Since there was such a great response to my previous look at other destinations in Slovenia beyond Ljubljana and Bled, I thought I would continue on this time with a look this time at the Czech Republic, or Czechia as it is increasingly being known as. I’ve visited various parts of the country several times now, in no small part due to its convenient position near the heart of Europe. But I think the real reason people go is the nation’s remarkable history and fascinating culture. As a country once behind the Iron Curtain, it’s safe to say Czechia’s popularity in the global tourism market will continue to rise.
Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, may well be one of the grandest cities Europe has to offer. If you’ve never been, be sure to add it to the itinerary of your next European trip. But why stop there? If you’ve only got time for a weekend city break, sure I understand. But any longer than that and I’d recommend getting out and seeing all the other remarkable spots this land has to offer. Here are just a handful of spots you should look to add onto a visit to the Czech Republic, beyond Prague. This is just a short list, missing places like Bohemian Switzerland and the Prahov Rocks that I’m definitely keen to explore during my next visit.
Quite possibly the most obvious choice for inclusion on this list is the enchanting town of Český Krumlov. I’ve previously fawned over this beautiful spot, including it on my list of Fairytale town of Central Europe. This town has definitely been increasing in popularity, and with good reason. The reason why is that this town in the region of South Bohemia is wonderfully picturesque.
With an old town nestled in the curves of the Vltava River, cobblestone lanes and an atypical castle that looks over the entire place, what’s not to love? Be sure to bring a camera and climb to the viewing terrace above the castle for endless photos over the town’s rooftops. Despite seeming fairly touristy, you can still find a traditional, filling dinner for less than 10€!
While a viable day tip from Prague, the city of Kutna Hora is certainly a worthy destination in its own right. Although quite a small city, that just makes it extremely walkable and limits the gaps between its striking landmarks. The city’s biggest and grandest landmarks are surely the visually striking gothic church of St Barbara’s and the neighbouring Jesuit College that together make for a stunning view.
The city’s most well-known and intriguing attraction is something else entirely. On the outskirts of town you’ll find the enigmatic and macabre Sedlec Ossuary. Essentially a Bone Church decorated with skulls and bones from nearly 40,000 people taken from its cemetery. The spooky arrangement was put together in 1870 and includes the above coat of arms belonging to the Schwarzenberg family, local nobles and his benefactor. I doubt you’ve seen anything like it.
To be totally upfront, there’s likely only one big reason in my opinion to visit the city of Pilsen or Plzeň – the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. If you have an interest in beer though, that’s plenty of reason to visit. While the city has a charming church and some nice squares, I didn’t feel that they alone warranted a visit. The brewery on the other hand shows you Czechia’s immense impact on the evolution of beer.
This is after all, the birthplace of the Pilsner beer, the most produced type of beer today. Visiting the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, you’ll learn on the guided tour (complete with audio-visual display and transit bus) about the history and development of the Pilsner beer and also get a chance to try some unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner beer straight from the barrel. A must for the tourist who loves a beer.
It seems a pity that the Czech Republic’s second biggest city of Brno isn’t more popular with tourists. A lively student city, it offers a compelling contrast to the grandeur of Prague. As I shared after my second November visit, I’m pretty fond of the place, particularly when visiting the Christmas markets. Brno has a more low-key atmosphere to it, while still having a pretty old town and some attractive landmarks.
Visiting Brno, it’s pretty tough to miss the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul. The twin spires of this gothic cathedral can be seen from almost everywhere throughout the city and the views you get from the cathedral are equally special. The city’s other major highlight would have to Špilberk Castle, that sits above the city. Perhaps not the most imposing, it carries with it a dark history as one of the worst political prisons of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under its humble facade, Brno’s got a lot going on.
If there’s one thing that the Czech Republic has plenty of, it’s awesome castles. Up there with the best is the castle of Loket that dominates the small village around it. Without it, Loket would still be a pretty town by the Ohre river surrounded by forest. But the castle transforms Loket into a stunningly gorgeous destination fit for a storybook. This 12th century Gothic castle sits high upon steep cliffs and is a photographer’s delight.
Loket Castle isn’t just pretty to look at. No, it’s also got some rich history and fantastic local legends. It was here that the King Charles IV of Bohemia was held prisoner as a child. Even more exciting, it was the town Loket where a meteorite would land in 1400 AD, conjuring myths about a stone that would reappear at the castle despite any man’s effort. I haven’t even got to the stories of the local dragon and creepy goblins…
Several of my visits to the Czech Republic have coincided with the start of the festive season, but none quite like when I arrived in Olomouc. Only a small city in the country’s east, Olomouc doesn’t tend to draw much attention from foreign travellers. The day I arrived in the city during mid-November was the first day of the city’s Christmas Markets and the centre of Old Town was packed to the brim with people. From all the stalls, to the rock concert to ice skating, it made a hell of a first impression.
Once things had settled down a little the next day, I was able to the city on a regular day and uncover its charms. While I had seen the elegant town hall the night before, I was able to admire it up close, especially its ornate astronomical clock. Exploring onward, there were the many delicate fountains found throughout its squares and the mighty and lavish churches, all protected by fragments of the old city walls. I hadn’t even realised it was a walled city until I found my way beneath them! The museum at the Bishop’s Palace is also a fantastic cultural experience, really hitting on how much of a historical and cultural gem Olomouc is.
To my disappointment, I’ve yet to actually set foot in the town of Mikulov that lies on the border between Czechia and Austria. I have however driven through and past it a couple of times and admired its surprising landmarks. Had I been quicker with the camera, I could have shared some askew photos but it wasn’t to be. Anyway, passing through it was painfully obvious the town’s central attraction, its immense castle. This 13th century castle spent several centuries in the wealthy Liechtenstein family before passing into local hands.
The town quite notably has a strong Jewish history, as a centre for the expelled Jewish populations of Vienna and nearby regions. It was in fact the largest Jewish communities in the sizeable region of Moravia. Sadly, today there are only historical remnants of the local Jewish population, including the Jewish Quarter and a synagogue. On a brighter note, Mikulov is at the heart of the Moravian wine growing region and also sits on the doorstep to the serene Věstonice Reservoir. A true surprise of a town that I can’t wait to properly explore.
Last but not least, how about another wonderful castle? This castle is brought to you by the small Czech town of Karlštejn. Another common day trip from Prague, Karlštejn would have to be my pick if you’ve only got one shot to get out for a day trip. When you’re walking through the streets of the town, round a bend and spy the dramatic gothic castle, you’ll get why. Aside from being a damn good-looking castle, it also has historical importance, as for centuries the castle was home to the Bohemian Kingdom’s crown jewels.
I wish there was more to say about the town below but it really does seem to be there to serve the castle. Around the castle you’ll find some lovely wooded hills that make for a picturesque view from the castle walls. Getting up the hill might take a bit of energy, so you can hire a horse and cart if you’re in dire need of help. There are some quaint, traditional houses in town, as well as a few restaurants for when you’re done with all the walking. But when all’s said and done, it’s all about that castle!
Where else would you recommend visiting in the Czech Republic beyond Prague? Which of the above have you been to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a booking, I may make a small commission, but at no extra cost to you.
Why Not Pin It for Later