The Czech Republic is an historic gem at the heart of Europe.Though small, its inheritance of grand castles, medieval villages,elegant spa resorts and striking national parks makes it abucket-list candidate.
The capital, , is a walkable destination, and a well-preserved recordof more than 600 years of leading European architecture. Much of itis in the UNESCO-listed historic district. Other stand-outattractions include renowned architect, Frank Gehry's, and . They're linked by the , which is the most-photographed landmark in the city.Prague also has an unusually vibrant nightlife.
Spellbound visitors may not want to leave one of the mostbeautiful capitals in the world. That said, the country's allureextends beyond Prague to medieval towns that seem to have ignoredthe passing of time. These include the impossibly picturesqueHolasovice and . Visitors may also want to experience each of thecountry's two regions. In the west, Bohemia is famous for itscastles, rolling hills, forests and 19th-century spa towns. Theeastern region of Moravia was once a popular destination forwealthy families of the Astro-Hungarian Empire. Unlike Bohemia, theregion favours wine over the country's esteemed beer.
The Czech Republic is a thrilling place to visit for culturelovers and party animals alike. It is, without question, anunforgettable Central European holiday destination.
Sightseeing in the Czech Republic gets you the very best ofclassical Europe combined with the country's undeniable charm. Mostvisitors spend their time almost exclusively in Prague, enjoyingthe beauty of the medieval buildings and evocative scenery of theriver-front location, while sampling the cultural delights of thedynamic live music and theatre scene. Attractions in this beautifulcity include Charles Bridge (the most photographed feature of thecity), the Old Town Square, St Vitus Cathedral, and numerousincredible buildings in the Castle District on the hill abovePrague.
Beyond Prague is a host of delights often neglected by visitors.These include world-class attractions such as picturesque CeskyKrumlov, the fascinating ossuary of Kutna Hora, and Karlsbad, thequeen of the Czech Republic's many spa resort towns. The CzechRepublic also boasts some wonderful hiking trails and scenic areas,which make it the ideal destination for those who enjoy travellingon foot. The countryside is dotted with numerous castles, keeps andmedieval villages.
The most popular time to visit is over the peak summer months ofJuly and August, although Prague in particular can get verycrowded. Spring - April to June - has mild weather and warm daysand is probably the ideal time to visit.
The Castle District stretches across the top of the hilloverlooking the city, and incorporates the best churches andmuseums in Prague. It is set around three courtyards, immaculategardens, fortifications and state apartments. The dominant featureis St Vitus Cathedral, which occupies most of the third courtyard.The Castle was founded in the 9th century and is still the officialresidence of the president. The Old Royal Palace was home to theKings of Bohemia from the 11th to the 17th centuries. The RoyalApartments and Vladislav Hall, where Bohemian knights once jousted,kings were crowned and presidents are sworn into office, can bevisited, as well as the little chapel next door. Next to the redfaçade of the Romanesque Basilica of St George, lies theBenedictine Convent, housing the National Gallery's remarkablecollection of old Bohemian art. Behind the gallery is thepicturesque cobbled alley known as Golden Lane, a row of16th-century tradesmen's cottages, brightly coloured and built intothe fortifications. Visitors can watch the Changing of the Guard onthe hour every hour, with the fanfare and flag ceremony included atnoon.
Situated within the Castle Complex, St Vitus Cathedral is anelegant but domineering French Gothic structure. With its spiressoaring above the ramparts, it is the county's largest church, andcontains numerous side chapels, frescoes, tombstones and beautifulstained-glass windows. It literally sparkles with all the fineryinside. The most ornate chapel contains the tomb of St Wenceslas,the 'Good King Wenceslas' of the Christmas carol, which has becomesomething of a pilgrimage site. The Coronation Chamber houses theBohemian Crown Jewels and the crypt is where most of the kings andqueens of Bohemia have their final place of rest. The southernentrance to the cathedral, the Golden Gate, is decorated with arichly gilded coloured mosaic depicting the Last Judgement, whichdates from 1370. The Last Judgement mosaic is one of the artistictreasures found in the Castle District, and is a very impressivework. St Vitus Cathedral is a must-see attraction in Prague.
Visitors to Prague enjoy photographing The Charles Bridge morethan any other feature in the city. Built to replace the JudithBridge (which had been washed away by floods in 1342), itsconstruction began in 1357 and concluded in the 15th Century. Upuntil 1841, it was the only bridge in Prague, and the only means ofcrossing the Vltava River. The Charles was closed to traffic in1978 and has been a pedestrian bridge ever since.
