The Czech Republic is one of the favorite tourist destinations in Europe. Prague, its capital city, draws a large number of visitors each year, with its harmonious blend of both history and modern living.
This nation-state in Central Europe shares a border with Poland to the northeast, Austria to the south, Germany to the west, and Slovakia to the east. Once a communist country, it is now one of the most popular tourist haunts in Europe.
The Czech economy gets a large annual income from the tourist industry. Prague is the fifth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris, Istanbul, and Rome. The country once had problems with pickpocketing and dishonest taxi drivers, but the situation has improved greatly over the recent years.
Today, Czech Republic is a country with low crime rate and a safe destination for tourists to visit.
Things To Do In Czech Republic
There are several major centers of tourist activity in the country. The spa destinations are towns of Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně and Františkovy Lázně, and Jáchymov. These places are highly popular among visitors for relaxing weekends they provide.
Unique architectural heritage also attracts travelers to the Czech Republic. The most popular castles and châteaux include Karlštejn Castle, Český Krumlov, and the Lednice–Valtice area.
While the Czech Republic offers a glimpse of the past, it also delights the eyes with its gorgeous scenery. The 14th-century Charles Bridge is a prime example. Other popular tourist hubs include the Bohemian Paradise in northeast Prague, where towering rock structures and castles abound. The ruins of Castle Trosky’s twin towers also offer a perfect landscape vista.
The country is known for its various museums, puppetry and marionette exhibitions, and numerous puppet festivals. One of the most visited tourist attractions is the Nether district Vítkovice in Ostrava, the former territory of steel production. The technical museum with various interactive expositions is situated there.
And don’t miss the Aquapalace Praha, located in Čestlice near Prague, which is the biggest water park in Central Europe.
Of course, it would be wise to start with the capital, and you would be insane to miss it. The Old Town, listed on the World Heritage Sites, as well as Europe’s most valuable cultural treasures, including the marvelous Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, and, of course, a lovely cruise on the Vltava River, will not leave you indifferent. It is really easy to fall in love with Prague! Come and feel it yourself.
The whole city is a World Heritage Site, and the most picturesque city in the Czech Republic. Wander through its medieval streets, take a canoe ride on the Vltava River or walk along its banks, and explore the insides of the city’s castle, which looks, as if it has come out from a fairy tale.
World famous spa resort at Karlovy Vary offers hot mineral springs, nice forest walks, beautiful Gothic and Baroque architecture, as well as a rich cultural program. You can also visit the town of Loket, situated nearby, on the picturesque banks of the Ohre River, and explore its marvelous castle.
This university town is known for its baroque architecture, green parks, beautiful fountains, sculptures, and, of course, UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Holy Trinity Column and grand astronomical clock. If you come in September, you can also visit one of the numerous harvest festivals, which take place in the nearby villages.
The town of Telc has fully earned its status as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rebuilt after the 1530 fire, it is now the perfect example of a European Rennaissance town. Even though the place is not included in the most popular tourist itineraries, you definitely won’t regret visiting it.
Once an important economic center of the Bohemia region, this beautiful town, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, once competed with Prague, in terms of size and importance. Nowadays, it offers its multiple visitors fine Italian and Gothic architecture, antique silver mine and, of course, the fascinating murals of St. Barbara’s Cathedral.
Top National Parks
- The country’s largest national park is a beautiful forestry region, stretched along the Austrian border. The giant area offers picturesque lakes, clear streams, untouched forests, as well as significant historic monuments.
- Bohemian Switzerland
Protected Landscape Areas
- Bohemian Paradise
- České Středohoří
- Beskydy Mountains
- Jeseníky Mountains
A fascinating 140m-deep sinkhole, located at the heart of the Moravian karst near Brno, is sure to take your breath away. After that, you can take a cruise of the underground river of the Punkevni Caves situated nearby. This would be a real fun adventure for you and your family!
