Just before Easter last year, I took a trip to the Czech Republic to visit a friend who lives in Prague. I got the chance to explore the marvellous Prague Easter Markets, and to learn about the traditions associated with this holiday directly from a local. Staying just off Wenceslas Square, we enjoyed every evening strolling around the Easter Market, eating potato dumplings and drinking hot sour cherry Medovina wine to warm us up.
I knew from my previous visit to Prague that the city is gorgeous, but it was lovely to see it wearing festive clothes as well, celebrating the arrival of spring.
Celebrating Easter in Prague
The Easter Markets in Prague were established around the end of the Middle Ages, and have a long history. They were banned during the second part of the 20st century, but after a fantastic comeback they are now an important part of the fun Easter celebrations in the town.
In the Czech Republic, Easter is seen less as a religious holiday, and more like a fun welcome to spring, when nature comes back to life. Both locals and tourists come to Prague to enjoy the celebratory joyfulness of the Easter Markets.
The Easter festivities in the Czech Republic start on Wednesday and finish on Monday – the actual Easter day. These are the most popular days for the Easter Markets, as some people get time off work and children are on school break during this time.
Easter is celebrated for almost a week in the Czech Republic, with each day having its own name and tradition. For example, Ugly Wednesday is the day when children are let out of school to help with making their houses beautiful by cleaning and preparing for Easter. Green Thursday is when locals drink green beer. White Saturday is when boys walk the streets shaking wooden rattles, and not stopping until they are given money.
There are many traditions related to Easter, most of them practiced in the towns and villages in the countryside, rather than in Prague. However, you will get to experience the beautiful art of painting the eggs, and learning how to make braided willow branches in the Easter Markets.
Where to Find the Easter Markets in Prague
There are quite a few Easter Markets around the historical centre of Prague. In total there are around 150 stands selling traditional Czech food and drinks, and unique handmade arts and crafts. The Prague Easter Markets are open for around three weeks, including during the festive days.
Old Town Square
The largest Prague Easter Market is the one in the Old Town Square, where most of the events also take place. The entire Town Square is decorated with birch tree branches, colourful ribbons, and many flowers.
Here you will see women dressed in traditional Czech costumes, hand painting eggs. You can join one of the twig braiding workshops, or listen to folk concerts. A stage is set up where different local clubs and schools perform dances and sing songs throughout the day.
The market also features a farmyard pen where children can pet goats, sheep, rabbits, and ponies.
The Easter Market at Wenceslas Square is split into two, one part in the square itself, and the other close to Mustek metro station. As well as the traditional food and drinks, and the stall selling handmade gifts, you will also find demonstrations of old Czech traditions that are almost forgotten.
The Easter Market at the Prague Castle is held at St George’s Square. I highly recommend visiting this market towards the end of the schedule, so you can enjoy it (and the castle) when it isn’t too crowded. This is a small market, with a wonderful backdrop of the red St George basilica on one side, and the castle on the other.
Other Smaller Markets:
These are the main Easter Markets in Prague, but you will find other smaller ones scattered around town: in the Republic Square, on Kampa Island, on Havelská Street, on the Anděl pedestrian area, and at Náměstí Míru, to name a few other locations.
Traditional Czech Food and Drinks to Try at the Easter Markets in Prague
At every Easter Market you will find at least one stall cooking a roast lamb or a roast ham over an open fire. The sizzling and crackling sounds and the aroma produced by a combination of barbecue and roasting will tap into your senses.
One of the Czech Easter specialities is the roast lamb with herb stuffing, which for lamb lovers is impossible to resist..
The klobásais a thick sausage made with pork meat, spicy smoked paprika, garlic and marjoram, grilled on giant barbecues and served in a long soft bun, topped with sauerkraut and crispy onions. It is widely found in the Easter Markets in Prague
Usually, the stands selling potato dumplings will consist of at least five different varieties, each one more delicious than the last. Among the most popular are the potato dumplings with ham and cabbage, with sausage and cabbage or spinach. They are served in generous bowls for around 50 korunas each, which is less than £2.
Trdelník, also known as chimney cake, is a delicious dessert born in Eastern Europe, and widely popular in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. It consists of a sweet dough which is wrapped around a wooden stick to make it hollow in the middle, before baking it over an open fire. trdelník is usually served hot, coated with different ingredients such as sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, walnuts, or coconut. In Prague, it is very popular to have trdelník served with an ice cream filling.
Hot Honey Wine
The honey wine, or Medovina, is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting honey, water and yeast. It is the perfect drink to have in the evenings, when the weather turns chilly whilst strolling around the Easter Markets in Prague.
Medovina tastes sweet, and it is like a balm for your throat, warming you up. Be careful though, as it contains quite a bit of alcohol. In the Easter Markets you can find the traditional as well as the flavoured Medovina wine. Some of the popular flavours of the honey wine are almond and sour cherry.
Traditional Souvenirs to Buy in the Prague Easter Markets
Hand Painted Easter Eggs
Hand painted eggs are part of a Czech tradition that has been around for centuries, even before Easter was considered to be a religious holiday. They represent the end of winter and the beginning of spring, and are called Kraslice.
The tradition says that girls must decorate the eggs and give them to boys on Easter Monday. Decorating eggs is a laborious process that can take a lot of time. The patterns are first drawn in pencil and then covered with beeswax, before dipping the egg in a darker colour. Then other motifs are drawn on the top, and the process is repeated, and so on until the design is ready. Removing the wax reveals the beautiful design, with intricate motifs and vibrant colours. To finish, tiny holes are made at the top and bottom of the egg to drain the contents inside. Ribbons are then threaded through the holes.
When you are shopping in the market, you will know just by looking at the prices which eggs have been hand painted, and which have been commercially made by machines. The hand decorated Kraslice will be much more expensive. They are gorgeous souvenirs to buy from the markets in Prague and display as your Easter table arrangement for years to come. You can even have them personalised with your name or a special message of your choice.
Braided Twigs With Ribbons
Pomlázka is a very intriguing Czech tradition. Boys braid together willow branches into whips, and decorate them with colourful ribbons. They are used to lightly whip girls’ legs on Easter Monday, to “give” good luck, health and fertility in the following year. In return, they ask for a painted egg, by singing “Hody, hody, doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný” – which roughly translates as “Feast, feast, please give me a painted egg, if not give me one white one and the hen will give you another one”. The girl gives the boy an egg and ties a colourful ribbon to his twig. The more girls they visit, the more ribbons their pomlázka will have.
You can find these willow twigs with colourful ribbons in the Easter Markets, both to buy, and as decorations for the stalls.
Hand Made Crafts
In the Prague Easter Markets you will find a selection of gorgeous hand made crafts such as original Bohemia crystal glassware, lace embroidered fabrics, wooden and ceramic decorations, puppets, and handcrafted jewellery.
Lamb Shaped Cakes
Whilst in the past lamb was a very popular dish on the Easter table, more recently less and less people choose it as a main meal. However, the lamb is still very present during the Easter dinner, not as a meat dish but in the shape of a cake. The beránek is a light, buttery sponge cake, with dried fruits or jelly inside and dusted with powdered sugar. It takes the shape of a lamb and it is the main dessert of the Easter day.
How is the Weather in Prague at Easter?
The Prague Easter Markets usually take place between the end of March and the beginning of April. This is when the city comes to life after winter and the city’s trees are blossoming, dressing up the Czech capital in white and pink. The weather is usually quite mild and sunny, with average temperatures of 14 degrees. In both March and April, Prague experiences an average of 6 days of rain each month.
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