Cities, towns, villages and sights to see in the Czech Republic
Brno, Moravia’s capital is a lively, university city with many cafes and bars. The second largest city in the Czech Republic it has a reputation for innovate, modern architecture, including the UNESCO listed Villa Tugendhat. However, there are important historical buildings too and an interesting history, the battle of Austerlitz was fought nearby. There are excellent museums, the extensive Moravian Museum and the Technical Museum, documenting advancements in science and technology. There is also the Moravian Art Gallery at the Governor’s Palace. On a hill in the city centre is the 13th century Špilberk Castle, an impressive fortress, used for many years as a prison.
A more charming, fairy-tale town it would be difficult to find. The gorgeous Český Krumlov is situated on a loop of the Vltava River in rolling hilly lands in South Bohemia near the Austrian and German borders. An incredibly pretty town full of meandering lanes, shops and restaurants lies beneath an impressive 13th century castle. The castle is open to visit and includes a lovely Baroque theatre and extensive formal gardens. Český Krumlov is host to many events and festivals and maintains its charm and character in all seasons. Nearby is Šumava National Park, popular with walkers and cyclists, whilst the Vltava River itself is perfect for canoeing.
Considered one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic, Hluboká nad Vltavou castle is situated by the Vltava river, near České Budějovice. A fortress existed here since the bronze age but after many changes, the structure was rebuilt as a Tudor castle with ornamental gardens. The external and internal decoration is stunning. The property belonged to the Schwarzenburg family from 1661 to 1947, when the Czech government took possession. The castle is open to the public and houses a permanent exhibition of Bohemian paintings.
Karlovy Vary, or Carlsbad as it was known in German, is a pretty spa town 127 kms west of Prague. The spa was founded in the 14th century by Charles IV during a stay in Loket. The healing properties of the waters from the thermal springs, encouraged visitors from afar and the town developed into a stylish resort for aristocracy and celebrities. Its heyday was in the 19th century when people flocked to the colonnaded walkways and grand hotels for spa treatments. The town also produces luxury Moser glass products and the famous Becherovka, a herbal liqueur. In July one of the oldest film festivals in held here.
Kutná Hora is 70 kms east of Prague and can be visited from there in a day. It originally developed from the site of a Cistercian monastery in the 10th century, but the town grew due the nearby silver mines. Up to the 16th century it vied with Prague for importance, but an important mine was destroyed by floods and the plague, wars and fire virtually destroyed it. Kutná Hora is best known for the impressive Gothic St Barbara's Church with medieval frescoes and flying buttresses. The Italian Court is the site of the Royal Mint. Often visited is Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel decorated with human bones and skulls. The Czech Museum of Silver recounts the city’s history of silver-mining.
A charming town featuring a 12th century Romanesque castle. Loket town was founded 14 kms west of Karlovy Vary on a loop of the Ohře River, hence the name Loket (‘elbow’ in English). The castle served as a temporary home to members of the royal family, but was destroyed by Swedish troops and rebuilt in the 19th century. The picturesque town hosts some good restaurants and is the home to an annual Opera Festival. Loket is also known for its fine porcelain, produced locally.
Olomouc was an important trading centre and historic capital city of Moravia. The city has several large squares, the largest of which includes the famous Holy Trinity Column, a gloriously ornate monument erected in the 16th century to celebrate the end of a plague. There are many churches and Saint Wenceslas Cathedral is set in the grounds of Olomouc castle. There are six pretty fountains in the city centre, kept as a water supply in case of fire. With so many charming public areas and streets, the city is a delight to wander around.
Plzeň is the second largest city in Bohemia. The city is unescapably known as the birthplace of the excellent Pilsner Urquell beer and a visit to the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery is certainly a highlight, explaining the creation of this brew, using the soft local water and the Saaz noble hops grown nearby. Also, a remarkable tunnel system exists throughout the city, originally used to store beer, the tunnels were extended and can be visited on a guided tour. In more recent times Plzeň became home to the important Škoda Works. The city centre features a gothic cathedral, a renaissance town hall and several large synagogues.
Founded in Medieval times as the capital of Bohemia, Prague has grown to be the most beautiful of Europe’s cities with impressive Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and inventive Modern architecture. The city lies on the curving Vltava River, romantic Prague Castle dominates the skyline and picturesque streets lead down to the famous Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square. Prague offers so much colour, entertainment and culture, from cafes, pubs, restaurants, theatres and clubs to fascinating museums or rewarding strolls through the historic centre. Hearty meals and undoubtedly some of the world’s best beers are served throughout this delightful city.
Rožmberk Castle was built in the early 13th century with a high tower and a palace surrounded by walls and moat. Soon after a small town grew in its vicinity. Throughout its history, the ownership of the castle passed through several aristocratic families. The building often being added to or modified by the incumbent. In the 19th century the castle and its richly decorated interior was opened to the public as a museum, one of the first in Bohemia. It still retains a magnificent collection of valuable paintings from the late Renaissance and Baroque eras and an impressive display of historic weaponry.
Telč was founded in the 13th century as a fortress on the trading routes between Bohemia, Moravia and Austria. The highlight of a visit here is the delightful, long central Zachariáš of Hradec Square, surrounded by picturesque baroque and renaissance houses with decorative gables and arcades. After a stroll and a coffee make your way to the chateau at the end of the square. This ornate building was originally a Gothic castle built in the 14th century, then altered by a wealthy nobleman in the 16th century to the renaissance style, adding finer features. The whole town has been UNESCO listed since 1992 and is just as pretty viewed from the surrounding lakes.
Třebíč is a town west of Brno on the Jihlava River. The town grew from the establishment of a Benedictine Monastery in the 12th century, where the present-day castle is situated. Part of the castle is the Romanesque St Procopius' Basilica, a large and ornate church. Together with the historical old Jewish Quarter of the town, the castle and basilica are UNESCO protected monuments. Třebíč is noted for one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters of Europe with a population of 1,500 in 1890. The Jewish people were deported by the Nazis during the war. There are good views over the town from the 13th clock tower.