- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has become a favorite tourist destination for many travelers who crave something off of the traditional European tour path. It is a favorite destination for those who like older architecture, partially because this small landlocked country went mostly untouched during the world wars, and partially because the area has been owned by many different nations with different architectural influences throughout the last millennium. Prices are lower for those who like to find the best deal, and the culture is more “authentic”, or unspoiled by tourist demands. The result is a charming step back into a fairytale world of “Real Europe.” Here are some of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic:
This western Bohemian city is the fourth largest in the Czech Republic, and is known worldwide as the home and the namesake of Pilsner beer. For those looking for great architecture, St Bartholemew’s Cathedral, the Great Synagogue, and the Renaissance style Town Hall are must-sees. The town is a vibrant economic center, home of breweries like Pilsner Urquell, and the well-known University of West Bohemia, the nation’s premiere college of Law.
This geologic phenomenon is in a naturally protected region of the Czech Republic, just north of Brno. This is a giant series of underground limestone caverns and gorges that stretch for thousands of square kilometers. The region includes such highlights as the Macocha Abyss, a gorge 138 meter (453 foot) deep, which formed during a collapse of one of the underground cavern ceilings. In addition to caverns, Moravian Karst also contains well-marked bicycle trails and hiking paths to explore.
Olomouc was originally created as a Roman fort during the imperial period. The name is a corrupted version of its Roman name, Mount Julius. It later became the residence of the Moravian governor. There is much to see here, as the town was considered important during almost every century of the last millennium. Olomouc Castle dates back to the twelfth century, and has in it the beautiful Saint Wencelas Cathedral. The town is populated with more than a dozen lovely religious buildings from progressive architectural styles, six notable baroque fountains that are a point of pride, a notable art museum, and the spectacular astronomical clock.
For most travelers, the focal point of a visit to the Czech Republic is Prague Castle (Pražský hrad). In the city's Hradčany neighborhood and dating from the late 10th century, Prague Castle has been central to Eastern European history for centuries, and once housed Holy Roman Emperors, the Habsburgs, Bohemian kings, and, more recently, the Czech Republic's President. Over the course of its 1,000-year history, the castle - the largest in the world in terms of area - has undergone many dramatic changes in architectural style, evidence of which can be seen in the numerous buildings constructed within its walls through the centuries.
Prague's Charles Bridge
It's impossible to visit Prague without taking the time to traverse the city's most important river crossing, the spectacular Charles Bridge (Karlův Most). This famous structure spanning the River Vltava was built in 1357 and has many unique points of interest along its 520-meter span, including numerous fine statues. Perhaps the most famous are those of the bridge's namesake, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, as well as one of John of Nepomuk dating from 1683 and honoring the country's most revered saint (he was deliberately drowned in the Vltava in the 14th century).
The Colonnades and Spas of Karlovy Vary
Often referred to by its old German name of Karlsbad, Karlovy Vary is a must-visit for anyone interested in an authentic spa experience. Established in 1358, Karlovy Vary has for centuries been a popular destination for Europe's elite, from royalty (Peter the Great) to famous composers and writers (Beethoven, Chopin, and Goethe), all drawn here to the hot springs. Evidence of the town's 13 main springs (not to mention its countless smaller springs) are everywhere, from the magnificent fountain in the midst of the Tepla River that shoots jets of water 14 meters into the air, to the spa-influenced architecture of its many exquisite Neoclassical and Art Nouveau colonnades with their drinking and bathing fountains. The town is also an important cultural destination, home to a number of art galleries and museums.