Situated in the heart of Central Europe, the Czech Republic is a country consisting of two regions: Bohemia, to the west, and Moravia, the Southeastern area. While it’s easy to spend a whole trip exploring everything Prague has to offer, visitors might be surprised by the range of things to eat and drink in other cities, forested areas to hike through, and entire spa towns dedicated to the art of relaxation.
Many sites and activities can be done as a day trip, but for a truly unique perspective on Czech culture and its landscape, consider posting up for a night or two outside of Prague. You’ll be treated to warm Czech hospitality, and maybe even a shot of slivovice or two.
Learn About Czech Politics at Prague Castle
Set high above the city, Prague Castle is actually a complex of government apartments with a few museums dedicated to Czech art and history as well. Tours of the building are available, but the main highlight is St. Vitus Cathedral, a massive Gothic-style church that can be seen from most points in Prague. Don’t miss the changing of the guard (more low-key than the one at Buckingham Palace, but still ceremonial in its own way), and in the warmer months, explore the castle’s terraced gardens.
Make Your Own Marionette Puppet
You’ll see them hanging in souvenir shops all over the Czech Republic, and there are even special theaters dedicated to marionette shows. But for an elevated experience, seek out a workshop where you can create your own puppet with strings. Czech Marionettes and Puppets in Prague host day and week-long workshops where you’ll learn everything from carving techniques to performance tricks that will inspire you to host your own shows back home.
Try Fruit Brandy From a Distillery
Czech spirits are not for the faint of heart, but if you’re in the right setting, sampling the distilled flavors of the region is certainly worth it. Plum brandy (slivovice) is the most well known, but don’t ignore the cherry, apricot, and pear flavors. A visit to the Vysočina Region, between Prague and Brno, offers a few places to taste it (try Pálenice Smrčná or Bohuslavice Farmstead). The Zufanek Distillery in Moravia is also worth visiting for a tour of their plum orchards.
Dine With the “Good Soldier Švejk” in Telč
Švejk is a character from stories used to teach lessons about Czech history and culture. He has now become synonymous with many parts of Czech life, and his presence can be found in many cities. Experience his virtues especially in Telč, a UNESCO World Heritage town with charming pastel-colored buildings, and the Švejk Restaurant, a quieter alternative to the ones in busier cities. Here you can taste Czech cuisine inspired by the original Jaroslav Hašek novel, like Dr. Grunstein's cabbage pancakes, or Lieutenant Lukáš’ goulash.
Splash Around at the Slapy Water Reservoir
Located an hour south of Prague by car or bus, the Slapy Water Reservoir is part of the Vltava Cascade dam system, which helps control the water and prevent major flooding of nearby cities. But it is also a popular spot for leisure activities. Here, you can camp, hike, go horseback riding, swim, fish, or take a boat all the way from Slapy to Týn nad Vltavou, where there is a castle that hosts activities and arts programs.
Process a Part of WWII History at Terezin
A visit to Terezín is worth planning, for a sobering look at Czech history during World War II. This site was formerly used by Nazis as a “propaganda” location, where prisoners were allowed to hold concerts, act in plays, and showcase a (slightly) higher standard of living than what occurred at other concentration camps. Today, it is a museum dedicated to the history of the events that happened there and remains an important memorial for both Czechs and visitors.
Learn About Communism in an Old Bunker
The 10Z Bunker, located in Brno, is one of the best places to learn about communist history in the Czech Republic. Once designed as a nuclear fallout shelter, it was used by communist leaders for meetings and secret government planning. It has since been preserved as an underground museum with tours of the city above ground to expand upon the history. Those wishing to experience life in the bunker as it may have been used can book a bed at the onsite hostel, though be warned—conditions are definitely old school!
Watch Cars Get Made in Mladá Boleslav
One of the biggest Czech exports is automobiles, most notably the brand ŠKODA. It’s possible to tour the car company’s museum located just an hour outside of Prague where visitors can explore the history of ŠKODA and see various models over the ages. A separate tour of the auto plant is also available, where visitors are guided through the facility and watch cars become assembled before their very eyes.
