If you want to try something a bit different, I’d recommend that you taste some of the delicious Czech food available during the festive time. So I’ve put together a guide to the most favourite 19 traditional Czech Christmas foods and drinks for you to try during your visit to Prague.
You can get all of these at the famous Prague Christmas Markets, bakeries, restaurants, local supermarkets in the centre of Prague or cafes. I’d recommend that you buy the traditional Christmas cookies in one of the artisan bakeries or at the bakeries at many farmer’s markets in Prague as they often sell a selection box and the quality is much better than in the supermarkets.
The traditional Czech self-service restaurants will also have more festive dishes on their menus and since their menus change daily, there is always something new for you to try.
I’ve also noticed that most local artisan bakeries add Vanocka Christmas Bread to their daily offerings and the festive flavours find their way to the best breakfast cafes in Prague, which makes eating out just that extra special.
TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS SWEETS
1. Vanocka Christmas Sweet Bread
Vanocka is a light brioche-style bread with almonds and dried fruits, which is similar to Easter Mazanec and often eaten for a festive breakfast with coffee or tea. You can buy it pretty much anywhere in the food shops, but I always buy mine from a local bakery (Liberske Lahudky, Na Knizeci, Smichov), because they bake it using a traditional recipe with butter, cream and eggs. This makes a big difference to the taste of Vanocka and it tastes delicious!
2. Stola – Stollen Christmas Cake
Since Czech traditional cuisine has roots in German cuisine, it’s not surprising that stollen cake (Stola) is also added to the Czech Christmas tables. Stola is a slightly heavier and richer sweet dough cake with marzipan, almonds, raisins and dried citrus fruit.
3. Pernicky – Gingerbread Cookies
These are my absolute favourite cookies to bake at Christmas because we used to always make them at home and I loved decorating them with lemon icing. You will see gingerbread cookies at many stalls at Christmas markets, sold in different sizes, but you can also buy them any time of the year at the cute gingerbread shops (Nerudova 254/9, Haštalská 757/21 or Cihelna 635 – opposite the Franz Kafka Museum).
4. Vcely Uly – Christmas Beehive Cookies
For some reason (well, it’s because they are easy to make and don’t need baking…) Vcely Uly has become very popular in recent years. Aside from the slight sniggering on my part, Vcely Uly is actually really tasty, so I’m glad it’s not just another gimmick like the trdelnik or honey cake.
Vceli Uly are made with no-bake biscuit crumbs and butter outer layer, which is filled with light vanilla cream with rum or egg nog filling. They resemble a bee hive, which is where the name comes from. I make them every year for Christmas and if you like them, you can try my easy recipe for these traditional Beehive cookies any time of the year.
5. Linzen Christmas Cookies
These vanilla shortbreads are layered with red-currant jam and cut into different shapes – often a star, heart or a simple circle. These cookies are usually quite soft and not too sweet and the red-currant jam compliments the vanilla flavour beautifully.
At home, we make these quite small, but I’ve seen them in bakeries and shops as a larger version. It’s also one of the types of traditional Czech Christmas cookies that you can see being sold all year round – it’s usually a heart or a flower shape.
6. The bear paws – medvedi pracky
These are walnut cookies with a slight cocoa flavour in the shape of a bear paw. They are very popular because they taste great, but they are also fairly easy to make. The sellers at the Christmas markets always have good selections and you can buy a whole box with different types of Christmas cookies, including the bear paws.
7. Vanilla Crescents – Vanilkove Rohlicky
Nice and soft with a hint of vanilla these little cookies, shaped like a moon or a little crescent rolls are always popular during Christmas in our house. You can also see them selling at the Christmas Markets and sometimes the bakeries make a slightly larger version to go with your coffee.
8. Vanocni Cukrovi – Christmas Cookies
I’ve only listed the most common types of Czech Christmas cookies, but there are many, many more! So, if you see any other types, just go for it and taste them and you won’t be disappointed, they are all good!
CHRISTMAS SAVOURY DISHES
9. Breaded Fried Carp & Cold Potato Salad
This is the traditional Czech Christmas Dinner since the 1960s and it’s probably the one I would recommend that you try with caution. The combination of hot breaded carp with cold potato salad is very strange, but more importantly, you need to be super careful as the carp has a lot of small and very sharp bones.
This dish is practically impossible to eat when you are hungry. If you still want to try this traditional Czech dinner, I’d recommend that you ask about the type of carp that’s being used. It’s practically impossible to have a boneless carp fillet, but some places might be able to prepare it with a minimum amount of bones.
