warm days of the season. The month ends with annual witch-burning festivities. On Witch’s Night (April 30), join a lantern parade in Malá Strana that ends with the (symbolic) burning of a witch in nearby Kampa Park.
May brings flowers and warm weather
The days are comfortably warm – but the nights are cool. On May 1, couples traditionally climb Petřín Hill to toast their romance with flowers. The city’s ambitious festival season kicks off on May 15 with the annual Prague Spring Music Festival, the high point of the cultural calendar.
Key events: Prague Spring, United Islands of Prague, Prague Fringe festival, Czech Beer festival.
June marks the start of reliable sunshine
Summer high season begins with the end of the school year, and tourists and touts return in force. Expect crowds on Old Town Square and Charles Bridge – and higher prices for restaurants and hotels. On the plus side, June brings plenty of sunshine (but without the uncomfortably hot temps of July or August).
Key events: Festival of Microbreweries at Prague Castle, Prague Metronome music festival.
July can get hot
Expect daytime temperatures as high as the mid-30°Cs (upper 80°Fs and 90°Fs). Look out for hotels that offer air-conditioning (not all do) and bring water on daytime walks. The city empties out the first week of the month as locals decamp to summer cottages to enjoy the public holidays of St Cyril and Methodius Day (July 5) and Jan Hus Day (July 6).
Key event: Bohemia Jazz Festival.
August is for taking it slow
Like July, August days can get uncomfortably warm. Locals retreat to parks and gardens like Stromovka, Letná or Riegrovy sady to beat the heat and drink beer in the open air beneath a canopy of trees. Thousands of people from around Europe come to attend the annual Prague Pride festival, a week of parties and happenings at venues across the city.
Key events: Letní Letná festival of acrobatic arts, Prague Pride.
September is a great time to visit
September brings the best of all worlds: warm days, but without the summer crowds. The familiar rhythms of city life return as schools start up, theaters and concert halls reopen, and the first cool rains break the grip of the summer heat. Sidewalk cafes remain open as long as the weather holds.
Key events: Burgerfest, Strings of Autumn concert series.
October is good for classical music
The days grow noticeably shorter and cooler, but October is still a good time to visit. The number of tourists drops – though some seasonal attractions and public gardens close for the winter. The concert and theater seasons are in full swing and this is the best month to hear classical or opera.
Key events: Signal Light Festival, Designblok.
November is the time to taste roast goose
The start of winter begins suitably enough with All Souls Day (November 2), when locals visit cemeteries to lay flowers and light candles. The cool, dark evenings are tailor-made for a night in the pub. Book restaurants in advance on St Martin’s Day (November 11), when chefs traditionally scrap normal menus in favor of plates of roast goose and dumplings.
Key event: St Martin’s Day.
December is all about the run-up to Christmas
The first snows of the year herald the coming of Christmas. Big Christmas markets on Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square get rolling around the start of the month and run through New Year’s.
Key events: Christmas Eve (December 24) and Christmas Day (December 25).