I woke up earlier than everyone else, determined to make the most of our short trip to Prague. It was around this time in January last year, so I was expecting sub-zero temperatures. I bundled myself in a white chunky knit scarf, hat and a matching grey sweater, my warm duffle coat, and thin black mittens I had only purchased the day before.
As I walked up to the heavy wood door of the Questenberk Hotel, I braced myself for a bone-chilling freeze. I was pleasantly surprised. The city was misty and chilly, but not finger numbingly cold. Just behind the hotel was Garden of Petřín Hill, which in the spring is a flourishing fruit orchard, but provides a perfect view of the town all-year round.
At that early morning hour I saw the city’s orange shingle rooftops scattered around its winding streets. There’s something about the fog blanketed over the Gothic architecture that’s just painfully…romantic.
Here are 7 reasons you should visit Prague in the winter:
1. It’s everything you imagine Eastern Europe to be like.
When I imagined Prague, I never thought of sunshine and riverboat cruises. In my mind Prague was this moody, grey city filled with imposing spired buildings and Communist-era block apartments. I pictured fog, mist, and really cool hats. Maybe I watched Anastasia a few too many times (yes, I’m aware that was in Russia) but it set the tone for every country that was once a part of the Soviet bloc in my head.
2. The architecture is prettier when covered by snow.
A walk around the Old Town and its Gothic turrets and Romanesque vaulting have this spell-binding quality when it’s frosty outside. Your shoes crunch in the snow and the white powder hugs every rooftop perfectly – it’s like they were made for each other.
3. There aren’t as many annoying bachelor/bachelorette parties.
Thanks to the cheap beer and variety of night life (but mostly the cheap booze) Prague has become stag- and hen- do central. Luckily for winter visitors, staggering around the Old Town singing loudly and wearing ‘Czech Me Out’ t-shirts on a pub crawl is not as appealing when it’s two degrees outside.
4. The tourists tend to stay home too.
While Prague is visited by about four million people every year, the majority come when it’s hot and sunny. Except around Christmas and New Year’s Eve of course – Prague has beautiful Christmas markets and wild nights where people like to ring in the New Year. But in the depths of winter you’ll find that you can have this capital city mostly to yourself and see that the best museum in Prague is the city itself.
5. Prague is pretty darn romantic in the winter.
Quick, romantic word association: cold. I’ll bet you thought cuddle! No? Okay, never mind. In all seriousness, they recently installed gas street lamps around the town just to add a little Old World romance to the city. Stop for one of a dozen flavours of hot chocolate at Choco Café and canoodle in one of their comfy sofa chairs. Visit one of the beautiful concert halls like the Rodolfinum or the colourful Rococo Kinský Palace for a lovely date night out.
6. Winter is the perfect time for indulging in Czech food.
In warm weather the last thing you want is a hot, heavy meal but we all know the Czech Republic doesn’t have much by way of fresh, local produce. In fact, Anthony Bourdain called Prague “Porkopolis” and “the land that vegetables forgot.” But when it’s cold there’s nothing a steaming hot goulash, stodgy dumplings, and foaming Pilsner won’t fix.
7. Accommodations are at their cheapest.
I recently wrote a guide for hotels in Prague and discovered that you can save a lot of money by travelling in the winter. The prices for the hotel we stayed at nearly doubled after February, and went up even more in the summer!