Check the Time at Prague’s Astronomical Clock
One of the oldest, still-functioning astronomical clocks in the world, this iconic mechanical wonder is one of the most popular sites for travelers in Prague. Dating back to 1410, it rings every hour from 9:00am to 11:00pm. It’s during these times that the clock comes to life, featuring various symbols from the Bible (including models of the Twelve Apostles). After you’ve watched the ‘show,’ stroll around Old Town Square and admire architecture that has been in existence since the 13th century.
Watch the Sunrise From Charles Bridge
One of Prague’s most famous attractions, Charles Bridge is undoubtedly overcrowded at peak times. It features 30 replicas of religious statues, which are best admired at odd hours to fully appreciate the historical significance of the bridge and its breathtaking views. Late evenings are fine for crossing between the Old Town and the Lesser Quarter, but for the best photographs, arrive before 8 a.m., when the bridge is mostly empty and quiet.
Pour Beer Like a Czech
In a country that drinks more beer per capita than anywhere else, it’s important to understand that there’s an art to creating this liquid gold. That’s where master barman Lukáš Svoboda comes in; he hosts beer education courses at Lokál U Bílé kuželky, where attendees learn about Czech beer history, spot the difference between a Hladinka and a Mlíko pour, and are caught up to speed on some beer brewing basics. After your lessons are done, grab a bite to eat from their menu of classic Czech dishes, which use sustainably-sourced ingredients from different regions of the Czech Republic.
Wander Through Moravian Art Exhibitions
The Moravian Gallery in Brno is the second-largest art museum in the Czech Republic with a special focus on visual arts and photography, and it consists of five separate buildings. The Pražák Palace houses the permanent collection while the the Jurkovič Villa offers one of the finest examples of Czech architecture in the country. Most of the buildings are located within Brno’s City Center (Brno-město) except for the Jurkovič Villa, which is a quick tram ride away.
Sleep on Your Own Movie Set in Brno
The Anybody Hotel in Brno describes itself as “20 percent hotel, 80 percent experience”—that’s because the designs for each of their rooms are inspired by famous movies, like "Goldfinger" and "Breakfast at Tiffany’s." Along with standard amenities, guests are encouraged to act out their own scenes with each room’s movie-quality props. The hotel has even developed a series of games for each room, if you’re looking for that perfect off-screen inspiration.
Ponder the Bone Church of Kutná Hora
A short trip from Prague, visitors typically come to Kutná Hora to visit the Sedlec Ossuary, also known as “the Bone Church.” It’s here that bones from more than 40,000 human skeletons have been repurposed into decoration for the historic building—everything from chandeliers, chalices, candelabras, and wall accents. It is one of the Czech Republic’s most visited cultural sites and certainly one of the most macabre.
Explore Underground Mines in Ostrava
Almost as far east as you can go in the Czech Republic, Ostrava is a city that was built on the mining industry. One of the coolest attractions is Landek Park, a large indoor and outdoor complex with an interactive experience held in a restored 19th-century mine. It will leave you with a greater appreciation for the conditions miners dealt with. Above ground, make sure to walk through the grounds as well, which host music and events in the nice weather.
Dare to Taste Olomouc Cheese
A city that is swiftly becoming the top alternative for visitors looking to get away from Prague’s crowds, Olomouc is more well-known for its divisive snack food, the infamous Olomouc cheese (Olomoucké Tvarůžky). Made from sheep’s cheese that is aged under meat, it has a pungent scent that causes even locals to pinch their nostrils while eating it. Experience it for yourself at most delis, markets, and restaurants (there are even vending machines), or if you’re really curious, visit the Museum of Olomouc Cheese in nearby Loštice to learn how it’s made and even sample some Olomoucké Tvarůžky deserts.
