Make your way to this new and inspiring country
The Czech Republic was founded in 1993 following the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and although it's only two decades old, the Czech Republic has been shaped and altered by its long history, creating the unique culture that you can see today. Beautiful castles, chateaus and churches, a superb art and music scene and a great nightlife will draw you back to the Czech Republic time and time again.
The country's largest and most popular city with tourists, Prague will lure you in with its cobbled narrow streets and mix of architecture spanning 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.
The town is divided up into several divisions. In the Old Town you'll find the Church of Our Lady before Týn. This Gothic church is topped with tall, black spires and is a dramatic feature of the Old Town landscape. 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.
Old Town Prague
The Dancing House is an incredible Deconstructivist building, which, although controversial at first, has become one of the city's most loved structures. Other great spots in the city to visit are the Franz Kafka monument, the Jewish Museum, and the National Gallery, which houses the largest collection of art in the Czech Republic.
Located two hours west of Prague is the spa town of Karlovy Vary. Streets are lined with pastel-coloured buildings, colonnades and surrounded by thick green countryside, and the idyllic town is famous for its hot springs. These well-known spa retreats have been used throughout history by important figures such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Wolfgang von Goethe. Check out the treatments before you go, as some are not for the faint of heart!
The landscape of the Czech Republic is unique, and this is best seen at the Podyjí National Park. Sitting to the south of Moravia on the Austrian border, the 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 amphitheaters and historic sites such as the Vranov nad Dyjí Chateau.
There are some fantastic walking and cycling routes here, so if you've got the time, it's worth a day trip to explore the area's immense beauty. Nearby to the east of the park is Český Krumlov, a small city with a large castle in its historic center.
Just over an hour west of Prague is Plzeň. Most of you will know the city from the beer, Pilsner, as it was originally brewed here in 1842. However 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 been voted the Capital of Culture for 2015 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 center 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.
The capital of Moravia is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, and similarly to Prague, has a rich history. There is one stark difference between Brno and Prague however, in that Brno is incredibly cheap. This will serve as a pleasant surprise to those of you who have just driven from the inflated prices of the country's main tourist hotspot.
The city is incredibly pretty, and one quarter of the population are students, which gives the place a very laid back feel. You'll get the prescribed injection 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 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 center 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.
It could be argued that we've saved the best until last with Olomouc. It 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 center. As a university town, the nightlife here is thriving, and fewer tourists means lower prices.
In the center 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. Now is the time to visit Olomouc, before the rest of the crowds catch on!
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