Prague at Sunrise, Czech Republic

Prague sunrise Czech Republic

Overlooking Prague at Sunrise, Czech Republic

Bathed in soft, chilly rays of sunshine, the ancient cobblestones, facades and walls of ancient Prague add a warm glow of luminescence on a chill winter day. Though the cold can be biting, winter is the perfect season to pay this amazing city a visit. Not only are crowds thinner, but the city is alive with Christmas – from some of the best Christmas markets in Europe to live seasonal concerts to streets dancing with trees, wreaths, lights and more. Roasted chestnuts, hot wine and local sweet rolls are made and sold on every corner. It is impossible to escape the festive attitude – especially when the snow sweeps in, dusting and blanketing every surface with a layer of soft, white snow! Follow this steep, narrow street up the top of Prague where you’ll come face-to-face with a castle of epic proportions, layered with stones and stories, overlooking not just Prague but a good chunk of Czech Republic (or Czechia) as well. Prague is a perfect Christmas destination in the making!


More Perfect European Winter Destinations
  1. Aosta Valley, northern Italy
  2. Val de Susa, northern Italy
  3. Strasbourg, France
  4. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
  5. Warsaw, Poland
  6. Southwestern Norway

 

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Christmas market in Prague, Czech Republic

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Market Square, Prague, Czech Republic

Christmas markets have been under attack lately, unfortunately quite literally. Besides the obvious sadness surrounding this, the changing dynamics of Christmas markets (i.e., the need to secure them as if they are war zones), is a sad notion. These markets are an old – in fact, very old – tradition through much of Europe. Beginning their tale in medieval times in the Germanic regions of central Europe, the first markets were held in the 14th and 15th centuries in order to officially ‘initiate’ the Christmas season (or the ‘Advent’). They are meant to be places of merriment – food, drink, music and dancing are common elements – as well as places of economy – merchants and artisans peddle their goods to Christmas shoppers – and, in a historical sense, a place of religion with Nativity scenes and theatrical productions from the Bible, though this element has fallen from popularity in modern Europe. The most famous Christmas markets are still often found in the Germanic part of Europe, such as Dresden, Vienna, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Dortmund, Cologne and of course Prague, though this tradition has spread to nearly every major and many minor cities in Europe. From Lincoln, England to Sibhiu, Romania, from Lyon, France to Tallinn, Estonia, Europe’s main squares have been dotted, lined and filled with stalls of all shapes and sizes, peddling artisanal goods such as jewellery, clothing, soaps, food, chocolate, wood carvings, paintings, perfumes, knives, dolls, toys, puzzles, figurines, sausages, blankets, tea leaves, scarves, Christmas ornaments, and pretty much anything else one can think of to Christmas shoppers of all kinds. They are a place associated with joy, the gift of giving, and the Christmas spirit, and are a long-lasting tradition throughout Europe. Let’s hope they stay that way…

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Christmas Lights in Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw lights

Christmas Lights in Warsaw, Poland

It gets cold in Poland; everyone knows that. And, okay, five months of the sun setting around 15h does get annoying after awhile. But you have to hand it to the Polish – they do a good job at making the best of their long winters. For example, around Christmastime and extending through January and February, Warsaw’s streets, squares and other public places are decorated with brightly-lit, fun-shaped decorations. Christmas markets in Central and Eastern Europe are worth the time spent in the chilly air. Certain days, there is light show in the main square. People sell hot wine on the streets. This past year, they set up a small light maze at Wilanow, the former Summer Palace (now part of Warsaw). The theme at the time (2013) was “games” – hence the giant cards and figures representing the different suites, chess pieces, a Magic 8 ball (which for reasons unknown actually said “7” – perhaps it is only supposed to represent a pool ball), etc. With the over-sized, over-simplified objects, all game pieces from a hodgepodge of games, one feels bit like Alice walking through a very cold and very dark Wonderland. Bizarre, a little, but still. You have to appreciate the effort. Just because it’s cold and dark doesn’t mean that Warsaw or anywhere in Poland has to be miserable.


More Beautiful Night Photography in Europe
  1. Torino, Italy under the stars
  2. The French Alps lit by moonlight
  3. The Canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands as evening falls
  4. The Rhone River in Lyon, France by day & night
  5. Headlights of a romantic tram in Antwerp, Belgium