Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí)
Traditionally, most tourists meet New Year’s Eve in Prague’s main square — Old Town Square.
The famous astronomical clock Pražský orloj (Prague Eagle) will strike twelve at midnight. After that, crowds of tourists and citizens will move to Charles Bridge to touch the statue of Jan Nepomucký and make a wish. According to legend, he, being a vicar, refused to reveal to King Wenceslas IV the secret of his wife Sophia’s confession. For this, the ruler tortured Nepomucký and then ordered him to be thrown from a bridge into the river. This act caused an uprising, during which the king was deposed from the throne, and Jan Nepomucký gained fame as the defender of Bohemia. According to legend, any wish made at the statue of the saint is sure to come true.
- How to get there: metro station «Staroměstská».
Prague New Year’s fireworks: December 31
The most recognizable symbol of Prague on New Year’s Eve is the fireworks, which ring out over the entire city during the holidays. They can be divided into private fireworks, i.e. those that residents and visitors launch themselves, and state fireworks, which are launched on the evening of January 1.
The best view of private fireworks on December 31 is on Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí). Along the square, which looks more like a boulevard, there are stores, shopping centers and restaurants. Fireworks are fired in the middle of crowds and there is a risk of injury, so there are ambulances and police on duty in the square. It is more convenient to watch the fireworks from the top point, where the square runs downhill.
We arrived at the square by 23:30. Coming out of the subway, we oriented ourselves to the rumble of fireworks: they were already in full swing. By that time the square was completely packed with people. The most salutes were launched at midnight.
The subway on New Year’s Eve runs longer than usual — until 02:00 at night, the interval between trains is about 10 minutes. In addition to the subway, there are also night streetcars, so it is easy and cheap to get to the hotel located far from the historical center.
- How to get there: metro station «Můstek», «Muzeum»; streetcar no. 3, 5, 6, 9, 24, stop «Václavské náměstí».
Fireworks on January 1
The city’s main fireworks are launched on Letná not on December 31, but the next day, January 1 at 18:00. It is not just a fireworks display, but a whole show with musical accompaniment.
The best view of the fireworks is from 3 points: Karlův most, Čechův most and Manesův most. Locals come to Letenské sady (Letenské sady), but its territory is 25 hectares, so you need to know the place in advance.
- How to get there: metro stations «Staroměstská" (Charles Bridge) and «Malostranská" (Chekhov, Manesov Bridge, Letenskie Gardens).
Few markets in Prague are open until New Year’s Eve, because the main winter holiday in the Czech Republic is Catholic Christmas. Most fairs stop working on December 24, Christmas Eve.
Christmas is celebrated quietly and peacefully, in a family circle. On the day of the holiday, masses are held in churches, Christmas songs are sung, and lonely tourists stroll the streets. All establishments are closed, official holidays are December 24, 25 and 26.
New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, is celebrated in large groups, noisily and with a bang. Many Prague citizens leave the city, leaving it to the tourists who overflow the streets of Prague on New Year’s Eve. For Czechs, New Year’s Eve is not as important as Christmas, so most New Year’s Eve events are oriented towards tourists.
The country’s main fair is located on Old Town Square. The second largest is located on Wenceslas Square. Another small fair is located on the island of Kampa.
Festively decorated stalls sell all kinds of souvenirs, Bohemian glassware, candles, Christmas decorations, knitted mittens, and iron trinkets forged by blacksmiths right on the square. Even on New Year’s Eve there are tents with national dishes — roulka, Old Bohemian pancakes, sausages, potatoes with sauerkraut, bacon and halushki, fried cheese, as well as with hot drinks — wine, grog, liquor.
- Opening hours: from 30.11 to 06.01, from 10:00 to 22:00 every day. Fair on Kampa Island — from 07.12 to 06.01.
- Up-to-date information about the fair schedule can be found on the website.
- Information about the festivities is available on Prague’s official tourist website.
When buying street food, don’t hesitate to ask the seller about the prices written on the sign near the stall. Often the price is given per 100 grams. To try a popular dish — potatoes with cabbage, bacon and halushki, I had to buy ≈ 600 gr (that’s a portion) and pay 350 CZK instead of the expected 50 CZK.
Restaurants for New Year’s Eve in Prague
A good option for New Year’s Eve in Prague is to visit one of its many restaurants and pubs. In order to choose a better place, you should make reservations at the beginning of December. It is better to find out the nuances of reservations and services on the restaurant’s website. I can add that in Prague you can find an establishment with a holiday program for every taste and purse.
Instead of restaurants, you can celebrate New Year’s Eve in the middle of the Vltava River on a motorboat. For the sum of 70 — 180 € a tourist will get a festive dinner, entertainment program, dancing and a stunning view of Prague fireworks from the upper deck of the boat. You can book here and here.
If you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Prague, it’s best to know a few local nuances in advance.
- On December 31, most grocery stores are open until 16:00—17:00. If you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve in your room or on the square, take care of drinks and snacks in advance.
- Try not to buy groceries in Vietnamese stores in the historic center — there the markups are two to three times higher than in Albert, Tesco, Billa supermarkets.
- There is no special entertainment program. Tourists and townspeople entertain themselves, with the help of all-night tents with mulled wine and Czech food.
- The city’s main fireworks display is not on December 31, as we are used to, but on January 1.
- The first day of January is an official holiday. Many things are closed.