Located in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Open from 10am-10pm.
Edinburgh isn’t the only city to host a Fringe Festival dedicated to comedy, theatre, music and dance. Praha (Prague) also holds a nine-day Fringe Festival which this year will start on 27th May and finish on 4th June 2011. Events will take place in nine venues in the beautiful Mala Strana area of the city.
Over the past 10 years Fringe Festival Praha has hosted works by local, national and many international companies who fly in annually for the event. Most shows are very visual, some are in English, some in Czech, most last for an hour, and all are designed to entertain, delight and, at times, even challenge.
If you want to get yourself in the mood for Christmas then why not head to the Czech Republic to enjoy a little festive cheer? Festivities begin on the 28th November when Christmas trees are lit up on town squares, cities are covered in Christmas decoration and the craft markets open. There is no more magical Christmas tree in the world than that at Prague Castle. While if you want to get your Christmas shopping done, there is an abundance of unusual gifts available at the traditional craft markets. There are displays of old Czech crafts such as woodcarving of sculptures and wooden kitchen utensils, making of straw Christmas ornaments and straw dolls, pottery, beeswax candles, original jewellery, and glass Christmas-tree decorations. A little bell made on the spot by a blacksmith in their stall could be an original Czech souvenir. Should you become hungry while shopping taste some traditional delicacies. Those with a sweet tooth will certainly enjoy the ‘trdelník’ (sweet pastry made from rolled dough usually topped with sugar and walnut mix) or roasted chestnuts. Visitors prefering something more savoury can try some meat dishes such as various kinds of sausages accompanied with Czech bread. And finally to keep yourself warm purchase a hot drink – a cup of mead, mulled wine or punch are typical for this time of year. For those who want to celebrate the religious nature of the holiday season there are thousands of nativity scenes displayed around the Czech Republic in the Advent time. Even live nativity scenes with real donkey and sheep can be seen on squares. The Czech Republic also has several museums that specifically focus on nativity scenes. Probably the most famous “Mecca” of nativity scenes is Třebechovice pod Orebem. The collections of this museum include over 300 nativity scenes created from various materials, the most prized of which is Probošt’s mechanical nativity scene. It is created from more than 2,000 mechanical parts. The Museum of Paper Crèches in Zábrdí u Husince in Southern Bohemia is undoubtedly worth seeing. There are around 800 paper crèches created all around the world. The biggest crèche measures almost 4 metres, while the smallest can fit in a matchbox. The museum is open all year round and admission is free. Christmas in the Czech Republic also means listening to Christmas and Advent melodies. This year people will sing carols together on Pilsen’s main square on the 15th December. As with every year it will be the largest mass carolling in the Czech Republic. Czech Christmas is inherently connected with the Czech Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba, Czech composer from the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Estates Theatre in Prague will present this work, also known as Hail, Master! on the 19th December. Then on 25th December you will have the opportunity to listen to the Czech Christmas Mass played by the Prague Chamber Orchestra in the Church of St. Simon and St. Jude on Dušní Street in Prague. The Prague State Opera will also be performing classical Czech Christmas pieces for its audiences. The Kühn Children’s Choir will sing songs from the works of Bohuslav Martinů, Vítězslav Novák, Zdeněk Lukáš, Petr Eben and Václav Trojan. For that final bit of cultural magic, take some time to visit the Czech castles and chateaux, such as Křivoklát, which are open to public during Christmas time. From the 1st December, visitors will also be able visit the Museum of Nativity Scenes. You can enjoy the festive atmosphere at Loket Castle as well on the 10th and 11th December when the traditional craft markets will take place at the castle courtyard.Then on the 18th December let yourself be enchanted by Baroque atmosphere of Wallenstein-style Christmas at the Mnichovo Hradiště chateau. Alternatively, special Christmas tours are prepared from 26th to 31th December at the chateau in Horšovský Týn. Christmas tours are also held on the first three Advent weekends at the Hořovice Chateau. You will be welcomed by guides in costumes who will relate to you the history of Christmas, its traditions, and Advent. Need to get into the Christmas spirit? Get yourself to the Czech Republic! You’ll be willingly partaking in festive cheer in no time!
