Since the fall of communism in 1989, the Czech Republic – and its capital in particular – has evolved into one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.
Prague, Cradle of Czech Culture
Everyone who visits the Czech Republic starts with Prague, the cradle of Czech culture and one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. Prague offers a near-intact medieval core of Gothic architecture that can transport you back 500 years – the 14th-century Charles Bridge, connecting two historic neighbourhoods across the Vltava River, with the castle ramparts and the spires of St Vitus Cathedral rising above, is one of the classic sights of world travel. But the city is not just about history; it’s a vital urban centre with a rich array of cultural offerings, and a newly emerging foodie scene.
Castles & Chateaux
The Czech Republic’s location at the heart of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire has seen a long history of raiding tribes, conquering armies and triumphant dynasties. This turbulent past has left a legacy of hundreds of castles and chateaux – everywhere you look there seems to be a many-turreted fortress perched above a town, or a romantic summer palace lazing peacefully amid manicured parkland. The number and variety of Czech castles is simply awe-inspiring – everything from grim Gothic ruins clinging to a dizzy pinnacle of rock, to majestic, baroque mansions filled with the finest furniture that Europe’s artisans could provide.
- Prague Castle The world’s biggest ancient castle, and the cradle of Czech culture.
- Archbishop’s Chateau Kroměříž’s Unesco World Heritage Site is a superbly preserved example of an 18th-century princely residence.
- Hluboká Chateau An over-the-top confection of neo-Gothic frivolity modelled on England’s Windsor Castle.
- Český Krumlov State Castle An almost impossibly picturesque castle and its frescoed tower perched high above a medieval streetscape.
- Telč Chateau A sumptuous Renaissance residence lodged amid beautiful tended gardens.
- Karlštejn Castle The archetypal fairy-tale castle straight out of Hans Christian Andersen’s imagination.
- Lednice Chateau A massive neo-Gothic chateau with splendid interiors and extensive gardens.
Folklore & Tradition
The Czech Republic may be a modern, forward-thinking nation riding into the future on the back of the EU and NATO, but it is also a country rich in tradition. This is most apparent in South Bohemia and Moravia, where a still-thriving folk culture sparks into life during the summer festival season. During this time, communities from Český Krumlov to Telč to Mikulov don traditional garb, pick up their musical instruments – and wine glasses – and sing and dance themselves silly, animating ancient traditions in one of the best examples of ‘living history’ in the Czech Republic.
- Prague Jewish Museum This cluster of six monuments, plus a 13th-century synagogue, is a poignant monument to Prague’s Jewish community.
- New Jewish Cemetery This vast graveyard in Prague is most famous as the last resting place of writer Franz Kafka.
- Terezín Former WWII concentration camp, and a sobering memorial to the horrors of the Holocaust.
- Třebíč A Unesco World Heritage Site, Třebíč’s old towns contain the best-preserved Jewish ghetto in Europe.
- Great Synagogue Plzeň’s great synagogue is the third-largest in the world, after Jerusalem and Budapest.
- Mikulov Better known as the centre of Moravian wine country, Mikulov once had an important Jewish community.
- Sedlec Ossuary One of the Czech Republic’s best-known attractions, a church crypt housing artwork fashioned from thousands of human bones.
- Znojmo Underground Explore parts of the 27km of manmade tunnels beneath the town, in places crawling on hands and knees.
- Singing Fountain Coloured lights and orchestrated water spouts dance along to Celine Dion in Mariánské Lázně.
- Underground Plzeň Once used for storing beer, these hand-excavated tunnels and chambers date back to the 14th century.
- Graphite Mine A clanking electric train carries you deep into the subterranean world where pencil leads come from.
- Capuchin Monastery The highlights of Brno’s monastery tour are the desiccated corpses of 18th-century monks and abbots.
CZECHIA LAND OF STORIES