The bridge's 30 statues of saints were originally erectedbetween 1683 and 1714, and create a unique combination of Baroqueand Gothic styles. A festive crowd usually strolls across duringthe day, with throngs of people picking their way through the happymix of buskers and artists. The bridge is far quieter at night,though, when the crowds have left and only the statues stand guard.Under moonlight, the setting presents some beautiful photoopportunities.
The heart of the old city and its marketplace since the 11thcentury, Prague's Old Town Square still hosts a variety of markets,the favourites being the whimsical annual Christmas markets. In thecentre is the odd Art Nouveau monument to the religious reformer,Jan Hus, a national symbol for the Czech people. The Old Town Hallfeatures Prague's ornate, Gothic Astronomical Clock. It shows threedifferent times, and draws throngs of people on the hour, whogather to watch the brief mechanical performance of apostles,Christ, a skeleton and a rooster. Tourists can climb the tower fora behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics of this beautiful clock,and to enjoy a great view of the city from the top. There are twomagnificent churches on opposite sides of the square: Prague'sgreatest Baroque building, St Nicholas, with its distinctly visibledome, and the even more striking Tyn Church. The latter is afabulous Gothic structure, with its twin spires a noticeablefeature on the Prague skyline. This square and its unparalleledGothic architecture feature prominently on postcards of the lovelyPrague and it's easy to see why. There are also a number of otherattractions on the square or nearby, including the KafkaMuseum.
Situated in the old Jewish Quarter, The Jewish Museum'sexhibitions are spread over a variety of buildings and synagogues,including the Maisel, Spanish, Klausen and Pinkas Synagogues, theCeremonial Hall, the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Robert GuttmannGallery and the Education and Culture Centre. The origins of thecollection are astonishing in their atrociousness. Objects from 153Jewish communities throughout Bohemia and Moravia were brought toPrague by the Nazis in 1942, to be used in a planned 'museum of anextinct people' after their extermination programme was complete.The Pinkas Synagogue was turned into a Jewish memorial after theSecond World War and its walls are covered with the names of theCzech victims, the communities they belonged to and the camps inwhich they perished. The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the oldestsurviving Jewish burial grounds in the world, while the Old-NewSynagogue is the continent's oldest working synagogue.
Sitting on a hill above the Vltava River, The Vysehrad Citadelhas played an important part in Czech history for over 1000 years,serving as a royal residence, religious centre and militaryfortress. Today, many still view it as Prague's spiritual home. Thecitadel's centerpiece is the Church of St Peter and St Paul, itstwin spires of the Neo-Gothic Saints Peter and Paul Church visiblefrom as far away as Prague Castle. No other site in the city has asmuch distinction attached to it. Behind the church is the SlavinCemetery, where many distinguished Czech artists, scientists,doctors, poets and academics are buried. The hill also boasts oneof Prague's original rotundas, the Rotunda of St Martin, whichdates from the 11th century. From the battlements the view of theVltava Valley is superb, and many tourists in Prague come toVysehrad simply to take pictures of the impressive vista.
The Museum of Communism is dedicated to presenting an account ofthe post-World War Two communist regime in Czechoslovakia, andPrague in particular. The museum covers the totalitarian regimefrom its inception in 1948 until its collapse in 1989. Essentially,it offers an eye-opening look at life behind the Iron Curtain,offering insight into the experiences of the Czech people duringthe times of the Soviet Union. With genuine artefacts on display,informative text, multimedia presentations and even a reconstructedclassroom, interrogation room and soviet-era factory, the museummakes sure the memory is kept alive of what it brands 'Communism -the Dream, the Reality, and the Nightmare'. The museum covers allaspects of the totalitarian regime, including daily life, the army,education, sport, politics, economics, propaganda, censorship, andart. All in all, this little museum gives visitors a very realsense of what the city has been through.
Prague's medieval astronomical clock, also known as the PragueOrloj, is mounted on the southern wall of the Old Town City Hall,and is popular with tourists eager to watch the clock's show everyhour. It comprises three main components, namely the astronomicaldial, which represents the position of the sun and the moon in thesky, 'The Walk of the Apostles' showing moving sculptures, and acalendar dial with medallions representing the 12 months. The showbegins with Death, represented by a skeleton, pulling the bell cordwith one hand while holding a Clessidra (hourglass) in the other.The Apostles then come out of the windows in a procession andreturn back inside. Once the windows close, a cockerel flaps andcrows in an alcove followed by the chimes of the hour. The parodyis accompanied by the Turk shaking his head, the Miser watching hisbag and Vanity admiring himself in a mirror, and makes a wonderfulspectacle for visitors to Prague. All in all, the hourly show lastsabout three minutes. Otherwise, visitors can climb the tower andsee the clock mechanisms from the interior. They can also enjoygreat views of the Old Town Square from the top.