Today the National Gallery in Prague has opened an exhibition celebrating Karel Škréta, his work and era (1610-1674). The exhibition will be held until 10 April 2011 in the Wallenstein Riding School Gallery and the Prague Castle Riding School Gallery in Prague.
Karel Škréta (1610-1674): His Times and Work will be the largest exhibition ever of the work of this major artist and founder of Baroque painting in Bohemia. In addition to Škréta’s artworks, the exhibition will also present works by Škréta’s son Karel Škréta the Younger, his students and workshop collaborators, selected works by artists whom Škréta met during his stays in Germany and Italy, and paintings that inspired Škréta in his own work.
For more information visit the Prague National Gallery website
Christmas Markets are a true highlight of the advent period and are sure to get everyone into the festive spirit. Head to one of the many markets in Eastern Europe to enjoy some real festive fare including local wine, beers, sausages and artisan crafts. Here’s our top ten…
During Advent Vienna is a city of nostalgia and romance with many concerts, nativity displays and traditional Christmas markets taking place throughout the city. The most renowned markets include the Viennese Christmas Markets on Freyung, at Spittelberg, at Am Hof and in front of the church of St. Charles Borromeo (Karlskirche).
Prague, Czech Republic
Christmas is a special time of year in Prague and the Christmas markets (Vanocni trh) are a key ingredient in the Czech festive magic. The Prague Christmas markets bring visitors and locals together to share the holiday spirit in a true ‘winter wonderland’ setting. The main markets can be found at the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square with smaller ones at Namesti Republiky and Havelske Trziste. Open 9am to 7pm daily.
The Festive Fair, held in the Town Centre (Breg and Cankarjevo nabrežje embankments, Prešernov trg square) is well known for its vibrancy and cheerful atmosphere. Festively decorated green stalls, designed specially for the fair, sell a fine choice of products suitable for giving as gifts including food and drink, clothes and fashion accessories. Open from 10am to 10 pm daily.
Each festive season Nuremberg’s Old Town is decorated in its Christmas regalia and the tempting aromas of mulled wine, sweet roasted almonds, sausages and gingerbread create a truly unforgettable atmosphere. The Christkindlesmarkt is situated in the heart of the city which is steeped in more than 400 years of tradition providing an international showcase for all Franconian and German Christmas Markets. While younger visitors can enjoy the Kinderweihnacht (Children’s Christmas Market) where historic steam-powered merry-go-rounds and other activities are waiting for them. Open from 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Thursdays, 9.30am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays, 10.30am to 8pm on Sunday.
Cologne holds an impressive seven Christmas Markets. The four largest Christmas markets are located at Cologne Cathedral, on the Alter Markt (Home of the Heinzel Christmas Market), on the Neumarkt and on the Rudolfplatz (Fairytale Christmas Market). Every year these four markets attract almost 2 million visitors. Open every day from 11am to 9pm.
With well over 50 Christmas Markets and advent bazaars every year, Berlin features prominently on Germany’s calendar of Yuletide events. A popular market is situated next to Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church amidst the bustle of shoppers on the high street between the Kurfüstendamm and Tauenzien. The Berlin Christmas Market shown on the map on the left is WeihnachtsZauber situated on the Gendarmenmarkt. This is probably one of the most popular markets in Berlin and is well sited in terms of nearby hotel accommodation. Open 9am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular Christmas fairs in Europe awaits the lovers of winter programmes this year again in the heart of Budapest, in Vörösmarty Square. There are more than 100 wooden pavilions, which sell unique high quality folklore and applied arts products. Christmas decorations, small presents, candles, gloves, woollen hats, wrought iron and woven products are also sold here, as well as other special articles that cannot be found anywhere else. You can experience the real wonders of winter while enjoying traditional products that have been evaluated by a jury, and satisfying your appetite at typical Hungarian buffets, which offer mulled wine, kürtoskalács (sweet Hungarian pastry), roast chestnuts and other market snacks. Open 10am to 8pm daily.
