The Czech Republic, historically known as Bohemia, has a long and storied history that goes back to the establishment of the Duchy of Bohemia in the 9th century. In the centuries since then, Czechia has gone through various dynastic and political iterations, and name changes. It went from being the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, to the People’s Republic of Czechoslovakia in 1948, and Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1960 under communism. In late 1989 the country became a democracy again through the Velvet Revolution, and in 1992, the Federal Assembly decided to break up the country into two countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 1 January 1993.
Today the country is known as the Czech Republic, but is increasingly being recognized simply as Czechia. A land-locked country with a hilly terrain that endows it with a mostly temperate continental and oceanic climate, Czechia has a picturesque landscape, the beauty of which could easily be enjoyed for a lifetime. In fact, many people who come to the country decide to make it their home. However, for most people who visit for a few days, they invariably depart with the feeling that the time spent in this idyllic land was not enough.
While it is not possible to encapsulate all there is to see in this land into visiting a few cities and towns, for those on short visits there is no other alternative. So, for all those hard-pressed for time, we have condensed some of the not-to-be-missed places and sites in this wonderful fairy-tale land.
Prague: For those who have never been to Prague, an absolute must-see in this charming city that also serves as the capital of the country, is the Prague Castle. By many accounts, Prague Castle is the largest castle area in the world. Its three courtyards and a number of magnificent buildings cover more than 18 acres, so be prepared to see a lot and do a considerable amount of walking.
Charles Bridge is also a sight that every visitor to the city should see. This Gothic bridge of stone connects the Old Town and Lesser Town. It was actually called the Stone Bridge during its first several centuries of existence. Its construction was commissioned by Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV and work began in 1357.
Museums and Galleries: The rich artistic heritage of Prague and the Czech Republic can be admired in Prague’s many museums and galleries, including the National Gallery, Municipal Gallery and the National Museum. These cultural institutions contain extensive collections of art of all styles and eras, ranging from fine art to sculpture, and spanning over two millennia.
Spas: Czechia’s three most famous spa towns — Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, and Frantiskovy Lázně — also known as Carlsbad, Marienbad, and Franzenbad respectively — are located in the region of Bohemia, along the country’s western edge. Each of these spas still boast the ornate architecture and regal charm of their 18th to early 20th century heydays, and they also still offer the authentic water treatments that had the elite of those times flocking to Bohemia.
Today, many doctors still prescribe the area’s carbonated waters as treatment for everything from sinus and joint problems to obesity, digestive tract issue, infertility, and even gum disease. You will need to note that the unique mineral content of each town’s water makes them effective for different ailments, so patients are typically prescribed a visit to a specific town.
Kutná Hora: At first glance, Kutná Hora seems like a quiet Central Bohemian town like any other. However, it is one of the most visited destinations in the country and a unique highlight of Czechia. On a daily basis, hundreds of people flock to see the Sedlec Ossuary — a Baroque chapel made entirely of human bones. Between 40,000 to 70,000 skeletal human remains are held in this macabre monument of death.
Once a competitor in wealth to Prague, Kutná Hora is famous for its silver mines and the Czech Museum of Silver provides a closer look at this as well as the chance to descend into the actual silver mine which is now a part of the museum.
Český Krumlov: If you are looking for a fairytale city, Český Krumlov is an ideal choice. This little town in the South Bohemian region has one of the best preserved medieval city cores in the whole of Europe. The red rooftops, colorful houses, dramatic castle views and picturesque river panoramas make Český Krumlov a charming destination.
Holašovice, located 30 kilometers north of Český Krumlov, is a place where time has stopped. This small village is a unique example of a medieval settlement with rows of lovely historic houses that remained almost intact throughout the centuries.
Brno: Although Brno is the second biggest city in Czechia, it retains a laid back atmosphere and has managed to avoid becoming a tourist trap. The city is a fascinating mix of architecture, where one street can feature Gothic, baroque, art nouveau and functionalist buildings standing next to each other.
The imposing St. Peter and Paul Cathedral is a good location to begin sightseeing before proceeding to the 13th century Špilberk Castle, which dominates the skyline. The brightest architectural jewel of the city is undoubtedly the Villa Tugendhat — a UNESCO-inscribed masterpiece of modernism built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Right underneath the lively St. James Square lies the silent kingdom of death — the enormous Brno Ossuary that is home to more than 50,000 human bones. It is the second largest ossuary in Europe after the Catacombs of Paris.
Caves and Karsts: And then there are the caves of Czechia to visit, especially if you are a spelunker. Stalagmites, stalactites and dripstone await the visitor to these caves that were formed by the Karst topography of the land. Karsts are formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum over the eons by water trickling down from the surface.
Moravian Karst: The largest and most beautiful karst area in central Europe is a place where visitors have their breath taken clean away. The main attraction here is the famous Macocha Abyss, some 138 meters deep and steeped in terrifying myths and legends. Without doubt the Moravian Karst is one of the natural wonders of the Czech Republic, which will wow every visitor.
Punkva: This is an underground river in the area of the Moravian Karst, and is almost thirty kilometers long. You can travel along it on motor boats and experience a bit of adventure in the bowels of the rocks with stalactite decorations. Among other things, you will see the so-called Masaryk House, reputedly the most beautiful of the areas in the Punkva Caves, which are part of the longest cave system in the Czech Republic.