This unique building is so famous, the Czech National Bankissued a coin featuring its likeness in 2005. It was the finalpiece in the bank's '10 Centuries of Architecture' series. Designedby Croatian-born Czech architect Vlado Milunic together withrenowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry, the building wasoriginally named 'Fred and Ginger', as it looked like a man and awoman (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) dancing together. Thebuilding was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. It isconstructed from 99 concrete panels, each differing in shape anddimension and, consequently, requiring a unique wooden form. Thebuilding is a popular tourist photo opportunity.
The Dancing house was controversial in the past, with somethinking it contrasted too starkly with the Art Noveau style ofbuildings in its neighbourhood. However, over the years it hasbecome a well-loved and supported landmark in the city, receivingworldwide praise for its innovative design and originality. Also,the Dancing House was built on a significant site, replacing abuilding that was destroyed by bombing during World War Two. Thedesign is meant to be symbolic of the changes undergone by theCzech Republic from communist regime to parliamentarydemocracy.
Petrin Hill is in the centre of Prague, perfectly located tooffer all-round stunning views of the picturesque city. Risingabove the Vltava River, it is almost entirely covered byrecreational areas and parks. Petrin Hill offers many attractionsfor children and adults on holiday in Prague, beginning with thefunicular ride up the hill. It is a fun experience for kids,followed by an exciting climb up the miniature TV tower. The toweris a small version of Paris' Eiffel Tower. Called the PetrinObservation Tower, it may not sound tall at 197 feet (60 metres),but it is a vantage point from which to see the whole of Prague.With breath-taking views, it is well worth the climb of 299 steps,especially on a clear day, when it's possible to see Snezka, thehighest peak in the Czech Republic. Kids love finding each other inthe bludistì (mirror maze) hall, and pony rides on the hill arealso a popular activity. The observatory is a fascinatingattraction for older kids. The parks are also just wonderful for abit of time outdoors, away from the imposing buildings of the citywhich can get a bit daunting, especially in the crowded touristseason.
Housed in the Old Count's Chambers of Prague Castle, the ToyMuseum is a wonderful attraction for kids, and is endlesslycaptivating for adults. The museum contains several exhibitionrooms, takes up two floors, and is said to be the second biggestcollection of its kind in the world. There are displays ofplaythings from across the globe and across the centuries, withsome of the artefacts dating as far back as Ancient Greece. Themuseum's comprehensive Barbie collection is chronological anddisplays the changes in fashion that Barbie has undergone over thegenerations. Unsurprisingly, the Barbie collection is a favouritewith little girls. Other highlights include the mechanical toytrains and the huge collection of teddy bears. There are alsotraditional Czech dolls and toys, which offer some fun insight intothe culture. This is a great attraction for the whole family and itis consistently popular with visitors to Prague.
Born in Prague in 1883, renowned author, Franz Kafka, wouldlater refer to the city as his 'dear little mother with claws'.This museum delves into why, covering Prague's influence on the manand his most famous works, including The Metamorphosis and TheTrial. Through facsimiles of manuscripts, photographs, newspaperobits, and audio-visual exhibitions, the museum looks to immersevisitors in the dark, magical and mysterious place that is theauthor's Prague. Booklovers may enjoy the extensive personalcorrespondence on display, which allows great insight into Kafkaand his life. All things considered, the museum is worth a visit,though not for children. That is, the experience involves lots ofreading and the atmosphere reflects the mood of Kafka's fiction,which is intellectual, dark and somewhat existential.
Prague has many attractions to offer children on holiday withtheir families. Essentially, the city feels like a medievalfantasy, with its fortresses, cathedrals and castles sparkingchildren's fantasies about princesses and knights. For starters,there is an entire castle district to explore. Next, Petrin Hill ishome to a fantastic mirror maze and pony-riding area for kids toenjoy. The park areas for outdoor activities are a delight for kidsand parents alike, while the local Toy Museum, the second largestcollection of its kind in the world, will keep children entertainedfor hours. The Czech Republic also has a rich puppet tradition,with shows at the Black Light Theatre and the National MarionetteTheatre usually charming the little ones. For young animal lovers,Prague has a Sea World and a zoo for kids to explore. A visit tosee the chiming of Prague's medieval Astronomical Clock is also amust. Taking a cruise to see the attractions along the banks of theriver is a popular activity for the whole family. Children seem tolove this mode of sightseeing, and the atmosphere on the spaciousferry boats is relaxed and informal. All in all, Prague is a greatdestination if you're travelling with kids.
