By Briana Seftel
The Czech Republic is so much more than Prague. Located in the heart of Central Europe, this storybook country is home to grand palaces, vast swaths of forest, jewel box villages and lots of beer. Whether you're planning a quick getaway or a weeks-long sojourn, here's everything you need to see, eat and drink in the Czech Republic.
The capital city of Prague will likely be your first stop on a trip to the Czech Republic, and for good reason. Known as “the City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague was once was the capital of the kingdom of Bohemia and the major city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, Prague can easily rival Paris in terms of beauty, with its elegant bridges, grand cathedrals and baroque buildings.
One of the most picturesque destinations in Europe, Cesky Krumlov is a fairy tale town come to life. Situated in South Bohemia, the town sits above the Vltava River and is dominated by a stunning castle. Consider staying at least two nights in town to appreciate its beauty from morning until night.
Follow in the footsteps of James Bond in Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), a beautiful spa town in west Bohemia. For centuries, visitors have been drawn to the town for its thermal springs as well as its elegant colonnades and luxury hotels like the Grandhotel Pupp. Book your spa treatment well in advance and feel your stresses melt away.
The former capital of Moravia, often overlooked by tourists, has really come into its own. Instead of crowds, you’ll find Czech students strolling the bustling Masarykova street and Villa Tugendhat, a modernist structure designed by Mies van der Rohe. Also in the city is the world’s second-largest ossuary, The St. James Church, with 5,000 skeletons on display.
You’ll be drinking a lot of pilsner with a visit to its birthplace, Pilsen! Beer lovers flock to Pilsner Urquell brewery, where pilsner was first created in 1842. But this city isn’t just about beer. Stroll the pretty Republic Square with St Bartholomew’s Cathedral and the Renaissance Town Hall, then check out the network of underground tunnels dating back to the 14th century.
Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Just a 90-minute drive from Prague, Bohemian Switzerland National Park is world’s away from the bustling capital. The youngest of the country’s four national parks, this park is home to incredible rock features like the Pravčická brána, Europe’s largest sandstone rock arch.
Sumava National Park
Nestled on the Czech-Austrian border, Sumava National Park is a forested wonderland and the country’s largest national park. Covered by 80% of forest, the park is often referred to as the green heart of Europe. Visitors can discover vast spruce forests, glacial lakes, peat bogs and more.
A magical world awaits in the Punkva Caves, a series of prehistoric limestone caves situated below the Moravian Karst. You'll feel like you're on another planet as you wind your way through some 1,100 caves, with stalagmites and stalactites almost touching. A highlight is Macocha Abyss, a surreal sinkhole that's the largest of its kind in Central Europe.
Moravian Wine Region
While the Czech Republic may be known for beer, the country also produces an impressive selection of wine! Located in the southeast part of the country, Moravia is the main wine producing region with lush vineyards and charming villages. Base yourself out of Brno and explore this off-the-radar wine region.
One of the most visited tourist attractions in the country, Sedlec Ossuary is a Roman Catholic church made up of about 40,000 to 70,000 human skeletons. Originally the site of a famous cemetery, in 1870 a local woodcrafter was asked to arrange the thousands of bones into art, transforming the graveyard into what we see today. Known as “The Bone Church,” visitors can stare in awe at the bone chandelier, chalices, candelabras and more.
For a double dose of royal splendor, head to South Moravia to see the Lednice-Valtice palace complex. Head first to Lednice Palace, the 17th century summer residence of the Princes of Liechtenstein. Tour the stunning English Gothic palace, then make your way to Valtice, a Baroque castle surrounded by large fortified walls.
Completed in 1365 on the order of Charles IV, Karlstejn Castle was built to protect the crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, it is a popular day trip from Prague. As you approach the castle on a hill, you’ll think you’ve entered into a Disney movie. While much of the castle’s interior is off limits to visitors, there’s nothing quite like seeing this castle from afar.
Food & Drink
The Czech Republic has the highest consumption of beer per capita in the world - that's a lot of beer! Whether you're in Prague or a tiny town in Moravia, you'll find the beer flowing as freely as water. Grab a pilsner or lager and say "Na zdraví" (to your health).
Knedlíky, or traditional Czech dumplings, are a staple of Czechian cuisine and served with many dishes including the quintessential dish vepřo knedlo zelo (roast pork). Like German knödel, these bread dumplings are the perfect accompaniment to hearty stews, roasts, soups and more.
You may think of goulash as a strictly Hungarian dish, but this stew can actually be found all over Europe. In the Czech Republic, goulash is most commonly made with beef and served with dumplings.