Kroměříž is one of the most charming historical towns in the country. Founded in 1260, most of the buildings you’ll find are from the 17th century, when the city was rebuilt after being damaged in the Thirty Years’ War. The Palace and Flower Garden there have been added onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and if you go during the summer, the brilliant colors of the flower garden are mesmerizing. At any point you can enjoy the gorgeous main square and the Černý Orel (Black Eagle) Brewery that calls Kroměříž home.
Originally settled by the Romans, Olomouc has since enjoyed a rich history, including a brief time when it was the capital of Moravia. Now, it’s a quiet but lively student city with a number of beautiful monuments and historical curiosities scattered around it. The Holy Trinity Column in the main square is another of the Czech Republic’s UNESCO sites, and the square also boasts an astrological clock to rival Prague’s famed Orloj. This one, however, won’t give you any sense of what the city’s medieval inhabitants wanted the keep track of; it was rebuilt by the Soviets, so instead of saints, you’ll find proletarians.
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage site, Český Krumlov has already become a major stop for tourists in the Czech Republic. Even if you come during the tourist season, though, you can still get a quiet look at this renaissance town if you choose to stay there overnight and go exploring after the day-trippers have left. You can wander the tiny streets in the center, check out the palace with all of its Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo trappings, and the bear moat (yes – a moat with bears in it) that surrounds it, or go rafting on the river running through the town center. You’ll see an amazing variety of architecture from the 14th to 17th century, all packed into this tiny town.
Starting as a monastery in the 12th century, Kutná Hora would eventually grow to become a major site for silver mining, and therefore, one of the richest cities in Europe in the 13th to 16th centuries. The mines eventually fell into ruin, dragging the city along with them. However, it has a number of unique sites to visit, which eventually got it listed on the UNESCO list. The Church of St Barbara is a stunning example of late gothic architecture, and the Sedlec Ossuary, lovingly yet creepily known as “the bone church”, are certainly worth the 45 minute trip from Prague.
Telč was built up around its original gothic castle, but it is the renaissance buildings throughout the center that have gained the city its UNESCO status. The square is surprisingly vast for such a small town, and if you go into the center, you’ll be surrounded on all sides by fantastically colored buildings. The renaissance chateau will make you feel like you’re in Italy, at least partly due to the Italian architect who had control of its reconstruction in the late 16th century. Telč has remained undiscovered by the majority of tourists, despite its great beauty.
It is easy to forget among the Czech Republic’s other attractions that the western part of the country was once known throughout Europe as a spa destination for the elites. Because of the number of people who came to Mariánské Lázně for their spa treatments, the city quickly went from being a small settlement to being a fully-fledged spa town in the mid 19th century. After that, it quickly went through a period of growth and development, so most of the impressive historical buildings in the area date to that period. Besides enjoying a look around, you can also enjoy the same health benefits from the spas that the emperors and kings of the 19th and early 20th century did.
Liberec is actually the fifth largest city in the Czech Republic, but it maintains the feel of a smaller town, perhaps because of the mountains surrounding it. The once capital of the historically German region of the Sudetenland, many of the buildings in the center are in a similar style to what you would find throughout the German speaking world. This includes the town hall, which is a smaller version of the one in Vienna, designed and built by the same architect. The tree lined streets with all of the magnificent old mansions (which now house multiple families in apartments) and the mountain views to be had all around define Liberec as one of the most beautiful places in the country.
Yet another charming little city with a few UNESCO-listed sites, Třebíč really doesn’t disappoint. History buffs can check out the exceptionally well preserved old Jewish Quarter, including a fascinating cemetery. The St Procopius Basilica is also part of the UNESCO listing. Although it has been through several renovations, the building process started on it in the early 12th century. The town center is lovely and calm to walk around, and since it is a Czech town, there are a number of places to get very high-quality beer, including the Podklášterní (‘under the monastery’) Microbrewery. This is an example of a historical Czech town that is still almost completely undiscovered by the thousands of tourists who come through the country.
Located in the northern region of the Czech Republic, Litoměřice has been inhabited since around the 2nd century. While you won’t find any buildings dating that far back, there’s plenty of interesting Renaissance and Baroque architecture to be seen. Like Liberec, Litoměřice was once primarily occupied by Germans, which is evident in some of the buildings. The surrounding semi-mountainous area adds to the town’s charm, as does its quiet, peaceful character. Perhaps most excitingly, Litoměřice boasts a network of underground tunnels, part of which is open to the public for exploration. Easily within an hour from Prague, Litoměřice is perfect for a day trip on a nice day.
Tábor, which translates to ‘encampment’, has a fascinating history. It was founded by a radical group of Hussite soldiers (the followers of Jan Hus, an early Bohemian church reformer) during the Hussite wars. So it was originally built up with several fortification systems, including its positioning on a hill and another system of tunnels. For a while, it even functioned as an egalitarian commune of peasants. The beautiful town square features a statue of Jan Žižka, the great Hussite leader. Despite its connection to war, you’ll still find striking Renaissance architecture and many great views out to the countryside around it.