This region boasts gently sloping hills, shiny vineyards, and historic villages. It is perfect for exploring by bicycle. Tasty wines and splendid sceneries will make this trip truly remarkable. Don’t miss Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape, listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Located in the upper part of the Vltava, an area offers great opportunities for canoeing. Rent a canoe and camping gear from one of the multiple outlets and go for a day of water fun! This part of the river is truly scenic, with weirs and gentle rapids, perfect for canoeing enthusiast, from beginners to experienced ones.
If you are a rock climbing enthusiast, you cannot miss this place for sure! This nature reserve in the north of the country is home to unusual rock formations, marvelous canyons, and forests, filled with wildlife. You will find plenty of operators in the area, who will provide you with everything necessary for rock climbing.
Doesn’t matter if you come during winter or summer, you can’t miss this superior mountain range. Boasting the highest point in the Czech Republic, the mountains also offer fabulous opportunities for hiking and cycling in the summer, as well as skiing in winter.
There are over 2000 castles in the Czech Republic. Some of them are ruined, but others are very well-preserved, with old interiors, furniture, paintings, etc. Anyway, often situated on top of the hill, they are all popular tourist landmarks and offer magnificent scenic views of the countryside.
The most popular and interesting spots are:
- Karlštejn and Konopiště. These two are considered among the best and are situated within very easy reach from Prague. Karlstejn dates back to the 14th century and seems like having come alive from a Disney cartoon. Konopiste, on the other hand, is a fascinating example of Baroque architecture and used to be the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
- Loket Castle
- Kost Castle
- Rabi Castle ruins
- Český Šternberk Castle
- Bezděz Castle
- Křivoklát Castle
- Bouzov Castle
- Pernštejn Castle
Probably, every Czech city has a chateau. The styles vary from renaissance and baroque to neoclassical. The most fascinating examples are:
- Valtice Chateau
- Lednice Chateau
- Hluboká nad Vltavou Chateau
- Kuks Chateau
- Mikulov Chateau
- Vranov nad Dyjí Chateau
- Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou Chateau
- Červená Lhota Chateau
- Děčín Chateau
- Orlík Chateau
Other popular architectural landmarks of Czech Republic are churches. Probably, the most important one is St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. It retains most treasures of the kingdom and is a popular tourist attraction.
Other highlights of the Czech religious history are:
- Barbara’s Church in Kutná Hora
- Bartholomew’s Cathedral in Pilsen
- Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Hradec Králové
- Saint Wenceslas Cathedral in Olomouc
- Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Brno
There are also several nice monasteries and pilgrim places in the country:
- Kladruby Monastery
- Brevnov Monastery
- Plasy Monastery
- Vyssi Brod Monastery
- Svata Hora u Pribrami
Pilsner Urquell Brewery
The birthplace of the best beer in the world, pilsner lager, is situated in Plzen, just an hour-ride away from Prague. They have cooked beer here since 1842. You can even take a guided tour through the beer cellars and ancient tunnels and see everything with your own eyes.
If you interested in the II World War history, don’t miss Terezin, the former Nazi concentration camp, situated to the north of Prague. The Ghetto Museum, execution grounds, mass graves, barracks and isolation cells and other horrors of Holocaust will leave no person indifferent.
When to Go
The Czech Republic is a popular destination all-year-round. You should choose the time of the visit, depending on your taste and purpose. Keep in mind, that winters can be freezing, while summers are usually hot and rainy. September and October can also be rather hot, although they are much drier than previous months, and will be the perfect time for sightseeing.
What to Wear
You won’t need any special clothes when traveling to the Czech Republic unless you’re going into the mountains. Medium weights are suitable for Autumn and Spring. Heavy clothes will be necessary during the winter, and light natural clothes will be perfect for summer season. And don’t forget an umbrella or a raincoat!
The official language is Czech. Other popular languages are Slovak, English, and German.
The official currency is Koruna. The approximate exchange rate is Kč26 for US$1. The currency exchange is available at banks, exchange offices, and large hotels. All major credit cards are easily acceptable. Also, ATMs are widely available in urban areas.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
If you have an unlocked phone, the cheapest and easiest option will be to buy a local SIM card. There are three main mobile companies: O2, T-mobile, and Vodafone. Their calling plans have similar prices. You can buy a prepaid SIM card from any of these operators, whose service centers are spotted around Prague and other big cities.
