One of Europe’s most charming cities, Prague draws millions of visitors from home and abroad every year. Spectacular views of the city, centuries of art and architecture and the extraordinary atmosphere of a central European city – one that has endured turbulent times that have shaped its character and that of its inhabitants – Prague is a true gem to explore. Whenever you feel you have seen what the Czech capital has to offer, there are other sights, not far from the city, that provide invaluable insights for the context of your central European experience.
The German city on the Elbe River, some two hours away by train from Prague, is famous for its magnificent Baroque architecture. Explore Zwinger Palace and the Frauenkirche church, rebuilt after being completely destroyed during WWII, with the ruins of the original building accessible in the basement. Take a stroll through the Dresden Baroque Quarter and the Dresden Neustadt neighbourhood for some unique art and architecture and a quaint bohemian feel.
The city of Plzeň – or Pilsen in German – gave its name to a popular type of lager, the pilsener, that was first produced in the Pilsner Urquell brewery nearly two centuries ago. Discover its secrets with a guided tour that takes you through the brewery museum, the brewing plant and the cellars. Tours always end with a couple of free beers. Before you take the one-hour ride back, stock up on products and souvenirs at the factory shop or take a tour of the historic underground tunnel network that runs under the city.
Built in the 18th century as a fortified garrison town, the Nazis turned Terezín, an hour from Prague by bus, into a concentration camp. It held the Jewish population of Czechoslovakia and several other countries during WWII before they were sent to Nazi death camps. Although a sombre trip, this is an important historical sight where you can see the original accommodation quarters, the barracks’ chapel, a cemetery and an educational museum chronicling the history of the camp.
Some three hours by bus or train from Prague, the fairytale-like town of Český Krumlov lies on the meandering River Vltava. Dominated by the historic century castle overlooking the town, Český Krumlov is a maze of winding little streets that are fun to explore. The castle, built in the 13th century and later updated in Renaissance and Baroque styles, is one of the Czech Republic’s most visited sights. The town also features the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, dedicated to the Modernist Austrian artist, one of Český Krumlov’s most famous residents.
On the border between the Czech Republic and Germany, around a three-hour bus trip from Prague, lies the Bohemian Switzerland and Saxony National Park, where the stunning landscape resembles an Alpine retreat. Mostly known for its sand rock formations, the most famous, the Pravčice Gate, draws scores of visitors each year. The area is ideal for hiking and biking, as well as for boat rides among the rocks on the Kamenice River.
The historic town of Mělník overlooks the confluence of the Vltava and Elbe Rivers and lies in the heart of the Bohemian wine-making region. The town, located less than an hour to the west of Prague, offers many opportunities to taste local red wines. Visit the local castle, the residence of the princely Lobkowicz family, and take a stroll along the river and through the streets in the historic town centre.
A beautiful hill range an hour to the southwest of Prague, most of the Brdy Hills long served as a military training area closed to the public. After the army left, the hills became a popular hiking area due to its preserved natural beauty, several castle ruins and nearby towns, such as Dobříš with a beautiful chateau.