10. Breaded & Fried Chicken or Pork schnitzel with Cold Potato Salad
Because schnitzel is an all-time favourite meal in the Czech Republic, it has recently become a new alternative to the traditional Christmas dinner. Whilst you can have this meal any time of the year, it’s usually just before Christmas when you’ll see the schnitzel being served with cold potato salad.
If you are not keen on the cold potato salad, have it with boiled potatoes and pickled cucumber. You can also have chips or mashed potatoes with the schnitzel. Whilst totally delicious, it’s definitely not super healthy as the meat is deep fried, but as an occasional treat, it’s great!
11. Fish soup
So, whilst I’m not much of a fan of the traditional fried carp + cold potato salad combo, I really like the traditional fish soup, which is always served as a starter on Christmas Eve.
It’s usually made from carp fish (but it doesn’t usually have bones in it), vegetables, flour and sometimes cream. The soup is normally served with lightly fried bread or white roll croutons and it’s light, delicious, hot and filling!
12. Roasted Duck, stewed red cabbage & dumplings
Whilst you can get this type of dish any time of the year, this was the traditional Czech Christmas dinner for the upper classes at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s now coming back as the main dish for Christmas dinner and I have to say, that in the depth of a cold winter day, it is is a much better choice of food than cold salad with fried fish!
The roasted duck is usually made simply and without a sauce, but it’s served with stewed (usually red) cabbage. The cabbage can be sometimes done with spices and wine, but most of the time it’s again quite simply stewed.
My favourite is potato dumplings, but you can also get regular flour dumplings or special Karlovarske Dumplings, which are round and have a piece of white rolls and parsley in them (don’t worry they look and taste better than they sound!)
13. Roasted Chestnuts
Roasted chestnuts used to be very popular in the first half of the 20th century, but I really don’t remember them when I was growing up. That’s probably because most of the chestnuts have to be imported as the Czech Republic doesn’t grow that many edible chestnut trees. There are only three main chestnut-growing parks in the whole Czech Republic and they are protected and not used for harvesting.
Since roasted chestnuts are such as traditional Christmas treat everywhere else, it’s nice to see them back in Prague too. Any Christmas Market in Prague centre will have them and they are so delicious!
14. Svarak – Mulled Wine
Traditional mulled wine or Svarak as we call it in Czech, is the best way to start the Christmas cheer. You can get them everywhere in Prague, especially at the Christmas markets, cafes and outdoor stalls.
My favourite way is to meet up with friends at the Peace Square (Namesti Miru) in front of the St.Ludmila church and browse the Christmas market with hot mulled wine in my hands. I’ve noticed, that some stalls also offer a non-alcoholic version, which is great if you like the taste, but don’t want to get too tipsy!
15. Mead – Medovina
Traditional Czech mead is warmed and sometimes spiced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger or nutmeg and sold at all Chrismas Markets and farmer’s markets in Prague. It’s very sweet and quite strong.
16. Spiced Hot Pear or Apple Juice (with or without alcohol)
I don’t think that this is an entirely traditional drink, but it certainly has been around for the last 25 years or so. The drink is made with pear or apple juice spiced with similar spices like mulled wine (like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger etc.) and served hot with or without a dash of alcohol. It’s quite a sweet drink, but a real pick-me-up when it’s cold!
17. Hot Grog Rum
Whilst the original version of ‘grog’ is cold water with rum, the Czech version is usually served hot. It’s also often made as a strong black tea with sugar, lemon and rum added in at the end. Every family has probably a slightly different version, so don’t be surprised if you taste grog from different stall vendors and it will taste slightly differently every time!
18. Egg Nog – Vajecny Liker
Egg nog is made with eggs, cream and rum and is often served at Christmas on its own or added to coffee or hot chocolate. I also use egg nog to make my filling for Beehive cookies. If you’ve never tried egg nog before, it’s quite light and sweet with a slight taste of vanilla and cream. If you like Irish cream or baileys, you’ll like Egg nog. If you want to take a bottle back with you, you can buy it at the local supermarket.
19. Christmas Hot Chocolate
I always love trying different hot chocolates as there are so many different flavours! Every cafe, shop and outdoor seller tries to invent the best Christmas flavour ever and you can get anything from the basic hot chocolate with marshmallows, to festive flavours such as mint, cinnamon, and salted caramel or have hot chocolate with egg nog, rum or gingerbread.
This blog post was originally written on 26 November 2023 and last updated on 26 November 2023