Prague has a typically European continental climate with cold,snowy winters and warm (sometimes wet) summers. Winters (Novemberto February) can get very chilly. January is the coldest month,with strong, cold winds, and daytime temperatures dropping farbelow zero. Snowfall can be heavy. Prague experiences averagetemperatures ranging from 25°F (-4°C) during winter, to 73°F (23°C)during summer. The best time to visit is from May to September,when days are warm and nights cool. The European summer (June toSeptember) is the tourist high season, but spring and autumn canalso be rewarding times to visit, particularly if visitors preferto avoid the tourist crowds. Although the winters are cold, thelandscape does look strikingly beautiful when it is snowy.
The Czech Republic has a typically Europeancontinental climate with cold, snowy winters and warm (sometimeswet) summers. Winters (November to February) can get very chilly;January is the coldest month, with daytime temperatures far belowzero and strong, cold winds. Snowfall can be heavy; in thelow-lying areas the yearly average of snow days is less than 40; inthe mountainous areas it reaches 120. Summer temperatures averagebetween 68°F (20°C) and 77°F (25°C) but often reach as high as 86°F(30°C). There is plenty of sun in summer but there are alsofrequent thunderstorms. The capital, Prague, experiences averagetemperatures ranging from 25°F (-4°C) during winter, to 73°F (23°C)during summer.
The best time to visit the Czech Republic is from Mayto September when days are warm and nights cool. The Europeansummer (June to September) is the tourist high season, but springand autumn can also be rewarding times to visit, particularly ifyou prefer to avoid the tourist crowds. Although the winters arecold, the Czech landscapes do look strikingly beautiful when it issnowy. In a way, every season has its advantages for tourists.
The city of Prague is, perhaps, better for its beauty andhistory than its restaurant scene, though you'll be surprised bythe diversity of eateries and cuisines on offer. Largely geared topalates of all kinds, Prague's dining scene has come into its ownin recent years and will not disappoint. Beer is a huge part ofCzech culture and cuisine, and it is for this reason that manygastro-pubs include hearty roast meats on their menus. The mostcommon is pork, as it pairs perfect with an ice-cold PilsnerUrquell. Knedlíky (boiled, sliced dumplings) are a commonaccompaniment to meals. Travellers with a sweet tooth can certainlyenjoy the many pastries in Prague, such as Kolache, a type of yeastpastry filled with anything from fruits to cheeses, or poppy seeddoughnuts. There are many street vendors selling local Czech-stylehot dogs and mulled wine. Travellers will find just about any kindof niche restaurant in Prague, from Indonesian to Indian andUruguayan. The most popular dining areas in the city are the StareMesto (Old Town), Nove Mesto (New Town) and Vinohrady. It iscustomary to tip waiters 10 to 15 percent, though some restaurantsin popular tourist areas will add a gratuity.
Visitors who enjoy the finer things in life will revel inPrague's premier restaurant, the Bellevue. Every dish on the menuis a masterpiece of modern Czech cuisine, which can be enjoyedtogether with a stunning view of Prague's castle and piano playingin the classically elegant surroundings. Open daily for lunch anddinner. Reservations are recommended.
The beauty of the Francouzska Restaurant Art Nouveau in theMunicipal House building will take the breath away, with the lightof ten crystal chandeliers shimmering in the mirrors andembellishing the wall panelling. Although the name suggests Frenchcuisine, the fare includes international and Czech specialities asgood as the decor. A dazzling dining experience is guaranteed.
U Fleku has been in the heart of Prague for 500 years, andoffers the chance to soak up some history along with the tasty brewand hearty Czech meals on offer. Tours of the brewery areavailable, and there is often cabaret entertainment. Those wantingto dine should make a reservation. Recommended are the housegoulash and beer-flavoured cheese on toast. Open daily from 10am to11pm.