Sibiu Christmas Market is one of the most popular events of the year in the city. Being the first traditional Christmas Market opened in Romania, it was first held in 2007, in the Little Square located in the downtown area, with a total number of 38 wooden cabins. In 2008 and 2009, Sibiu Christmas Market took place in the Large Square, one of the best places to be visited in the historical center of the city. Open from 10am to 9pm daily.
Cologne in London, UK
Once again Londoners and visitors to the city can enjoy a taste of Cologne this Christmas at the London Southbank Christmas Market. While wandering about, look for and find unusual Christmas presents such as amber and silver jewellery, hand-crafted toys, fragile glass ornaments for your Christmas tree, hand tatted laces, tin toys, candles in all shapes and sizes, hand-made ceramics and creative metal design. Sip on a glass of glühwein or bottle of Kölsch” and nibble on some gingerbread hearts, roasted almonds and candies or even a delicious crepe. Open 11am to 8pm Mondays to Thursdays, and Sundays, 10am to 10pm Fridays and Saturdays.
Estonia’s medieval capital is inherently festive and though temperatures do dip quite drastically this time of year, the city’s celebratory atmosphere does well to dispel the cold. Tallinn’s Christmas Market may be one of the most recently established but it is now among the most well-loved in Europe. December’s darkness is dispelled with colourful lights, music and an abundance of activity. Head to Tallinn’s Town Hall Square, Raekoja Plats, and visit more than 50 merchant stalls featuring products by local artisans. These stalls surround a beautiful Christmas tree. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
The first Strings of Autumn Festival took place in 1996. Since that time, the festival has established itself as one of the best-loved and most-respected in Prague, with its eclectic mix of jazz, classical and world music and a rabid appetite for musical discovery. This year’s anniversary will be marked by the Inspirations series, which sees the return of three artists whose first appearances were landmarks in the festival’s history – each as part of a new concert programme and in venues new to Strings.
The festival will run from the 19th of September and run until the 21st of November 2010.
Further information about the festival can be found at www.strunypodzimu.cz
The Czech Republic is one of the most popular places visited by European and American Westerners alike. If you are taking a trip this Easter check out some of the beautiful Easter Markets – they are simply not to be missed! An Easter Market is held every year in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square in Prague. Stalls with souvenirs and Easter products lure locals and visitors alike from 20 March to 11 April. In addition to shopping, an interesting cultural programme awaits. Spectators will enjoy folklore, folk music and dance in Old Town Square. There will also be a workshop for children, providing the youngest ones the possibility to braid switches into so-called “pomlázky” (birch rods) and to dye eggs.
Market places will of course sprout up in a variety of places in the Czech Republic. The South Moravian city of Znojmo, for instance, will celebrate the spring holidays from 29 March to 4 April. Easter markets filled with artisans, culture and attractions for children are being prepared. Children also can look forward to tours of Znojmo underground designed specially for them. www.znojmocity.cz
In Ceský Krumlov, Easter markets are held from 1 to 5 April and the attractive programme will be complemented this year by passion plays in the monastery garden. www.ckrumlov.info
People can also celebrate Easter at castles and chateaus. From 3 to 5 April, the event titled Princely Easter at Krivoklát will take place. You can expect to see an Easter market and concerts as well as masses and theatre performances. www.krivoklat.cz
After 125 years the original Orient Express service will grind to a halt for good on 12 December when the famous name will disappear from European timetables. During its heyday in the 1930s, the Orient Express ran between Paris and Istanbul with through coaches from Calais and Ostende for the benefit of UK travellers. Now the Danube Express will take up this mantle with a variety of journeys offered in May, June and September to and from Istanbul.
Istanbul is set to top travel hot lists next year after being named European Capital of Culture for 2010 and this coincides with the Danube Express’ arrival in the city. Reviving the Golden Age of rail and waiting to whisk passengers on a relaxed voyage of discovery is the Danube Express’ Istanbul Odyssey, an exotic overland adventure between London and Istanbul. Offering an altogether more civilised method of travel along this route than hitherto with deluxe en suite compartments, the Danube Express is ideal for those in search of a slice of nostalgia.
