Most of us are familiar with the colour and excitement of European Christmas markets, but if you haven't yet experienced Prague's Easter Markets, then a real treat lies in store.
The Prague Easter Markets combine Christian traditions with ancient celebrations of spring, and they are truly joyous occasions, packed with beautiful handicrafts, mouth-watering food, enticing activities and the superb chance to experience Czech culture like a local.
The markets are centred around Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square, and they feature upward of 150 dressed stalls each year. You will also find smaller ones at Republic Square, Prague Castle and Kampa Island. Each is a feast for the eyes, with the squares joyously decorated with spring blooms, colourful ribbons, lights and birch tree branches.
Keep your eyes peeled for varied entertainments, too. Rabbit races, oyster-eating competitions are great fun for every kind of visitor, or join a workshop to hand-dye eggs into colourful decorations. Children gather to play games and to make decorative pomlázky braids and there is plenty on offer to delight very little ones, including a farm petting pen in the Old Town Square. Later in the afternoon, a packed series of cultural events and displays are put on for visitors of all ages, and there is nothing more enjoyable than finding a spot at a food stand or terrace bar with a hot coffee and plate of crepes to watch the events unfold. Relax in the early spring sunshine and allow your senses to be stimulated as the bright colours and celebratory atmosphere is enhanced with live performances from local choirs and orchestras.
Foodies can look forward to a vast array of delicious Czech food on offer. Try local delicacy sausages or crisp jacket potatoes cooked in embers for a tantalisingly smoky taste. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate topped decked with cream and a sprinkle of fragrant cinnamon. Open fires roast lamb and pork to release delectable aromas and tempt passers-by. For an afternoon treat, indulge in trdelník, which is a sweet dough cone, baked with almonds, mixed nuts and sugar crystals to make a delectable snack. Love fine Czech beer? You'll discover plenty of new favourites when you stop at one of the many open bar stalls, which become a great place to meet locals and tourists alike as the sun sets.
Prague Easter markets are also a shopper's paradise, especially for those who love unique, artisan pieces. Delicate handpainted eggs are an obvious draw and shown off to wonderful effect in multi-coloured displays. Look out for exquisite handmade jewellery, fine leatherwork and embroidered pieces to take home. Other stalls sell traditional wooden toys, puppets, ceramics, lacework and handmade glass gifts.
The markets run from March - April and the various markets are open daily from 9am - 7pm, so there is plenty of time for you to swing by and pick up something special.