There is a good Internet coverage throughout the Czech Republic. Most hotels, cafes, bars, and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi for their visitors. Sometimes, more expensive accommodations charge for Wi-Fi connection, but it’s not common.
On the other hand, some hotels and hostels provide their guests with free computers, which they can use, although the number of these accommodations is decreasing. Keep in mind, that the Czech pronounce Wi-Fi as “vee-fee”, so don’t be confused. There are also a few Internet cafes available in the capital city, although not so much outside.
The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, although 60% of the population don’t affiliate themselves with any religion. The Czech manners can seem rough sometimes. However, a smile and a good joke are known to break the tension.
Shaking hands is a usual form of greeting. It is customary to say “Dobry den” (good afternoon) when entering a shop, a café, a hotel reception, or any other place. When you leave, you should also say “na shledanou” (goodbye). If you are invited to visit someone’s house, it is polite to bring a small gift: flowers for the hostess, a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates will do. When you enter the house, you should take your shoes off.
In everyday life, the Czech mainly wear casual clothes. However, they tend to dress formally for an opera performance, play, or even a cinema movie. Smoking is forbidden in public places, including restaurants, bars, railway stations, and public transport.
Traditional Czech cuisine is rich and very tasty. However, it may not be as great for vegetarians, because meat is a dominating ingredient here. Usually, meat is served with bread, potatoes, different kinds of sauce, and, of course, famous Czech beer. On the other hand, in popular tourist places, vegetarian dishes are already easier to find nowadays.
Top Dishes to Try
- Pečené vepřové koleno (rul’ka) – roasted pork knee
- Pečená kachna – roasted duck
- Moravský vrabec – pork, cooked in garlic and onions
- Bramborák – pancakes of grated potatoes with eggs, breadcrumbs, and garlic
- Smažený sýr – breaded deep-fried Edam, served with boiled potatoes or French fries and tartar sauce
- Párek v rohlíku – long thin hot dogs with crusty rolls and mustard or ketchup
- Zelí – raw cabbage, served with almost everything
- Houbová omáčka – mushroom sauce
- Svíčková na smetaně – beef sirloin with creamy root vegetable sauce
- Smažený karp – fried carp with a rich potato salad, the traditional Christmas dish
- Houskové knedlíky – bread dumplings
- Bramborové knedlíky – potato dumplings
The Czech cuisine has a wide selection of soups. The best and most unique are:
- Bramboračka – potato soup, sometimes with forest mushrooms
- Hovězí vývar – clear beef soup, sometimes with liver dumplings (játrové knedlíky)
- Guláš – thick beef stew with bread dumplings
- Zelňačka – thick and sour cabbage soup
- Česnečka – strong garlic soup with melted cheese and croutons
- Kulajda – thick soup with forest mushrooms and milk
- Hrášková polévka – soup with young green peas
- Čočková polévka – lentils soup
- Fazolačka – bean soup
- Rajská polévka – tomato soup
- Dršťková polévka – tripe soup
- Rybí polévka – thick fish soup, made from carp, the traditional Christmas dish
- Lázeňské oplatky – spa wafers, meant to eat at spa, popular predominantly in Mariánské Lázně and Karlovy Vary
- Trdlo (trdelník) – medieval-style sweet roll, made from eggs and flour, sold in the streets of Prague
- Jablkový závin (štrůdl) – apple pie, served warm with whipped cream
- Medovník – cake, made of gingerbread, honey, and walnuts
- Ovocné knedlíky – sweet dumplings with fresh berries or fruit
- Palačinka – thick pancakes, served with chocolate, ice cream, fruit or whipped cream
Kavárna (coffee house) Sweets
- Rakvička – light crispy biscuit with cream
- Větrník – round French éclair-style cream cake
- Punčák – rum-soaked biscuit sugar-glazed cake
- Laskonka – coconut and cream based sandwich cake
- Bábovka – traditional dry cake, usually dusted with icing sugar
- Buchta – traditional buns, filled with tvaroh (curd cheese), mak (poppy seeds), or povidla (fruit jam)
- Koláč – flat tart, topped with sweet feeling, such as tvaroh, povidla, mak, chopped apples, or nuts
- Beer – predominantly, the world famous Pilsner Urquell
- Moravian wines – available in both white and red
- Becherovka – a herbal spirit, known in many countries outside of the Czech Republic
- Slivovice – a plum brandy, followed by other fruit and berry variations
- Fernet – a liquor-like spirit, usually served as a digestive
The minimal drinking age is 18.