Jurys Inns has opened its first hotel on mainland Europe. The small Irish chain of hotels has finally opened its doors to locals and visitors in the Czech capital city, Prague. Holidaying in Eastern Europe has proven very popular with Irish people in recent years, proving to be an accessible, affordable location steeped in history and culture.
Jurys Inn Prague now offers an inexpensive accommodation offer without having to compromise on comfort, style or a central location. The hotel employs 60 people, bringing the total number of employees in the Jurys Inns Group to over 2,000, due to the recent expansion.
The 214 bedroom hotel is located within short walking distance of Prague’s old historic town centre and other key attractions such as the romantic Charles Bridge and the idyllic Prague Castle. If you are thinking of an Autumn Break, Prague is an ideal spot, offering the perfect mix of culture, shopping and nightlife while still offering great value for money for Irish clients.
Belvilla’s Eastern Promise is a company dedicated to helping you make the most of your travel money in countries that do not use the Euro. The holiday company provides holidaymakers with premier self-catering accommodation which will not blow your budget. Here at Charlotte’s VVeb we have picked our favourites:
Praha, CZ Republic
4*, sleeps 6, £809 per week
The Design Apartment (100m) located in The Art Residence, a historic 19th century building in the center or Prague is a spacious, bright apartment with a Jacuzzi situated on the ground floor. The rear rooms overlook the garden and the front rooms look onto a beautiful historic building. The surrounding area features authentic Czech restaurants, pubs, shops and major attractions including Vitkov hill, the avant-garde TV Tower and a modern Jewish cemetery. The immense and charming Riegrovy sady Park is just around the corner offering you a breathtaking view of the Prague Castle and the Old Town rooftops.
3*, sleeps 6, £1003 per week
This 77sq. m. apartment is situated in the heart of Budapest where it resides in a beautiful building – an historic monument no less – within a stone’s through from the well-known square Oktogon with its magnificent Opera House and the famous promenade of “Váci utca,” Vörösmarty Square, the Heroes Square, the City Park and the Széchenyi Baths.
Vakantiepark Laguna Bellevue
4*, sleeps 4, £310 per week
Tasteful, modern and luxurious furnished, the houses of Vakantiepark Laguna Bellevue have a covered balcony (type loggia) with garden furniture affording spectacular views of the sea and provide you with an ideal location from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Euphrasius’ Basilica in Porec which dates back to Byzantine times. Look out for the series of Byzantine mosaics, picturing Christ, the Apostles and the Virgin Mary. Euphrasius, Bishop of Porec, had the basilica built on the site of the older city basilica (some of which has been excavated), along with a series of accompanying buildings that together were to create one of the great architectural complexes of the time. Using craftsmen from Constantinople and Ravenna, the bishop’s ambitious idea was to bring in architectural and artistic innovations, the like of which had not been seen in the West at that time. Nearby you can also explore the village of Nova Vas and the famous Baredine Cave which offers a treasure chest of stalagmites and stalactites – those mysterious subterranean sculptures created over time by the slow dripping of water. Some of the rock shapes have taken on recognisable forms, including a realistic rendition of Our Lady, the leaning tower of Pisa, some ten-meter high curtains and a milkmaid who goes by the name of Milka. Other points of interest include a 66-metre deep crater that leads to a series of underground lakes. There are living curiosities as well as those made from stone – watch out for the tiny transparent crabs that crawl along the cave walls.
3*, sleeps 8, £519 per week
Mountain Escapism and Natural Thermal Baths
This new, beautifully furnished holiday home of 120m2 lies in the western High Tatra. Vychodna is the ideal base for mountain walks, mountain biking and interesting excursions. You can relax in the thermal bath in Liptovsky Jan (20 km) or in the Tatralandia Aqua Centre in Litovsky Mikulas (27 km).
In the High Tatra you can visit the wonderful mountain lakes of Hincovo, Modre, Popradske. The impressive Strbske, Kmetov and Skok waterfalls and Belianska and Vazaecka caves are also in close proximity. The Pribylina Open Air Museum, the wooden church in Svaty Kriz, Kezmarok Castle and Strazky Monastery are all well worth a visit as well.
All villas can be booked through www.belvilla.co.uk or by calling 020 8099 0751