More tourists expected for holidays

But the number of Americans is expected to fall

During the Christmas holidays, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day some 5 percent more tourists are expected than last year, according to Prague City Tourism. Hotels and pensions will accommodate 250,000 people and a further 70,000 will use private rooms. Fewer Americans are expected, though, due to security concerns.

About three-quarters of the tourists coming to Prague will be from other countries in Europe. Germans, British, Italians, Slovaks, French, Austrians and Russians make up the largest groups, although the number of Russians has been falling. Prague also draws a lot of domestic tourists during the holiday season.

Americans make up the largest group of non-Europeans, but the number is expected to drop due to a US State Department advisory warning people to exercise caution when traveling in Europe. “U.S. citizens should exercise caution at holiday festivals, events, and outdoor markets. … U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when attending large holiday events, visiting tourist sites, using public transportation, and frequenting places of worship, restaurants, hotels, etc. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds, when possible,” the warning says in part. The warning expires Feb. 20, 2017.

For the entire month of December, Prague could see some 580,000 tourists staying in hotels and pensions, and a further 140,000 in private accommodations. Last December Prague saw 547,000 people in hotels and pensions, including 462,000 from abroad and 85,000 from the Czech Republic.

The Christmas markets are one of the big draws over the holidays, with the one at Old Town Square being the most popular. It is often ranked as one of the most attractive in Europe. The Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square markets stay open until Jan. 6.

Aside from Christmas, which is celebrated with state holidays Dec. 24–26, there is an unofficial celebration of St Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš), who comes Dec. 5 along with an angel and devil. Costumed people can be seen in the city center in the early evening.

Unlike most big cities, there is no official fireworks display at midnight on New Year's Eve. Instead, there is one at 6 pm on New Year's Day, which is also Czech Independence Day. The display is launched from Letná Park and can be seen from much of the city center and waterfront.

Prague City Tourism is the municipal marketing agency. It was established as Prague Information Service in 1958. It has been rebranded as Prague City Tourism since 2013.

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