Don’t know when to make your way to the Czech Republic? Panic not – a quick look at this run-down of the top annual events in its elegant capital, Prague, should make your decision that significant bit easier. Here you’ll find long-running film and classical music festivals, city-wide arts takeovers, and a heartily celebrated, ancient witch burning festival (yep, you heard right). This city may brim with excellent things to do and attractions, but among the very best are these first-rate annual Prague events. Take your pick.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Prague
Best events in Prague
With 25 years under its belt, Febiofest is the city’s largest film festival. Choose from almost 200 films across 15 categories – but act fast in case tickets sell out. There’s an accompanying music festival, too: dance the nights away to live music in an emptied-out parking garage beneath the cinema, where vendors sell beer and snacks and artists sell their wares.
The night of the witch burning, which takes place in most city parks, is a pagan ritual that commemorates the beginning of a long-awaited spring. This is probably one of the most fascinating Czech traditions you can experience as a tourist. As the straw-made witch goes up in flames over a bonfire, the crowd goes wild, while costumed dancers and drummers circle in. There’s plenty of grilled sausage and beer, too.
Although every day in Prague may feel like a beer festival, this gathering of 150 Czech breweries at Letná Park is not to be missed. From noon until midnight daily, you can explore the steadily growing Czech microbrewery scene and diversify beyond Pilsner Urquell and Budvar. Expect servers (and local beer fans) in traditional costumes, piles of Czech meats, and various DJs and bands that keep the party grooving.
Inspired by Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, Prague’s nine-day English-language Fringe Festival is where theatre, comedy, storytelling, music and dance collide. An eclectic group of local and international artists perform around 40 different shows, some of which have garnered rave reviews. The intimate, historical Malá Strana venues are also noteworthy – especially the building that was formerly a 16th-century alchemist’s lair.
This music-fuelled extravaganza celebrates the culture and traditions of the Roma people, the largest ethnic group in the Czech Republic, after the Vietnamese community. The festival offers a mix of entertainment and education, in the spirit of bringing Czech and Roma people closer together: previous years have included performances by internationally acclaimed gypsy jazz musicians, conferences and Roma-inspired fashion and photography exhibitions.
This highly acclaimed classical music festival brings together world-renowned conductors, orchestras, opera talent and instrumentalists for a three-week extravaganza across an array of impressive venues. Outdoor and church concerts are free, but for in-demand performances, buy tickets from December. Use the website’s ‘Inspirer’ feature to discover the concerts most aligned with your tastes. Tickets are also available for the Prague Spring International Music Competition, which runs simultaneously.
Since 2005, this free-entry festival has grown into one of the largest jazz festivals in Europe. After two days in Prague, the festival travels to a handful of other Czech cities. This year, the concerts take place on Old Town Square and will feature bands from all over the world.
When a city is bursting with designers, you know its design festival is going to be solid. Considered the largest event of its kind in central Europe, Designblok showcases cutting-edge Czech and European design talent, and wholly transforms the vast Výstaviště exhibition centre each year. You’ll also run into festival events and displays across the city in pop-up shops, public spaces, galleries, cafés and bookstores.
For five days in October, artists from around the world use the city’s iconic landmarks and historic buildings as their playground to create a series of interactive light-based artworks. At this time of year, daylight starts to fade by five o’clock, but these light art installations brighten the mood in Prague and bring the city’s ancient façades to life. Hop on a tram (9, 18 or 20 have decent routes) for a warmer way to experience the festival.
The Christmas markets in this mostly atheist nation’s capital are magnificent. The larger markets (Vánoční Trhy) at Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square boast enormous sparkling trees, medievally-attired men roasting ham, live classical music and Christmas carols, plus all manner of yummy festive treats. For better prices, try the Náměstí Míru and Jiřího z Poděbrad markets. Stay warm and energised with a hot cup of svařák (mulled wine), mead or cocoa.