The Czech Republic (officially known by its short name, Czechia) is a small landlocked country in Central Europe, situated southeast of Germany and bordering Austria to the south, Poland to the north, and Slovakia to the southeast.
Born in 1993, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia - ever since it’s been on the map for every tourist. With good reason as the country has something for everybody. If you’re a night bird and keen on being entertained, Prague is perfect; if you’re mad about history and want to visit some of the best museums, cathedrals and chateaux in Europe, you’ll have plenty to gaze at. Loads of mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers for anybody who’s fond of the great outdoors.
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CZECH REPUBLIC QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Prague
- Currency: Koruna (CZK)
- Area: total: 78,866 km²
- Population: 10,69 million (2020 est.)
- Language: Czech
- Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
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CZECH REPUBLIC PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
1 January, Independence Day (1993)
1 May, Labor Day
8 May, Liberation Day
5 July, Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Day
6 July, Commemoration of the Martyrdom of Jan Hus
28 September, Czech Statehood Day
28 October, Foundation of the Republic
17 November, Freedom and Democracy Day
26 Dec, St. Stephen’s Day
Also, Easter Monday.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CZECH REPUBLIC
The Czech Republic lies within the Atlantic-continental area of the moderate climate zone of the northern hemisphere. In general, the climate is continental, with short, fairly hot summers and chilly winters. Spring can be the best time to visit, as the days tend to warm quickly, with consistently pleasant, mild weather for most of May. This is also the blossom season when the fruit trees that line so many Czech roads are in full flower. Autumn is also recommended, with clear and settled weather often lasting for days on end in September and October. With much of the country heavily forested, this is also a great time to appreciate the changing colours of the foliage.
May - Prague comes alive with festivals from classical music to fringe arts.
July - Karlovy Vary shows off its arty side at the sleepy spa town’s annual film festival.
December - Prague's Christmas Market draws visitors from around the world.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN CZECH REPUBLIC
The snow sports season in the Czech Republic can start in November and last until April.
HIKING & CYCLING IN CZECH REPUBLIC
The best time for outdoor activities in the Czech Republic is from May to October with very pleasant weather during the months of June, July and August.
BEACH OPTIONS IN CZECH REPUBLIC
It may surprise you that the Czech Republic has a few "beaches" on the shores of its lakes, such as Lhota Beach, Zlute Lazne, Lipno Dam Beaches, Nudist Beach, Hostivarska Prehrada, Komarovsky Rybnik & Smichov Beach.
KITESURF IN CZECH REPUBLIC
If you're a competent kitesurfer, you can even kite in the Czech Republic, on the Rozkos Lake, with the best winds from April to October.
CZECH REPUBLIC TRAVEL COSTS
You don’t have to be too concerned that a trip to the Czech Republic would cost you too much money. As expected prices are higher in Prague than in other parts of the country - especially during peak season. While the Czech capital is more expensive than the rest of the country by 50-100%, it’s still a great value compared to many other European capitals.
To save money, and experience what most tourists never do, you should consider staying at a pension just outside of Prague. Celakovice is a pleasant 25-minute train ride through the countryside. With 10,000 residents, this riverside village has all the amenities you need: a town square with a church-bell tower, restaurants, bakeries, delis, butchers, and even a supermarket. For around $40 a night you can stay at a fully furnished apartment with a kitchen, couch, and bath located right on the main square. The train to Prague departs twice an hour and costs $5 for a return ticket. Staying at a pension enables you to make your own meals and relax in the sleepy town when you need a break from the crowds of the big city.
If you are on a budget, Prague is a city where there is no great reason for you to spend any money on admission to attractions. Prague is best experienced on your feet and from the street. The buildings and statues are the museums. The underground restaurants and the deliciously cheap beer they serve is your entertainment. The Old Town square is free, the Charles Bridge is free, walking up to the castle and sitting on the royal lawn is free.
CZECH REPUBLIC TRAVEL TIPS
Buses are often faster, cheaper and more convenient than trains. Note that many bus routes have reduced frequency (or none) on weekends.
In Prague, many (though not all) buses arrive at and depart from Florenc bus station. Be sure to double-check the correct station and try to arrive at the station well ahead of departure to secure a seat. Buy tickets from the driver.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF CZECH REPUBLIC
As the country's primary city, Prague naturally dominates most visitors' itineraries, and for good reason. It's the perfect irony of Prague: you are lured here by the past but compelled to linger by the present and the future. A mix of the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Brutalist, and Socialist, the capital is arguably one of Europe's most photogenic cities. If Prague's seasonal legions of tourists wear you down, that's OK. Just drink a glass of the country's legendary lager, relax and rest reassured that quiet moments still exist: private dawn on Charles Bridge, the glorious cityscape of Staré Město or getting lost in the intimate lanes of Malá Strana.
Enjoy the “Golden City of a Hundred Spires” during the early evening, when the light is warm and the colours are rich. Good viewpoints include the following:
The garden terrace in front of Strahov Monastery, above the castle.
The many balconies and spires at Prague Castle.
Villa Richter restaurants, overlooking the city from just below the castle past the Golden Lane.
The top of either tower on Charles Bridge
The Old Town Square clock tower.
Hotel u Prince’s rooftop dining terrace overlooking the Old Town Square.
The steps of the National Museum overlooking Wenceslas Square.
