Europe

Visiting the Czech Republic? Here’s your Czech List …

Czech Krumlov Castle tower | Photo credit: Czech Tourism/Cestro & Glucksmann

Everyone has heard of Prague, with its winding cobblestone streets and myriad medieval buildings that make the city an entryway to a past that few other European cities can claim – nearly all of Prague’s structures were left untouched by World War II. And, yes, this country and city are enjoying a renaissance as a travel destination.

But there’s much more to the Czech Republic.

While you are here, you may want to visit historic castles, explore some age-old wineries, examine and purchase famous Czech Bohemian glass pieces or luxuriate in any number of the best spas in Europe.

Czech Castles

The Czech lands boast an extraordinarily number of cultural monuments. Over 2,000 preserved castles and chateaux represent a notable segment of the national cultural heritage, both in terms of their numbers and historical and artistic value; their significance transcends national borders, and more than a few of these structures are important even in the global cultural context.

Anyone with a liking for castles should feel right at home in the Czech Republic. In fact, for such a small country the Guinness Book of World Records states that the Czech Republic has more castles per square mile than any other major country in the world.

Prague Castle is, of course, the most famous castle in the Czech Republic, as well as being the largest castle complex in the world. The foundations date from the 9th century, when a wooden settlement stood on the site. With the creation of an independent Czechoslovak state in 1918, the castle became the residence of the President. Today, the castle is often used for exhibits, concerts and theatrical performances; one permanent exhibit is the “History of Prague Castle,” starting with the foundation of the castle and continuing through the centuries to trace the changes to the complex.

Karlštejn Castle | Photo credit: Czech Tourism/Helena Glucksmann

Karlštejn Castle is an easy trip from Prague, and a very pleasant trip at that. It was built in the 14th century. It housed the Coronation Jewels (now kept at Prague Castle) and relics of the Holy Roman Empire. From 1887 to 1899, extensive restoration was performed, resulting in the appearance that remains today. The castle is richly decorated, and tours show the bedroom once occupied by Charles IV, as well as a series of portraits of various important figures in Czech history.

Český Krumlov, in South Bohemia, is truly one of the country’s fairytale castles. It’s the second-largest castle complex outside of Prague Castle and a stunning sight. The castle was founded circa 1230. With a resident ghost and a view over the UNESCO-protected city, it’s a deserved favourite among residents and tourists alike.

Lednice, founded in the Middle Ages, is an imposing structure once owned by the House of Liechtenstein. Neo-Gothic modifications made in the mid-19th century created the current appearance of the castle. One of the largest castle parks in the country belongs to Lednice, including a minaret designed by Josef Hardmuth. The interiors show richly carved wooden staircases and other stunning works of interior design.

Opočno Castle was first mentioned in writings in the Chronicle of Cosmas in 1068. It has survived a siege, a fire and a former owner walling up his unfaithful wife inside.

Konopiště recently provided the background for the film The Illusionist. The castle exhibits collections of art and crafts from the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and modern eras. The halls are decorated with an enormous number of hunting trophies. Many church antiquities related to the cult of St. George are also exhibited.

Hluboká nad Vltavou is another in the “fairytale” category. It was built in the 13th century, in the Gothic style; later owners added Renaissance, Baroque, and Tudor Gothic touches. The castle features richly decorated wood paneling, paintings from the 16th through the 18th centuries and 18thcentury Chinese vases. The former riding school now houses the South Bohemia Gallery of Mikuláš Aleš, featuring Gothic paintings and statues, as well as paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Czech Wines

Wine cellar in Chvalovice near Znojmo | Phoro credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wine in the Czech Republic is produced mainly in southern Moravia, although a few vineyards are located in Bohemia. However, Moravia accounts for around 96 percent of the country’s vineyards, which is why Czech wine is more often referred to as Moravian wines.

Czech wines are not well known on the wider international market. At present, Czech wines are popular mainly domestically.

