At first glance, the idea of visiting Prague in January sounds like a horrible idea. The landlocked Czech Republic takes on a similar bitter chill and biting wind to Chicago in the winter months, and most of the best sights require sure-footed walking to take them in – if it’s cold out, it can be downright unpleasant!
Average weather for Prague in January is standard for central Europe. You may experience snow or clear skies, but no matter what – it’s going to be cold! Temperatures range from a low -4°C (25°F) at night to a high 2°C (35°F) during the day, and there are just three hours of sunshine per day. One out of every two days bring see rain or snow, and one-third of January days in Prague are windy. If you’re looking for true winter weather – Prague is the place to find it!
Despite the cold, snow, and wind, the ‘Mother of Cities’ is well worth exploring in the winter season. If you’re on the fence about spending a weekend or city break in Prague, consider these six reasons that January is actually the perfect time to visit Prague.
Cheaper Fares and Accommodation
It’s best to start with the tried-and-true rationale for traveling anywhere in the off-season: your biggest expenses of airfare and accommodation are significantly cheaper.
For example, if you’re flying from London to Prague in the summer months, you’ll probably pay an average of £150 per person, versus just £50 in January or February. Boom – you just saved 60+% by waiting six months. From farther abroad, flights from Los Angeles are $300 cheaper in January than June, making it the perfect point to start your European adventures.
Same goes for hotels: four-star properties in Prague are about $150/night (USD) in January, whereas in June those same hotels are around $250/night. As for Airbnbs, the price is about the same year-round – at least you won’t be paying a premium no matter when you go.
I stayed in this Charles Bridge Apartment. It was the cutest loft and a perfect base for exploring the city. (Here’s a link to get $40 off your first Airbnb stay.)
If you’re more of a hotel person, here are some options:
- Hotel Three Storks – On the Malá Strana side, a modern, spacious option (from $110/night, book on Hotels.com)
- Grand Hotel Praha – A more traditional option with fascinating architecture (from $156/night, book on Hotels.com)
- Hotel U Prince – In the heart of Old Town, right near the Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square (from $159/night, book on Hotels.com)
Sights are Less Crowded
We all know that the summer months bring swarms of tourists to Western Europe – Prague included. Especially now that Prague has become one of the hot-spots for affordable European travel. By choosing to travel to Prague in January, February, or March, you can see the same sights with fewer crowds.
Some of the Must-See Sights:
- Take a tour of Prague’s Old Town, from the Astronomical Clock to the winding pedestrian streets where shopkeepers will lure you in with trinket souvenirs, authentic craftsmanship, and warmth from their shops. Get lost on the cobbled streets on your own, or take a guided walking tour to learn the history of the city – just pack hand-warmers and bundle up!
- The ultimate tourist destination in Prague, Charles Bridge is crawling with tourists come mid-summer. In winter, it’s enjoyably open. Stop to listen to the street musicians, or admire the statues which stand in pairs down the whole length of the bridge. Never has crossing a river been so impressive.
- Explore Pražský Hrad (Prague Castle). This compound which is home to several of the most beautiful buildings in the city (including St. Vitus’ Cathedral, which took nearly 600 years to build), and the Crown Jewels of Prague. After a climb up to the castle, your descent will give you a beautiful view of the city, and plenty of photo opportunities.
- Visit Petřínské Sady. This park looks over the city from a different angle than others, and is home to the Memorial to the Victims of Communism. On a sunny day, the whole of Prague will be laid out before you, and if it’s too cold, you can tuck into the cozy Restaurant Nebozízek to warm up with local dishes of food.
Czech Cuisine Fights the Winter Chill
Speaking of Czech food… There is no better time to eat dumplings, potato soup, goulash, or other local foods than in the winter. A steaming plate of tender meat, vegetables and a rich gravy just wouldn’t compliment summer weather, but it’s the perfect way to warm up after a day of sightseeing.
Some of Prague’s Top Czech Restaurants:
- La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise is in the northern part of Old Town, and offers updated Czech cuisine in a chic, modern interior.
- Just south of Old Town, Restaurace Mlejnice is more traditional, featuring traditional stews and goulashes, plus wines from the Moravia region of the Czech Republic.
- Across the river, U Modré Kachničky offers a medieval dining experience in a dimly lit, richly decorated dining room.
- Beer fans can’t miss Pivovar U Tří Růží near Old Town, which brews six types on-site, and serves them with local dishes and Czech classics.
The same applies to local pastries like the houska (braided sweet bread), klobasnek (pastries wrapped around sausage), and unmissable sweet trdelnik (pictured above; flaky cyclinders of pastry goodness!). These delicious snacks are best hot from the oven and can easily be purchased from street vendors while you’re walking around Old Town
Pair with Local Drink for the Ultimate Winter Insulation
When visiting Prague, Becherovka has to be on your must-taste list. This herbal bitters is marketed as a “digestive aid” in the Czech Republic, and is the hallmark spirit of Prague. Enjoying it – before, during, and after meals – is a wonderful way to round out your dining experience. It’s also a completely socially acceptable way to stave off the cold before venturing back out into it.
Similarly, Czech wines from both Moravia and Bohemia come in a large range of varieties: 13 white grape and 6 black grape wines. After the wine festivals around harvest time (September), you can ask for the year’s best options in January once the locals have had a chance to sample and determine their favorites.
Spirits and wines not your thing? Obviously you can find great Czech beer in Prague too.
Winter Wonderland Photo Opportunities
By choosing to travel to Prague in January instead of December, you’ll miss the chance to see the Christmas holiday decorations, admittedly a magical sight. In January, Prague has a 50% chance of getting snow, on average. It’s usually not a huge snowfall, but if you’re lucky enough to visit when it does snow, the city transforms into a magical winter wonderland on its own.
See? Even the statues don cloaks of snow and the city takes on a lovely warm tone from all the street lamps.
You Really Want to Go
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably just needing a bit of a nudge to take the leap and book your trip, right? I’m never one to discourage travel, and having been to Prague in January myself I know how wonderful it can be.
So here’s that nudge: do it! You’re already considering dates, flights, hotels, and what you’ll be eating and drinking. Prague has a lot to offer in the winter. After all, how much nicer will your pictures be with virtually no one in them, even if your fingers feel like they might freeze off as you take the photo? It just calls for more Becherovka!
It is certainly cold, but there are plenty of great reasons to visit Prague in winter. If you have a destination like Prague on your list, take advantage of these reasons to snag a great deal on flights and enjoy a city break in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
This post was originally written in April 2014, and was updated in September 2016 and October 2018.