One of Prague's only truly Kosher restaurants, King Solomonoffers authentic traditional Jewish cuisine from Eastern andCentral Europe. Selections of Israeli, American, and Moraviankosher wines are on offer and the restaurant prides itself on aFrankovka red from the Aaron Günsberger Moravian cellars inRakvice. Open Sunday to Thursday for lunch and dinner. Fridaydinner and Saturday lunch by arrangement only. Bookingsadvisable.
This traditional beer hall is a great place for late pub eatsand even later beers. With a restaurant downstairs and a pub on thesecond-floor balcony, the whole place hums well into the night.Traditional Czech food is available on an extensive menu, but mostcome for the renowned beer, which can be a meal in itself.
This is vegetarian dining with an edge. Diners can enjoy a cafe,lounge and restaurant, all of which are decorated in a moderncavernous style. The food is a bit less exciting than the ambience,but that doesn't stop a loyal patronage.
Located in the Old Town quarter, this is arguably one ofPrague's best eateries. The dining room is minimalistic yet atleast two different seven-course meals await visitors, with thechance to sample both food and wine. The Boheme Bourgoisie menuprovides a spin on classic European food, while the Degustation duChef often draws inspiration from old Czech cookbooks and raisesthe bar on the level of classic Czech cuisine. It is a bit pricey,but well worth it. Open Monday to Saturday for dinner only. ClosedSundays. Reservations essential.
The official currency is the Czech Crown, locallyknown as the Koruna (CZK), which is divided into 100 haler. Mostcredit cards, including American Express, Diners Club, Visa andMasterCard are accepted, but it is best to have cash handy whentravelling outside of Prague and the main tourist centres. Foreigncurrency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and somehotels; commission is highest in hotels. Banks are closed onweekends. ATMs (known as 'bankomats') are now common in Prague andare probably the best way to obtain local currency at a good rate.The Czech Republic is still cheap compared to the rest of Europe,though the gap is closing.
Czech is the official language but English and German arealso widely spoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pinplugs with a hole for a male grounding pin are standard. Mostsockets also take the standard European two-pinplugs.
US citizens must have a passport valid for three months beyondthe period of intended stay in the Czech Republic. A visa is notrequired for stays of up to 90 days.
Passports endorsed 'British Citizen' must be valid on arrival;British passports with other endorsements must be valid at leastthree months beyond the period of intended stay. Passportexemptions apply to holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar,and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authorityof the United Kingdom', as well as to holders of emergencypassports issued to nationals of the United Kingdom. A visa is notrequired for passports endorsed British Citizen. No visa isrequired for holders of passports endorsed British National(overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen (containing aCertificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by theUnited Kingdom), and British Subject (containing a Certificate ofEntitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the UnitedKingdom).
Canadians must have a passport valid for three months beyond theperiod of intended stay in the Czech Republic. No visa is requiredfor a stay of up to 90 days.
Australian citizens must have a passport valid for three monthsbeyond the period of intended stay in the Czech Republic. A visa isnot required for a stay of up to 90 days.
South Africans require a passport valid for three months beyondthe period of intended stay in the Czech Republic. A visa isrequired.
Irish nationals must have a passport, or emergency passport.Irish nationals are allowed to enter the Czech Republic with anexpired passport. No visa is required.
US citizens must have a passport valid for three months beyondthe period of intended stay in the Czech Republic. A visa is notrequired for stays of up to 90 days.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for three monthsbeyond the period of intended stay in the Czech Republic. A visa isnot required for a maximum of 90 days stay.
The borderless region known as the Schengen area includesAustria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia,Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland,Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Eachof these countries issues a standard Schengen visa that has amultiple entry option, and allows the holder to travel freelywithin the borders of the other Schengen countries. All visitorsmust hold either an onward or return ticket, or proof of sufficientfunds to buy a ticket, plus all documents required for onwardtravel. They must also fill in and sign a border-crossing card, andbe able to show proof of the following at the request of theAuthority of Aliens Police Service: (i) sufficient means of supportfor the duration of their stay; (ii) documents confirming financialsecurity (credit cards, bank statements, etc.); (iii) documentsconfirming accommodation for their period of stay in the CzechRepublic, or proof of another accommodation arrangement; (iv) validhealth insurance, with complete coverage. It is highly recommendedthat visitors' passports remain valid for at least six monthsbeyond their arrival dates. Visitors should also bear in mind thatimmigration officials often apply different rules to the onestravel agents and official sources state.
