Driving guides

A Road Trip to the Czech Republic

Discover more of what Europe has to offer and set out on a road trip adventure to the Czech Republic.

Much like a scenic drive to the Italian lakes, there are few better ways to travel across Europe than a road trip adventure.

No matter what time of year you visit, the Czech Republic is a wonderful country, with a fascinating history and breathtaking scenery. And there are plenty of incredible destinations to visit along the way as you plan your roadtrip.

Founded in 1993 following the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic has been shaped and altered by its long history, creating its unique culture. Beautiful castles and churches, a superb art and music scene, and a great nightlife will draw you back to the Czech Republic time and time again.

Driving to the Czech Republic from Calais

The drive to the Czech Republic from our Calais terminal may not be a road trip for first timers, but when it only takes 35 minutes to cross the Channel with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, you'll have plenty of time on your hands.

The distance to Prague is roughly 1,100 km, depending on your route, which should take you about 10 and a half hours. There are a couple of different ways you can go, all of them scenic, taking you through Belgium and Germany before reaching the Czech Republic.

The quickest route goes via Bruges and Brussels in Belgium, Cologne and Nuremberg in Germany, over the Czech Republic border past Plzen before reaching Prague. Any of those cities will make for a refreshing pit stop along the way.

Czech Republic driving laws

It’s safest to check the driving rules before you travel anywhere new, so here are the ones that apply to the Czech Republic to help you:

  • You must drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Always carry your licence when driving. Your UK Licence will be accepted as well as most other EU countries. An International Driving Permit is only needed with a paper licence.
  • You must be aged 18 or older and hold a valid driver’s license.
  • Everyone in the vehicle must wear a seat belt. Children under 36kg and under 150 cm are not permitted to travel in a vehicle unless using a suitable restraint system, adapted to their size and weight.
  • A child seated in the front of a vehicle where the airbag is activated must travel facing forward.
  • Drinking and driving is illegal. You will be penalised for anything above 0% blood alcohol level and can be fined between 25,000 and 50,000 Czech crowns (CZK) plus have your licence withdrawn for up to two years.
  • Dipped headlights must be used when visibility is poor during bad weather conditions.
  • Third-party insurance is compulsory.
  • The use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited.
  • Winter tyres are compulsory from 1 November to 31 March on all wheels of passenger vehicles when there is compacted snow or ice on the road, or if it’s expected.
  • The minimum depth on winter tyres is 4 mm. As spikes are forbidden, snow chains can only be used when roads are completely covered.
  • Vehicles weighing over 3.4 tonnes must have a minimum tyre tread of 6 mm.

sun setting behind beautiful old buildings in a town square with statues in the foreground

Places to visit during your road trip

To help you plan your trip, these are some great places to visit during your stay.

Prague

There are few cities in the world, let alone Europe, to rival Prague’s beauty; this coupled with a rich history, warm and friendly locals, and some of the best beer you'll ever taste makes for a brilliant holiday destination at every turn.

By far the most popular attraction in the city is the castle, Pražský hrad, positioned on the left bank of the River Vltava. According to the Guinness World Records, this fairytale castle is the world's largest ancient castle. Inside, there are plenty of fascinating museums illustrating the history of the fortress. You can buy tickets at the entrance for either the long tour, or the short tour that covers the highlights. Both tickets are valid for two days, giving you plenty of time to explore.

Prague’s architecture spans Gothic, Czech Baroque, and neo-Renaissance, to name just a few. Of the three historical regions (Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia) Prague exists within Bohemia, and as the name suggests, its residents are often regarded as trendsetters.

In the Old Town you'll find the Church of Our Lady before Týn, a Gothic church topped with tall, dramatic black spires. Venture further into the Old Town and find Prague's Municipal House. This stunning Art Nouveau structure holds Prague's largest concert hall, as well as a Czech beer hall and fine dining French restaurant.

Karlovy Vary

If you're feeling in need of a bit of rest and relaxation, two hours west of Prague lies the charming little spa town of Karlovy Vary. Its streets are lined with pastel-coloured buildings, colonnades, and surrounded by lush green countryside, and the idyllic town is famous for its hot springs.

This understated yet glamorous town has been attracting visitors for hundreds of years, all in search of the apparent healing properties of the sulphur-rich mineral water. The various spa retreats here have been used throughout history by important figures such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Wolfgang von Goethe.

Take a dip in the steam baths, or perhaps indulge in a rejuvenating massage. Another option is to take to the hills and explore the hiking trails, breathing in the gloriously pure mountain air of the place.

Operating under a gentler pace of life, the town offers an inspiring arts and entertainment programme to keep tourists amused, or you can simply pull up a chair at the side of the river and watch the world go by as you sip on a warming beverage.

A line of colourful buildings in yellows pinks and reds along the banks of a river

Plzeň

An hour or so west of Prague is Plzeň. You may know the city from the beer, Pilsner, as it was originally brewed here in 1842 but the city is more than just brewery tours (which are definitely worth doing if you're staying overnight). A diverse and inspirational part of the Czech Republic, Plzeň has previously been voted the Capital of Culture and boasts a grungy charm that serves as an enjoyable contrast to Prague's manicured streets.

