Sunday 6 July 2008

Czech Republic travellers' Top Ten

Top ten tourist attractions of the Czech Republic The Top Ten things to see or do in the Czech Republic (in no particular order) are:
Czech Beer
The Caves of the Moravian Karst
Český Krumlov
Prague castle
Kutná Hora
Prague’s old town
Karlštejn castle


The UNESCO listed renaissance chateau is the outstanding attraction here. But there’s also a beautiful main square and connections with more famous artists per square mile than anywhere else in the country (Mostly I’m thinking of Bedřich Smetana, Josef Váchal, and Olbram Zoubek; but Božena Němcová also lived here for a time).


Olomouc is the old capital and most beautiful city of Moravia (the Czech Republic’s Eastern historic land). It’s the biggest university town in the country (by percentage) and has the biggest historic preservation zone outside Prague. Lonely Planet calls its “glorious cityscape” “possibly Central Europe’s most underrated”.


Folklore thrives in the Czech lands, and the traditions and festivals are likely to be the highlight of your visit if you give them a chance. You really need to get out into the countryside though. The contrived events put on for busloads of tourists in the capital are not a patch on events like Masopust in Vortova, or the Ride of the Kings in Moravské Slovácko. If your visit doesn’t coincide with these or other festivals, the wooden village at Rožnov pod Radhoštěm or the outdoor museum at Strážnice are good places to go.

The old town of Prague

Prague is now one of the world’s major tourist cities and you simply can’t go there without visiting the old town square. The 600 year old astronomical clock on the town hall performs at least hourly, the gothic spires of the Týn church peer over the other end of the square and the broody Jewish quarter is just around the corner. If you could only do one thing in Prague’s old town, the Jewish Quarter would be my tip. There are other Astronomical clocks and gothic churches, but I don’t know of another European Jewish quarter that is so extensive and has been preserved/restored to such a high standard. Krakow, maybe?

Český Krumlov

No top ten list is complete without Český Krumlov. The second largest chateau in the country, and a slender strip of the Vltava River wrapped around the old town like a bow. Crowds of tourists can become oppressive here in the summer, but the back streets and hidden staircases are the nicest parts anyway, so use them. It’s also a good opportunity to dabble in Czech outdoorsiness, with several companies hiring rafts and canoes.

Caves of the Moravian Karst

You don’t really go to the Czech Republic for the nature, but there are some lovely parts nonetheless. The Kateřinská cave complex has one cavern that is the size of a basketball court and is used for classical music concerts during the summer holidays. And the nearby Punkevní caves have smaller but just as spectacular caverns including some that are accessible only by boat along an underground river. You don’t get to do that every day do you? If you’re going to stay overnight nearby, consider Boskovice.

Karlštejn Castle

No visit to the Czech Republic is complete without at least one castle. And Karlštejn is the real thing; with walls and moats and towers and places to pour boiling tar over the heads of invading armies. It also houses the Bohemian Crown Jewels and is intricately connected with history’s greatest Czech, King Charles IV. An easy daytrip from Prague.

Kutná Hora

The reason most people come here is to see the so-called ‘bone-church’, but that’s far from all there is to Kutná Hora. Arguably the most spectacular cathedral in the country, a recreation of an alchemist’s laboratory in the medieval cellars beneath the town square, and a silver-mines tour that takes you six floors below ground. Something for everyone; except claustrophobes.

Prague castle

An unmissable icon, the Prague castle is the seat of the Bohemian Kings and the Czech president and final resting place of the Přemyslid princes and kings. St. Vitus’ cathedral, the Basilica of St George, the changing of the guard, and the views back across the city are the highlights.

Plzeň brewery

Bohemia is one of the spiritual homes of beer, and the Plzeň (Pilsner) brewery is the best place to commune with the amber god. While you’re in town, you might also wish to see the tallest church in the country, one of the largest synagogues in the world or delve into the fascinating history connected with the WWII liberation by American soldiers.

So I hope that’s helpful for some of you who are planning trips to the Czech Republic. This list was compiled because people were finding this blog by searching for the Top Ten Attractions or Top Ten Sights of the Czech Republic, and going away disappointed. I didn’t feel though that I really had the right to proclaim a Top 10, or even that my personal list would be what most people would be looking for, so this is a group effort.

So that you know whose advice you might be planning your trip around, the Top 10 list grew out of this discussion.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find the Top Ten helpful. Feel free to ask any questions below. Happy travels, Captain Oddsocks (and friends).


Michael said...

I've never been to Karlštejn, but I do have half a day spare on my way back from the Tatras next month - and you've just given me an idea.
It's that or the beer museum in Plzen, anyway.

sansIcarus said...

Nice work Captain - it's pretty hard to argue with any of those.

Don't forget to choose which book you want as a prize for winning 'From the Bookshelf.'

Kris McCracken said...

Great list here, I can vouch for a few of them. Maybe the best holiday I've ever had, the time spent in the Czech Republic!

Captain Oddsocks said...

Cheers Guys.

I think it turned out to be a fairly good list too. Even if there are three or four things on it that I wouldn't count among my personal ten favourites.

As it stands though, I think it's a good balance of city things and countryside; Bohemia and Moravia (most Top Tens you see ignore Moravia, because their writers are based in Prague); touristy things and calmer places where you don't have to put up with that crush of commercialism that invades the big destinations when they become famous.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the discussion.

Gabriela said...

I hope some day I'll visit at least one of these suggested top ten.
All the best from Peru!