There are no vaccination requirements for internationaltravellers, and no major health risks associated with travel to theCzech Republic. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A andhepatitis B. Long-term visitors to forested areas may want to seekmedical advice about immunisation against tick-borne encephalitis.Medical facilities are good in Prague, but may be more limited inrural areas. A reciprocal health agreement with the UK entitlescitizens with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to freeemergency health care. Comprehensive medical insurance isadvised.
Tipping in restaurants is optional and generally no servicecharge is added to bills. Gratuities of about 10 percent areexpected for good service. Taxi drivers are tipped by rounding upthe fare at the end of the journey.
The majority of visits to the Czech Republic are trouble-free,although the country has a risk of indiscriminate terroristattacks, which it shares with most of Europe. Petty theft is aconcern, especially in Prague, and visitors should be vigilantabout their belongings, particularly on public transport and aroundthe main tourist sites. Violent crime is rare.
Drunken behaviour and drinking in public is punishable by law inthe Czech Republic. Some bars and restaurants in Prague will notallow entry for stag parties.
Punctuality is expected in the Czech business world and dressshould be smart and conservative. Initial greetings are usuallyformal, expect a firm handshake. Titles and surnames are used,unless otherwise indicated. There is generally some polite smalltalk to establish rapport at the beginning of meetings. German isthe most common foreign language used in the Czech Republic butEnglish is widely spoken by younger generations. Translators areavailable and, any attempts at speaking Czech will be appreciatedwhen doing business. Deals can take a long time to complete due tosignificant bureaucratic red tape, so it's important to be patient.Business hours usually run from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, withsome businesses closing for the month of August.
The international access code for the Czech Republic is +420.Purchasing a local prepaid SIM card is a good way to keep callingcosts down, as international roaming can be expensive, andinternational calls from hotels involve high surcharges. Manycafes, restaurants, hotels and shopping centres offer free wifiaccess.
Travellers over the age of 17 arriving from non-EU countriesdon't have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50cigars, or 250g tobacco. The same applies to one litre of spiritsover 22-percent volume, two litres of spirits under 22-percentvolume, four litres of wine, and 16 litres of beer. Other goods upto the value of €430 for travellers arriving by air, and €300 forother travellers (reduced to €200 for children under 15) are alsoduty free.
Czech Tourist Authority, tel: +420 22 158 0611 orwww.czechtourism.com
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Washington DC, United States: +1202 274 9100.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, London, United Kingdom: +44 207243 7908.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 5623875.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12431 2380.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 62901386.
Embassy of the Czech Republic, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 6681135.
Honorary Consulate of the Czech Republic, Auckland, New Zealand:+64 9 306 5883.
United States Embassy, Prague: +420 257 022 000.
British Embassy, Prague: +420 257 402 111.
Canadian Embassy, Prague: +420 272 101 800.
South African Embassy, Prague: +420 267 311 114.
Australian Consulate, Prague: +420 221 729 260.
Irish Embassy, Prague: +420 257 011 280.
New Zealand Embassy, Berlin, Germany (also responsible for CzechRepublic): +49 30 206 210.
Prague's nightlife offers casual pubs and bars, sophisticatedlounges, live music venues and famous dance clubs - something foreveryone. The capital's most popular nightclubs are situated rightin the heart of Old Town. Note that the custom in Prague is toshare tables with strangers if things get crowded. If visitors arebent on partying, Prague has several organised pub crawls thatstart each night around 9pm. They meet at landmarks like the clocktower, and other central venues around Prague. The city has alsobecome a popular European stag and hen party destination, furtherfuelling the already lively club and bar scene. Generally speaking,dance clubs in Prague charge admission fees on Thursdays, Fridaysand Saturdays, but are usually free between Sunday and Wednesday.For a more relaxed evening, the National Marionette Theatre isrenowned for performances of Mozart operas. Classical music loverswill enjoy attending some tremendous venues and experiencingwonderful performances. If their passion for classical runsespecially deep, they should ensure that they visit Prague duringthe Prague Spring International Music Festival, or its counterpartin autumn, when the city comes alive with world-classclassical-music performances.
