Czech Republic Travel Guide
At the heart of Central Europe lies the Czech Republic, a medium-sized country packed with history. Between medieval towns, world-class wineries, picturesque villages and castles, amazing spa resorts, and beautiful national parks, the country is majestic in all ways.
Every year, thousands of people visit the country, but most don’t go beyond Prague. Unknown to them, they don’t know what they’re missing. This Czech Republic travel guide will help you make the most of your visit to this country.
Best Things to Do in Czech Republic
Being the capital city of the Czech Republic and a major town, Prague is the most visited tourist destination, and with good reason. For starters, it’s home to the world’s third-largest castles. The Prague castle, which has been a seat of power for Czech rulers, including crown princes, bohemian kings, and the holy Roman empire, is now the president’s official office.
Stop by St. Vitus Cathedral, an iconic building in the Czech Republic. Featuring detailed carving, twin gothic spires, and impressive gargoyles, this gothic cathedral took about 600 years to complete and has influenced many architectural styles. Talking of buildings in Prague, you’ll also want to check out Dancing House. It is quite eye-catching, thanks to its weird and twisted shape.
While in Prague, visit Stare Mesto, popularly known as the Old Town. This historical town preserves hundreds of years of history through monuments, religious buildings, and houses. It’s no surprise it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. One of the major activities to do in the Old Town is to visit the astronomical clock.
Despite being installed in 1410 and being the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, it still functions. Although this place is scenic throughout, we suggest visiting it in December when it’s populated by festive Christmas markets.
Don’t forget to cruise the Vltava River for a panoramic view of Kampa Island, Charles Bridge, and Prague Castle.
Hike and Camp at Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Bohemian Switzerland National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. Located in the Czech Republic, the park is home to a stunning landscape of sandstone cliffs, lush green valleys, and crystal-clear rivers. The park is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
There are plenty of trails to explore, and the park also offers unique activities like canoeing, horseback riding, and even hot air balloon rides. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day in nature or an adventure-filled weekend, Bohemian Switzerland National Park has something for everyone.
Discover the Beauty of Šumava National Park
Šumava National Park is the biggest park in the Czech Republic and is located along the Austrian border. There is so much beauty to take in the park, including its five lakes. A great place to start exploring the lakes is through Zelena Ruda town. A marked cycling path leads you to Black Lake, the largest of the five. Climb a rocky path past the European watershed and arrive at Devil’s Lake. Although it’s the least accessible lake, it is also the most beautiful, with crystal clear water.
Here you will also encounter giant mountains, with the biggest, Plechý / Plöckenstein, measuring 4,524 ft tall. To get an amazing view of the giant mountains, the park, and the surrounding beautiful countryside, you need to get the best vantage position. You can achieve this by climbing the rounded hills or the various lookout towers in the park.
Peat bogs mostly cover the plateau in the park, but there are also virgin forests, trout streams, and tons of wildlife like elk, owls, and lynx. The park is home to several endangered plants and animals, some of which can only be found in the Czech Republic. One of the most treasured sites is the Boubínský primeval forest. Here nature has thrived undisturbed for more than a hundred years. Visiting this mountain gives you a chance to get out of Prague, which is always busy.
Visit the Karlovy Vary
If you love spa treatments, you’ll want to visit the Karlovy Vary in West Bohemia. It’s one of the towns in the Czech Republic listed as the best spa town in Europe on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Charles IV, of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Bohemia, founded Karlovy Vary. He discovered the steaming water while taking his men hunting. Shortly after the discovery, many people started visiting the region to experience the healing waters.
This region contains the highest number of curative mineral springs globally. (about one hundred). People come from all over the world to drink and bathe in the waters, which are said to have healing powers. A few swimming pools in hotels in Karlovy Vary have thermal water, which has been proven to treat nervous conditions, digestive system, respiratory system, and metabolism issues.
