Travel to Czech Republic

Travel to Czech Republic

Experience the ancient heartland of Bohemia, a country that boasts an incredible cultural heritage and spectacular historical architecture.

The Czech Republic’s pristine architectural monuments, amazing cultural heritage (from Kafka to Mahler), and evocative atmosphere make it an unbelievably fruitful vacation destination. The old territory of Bohemia, which reflects centuries of dramatic intermingling between Western and Eastern Europe, includes the awe-inspiring capital of Prague, scenically sited on the Vltava River and one of the most ravishing cities anywhere on the planet. Prague’s strikingly preserved landmarks, including the Old Town Square, Charles Bridge, and the Prague Castle, are among Europe’s most popular attractions and the focus of an expansive UNESCO World Heritage Site. Outside Prague, the Czech Republic delivers plenty of other dazzling sights, such as the remarkably untouched medieval town center of Cesky Krumlov. Among the country's attractions for the culinary explorer is the famous Czech beer, especially the globally influential domestic style of pilsner.

The Czech Republic's many cultural attractions pack a real punch. Where to begin? Let's start with music. Boasting a rich tradition of folk music, the Czech Republic is the original home of polka! The Czechs have also long loved classical music, which absolutely thrives in their cultural capital city. Prague consistently hosts excellent classical music concerts and festivals, and it's been that way for long time; Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Dvorak and many other composers have graced the country's concert halls and opera houses. The Czechs have a long legacy of puppetry, and there are several good marionette theaters in their very romantic capital. Therefore, while vacationing in Prague, consider attending the opera, ballet, symphony or a puppet show! (Tickets are often considerably more affordable than in other European capitals.)

Another (relaxing) aspect of Czech culture centers on its many thermal springs. Back in its heyday (the 1800s), the creme de la creme of Europe (royalty, nobility, artists, etc.) traveled to the fashionable spa towns of Western Bohemia to take the mineral-rich waters in the hopes of curing their various ailments. The Czechs have maintained their spa traditions, so it's fun to visit some of the country's iconic spa towns like Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne and Frantiskovy Lazne, which are all located near the country's western border with Germany.

In terms of cultural sightseeing attractions, the Czech Republic has 12 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites. The country's storybook, well-preserved architecture is legendary – being home to some of the finest Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture in Central Europe. Visiting the Czech Republic's historic castles and towns is an absolute must; good options to consider include the historic centers of Cesky Krumlov, Kutna Hora, Telc and Olomouc.

Back in Prague, one of Europe's most beautiful cities; enjoy the capital's many cultural attractions! In this fairytale-like city, consider visiting the Mucha Museum Prague, which is dedicated to Czech Republic's renowned Art Nouveau artist: Alfons (Alphonse) Mucha. Literary fans may want to pay a visit to the Franz Kafka Museum.

Czech food can safely be described as a little on the heavy side, yet very tasty! (Think comfort food – in the wintertime!) When traveling in the Czech Republic you will see potato dumplings, cabbage, smoked meats and stews on virtually any menu. Visitors can also enjoy very good soups – a common first course in the Czech Republic.

In terms of producing large quantities of alcoholic beverages, the Czechs are champions. The western part of the country – Bohemia – is particularly famed for its beer production, and many breweries offer guided tours. The most famous Czech beers hail from either Plzen (German name: Pilsen), the home of Pilsner Urquell, or Ceske Budejovice (German name: Budweis), the original home of Budweiser. Prague, Plzen and Ceske Budejovice regularly host beer festivals.

And while many people associate Bohemia with beer, it does produce a little wine as well (like in Melnik, a Bohemian town located 30 miles north of Prague at the confluence of the Vltava and Elbe rivers). Most of the Czech Republic's wine however is produced in southern Moravia. If you're interested in extensively touring and wine tasting in Moravia's very scenic wine country, it is worthwhile to base yourself in Brno, the capital of Moravia and the second-largest city in the Czech Republic. The wine-producing Moravian towns of Mikulov and Znojmo also regularly host wine festivals.

Located smack dab in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic borders Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria. Landlocked and crisscrossed by rivers, this Central European country is roughly the size of Maine. Although presently divided into thirteen regions, the Czech Republic is traditionally divided into two historical regions: Bohemia and Moravia. (A sliver of a third, Central European historical region known as Silesia partially resides in the eastern edge of the Czech Republic; however, today most of Silesia is located in Poland.)

Occupying the western half of the country, Bohemia has a wide variety of landscapes including plains, low mountains and hills. Its eastern counterpart, Moravia, is strikingly hilly and home to many of the country's best wine regions. Aside from Prague – its storybook capital city – and its exceptionally scenic medieval towns, one of the Czech Republic's best features is its timeless, rolling countryside. While a Central European itinerary will frequently combine Prague with Budapest and Vienna, there is an extraordinary amount of great sightseeing to keep you in the Czech Republic's countryside after visiting Prague.

Largest cities: Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Plzen

Other great places to visit: Cesky Krumlov, Kutna Hora, Ceske Budejovice, Trebon, Karlovy Vary

As with many other Central European countries – the Holy Roman Empire, invasions from the east, foreign occupations, internal Slavic disputes, a Protestant/Catholic divide, the all-powerful Hapsburg dynasty, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire all appear in the colorful history of the Czech Republic.

As mentioned above, when planning a trip to the Czech Republic, your sightseeing will take you to two historical regions: Bohemia and Moravia. During most of the Middle Ages, both territories were ruled by Bohemia. The Kingdom of Bohemia was a state in the Holy Roman Empire for 800 years. At times the King of Bohemia was simultaneously the Holy Roman Emperor, and during the reign of several of the emperors (during portions of the 14th, 16th and 17th centuries), Prague served as the Imperial Seat of the Empire. Out of all the Bohemian kings, none is more revered in the Czech Republic than Charles IV. This monarch, who was also the Holy Roman Emperor, led Prague and the lands of Bohemia into a true Golden Age in the 14th century. He established a university in Prague, acted as a patron of the arts and commissioned beautiful Gothic cathedrals, castles (including Prague Castle), bridges and gorgeous squares in his dazzling capital city.

After the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia became a glittering jewel in the Hapsburg-ruled Austrian Empire and then Austro-Hungarian Empire (right up until the end of World War I). As Prague has been one of the most important cities in Central Europe for almost a millennium, it is no surprise that the city you can visit today possesses such magnificent, glorious architecture. And while Prague is often described as the setting of fairytales, the Czech countryside is just as beautiful and contains some of Europe's most impressive castles and historic towns.

Important historical attractions to consider visiting in Prague include Prague Castle, the Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square. (Fun fact: the square is named after Wenceslas I, who was a Duke of Bohemia in the 10th century. You might have heard of him in the popular Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas.") Elsewhere in the Czech Republic – Karlstejn Castle, Konopiste Castle, Litomysl Castle and Cesky Å ternberk Castle all merit a visit. Also worthy of mention is the fact that the Czech Republic is home to some of Central Europe's most important Jewish historical sites including Prague's historic Jewish Quarter (Josefov), the Jewish Quarter in Trebic, and the tragic Terezin Memorial.

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