Traditional Beer Snacks
- Utopenec – translated as “drowned man”, pickled sausage with onion, garlic, or other vegetables and spices
- Zavináč – a slice of pickled fish, rolled-up and filled with various pickled vegetables
- Tlačenka s cibulí – a slice of haggis-like meat pudding, sprinkled with vinegar and garnished with fresh onion slices
- Nakládaný Hermelín – pickled Brie-like cheese, marinated with garlic and chili
- Pivní sýr – beer cheese
- Tvarůžky or Syrečky – traditional cheese with a very strong scent, often served deep-fried
- Romadur – another traditional cheese with strong scent
- Matesy s cibulí – cold fish, served with onions
The usual tip is 10%. But in tourist restaurants, a 15% service fee can be added to your bill.
The main national air company is Czech Airlines. It operates domestic flights between Prague and Ostrava. However, the distances are short and the flight fares are high. So, planes are worth using, only if you are really in a hurry. Locals themselves use domestic flights for transportation quite rarely.
The Czech Republic is perfect for cycling! There are plenty of picturesque country roads, cycling paths, and cozy villages on the way. Most trains and some buses even have bicycle racks in the baggage section.
The Czech mountain ranges are popular for mountain biking. However, you should stick to the roads and marked cycling paths, as there are usually no fences along the trails. Keep in mind, that drunk cycling is strictly forbidden, and the police do regular checks on cycling paths.
The bus network in the country is extended, and the coaches are comfortable, providing service throughout the country, from large cities to tiny villages. Buses are the favorite way of transportation among the locals. They choose it over the plane and even the train, due to the cost, comfort, and reliability. The best-known coach operator is RegioJet. Its yellow buses can be spotted throughout the country.
There is also a number of smaller bus companies. Keep in mind, that their drivers generally don’t speak English. On a local bus, you should just tell the driver, where you’re going, or show a written name of your destination, and give him the money. He will give you the ticket, printed from a small machine, which shows the price and the destination. Or you can get an online ticket from Idos website.
There is a highly developed rail network in the Czech Republic. The major hubs are Prague, Brno, Pilsen, Pardubice, České Budějovice, and Ostrava. The national rail company is České dráhy. There are also two private rail services: RegioJet and LEO Express, which offer international connections with Slovakia and Poland as well.
Pay attention, when choosing a train, as there is no universal ticket. České dráhy, RegioJet, and LEO Express are three completely different rail companies, with different offices and types of tickets. And you can only use a particular ticket within the network of the particular company, even if another one offers the same route.
Major Czech cities are connected by a web of motorways, mostly originating from Prague. Motorways are marked by red and white signs, with numbers on them. To use these roads, you need to purchase a vignette. It costs 12 Euro per ten days, 16,5 Euro per month or 56,5 Euro per year. You can buy it from a petrol station, a vignette office near the border, or a post office. If you don’t have a vignette on your car, when driving on a motorway, you will have to pay a fine up to US$200.
Your headlights or daytime lights must be turned on all the time. The fine for breaking this rule can be up to US$75. If you see opposite cars blinking their lights at you, this can be a friendly warning that your lights are off. The speed limit is 130km/h on motorways, 90 km/h on rural first class roads (blue and white sign), and 50 km/h in cities and towns.