While shopping in Prague isn't quite on a par with some othertop cities in Europe, many hypermarkets and shopping malls havepopped up in recent years, offering an ever-wider selection ofproducts as the memory of communism fades. The growing competitionhas led to better prices for customers, making shopping in Praguerefreshingly budget-friendly by European standards. The mainshopping area in Prague extends from Wenceslas Square, past NaPrikope and into Republic Square. The Parizska area has someinternational fashion brand boutiques, while Mala Strana and theOld Town Square are home to small shops and art galleries. The OldTown Square also has a permanent market selling arts, crafts andsouvenirs. Much of what you'll find on the thoroughfare betweenCharles Bridge and Old Town Square is mass-produced and overpriced,though the souvenir shopping along this stretch is fun. There areseveral shopping malls in Prague, including the upscale Palladiumin the centre of the city; Metropole Zlicin, which has cinemas andfast-food eateries near the bus station; and the huge OC NovySmichov. Local products include crystal ware and accessories,puppets, hand-painted eggs, wooden toys, folk art and memorabiliafrom the communist era (army surplus hats, knives and badges). Manyartists sell pen-and-ink drawings on the street, and of coursevisitors find many Prague souvenirs bearing the face of native sonand renowned author, Franz Kafka. Locally-mined Czech garnets arealso popular, but make sure to get a certificate of authenticity asit can be hard to identify fakes. Most shops are open from 9am to7pm, with some large supermarkets staying open till 10pm or evenstaying open 24 hours a day. Most shops in the city centre andtourist destinations are open on weekends. Some sales tax refundsare available to non-EU citizens.
Prague has a cheap and efficient public transport systemconsisting of an integrated network of buses, trams, metro and afunicular on Petrin Hill. The historic centre is compact andpedestrian-only, but trams offer an inexpensive way of seeing therest of the city, and there are plenty of metro stations in thecentre. Tram lines criss-cross the centre and are the best way toget around, after the metro. Buses need rarely be used, as theytend to operate outside the centre and are more irregular. Aftermidnight, trams and buses offer a limited service, usually everyhour. Tickets are valid on all modes of public transport, but mustbe bought in advance and validated before each journey. It's bestto book taxis over the phone and demand a receipt for the farebefore setting out. A car is expensive and unnecessary since muchof the city is pedestrianised. Also, parking is a major problem andvehicle crime is fairly common.
Sightseeing in Prague is a fascinating experience, as it is acity steeped in history and teeming with sightseeing opportunitiesthat will appeal to just about any kind of visitor. From medievalcastles to museums and dancing buildings, this dynamic city is atreasure trove of attractions. And in addition to all the culturalsightseeing, Prague has a famously fun nightlife to keep travellersbusy until the early hours. Prague is called the City of a ThousandSpires, and a trip to the extensive Castle District (Hradeany) orsimply along the cobblestone streets around the Old Town Squarewill reveal why. The Czech Republic actually has one of the highestdensities of castles and keeps in the world, and many of these gemsare in Prague. Travellers can also shop at the local markets andvisit the hill of Vysehrad, thought to have been the firstinhabited area of Prague. Culture vultures and history buffs willlove the Museum of Communism as well as the Jewish Museum, whilethe medieval Astronomical Clock will captivate anybody with a mindfor the mechanical. Visitors planning on doing a lot of sightseeingshould consider purchasing the Prague Card. It will allow freeaccess to more than 50 of the city's top attractions, discountedentry to others, unlimited use of public transport, and discountson a number of city tours. The cost of the card varies depending onhow many days it's valid for. Travellers can buy the card online orat about 24 travel agencies and tourist offices in Prague.
Nestled on the winding River Vltava, Cesky Krumlov's appearancehas remained almost unchanged since the 18th century. This small,medieval town in southern Bohemia is a bouquet of cobbled lanes,ramshackle red-tiled roofs and colourful houses, all of whichprovide picture-perfect photo opportunities. Only about two and ahalf hours outside of Prague, Cesky Krumlov is a wonderful weekendtrip or overnight excursion. However, the charming town andbeautiful countryside could easily occupy visitors for many days.One of Cesky Krumlov's most famous attractions is theRenaissance-style castle on the hill. It is a trove of coveredwalkways, courtyards and terraced gardens, and has a historyleading back to the 13th century. Castle visitors can expectmarvellous views of the town setting. Other famous attractions inCesky Krumlov include the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, the Church ofSt Vitus, and the Czech Marionettes Museum. Since the town wasdesignated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, the summer monthshave become somewhat crowded. That said, its charm isundiminished.
