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St Matthew’s Fair

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Matějská pouť (ČTK): Matějská pouť in Prague has a centuries old tradition. (ČTK)Matějská pouť in Prague has a centuries old tradition. (ČTK)

Music floats lazily from the inside of the confines of the Prague Exhibition Grounds. American songs, mixed with classical pieces, combined with the tinkling of bells and the clank of machinery drift threw the air. Neon signs from attractions peek over the ledge of the surrounding fence. From the first steps off the tram at the Výstaviště stop in Holešovice, even before you pay the CZK 25 for admission, you know you’re at St Matthew’s Fair.

St Matthew’s Fair, known as Matějská pouť to the locals, is a time-honored Czech tradition: The earliest recorded festival began over 410 years ago. And though times have changed, the rides have only gotten better. This year, about 130 different attractions from around the world have made it to the fairground, ranging in price from about CZK 20 – 200. And what would a festival be without food or drinks? Saint Matthew’s Fair has both, and more than enough to satisfy.

As you enter the Matějská pouť fairgrounds, sensory overload strikes you immediately. Red, yellow, and green light bulbs lining the edges of rides and attractions flash and gleam, as bumper cars and trains swish past. The smell of french-fries and cotton candy waft through the air and children’s laughter mixes with the sound of people chatting. Shocking neon pink, yellow, blue and green seem to be the underlying color scheme of almost all of the attractions: from the train to the swings.

The area of Saint Matthew’s Fair seems dedicated to younger children. Smaller bumper cars, slower trains, and pony rides line the sides of walkway. The prices are a bit less expensive, with the cost of one ride starting at about CZK 20. The food is more suited to a child’s taste also: sweet and soft gingerbread iced with colors vibrant enough to match the kitschy pinks and greens on the attractions, hot pizzas, and juicy hamburgers.

For an older or more adventurous crowd, continue to walk further into the fair and down a set of steps. The real fun is further into the fair and closer to the back. More intense thrills begin with the slingshot-esquire Bungee, which launches two people in a round compartment straight into the air, shrieking the whole way. Tickets for ride will run you about CZK 200.

Across the walkway is the Break Dance, where spray-painted images of dancing boys and girls in flashy street clothes and image of New York City grace the sides of the ride. Thrill-seekers sit in spinning carts and that rotate in circles. One Break Dance experience will set you back CZK 50.

Matějská pouť (MEGAN STEWART): The fairgrounds are dotted with food stalls selling colourful gingerbread and cotton candy. (MEGAN STEWART)The fairgrounds are dotted with food stalls selling colourful gingerbread and cotton candy. (MEGAN STEWART)In the very back of the fair, there are two roller coasters next to each other: the Super Mouse and the Cyclone. Fast and fun, the two roller coasters are worth the CZK 70 and CZK 30 respectively they cost to ride.

Finally, a must is the Ferris Wheel which takes riders several meters up in the air. There you’ll be able to view the entire fairground in all of its kitschy, Technicolor glory. The popular attraction costs CZK 50 per ride, but the view is unforgettable.

If thrill rides and tousled hair is not what you’re looking for, Matějská pouť has no shortage of games, with prizes ranging from a stuffed animal to Wii gaming consuls. Most of the game stalls are located near the back of the fairground, interspersed between the food and beer stands.

Staying at the fair after the sun goes down also has its rewards. On Saturday, the Křižík Singing Fountain premiered its first performance of the season. For CZK 200, visitors can watch performances of the Little Mermaid, Carmen, and Romeo and Juliet, set against the background of colorful fountains that seem to dance to the music. Performances begin at 7:00pm daily.

When you’re ready for a little childish fun and adventure, Matějská pouť is simple to reach. Located next to the Výstaviště tram stop, it is accessible by the 5, 12, 14 and 17 trams and is a short walk from the Nádraží Holešovice metro stop on the C line. The fair ground is open from Tuesday to Friday, 2:00pm to 10:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am-10:00pm.

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