When visiting West Bohemia, ensure you drink thermal water. A trip from Prague city to Karlovy Vary will take about two hours, but considering what this region has to offer, it’s worth it. Don’t forget to carry spa sipping or porcelain drinking cups with you. You can get them at the many gift shops located all over West Bohemia.
Visit Kutna Hora
Although a small town, Kutna Hora is one of the major tourist areas in the Czech Republic and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the one Czech town you should visit beyond Prague. Silver mines contributed to the growth and wealth of this town in the Middle Ages. The major sights in this historical town include the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec and the Church of St. Barbara.
The St. Barbara Church features a beautiful gothic design that attracts many tourists. The church got its name from St. Barbara, who is known as the patron saint of miners. Considering that silver mines contributed to the town’s history, it was only right to name the church after the Saint.
Another major sight in Kutna Hora is the Church of Bones or the Sedlec Ossuary. Just like the name suggests, this is literally a church of bones. The church used human bones and skulls to decorate the chapel. Chandeliers and garlands are made of human bones, and at the entrance, there’s a huge imitation of the Schwarzenberg family’s coat of arms, made with bones and skulls.
The church receives more than 300,000 tourists every year from all over the world and other Czech cities. And while you can take photos with your phone for personal use, commercial videography, and photography are prohibited. You can only take photos for education or documentary purposes if the Bishopric of Hradec Králové grants you a written permit.
Visit the Old Town Square
The Old Town Square is also called the Staromestske Namesti. It’s a historic center containing architecture that dates back to the Middle Ages, such as Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, Art Nouveau, and Rococo. The square is one of the oldest and busiest areas in the city. If this is your first time visiting the Czech Republic, ensure this site is on your list.
The Powder Tower marks the entrance to the Town square. This dark gothic structure was built in 1475 and is one of the city gates used to store gunpowder in the 17th Century. You will have to climb about 186 steps to get to the top of the tower. But it’s worth it for the magnificent views of the city.
It’s also here in the Old Town, where you’ll find some of the most breathtaking buildings, like the Prague Orloj, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, and St. Nicholas Church. And while Prague has some spectacular buildings, these ones top the list. Forget the photos you may have seen online, as they can’t compare to the real deal.
Aside from the attractions, this square is also a major meeting place for tourists from other Czech cities. As there’re many cafes, restaurants, and stalls for street foods, here is where you can eat local Czech cuisine. Other highlights in this square include the House of the Black Madonna, House at the Minute, and Kinsky Palace.
Visit the Terezin Concentration Camp
Between the Vltava River and the Old Town Square lies Josefov, formerly a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp that was used in World War II. Everything about this place will inform you of the long history of the Jewish community in the Czech Republic. While this was just a work camp, over 33,000 people died there because of terrible living conditions.
One of the major highlights of the Jewish Quarter is the Spanish synagogue. It’s one of the most breathtaking synagogues in Europe. The interior is decorated with Islamic motifs and stained glass windows, giving a Moorish-Andalucían architectural style. It also features exhibitions that document Jewish history in this city, along with important Jewish figures like Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka.
To fully explore the Jewish Quarter, purchase a ticket that admits you to all the major sites, including the six synagogues, the Old Jewish Synagogue, and the Jewish Town Hall. Keep in mind that these sites are closed on Saturday to observe the Sabbath and on other Jewish holidays.
Although you can explore the site independently thanks to the historical exhibits, we encourage you to book a guided tour. The guide will tell you unique details, stories, and context that the exhibits may not cover.
Pass by the Austerlitz Battlefield
The Battle of Austerlitz is among the most significant Napoleonic wars and an important part of the history of the Czech Republic. It’s also widely considered the greatest victory for Napoleon.
It was in this battle that Napoleon’s army defeated the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Russia, leading to the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Although more than 16000 people died in this battle, Napoleon’s army lost only 1300.
This site is located near major Czech cities like Brno. Once in a while, you’ll find war reenactments happening here. If you’re a history lover, you may want to watch out for that.