Soak in the Spas of Karlovy Vary
The Czech Republic’s go-to destination for all things spa-related, Karlovy Vary has more than 170 properties dedicated to wellness, relaxation, and luxury medical services (think: the place for botox and plastic surgery). Located near the German border, locals have been coming here for decades to experience spa treatments at historic hotels, retreat into the city’s nature trails, or attend the annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Sample natural spring water from the various colonnades, or visit a Beer Spa for a totally unique relaxation experience.
Go Carp Fishing in Třeboň
The star of Czech Christmas dinners has always been carp, a freshwater fish that is harvested in Southern Bohemia. Fishing season officially begins in the fall, where Czechs and visitors take their gear to any number of ponds in the region (Třeboň has at least 200 to choose from). If you’d rather do a taste test before diving in, order carp dishes (like carp tartare, and carp fries) from local restaurants like, Šupina a Šupinka and Bílý Jednorožec.
Live a Storybook Fantasy in Český Krumlov
One of the country’s most famous UNESCO cultural heritage sites, Český Krumlov continues to charm visitors with its Renaissance architecture, views of nature along the meandering Vltava River, and local folklore. Its main feature is the castle overlooking the city, which has been turned into a museum filled with 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century artwork, and a Baroque theater. Take in the best view of the city from the Chateau Tower, or simply stroll through the city’s intimate streets to feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Hike Through Bohemian Switzerland
Located in the northwest of the country, Bohemian Switzerland got its name from two 18th-century Swiss artists, who felt the region reminded them of their home country. It is now the location of the Czech Republic’s youngest national park, České Švýcarsko, which was declared as such in 2000. Outdoor enthusiasts of all levels will enjoy the trails, scenic routes, waterfalls, and sandstone rock formations.
Climb the Adrspach-Teplice Rocks
One of the country’s most unique geological features, these sandstone giants attract thrill-seekers from around the world. Their shapes—some tower-like, others with natural platforms for resting—provide exciting opportunities for rock climbing and free climbing at all different levels. The biggest challenge can be found at Skalní Koruna, the “Rock Crown,” which is over 164 feet tall. The area’s website has more information about the individual formations, and other practical information for spending time there.
Admire Treasures at Karlštejn Castle
Medieval history fans will want to make sure Karlštejn Castle is part of their Czech trip itinerary. The foundation dates back to 1348, when it was a stronghold for holy relics, precious jewels, and other important items that belonged to Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. It is a wonderful representation of Czech Gothic architecture, looming over a small village that has guarded it for centuries.
Spend the Night in a TV Tower
The Ještěd TV Tower feels like something straight out of a sci-fi thriller, with it’s trumpet-like structure sitting on top of Ještěd Mountain. Curious travelers can visit the site via a quick cable car ride from Liberec, and enjoy a bite to eat in the panoramic restaurant, with stunning views of the landscape below. For the most out of this world experience however, book a night at the Ještěd Hotel, where you’ll rest in a space-aged, pod-like room in a building that still transmits television signals to the local area.
Sip On Czech Wine in Southern Moravia
Wine fans are starting to appreciate what the Czech Republic brings to the European wine industry. The Pálava and Valtice wine regions offer the perfect soil conditions and climate for Moravian vineyards, and the area hosts many wine and grape festivals in the fall. Along with the outstanding white wines that emerge from here, it’s worth trying burčák, which is a partially fermented wine with a bit of natural carbonation, sold only between August and November. Visit Chateau Valtice and Znovin Znojmo for the full Moravian winery experience.
Surround Yourself in the History of Pilsen
This city is best known for the Pilsner Urquell factory where visitors can get guided tours of the facility and taste freshly tapped beer. But it also holds a special place in history, having been one of the only Czech cities liberated by the American military during World War II. Since then, it has become a busy business center for the country attracting young people for both the university there and also the job prospects. It also remains an important site for Jewish heritage, as it is home to the Great Synagogue, the second largest synagogue in Europe.