Elegant boulevards, elaborate colonnades and brightly colouredbuildings line Karlovy Vary's picturesque river valley, testifyingto the town's history as a getaway for the aristocracy. It is,indeed, the queen of the Czech Republic's many spa resort towns.Tourists typically visit for health purposes, with the town's 12hot springs garnering most of the attention. Their mineral contentis famously rich in restorative and healing properties, drawingguests as blue-blooded as Tsar Peter the Great over the course oftheir history. Today, locals gather to fill their quaint littledrinking cups, sipping as they strolling to help the water work itsmagic on their digestive tracts and metabolic disorders. As analternative, many people appreciate the locally made Becherovkaliqueur, which is often hailed as the 13th spring. Although most ofthe spa pools and sanatoriums are reserved for people undergoingtreatment, visitors can still swim in the heated pool above theThermal Sanatorium. Also, Karlovy Vary has plenty of excellentaccommodation, unique souvenirs and myriad relaxing activities.
In the 14th century, Kutna Hora was the second biggest town inBohemia (after Prague) due to the discovery of silver ore in thesurrounding hills. Today, visitors come to appreciate the historyof a once booming place, and to marvel at its architecture. KutnaHora is, unsurprisingly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its greatestmonument is the exquisite church of Santa Barbara, built to rivalPrague's St Vitus Cathedral. It is a Gothic achievement financed bythe miners and dedicated to their patron saint, Barbara. Among thetown's many churches and attractions is the Hradek Mining Museum,popular for its medieval mineshaft tours. The bizarre butfascinating Gothic ossuary, decorated with the bones of about40,000 people and arranged into shapes, notably a chandelier, acoat of arms and pyramids, is a macabre but popular attraction.Although the town is small, there are also a number of shops,cafes, and bars that make it an interesting place to visit. KutnaHora is only about an hour away from Prague by road. As there isjust enough to see in this charming town to captivate visitors fora day or two, it makes the perfect excursion or weekend away.
The Kostnice Ossuary, also known as the Sedlec Ossuary or theChurch of Bones, is a unique experience for intrepid travellers.The medieval Gothic chapel is decorated with the remains of about40,000 human skeletons, including an immense chandelier. While itis considered macabre by some, the skeletons belonged to people whowished to be buried in the Ossuary, which they considered a holyplace. According to the display, they were all victims of theplague.
The famous chandelier contains at least one example of everybone in the human body and, despite its somewhat gruesome buildingmaterial, is a truly impressive work of art. There are othersculptures and decorations pieced together intricately with bonesand the effect is remarkably artistic. Having said that, theOssuary is a sacred place and the atmosphere is one of worship andpeace. The effect of death turned into art is, indeed, afascinating example of religious devotion and faith as well as aunique work of art. It's worth reading up on the history of theossuary and the area before visiting the chapel as the experienceis greatly enriched by some background knowledge.
Sumava National Park is one of the Czech Republic's dearesttreasures. Located in two southern regions, the area has nurturedEurope's wildlife since the earliest days. Visitors tend to feelthis history. The striking landscape features wise, low mountains,rushing streams, peat bogs, and crystal-clear glacial lakes, all ofwhich delight the eyes and nourish the spirit. Hikers and bikerscan expect a wonderful selection of trails. Indeed, some of thesepaths may well have served ancient Celts, who lived, and fought,and loved one another within the forest's borders. The park'sresorts are a favourite among skiers during winter, while LakeLipno is a summer haven for water sports. Spring is popular withnature lovers, as it is perhaps the best time to see the park'sarray of flowers and birds. Autumn, on the other hand, isspectacularly colourful. Visitors can choose a hotel or cottage inthe park itself, or stay in one of the historic towns on its edge.These include Prachatice, Cesky Krumlov, and Kasperske Hory.
This small town in Bohemia has a brewing tradition that goesback centuries. King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia founded the City ofPilsen in 1295 and gave its 260 citizens the lucrative right tobrew the beer, spawning more than 200 microbreweries. In turn, theydeveloped the famous Pilsner brewing methods that still producesome of the best beer in the world. The Pilsner Urquell Breweryopened in 1842, and is still Pilsen's main attraction. It actuallyhouses two separate breweries that make Pilsner Urquell andGambrinus respectively. Visitors can tour both breweries and canlearn about the history of beer at the museum. Aside from its beer,Pilsen tends to be overlooked as a travel destination. However,travellers can enjoy exploring a variety of museums dedicated toeverything from ethnography and history to puppets. The town itselfis pleasant to walk through and has some beautiful buildings tosee, including the 15th-century Town Hall, the Cathedral of StBartholomew, and the Great Synagogue. As might be expected in atown famous for its beer, Pilsen has a lot to offer regardingrestaurants and pubs. There are many places to try local Czechcuisine, and bars serve coveted unfiltered beers, which areconsidered far superior to the filtered exports.