The Czech Republic has one foot in Western Europe and one in the Slavic East. Here, the past becomes real. A number of castles and chateaux illuminate the stories of powerful families and individuals whose influence was felt well beyond the nation’s current borders. Worth visiting are Bohemia and Moravia, the two ancient lands that now make up the modern Czech Republic. Also must-see is Prague, one of the world’s most beautiful and cultured cities. Taste the world’s best beer in the brewery towns of Plzen and Česke Budejovice, and discover the laid-back backpacker scenes in Česky Krumlov and Telč.
The Czech Republic has countless fairytale castles and chateaux, churches and monasteries, religious sights and medieval towns. As many as twelve Czech towns are on the UNESCO heritage list. Some of the most popular destinations are the castle of Emperor Charles IV Karlštejn and Kutna Hora. Get acquainted with the last of the Habsburgs at Konopište Chateau and wander through several types of maze and labyrinth in the park around Loučen Chateau.
Beer drinking has at least a thousand years of tradition here and the many pubs may explain why the Czechs are the biggest consumers of beer in the world. The records show that beer was already being brewed in Břevnov Monastery in 993, while the city of Brno gained the right to brew beer in the 12th century and Plzen and Češke Budejovice in the 13th century. No wonder that the Czech Republic is the homeland of famous beer brands like Budweiser, Pilsner, Kozel and Staropramen.
The Czech Republic has a tradition of spa treatment. The curative powers of local springs have been used for centuries to heal and refresh. People from all over the world come to spa towns such as Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne and Frantiskovy Lazne for rest and relaxation. The most famous of the three is Karlovy Vary, a true incarnation of spa elegance, full of imposing colonnades, exclusive spa buildings and a wonderful layout in the heart of a forested valley. Some of the most famous figures in European artistic and cultural life have enjoyed treatment here. Karlovy Vary is the second most visited spot in the Czech Republic. Thanks to its unique architecture, it is one of Europe’s most beautiful spas.
The spectacular Bohemian Paradise (Český ráj) is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Czech Republic. Its many massive rock formations rise up out of the ground and seeming to defy the laws of physics. Český ráj is now a UNESCO Geopark, which attracts hikers and sightseers from all over the world for its stunning sandstone hills, natural bridges, and tall basalt columns and outcrops, all accessible by a first-rate network of trails and scenic drives. It's a region that also boasts many fine old castles, including Kost Castle and Trosky Castle.
Golden Prague, or ‘the city of a hundred spires’, which is what they call the Czech capital, is decorated with nearly a thousand towers and spires. It is one of the most beautiful European cities that managed to escape the devastations of war. The major landmark is Prague Castle, one of the largest complexes in the world, offering a spectacular view over the city. The Charles Bridge, decorated with thirty statues of saints, is a close second, as is the Vltava River which passes below. And one shouldn’t forget The Old Town Hall with the famous Prague Astronomical Clock, the winding lanes of the Jewish Quarter, which you know from the novels of Franz Kafka and that tour around Europe’s oldest synagogue and many more famous sights.
Český Krumlov, snuggled in a bend of the Vltava River, is famous for its Český Krumlov Castle and chateau complex. At the height of its fame, Český Krumlov could compete easily with the most important European royal courts, mainly thanks to the Rosenberg family, who chose the town as their residence. The Rosenbergs gradually came to rule a large part of South Bohemia. Enchanted by the Italian Renaissance, they built a town and their residence and contributed to the prosperity of the entire region.
Thanks to the hot water spring, Karlovy Vary is considered the oldest and most visited spa town in the Czech Republic. Its 13 main springs and 300 smaller springs are beneficial to health and offer refreshment to visitors to this crown jewel. The town was named after the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV. The town is a popular spot among international celebrities, so do not be surprised if you meet someone famous if you stay there. One of the major events is its vibrant film festival, MFF Karlovy vary, taking place each July.
The origins of Kutna Hora, the silver treasury and a true gem of the country, date back to the very start of the booming Czech Kingdom. Diverse architectural styles, unique buildings and a centuries-long wine-making tradition make the town worth visiting. The historical area of Kutna Hora with the Cathedral of St. Barbara and the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary are also on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Karlštejn Castle holds an absolutely exceptional position among Czech castles. It was established by the Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV as a place to store royal treasures, collections of holy relics and the crown jewels. Its impressive layout, including the settlement outside the castle walls right up to the Imperial Palace and the towers rising above it, will captivate you with their ingenuity. Also worth visiting is the castle Chapel of the Holy Cross, where you can view the pictures of Master Theodoric in silent wonder. Set out for the most-visited castle in the Czech Republic and discover its hidden treasures!
While it might not be the biggest and has therefore quite often been overshadowed by more pompous neighbours, the hilly and rivery Slovakia is much like a medieval princess still awaiting to be discovered.
While one of the biggest empires has left little behind but monumental palaces, reminding nostalgics about the days of the glorious past, the country has given us all a lot of beatiful things, say the music of Mozart and Strauss to give just an example.