Overview: A historic jewel at the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic packs a sizeable punch for such a small country; from its majestic castles to its medieval towns, its elegant SPA resorts to its scenic national parks.
Most visitors to this Central European country limit their sightseeing to the culture-crammed capital, Prague. Romantically named ‘The City of a Thousand Spires’ Prague boasts some of the finest churches on the continent, dotted amongst cobbled lanes, classical opera houses and medieval bridges – and all watched over by a formidable fairytale castle. Its blend of ancient monuments, interactive museums, green parkland, fine restaurants, subterranean breweries and bustling markets ensure there isn’t a dull moment in this bohemian city. Yet Prague is just one of the Czech Republic’s many draws.
Day-trippers from the capital will find plenty of attractions within easy reach. Karlovy Vary – or Karlsbad as it is often known – is a picturesque SPA town famed for its hot springs, which have been soothing aches and pains since the 14th century. Karlštejn is a giant Gothic castle hidden among wooded hills, and the sworn protector of the Bohemian crown jewels. And Plzeň (also known as Pilsen), the 2015 European Capital of Culture, boasts a pretty old town and a wealth of fascinating museums.
Meanwhile, the northern border of the Czech lands is home to the snow-capped mountains of Krkonoše and the towering rock formations of Český Ráj (translation: Bohemian Paradise) while the central and southern regions lay claim to Český Krumlov – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps the most beautiful town in the entire country (though it’s fighting stiff competition from nearby Telč) – and the wild forests of Šumava National Park. And all throughout the country there are enough beautiful castles, idyllic spa towns and eye-catching natural features to last a lifetime.
Yet for all this, the Czech Republic is far more than the sum of its sights. Aside from all of the things to see, it has a unique blend of tradition and modernity.
At a glance:
- Population: ~ 10.6 million
- Area: 79,000 sq. kms
- Capital city: Prague (pop. 1.2 million)
- Currency: Czech Koruna (CZK)
- Time zone: UTC+1 / Summer UTC +2
- Religion: 60% agnostic / 27% Christian (Roman Catholics).