For some hearty food, head to Senk Na Parkanu, where they serve traditional Czech cuisine. It's also said to be the only place in the world where you can taste unfiltered Pilsner beer.

The city centre of Plzeň is overshadowed by the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, a Gothic structure decorated internally with Renaissance paintings, and you can even go on a fun and educational underground tour through the city's passageways.

Brno

The capital of Moravia and the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno also has a rich history. It’s also known to be an affordable place, which will certainly help your spending money to go further. It’s referred to as ‘Little Vienna’ and the ‘Hidden Heart of Europe’ and is only around a two hour south from Prague.

The city is incredibly pretty, and one quarter of the population are students, which gives the place a very laidback feel. There are plenty of historic buildings here, but Brno is also famous for its pioneering Modernist architecture. In the wealthy neighbourhood of Černá Pole, you'll find the Villa Tugendhat, which is seen as an icon of modern architecture.

Many visit the city for its fantastic museums. Some of our favourites include the exhibitions at Špilberk Castle, and the Moravian Gallery, which holds the second largest art collection in the country. If you're with a significant other or are just a fan of wine, it's well worth spending a few days here exploring the famous vineyards in southern Moravia.

A large stone fountain in the middle of a town square surrounded by baroque buildings

Telč & Znojmo

A pleasant detour on your way to Brno, Telč's scenic setting between three small lakes exudes charm. Lovely 16th century houses line the pristine streets of this fairytale town, the centre of which is a recognised UNESCO site. The town square, Náměstí Zachariáše z Hradce, is home to the Church of St. James as well as a stunning water chateau. It's an incredibly romantic spot, and a great place for the family to unwind.

Znojmo, like Brno, is a convenient base for exploring the entire southern Moravian wine region. If you like your towns filled with alleys, intimate plazas, and bustling main squares, this is the place for you. Znojmo Castle, originally completed in 1080 and once an 18th century brewery, is well worth a tour (only guided tours are available).

Olomouc

Olomouc was once the capital of Moravia, and many see it as the Czech Republic's hidden gem. It sits outside of the main tourist trail but boasts all the charm of Prague and more. It's home to one of two of the country's astronomical clocks which can be found in the Upper Square, Horní náměstí, with the other residing in Prague.

Olomouc is easy to drive to along the motorway from Prague and Brno, and many prefer the tranquility of this city to its counterparts. Buildings, such as Bouzov Castle with its burnt orange roof, are surrounded by lush greenery, and the city's history stretches far back before the Middle Ages, during which time it was already a prominent centre. As a university town, the nightlife here is thriving, and fewer tourists means lower prices.

In the centre of Olomouc you'll find the Holy Trinity Column monument. This was created in a Baroque style between 1716 and 1754, and is an important structure, as all craftsmen working on the project were from the city. You'll find some delicious cuisine here, including rich local cheeses, sweet honey cakes, and fruit dumplings.

A large arched window surrounded by skeletons and skulls

Sedlec Ossuary, Kutná Hora

Not far from the city of Prague (about an hour's drive) lies this peculiar little church, that’s particularly popular in the run up to Halloween. It may be a touch macabre, but utterly fascinating in equal measure. The church was bought as part of the monastery by the aristocratic Schwarzenberg family in 1870, after which point it was discovered that the crypt held the remains of roughly 40,000 bodies.

A local woodcarver was commissioned to get creative with the interior design of the place, and the result was the impressive array of skull and bone chandeliers and garlands that you see today. It’s a truly unique attraction, and funnily enough, your kids are bound to love it.

Český Krumlov

Sitting to the south of Moravia on the Austrian border, the Podyjí National Park is regarded as one of the most important natural sites in Europe. The Thaya River cuts through dense woods, which are dotted with stone amphitheatres and historic sites such as the Vranov nad Dyjí Chateau.

Nearby to the east of the park is Český Krumlov, a small city with a large, six-story castle in its historic centre. It has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992 because of its well-preserved Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture.

Although the castle exterior, including its courtyard, is always worth a stroll, it’s a great idea to climb the tower to get some incredible views of the city.

Visiting Český Krumlov in the winter is a real treat, as it looks rather stunning in the snow, but it’s equally beautiful throughout the year. Plus, the castle is closed during the winter.

Aerial shot of a busy town set on the banks of a river with a bridge over it and green hills in the distance

Jicin & Český Ráj (Bohemian Paradise)

Český Ráj or Bohemian Paradise is a Protected Landscape Area, declared in 1955. Once covering only 95 square kilometres in area, today it is almost 182 square kilometres of natural beauty, with hiking, biking, and other activities available year-round. There’s even a geopark which explores the importance of this landscape and how it should be protected.

Within Bohemian Paradise lies Jičín, a town in the Hradec Králové Region of the Czech Republic. It’s under the Prachov Rocks, a natural sandstone plateau formed over 60 million years ago. It’s also historically interesting as The Battle of Gitschin was fought nearby during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.

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