Visits Castles and Chateaux
The Czech Republic is a hub for castles, chateaux, and ruins. They are located in almost every city, including the capital, Prague. You’ll also find them in the beautiful countryside if you’re trying to avoid the city. Because the country is small, you can visit many fortresses from Prague via bus, train, or car. Although renting a car is expensive compared to taking a bus or train, it’s the most convenient way to explore what Czech has to offer.
The first castle you should check out is Prague Castle. It’s in the capital, and it holds the Czech Republic’s cultural and political history. Next, check out Okoř castle, which is only 15km outside Prague. Another castle that is more of a castle ruin is the Trosky castle ruins in the Liberec Region. Climbing the ruins can be a bit tricky, but the stunning views from the top are worth the effort.
You cannot fail to visit křivoklát castle, which is the most important and oldest castle in the Czech Republic. It’s about 50 km from Prague and belonged to Kings. It dates back to the 12th Century but was reconstructed in the 19th Century.
Another castle that is an hour away from Prague is Kost Castle. Hidden in the thick forest, this castle is the Czech Republic’s most preserved Gothic castle. It has remained untouched over the years, protecting its charm and atmosphere. This castle and the surrounding countryside are worth the trip from Prague.
When it comes to chateaux, you’ll want to visit the Chyše Chateau located in West Bohemia. It is well maintained with artistic features, giving it a stunning look.
Where to stay in Czech Republic
Although the Czech Republic is a small country, it’s a major tourist attraction, giving you plenty of accommodation options. Most major cities, whether in North, Central, or West Bohemia, have affordable and excellent accommodation. Book your hotel as early as possible when planning a trip during the holidays or peak season. The accommodation cost is often high during that time, and sometimes finding accommodation can be tricky. Plan ahead to avoid such hassles. With that said, here are some places you can stay when visiting the Czech Republic.
- Grand Hotel Hradec
- Don Giovanni Hotel Prague
- Miss Sophie’s Downtown
- Spa Hotel Thermal
- Boutique Hotel Romantick
- Grandezza Hotel Luxury Palace
How to Get Around in Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, especially Prague, has a great transport system with plenty of options. One of the most convenient ways to get around the country is by renting a car. The roads are well maintained, which makes driving yourself not much of a hassle. Another alternative is through trains or buses, but you must first buy tickets and validate them before boarding a train or bus.
The metro stations are tidy, and some have cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy a snack while waiting for the train. During peak hours, the trains arrive every two minutes, while during off-peak hours, they arrive every ten minutes.
Travel Tips Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is famous for its beautiful architecture, picturesque villages, and numerous castles located all over the state. It’s a popular destination and an ideal place to visit for a delectable food experience and a great history of medieval towns.
But as a visitor, it’s important to learn a few traveling tips and Czech laws to ensure a good stay. Take a look at these traveling tips when you visit the Czech Republic.
Get Travel Insurance
As you’re planning your trip to the Czech Republic, one of the first things to take care of is travel insurance. It will protect you from unseen events. While we all hope nothing bad happens to us in a foreign country, an accident can happen. For instance, you may end up losing your camera or phone in the streets of Prague. Beyond that, travel insurance could come in handy in difficult situations if you have to leave the Czech country because you’ve lost a family member.
Insurance coverage offers medical protection if you get sick. For instance, you might eat local food in Prague and get food poisoning or break your leg on one of the many hiking trails. Instead of losing all your money on covering emergencies, get travel insurance to protect yourself.
Don’t assume the most expensive policy will cover you sufficiently when purchasing travel insurance. Factor in the activities you’re about to participate in. For instance, some policies may not cover risky activities like climbing mountains or bungee jumping.
Take note of the value of your belongings. When traveling with costly items like a laptop, camera, and expensive jewelry, get coverage. Most policies will only cover valuable things up to a specific limit. Think of what to carry and ensure that your insurer will compensate you if it gets lost in the Czech Republic or even at the airport.
Lastly, check if your insurance covers trip cancellation. Flights are often canceled because of unforeseen circumstances. Ensure trip cancellation is covered in your policy to protect your finances.