Main roads are in good condition and under regular maintenance. On the other hand, smaller roads in villages and remote areas can have potholes and other surprises. During the winter season, road flooding is also possible in some regions.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
Taxis are easy to find and affordable, although rates are higher at night. Most taxi drivers speak English. Car hire is available at airports, railway stations, and large cities throughout the country. You need to be over 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license for, at least, one year, to be able to hire a car.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Czech Republic Trip Cost
The Czech Republic is one of the few European destinations, where you can travel even on a low budget. A bed in a hostel dormitory will cost you around 12 Euro. On the other hand, for a double room in a nice hotel be prepared to pay a minimum of 100 Euro per night.
For a simple lunch in a self-catering facility, you will pay a minimum of 12 Euro, while a three-course dinner in a restaurant will cost you around 25 Euro.
As for entertainment, you will pay around 10 Euro to enter major tourist attractions. A concert or an opera ticket will cost 10-30 Euro. A group excursion will not be expensive if you divide the fee among all group members. However, for a private tour around Prague with a driver, you will have to pay a minimum of 200 Euro.
Electricity & Plug Type
The Czech Republic uses types C and F sockets. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230 V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
Where to Stay
Hotels in Prague are quite expensive. However, the standards have increased greatly in the recent years. The choice is very wide, from accommodations in historic buildings to modern boutique hotels. Outside of the capital, the standards are lower, but so are the prices.
These facilities are multiple in Prague and other popular tourist destinations throughout the country. Amenities in hostels are simpler, and the prices are lower. So, if you are a budget traveler, these accommodations would be a perfect choice for you!
Bed and Breakfasts
In the Czech Republic, bed and breakfasts are called pensions. These are small places, with only 5-6 rooms, usually run by families. In rural areas, this type of accommodation is much more common, than hotels.
Most campsites in the Czech Republic are open from March until October. All of them offer common showers and toilets, some have additional facilities as well. Sometimes, you can even rent an unheated hut or a bungalow. For the listing of campsites, check Czech Camping or Camp websites.
There are plenty of apartments available for a short-time rent, especially in Prague. This type of accommodation can even be more comfortable, than a hotel. If you are going on a family trip or with a group of friends, this option will be cheaper, and you will have the whole place to your own.
How Safe is the Czech Republic
Most travelers don’t experience any troubles when traveling to the Czech Republic. However, there is some police advice for visitors, which you should follow. Never exchange currencies in the street, only at official exchange offices and banks. Avoid contacts with street prostitutes, which are also known for pick pocketing.
Be careful, while withdrawing money from the ATM. Don’t accept anything from strangers and don’t try to buy any drugs, or you will get into trouble. In bars, don’t leave your food and drinks unattended, because they can be spiked.
Petty thefts and pick pocketing are common in tourist areas, at railway stations, airports and on public transport. Always keep your valuables in safe places. Although, there were also accidents of theft from hotel rooms and even from safes. If you need to report a crime, you need to contact the police station within 24 hours. Don’t forget to get a police report crime number. The police stations are open 24 hours, and English translators are usually provided.
Beware of fake policemen in the street, who can ask for your passport or foreign currency. If you have any doubts, offer to go to the nearest police station and deal with everything there. Also, you can call 158 or 112 to check their identity. Remember, in the Czech Republic, police officers can’t check your money or its identity.
If you are unable to identify your location in Prague, use the codes from the lampposts. Every lamppost in the Czech capital has a 6-digit number at an eye level.
Before coming to the Czech Republic, you need to have vaccinations against tetanus and, sometimes, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. Healthcare facilities in the country are great, and hospitals are well-equipped. The cost of services is relatively cheap, which makes the country a popular destination for medical tourism nowadays. However, having travel insurance is still highly recommended. In the case of a medical emergency, call 112.
The risk of tick bites exists in forestry areas of the country during the summer season. If you are going into the forests, wear long sleeves and trousers, a hat and use special anti-tick aerosols. If you get bitten, contact the medical support immediately, in order to prevent yourself from tick-borne encephalitis.
Food and Water Safety
As for food and water, the Czech Republic is a relatively safe destination. Drinking tap water is fine. Food and drinks will be safe to consume, as long as you use all the necessary hygiene precautions.
July 31, 2016 12:00 am 1 Comment
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