Prague has a packed calendar of annual events ranging from international festivals to local traditions, often linked to the events that shaped the strong Czech national identity.
For classical music lovers, Prague is a true paradise, with concerts practically every day in elegant theatres and concert halls or outdoors in the summer months. Don’t like classical music? Don’t worry, Prague is a capital city with a strong alternative and underground streak, with small and large events dedicated to less conventional musical genres.
Anniversaries and festivities related to the events of independence are very popular, as are Christmas celebr ations and other now international holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween.
Added to this is a rich variety of events in the most diverse fields, such as theatre, dance, folklore, fashion, sport…. Below is a list of the most important events in Prague.
Many tourists choose Prague to celebrate the end of the old year and the beginning of the new– why? Because Prague lit up at night is simply magnificent and provides an atmospheric backdrop for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In the Czech Republic, 6 January, also known as ‘Twelfth Night’, marks the end of the Christmas festivities. It is celebrated with songs and gifts.
On 19 January a crowd gathers in Wenceslas Square to remember the young Jan Palach, a university student who set himself on fire in rebellion against the communist regime.
The cold Prague winter is warmed by the festive atmosphere of the Czech Republic’s most famous Masopust.
Masopust is the Czech version of carnival. Numerous festivals are held in many cities with street parties, dancing, concerts and fireworks, but Prague’s attracts the most tourists. It is held in Zizkov, the ‘working-class’ district of Prague; it starts a week before Ash Wednesday and ends with Shrove Tuesday.
From the end of February to the Easter weekend, the annual St. Matthew’s Fair takes place at the Holešovice fairgrounds, a fair that is already 400 years old. In a huge funfair with roller coasters, shooting galleries, antique and modern rides and a giant Ferris wheel, children will go crazy with joy and adults will become children again!
Founded in 1993, the Febiofest (also known as the Prague International Film Festival) is named after the independent film and television company that organises it.
With an eye on the comfort of cinema-goers, the festival specialises in feature films, presenting both the best films of the last year and international premieres, by famous or emerging authors. Smaller sections include experimental films, children’s films and LGBT cinema.
After the screenings, festival guests can continue their evening by attending one of the concerts of the parallel Febiofest Music Festival, which features jazz, blues, avant-garde and alternative rock music.
Also in March, another important film festival is held in Prague: the One World Film Festival, dedicated to films and documentaries on socially relevant topics. The screenings are mostly held in small city halls.
A traditional festival that inflames the spirits of Prague is the burning of witches: we are joking of course, only puppets of old witches are burnt as a propitiatory rite to celebrate the end of winter.
Traditional bonfires are held in Výstavište, while the island of Kampa is famous for its night bonfires, real parties that last well into the morning.
The most important book fair in the Czech Republic is held in Výstavište, the Prague fairground, in April.
Although it is an insider’s event, it is also open to the public and offers a rich calendar of presentations, meetings and readings. The interesting note is that many of these events are in English, an easier language to learn than Czech!
Perhaps Prague’s most famous event outside the Czech Republic, the Prague Spring International Music Festival is a prestigious classical music festival that has been featuring performances by top artists, symphony orchestras and chamber music ensembles from around the world for over 70 years.
The festival is highly appreciated both for the high artistic quality of the concerts on the programme and for the exceptional locations in which they are held, which include magnificent churches, historical buildings and some of the most prestigious theatres in Europe.
Labour Day is also celebrated in Prague on 1 May. Here, however, it is a holiday for lovers, to be celebrated with picnics or romantic walks.
A recent tradition is for couples to pay their respects at the grave of romantic poet Karel Hynek Mácha, author of ‘May’, a poem about unrequited love.
Could a major city lack an international marathon? Of course not, and Prague also has its own marathon, which has been held in early May for more than 20 years and attracts athletes from more than 70 countries around the world.
It takes place along a truly spectacular route, difficult to find in other competitions, and is therefore considered one of the most beautiful marathons in the world.
Very special is the Khamoro Festival, a celebration of Roma culture with performances of traditional music, dance, art exhibitions and photography. The highlight of the festival is a parade along the Old Town, usually held towards the end of May.
Theatre, music, cabaret and lots of fun in the heart of one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals: these are the ingredients of the Prague Fringe Festival, the most important English-language theatre festival in continental Europe.
There are nine days of extravaganza in all, from late May to early June, with more than 40 shows on the programme and a total of over 200 performances, enough to keep you busy every day from late afternoon to evening!
It’s not just classical music in Prague. Contemporary dance is in constant turmoil and there are plenty of opportunities to see good performances or take part in classes and workshops.
The most important event for fans of contemporary dance and dance-theatre is Tanec Praha (Dance Prague), a festival held every June since 1989. Artistic quality, experimentation, diversity and topicality are the main criteria for selecting the performances on the programme.
6 July is another date dear to the citizens of the Czech Republic, who gather the evening before at the Bethlehem Chapel to commemorate the death at the stake of Jan Hus, a religious reformer who became a symbol of national identity.
Another classical music festival, but this time dedicated to young people: since 1992, the Young Prague festival has given young musicians, singers, composers and conductors the opportunity to showcase their talent to an international audience.
Prague Autumn is exactly what the name says: the autumn version of the prestigious Prague Spring classical music festival. For the autumn version, most of the performances are held at the Rudolfinum.
Still little known to tourists, Prague’s wine festivals are very popular with locals, who come together every year to celebrate the end of the grape harvest with traditional festivities featuring concerts, shows and food stalls with typical products. The star of these festivals is of course wine, mostly new wine and a partially fermented wine called ‘burčák‘.
The largest and most popular grape harvest festival in Prague is the Wine Festival in Grebovka (Havlíčkovy sady), while one of the oldest is the St. Wenceslas Festival, which has been held every year since the 10th century beneath Prague Castle, on the oldest vineyard in the Czech Republic: St. Wenceslas Vineyard.
Since 1964, the International Jazz Festival has been a fixture for jazz fans in Prague: two weeks of music at the Reduta Jazz Club with Czech and international artists.
The festival starts at the end of October and lasts until the beginning of November.
A whole different kind of music is played at the Alternativa Festival, which features mostly experimental electronic music but also gives space to free jazz, improv, post-rock, noise and other minor genres.
A showcase for new quality musical trends, the festival also has a section dedicated to young musicians (Mala Alternativa) who have the opportunity to propose their musical projects to a jury of experts.
On 17 November, peaceful demonstrations are held on Wenceslas Square to commemorate the events that led to the Velvet Revolution, the process that began the break-up of the communist regime in the Czech Republic in 1989.
But 17 November is also the anniversary of a student uprising against the Nazi regime that took place in 1939. This is why it was chosen as International Students’ Day and is also remembered as the Day of the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy.
Prague is filled with magic at Christmas, making it one of the most visited cities in Europe during the Christmas season.
Prague’s Christmas markets are perfect for buying Christmas items, handicrafts and traditional Czech Christmas decorations. You can warm yourself up with excellent mulled wine, fragrant trdelnik or hot mead and snack on sugar-roasted nuts (or if you prefer something more substantial a sausage or frankfurter sandwich).
The most famous are held on Old Town Square, but you can also find them on Wenceslas Square, Charles Square and in the Municipal House.
A chilling (cold) Christmas tradition is the river swimming competition held on 26 December each year. Intrepid swimmers vie for victory, heedless of the freezing water temperatures, which can reach up to three degrees!
Here is the calendar of public holidays in the Czech Republic:
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