Be Vigilant at All Times
Although the Czech Republic is considered a safe country, as a tourist, always be careful, especially in Prague, the capital city. Pickpocketing is common in tourist areas like the Charles Bridge. Another common petty crime is passport theft. Be cautious if a stranger offers to help with your luggage or asks to see your passport. Drink spiking is also common, and tourists, especially solo female travelers, ought to be extra careful in bars.
Taxis can also be an issue for tourists. Most taxis will charge tourists an absurd amount of cash for rides. Consider using ride-share apps like Uber. The only challenge is that this option isn’t very common outside of Prague. In the Czech countryside, you have to find other alternatives.
Be careful while walking the streets of Prague or any other city. Tram accidents happen, although rarely. When near tram tracks, be cautious and make sure to look both ways when crossing the road. Also, if you’re walking with your partner, avoid any public displays of affection, as they’re frowned upon.
Lastly, watch out for bad exchange rates and ATM fees, especially in the capital city. There are many exchange offices that claim to offer zero percent commission. The offer may entice you because you want to save money. But in trying to save that commission, you’ll realize that these offices have bad exchange rates.
Don’t Try to See Everything at Once
As you have noticed, there is so much to see and do in the Czech Republic. From exploring medieval towns to checking out the amazing national parks, you can’t exhaust everything in just a few days. And if you try, you’ll constantly feel rushed instead of enjoying every location.
Try creating an itinerary of what to see and do during your stay. You can pick a day to check out the castle ruins and explore the cycling paths in the parks. Better yet, focus on cities starting with Prague. As you have seen, even a week isn’t enough to explore this city fully. However, you can prioritize the major attractions and save the other locations for your next trip to Prague.
Although Prague attracts most tourists, we encourage you to explore other cities in the Czech Republic. For hiking trails, for instance, schedule a day hike in the Krkonoše Mountains. It’s the highest mountain in Czechia with a unique landscape and Alpine Flora. In the countryside, you can also see the Mumlava Waterfall, which few tourists know about. This is your chance to avoid crowds and get a taste of what Czechia offers.
One of the best ways to explore this country is through guided tours so that you can go to the hottest tourist destinations. They usually offer different packages based on how long your stay will be. But if you want to wander on your own, plan ahead so that you know which places you’ll be exploring.
Avoid Calling Czech Republic “Czechoslovakia”
For the longest time, the Czech Republic was part of a country called Czechoslovakia. In 1993 that country separated into two nations which we now call the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Because the dissolution was peaceful, it was called a velvet divorce, showing that nations can divide without any warfare.
Referring to Czech as Czechoslovakia is a huge pet peeve among the locals. They don’t like it as that country ceased to exist decades ago. Bringing up the name also brings up memories of the post-communism era and shows you don’t understand the history of the country you’re in.
To be safe, stick to Czech, which is also simpler to pronounce. Otherwise, you might attract some unpleasant looks in the streets of Prague by referring to the country with the wrong name.
Check the Visa Requirements
The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union and the Schengen area. Any citizen from other countries belonging to these unions can enter the Czech Republic without a visa. The same applies to citizens from European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. However, ensure you carry an ID or passport to provide proof that you’re a citizen of the EU/EEA countries.
You also don’t need a visa to enter the Czech republic if you belong to a non-EFTA/EU country with an existing visa waiver agreement with Czech before it enacted the Schengen acquis. Examples of such countries include San Marino, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, and Brunei. But while you don’t need a visa to enter the country, you can only stay there for not more than 90 days.
There are usually no border controls among countries that have implemented the Schengen Agreement. This is most European countries and a few others. But note that there are identity checks before tourists can board international boats and flights.
For all other tourists that don’t belong to any of these unions, ensure you have a valid visa and passport before visiting the Czech Republic. Also, carry your passport at all times for purposes of identification. The police can arrest or fine you according to Czech law if you don’t have the necessary documents.
Since Covid, there have been many traveling rules, and most change at short notice. Before traveling, ensure you’re well-updated to avoid problems.
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