The Moravia Wine Region is highly promising for the production of white wines that combine an interesting spectrum of scents complemented by typical spiciness, which do full justice to vines growing in the fertile Moravian soil.

The picturesque landscape of the southern Moravian region together with the unique natural growing conditions endow these wines with a specific identity, which is the reason that interest in their unique qualities will not fade despite the presence of an almost inexhaustible choice of wines from around the world.

The Czech National Wine Centre and Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice Castle are located in Moravian wine country.

More than 1200 kilometres of sign-posted roads, cycling paths and trails, known as the Moravian Wine Route, pass through Moravia. As soon as you hit on the wine-path symbol (the silhouette of a cellar) you know you are on the right track. The trails zigzag through the wine lands, turning to observation points, going down streets in the cellars settlements and connecting many famous wine communes. The majority of the paths lead you along quiet roadways, through meadows or woodland paths.

The Wine Region in Bohemia is situated among the most northerly in Europe. The most significant expansion of Czech winemaking took place here during the reign of Rudolf II, at which time there were around 3,500 hectares of vineyards planted in Bohemia, and can be dated to 1358.

Czech Glass

Various processes in Nižbor glass works, Central Boheminan region, CZ | Photo credit: Aktron / Wikimedia Commons

Crystal and glassmaking are associated with the Czech Republic, more than any other product. And rightly so, since Czech crystal glass, renowned for its craftsmanship and quality standards, is unparalleled.

Bohemian glass, or Bohemia crystal, is a decorative glass produced – since the 13th century – in regions of Bohemia and Silesia. Oldest archaeology excavations of glass-making sites date to around 1250. In the 17th century, Caspar Lehmann, gem cutter to Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, adapted to glass the technique of gem engraving with copper and bronze wheels.

The history of Bohemian glass started with the abundant natural resources found in the countryside. Bohemian glass-workers discovered potash combined with chalk created a clear colourless glass that was more stable than glass from Italy. Bohemia turned out expert craftsmen who artfully worked with crystal.

Bohemian Crystal is a well-known export of the Czech Republic. Visitors can book a tour of a glass factory to see it being made, or simply purchase products at one of the many glass shops in Prague.

Czech Spas

Underground thermal spring at Karlovy Vary | Photo credit: Czech Tourism

Only a few countries have as many spa facilities as the Czech Republic. Local citizens have been using spa services and treatments since the 15th century, when the first records of spas were kept.

Utilizing many local natural medicinal sources, Czech spas have played a significant role in medicine as one of the oldest means of therapy to ever have been used.

A country abounding in natural resources, the Czech Republic can boast of some of the best spas in Europe. Saturated with mineral-rich muds and waters, spa towns feature modern resorts backed by time-honoured traditions.

The town of Karlovy Vary, founded in 1350 by the Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, is known for its healing springs, becherovka liqueur, balneology, rich history, beautiful architecture and scenery. This world-famous spa town is situated in the valley of the Teplá River. The development of the town has always been connected with the curative effects of the local mineral springs. Since the beginning of the 19th century, thanks to a pharmacist named Václav Payer, water from the springs has been taken internally for its mineral content. Today a spa treatment includes drinking the waters, classic healing procedures involving external application and bathing, and modern physical therapy.

The town of Mariánské Lázně, located in a picturesque valley in the midst of beautiful nature is noted for providing visitors with clean air, spa woods, magnificent architecture and a rich cultural heritage. It was favoured by the visits of such personalities as Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Fryderyk Chopin and Edward VII, the king of England who underwent medical treatment in the spa hotel Nové Lázně nine times (1897 – 1909). A traditional spa cure in Mariánské Lázně is based on a genial effect of natural medicinal sources – mineral springs, peat and excellent climatic conditions. A spa stay in Mariánské Lázně is suitable for curing a wide range of illnesses such as locomotive system disorders, kidney and urinary tract disorders, respiratory, gynaecologic, metabolic and oncological disorders.

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