The top of the Žižkov TV tower, offering spaceship views of the city, in the Žižkov/Vinohrady neighbourhood east of the city centre.
The Czech Republic's western province boasts a surprising variety. Český Krumlov, with its riverside setting and dramatic Renaissance castle, is in a class by itself. Big cities like Plzeň offer urban attractions like great museums and restaurants. The spa towns of western Bohemia, such as Karlovy Vary, were world-famous in the 19th century and retain an old-world luster.
Outside of Prague, Český Krumlov is arguably the Czech Republic's only other world-class sight and a must-see. From a distance, the town looks like any other in the Czech countryside, but once you get closer and see the Renaissance castle towering over the undisturbed 17th-century townscape, you'll feel the appeal; this really is that fairy-tale town the tourist brochures promised. Český Krumlov is best approached as an overnight destination; it's too far for a comfortable day trip from Prague.
Largely overlooked by tourists, nearby České Budějovice presents an enjoyable old town with its Ottokar II Square a center point, surrounded by buildings from the last 600 years.
The city of Pilsen, home to its famous style of beer, is a blue-collar city, although its city center is a mix of old and new, pleasant and unpretentious. Pilsen's Gothic St. Bartholomew Cathedral presents fantastic views of the entire city and surrounding countryside.
The Czech Republic’s eastern province, Moravia is the yin to Bohemia’s yang. If Bohemians love beer, Moravians love wine. If Bohemia is towns and cities, Moravia is rolling hills and pretty landscapes. The Moravian capital, Brno, has museums, but the northern city of Olomouc has captivating architecture.
Olomouc is one of the Czech Republic’s most underrated destinations. There’s great nightlife, fuelled by a cosmopolitan student population, and a gorgeous series of central squares that would rival any European city. The city's medieval astronomical clock, destroyed by the Germans in World War II, was remade as a Socialist Realist clock during communism; instead of parading saints and religious allegories are peasants, scientists, and workers. Olomouc's impressive medieval walls mixed with parkland makes for a pleasant trip.
Fiercely proud Brno, the country's second-largest city, often culturally and economically competes with Prague in a rivalry spanning centuries. Home to many students and with an active nightlife, Brno presents a compact and explorable old city center, overlooked by both its impressive Špilberk Castle and the Gothic St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. Despite being metropolitan, Brno possesses a more relaxed atmosphere than Prague does, and is known throughout the republic for its high quality of life.
Near Brno is the Macocha Abyss, a massive sinkhole in the Moravian Karst, home to a narrow river gorge, an underground river, and a large cave system.
WHAT TO EAT IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Traditional Czech cuisine relies heavily on meat-based dishes served with a side of bread dumplings or potatoes. Must-try dishes include goulash, svíčková, and pork knuckle.
Soups - Polévka (soup) is the most essential part of a meal. Some of the thick soups for a cold day are zelná or zelňačka (cabbage), čočková (lentil), fazolová (bean), and dršťková (tripe—delicious if fresh, chewy as gum if not). The lighter soups are hovězí or slepičí vývar s nudlemi (beef or chicken broth with noodles), pórková (leek), and květáková (cauliflower).
Beer - Modern pils (light, amber-colored lager) was invented in the city of Plzeň in the 19th century, giving Czechs bragging rights to having the best beer (pivo) in the world.
Dumplings - Every culture has its favourite starchy side dish; for Czechs, it’s knedliky – big bread dumplings that are perfect for mopping up gravy. They come in plain or potato (bramborové) varieties, are meant to be drowned in gravy (dumplings never accompany sauceless dishes), and are eaten with a knife and fork. Sweet dumplings, listed in the dessert section on a menu.
Roast Pork - Move over beef, pork (vepřové maso) is king here. The classic Bohemian dish, seen on menus around the country, is vepřo-knedlo-zelo, local slang for roast pork, bread dumplings, and sauerkraut.
Braised Beef - Look out for svíčková na smetaně on menus. This is a satisfying slice of roast beef, served in a cream sauce, with a side of bread dumplings and a dollop of cranberry sauce.
Becherovka - A shot of this sweetish herbal liqueur from Karlovy Vary is a popular way to start (or end) a big meal.
Carp - This lowly fish (kapr in Czech) is given pride of place every Christmas at the center of the family meal. Kapr na kmíní is fried or baked carp with caraway seed.
LGBTQ IN CZECH REPUBLIC
The Czech Republic is one of the most liberal Central European countries with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights. In 2006, it legalised registered partnerships for same-sex couples and a law legalising same-sex marriage is being considered by the Parliament as of 2019.
Czech law bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Czech Republic is regarded as one of the most tolerant Central European and former Eastern Bloc nations with an overwhelming majority of Czechs believing that homosexuality should be accepted by society. The capital city of Prague is famous internationally for its Gay Pride Parade, LGBT nightlife and openness.
WHERE TO STAY IN CZECH REPUBLIC
The Czech Republic has a wide variety of accommodation options, from luxurious hotels to simple pensions and camping grounds. Prague, Brno and Český Krumlov all have decent backpacker-oriented hostels.
In Prague hotel rates peak in spring and autumn, as well as around the Christmas and Easter holidays. Midsummer is considered 'shoulder season' and rates are about 20% lower. The capital is a popular destination, so be sure to book well in advance. Hotels are cheaper and less busy outside of Prague, but try to reserve ahead of arrival to get the best rate.