Following the end of communist rule in 1989, the former Czechoslovakia dissolved into two independent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia from 1 january 1993. Since then the Czech Republic has developed into one of the most popular and dynamic travel destinations in Europe.
The country’s rich renaissance history, its ostentatious fairytale castles, medieval towns with iconic architectures and scenic natural beauty that abound everywhere, attracts more than 20 million visitors annually from around the world. The country’s capital, Prague, is undoubtedly the most popular destination, drawing on its own over 8 million visitors annually. But travel to the Czech Republic is not just about visiting Prague, other cities and towns in this landlocked country offer much to captivate the visitor.
Sharing a border with Slovakia in the East, Austria in South, Poland in Northeast and Germany in North and West, the Czech Republic has a vibrant renaissance history. The cultural, artistic, social and political rebirth of Europe in the renaissance period, after the bleak Middle Ages is evident in the Czech Republic’s distinctive architecture that spans Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque traditions.
The unique juxtaposition of architecture is most visible in Prague, a dynamic modern city with an ancient history that traces its origins back to 800 CE. Perched on the banks of the Vltava River, the city is Considered the cradle of Czech culture, wth nearly a dozen major museums, along with numerous theaters, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits.
The most visited site in the capital is Prague Castle, which according to the Guinness Book of Records is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square meters. Since its foundation around the 9th century, Prague Castle, located in the city’s Hradcany neighborhood, has served as the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and today, it is the official office of the President of Czech Republic.
Among the many other attractions of the city are the 620 meter long Charles Bridge, which offers panoramic views of Prague; the wonderful Wenceslas Square, home to the National Museum and numerous other architectural gems; the Clementinum, which is one of the largest collections of historic buildings in Europe, is home to the National Library of the Czech Republic.that holds over six million books; the Old Town Square with its numerous churches and the wonderful early 15th-century Astronomical Clock.
Once you have finished with your round of visits to art galleries and historical sites around Prague, move on to places beyond the capital for a visit to the Czech Republic.amazing and captivating countryside. Dotted with numerous old villages and towns, many unchanged since medieval times, the regions beyond the capital area are a treasure house of splendor.
Dominating the old town of Český Krumlov, in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, is the Český Krumlov Castle. Built in 1240, the castle, listed as a national heritage site, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is remarkably well preserved given its age. The second most visited castle in the country after Prague Castle, the citadel is home to the spectacular Rosenberg Ballroom and the Renaissance Hall, the Royal Apartments, and the Chapel of St. George. Also worth seeing is the castle’s old Baroque theater. Built in 1682, it is still used for special performances.
Another popular tourist destination is the Bohemian Paradise, a ‘Protected Landscape Area’ located in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic, to the northeast of Prague. The outstanding natural beauty of the area is crowned by numerous splendid sandstone rock formations shaped by wind, water, frost, erosion, and humans into unique shapes.
An area definitely not to be missed is the Podyjí National Park, a natural protected area located in the South Moravian Region to the east of the Czech Republic and along the border with Austria. Although relatively small in size, the National Park bursts with natural splendor, luring travelers with unspoiled charm, ubiquitous tranquility, breathtaking views and hundreds of rare species of fauna and flora. At the southeastern part of the reserve is a gorgeous heath habitat stretching from Znojmo in Czechia to Retz in Austria.
Yet another site worth the trip beyond Prague is the old city of Brno in South Moravia. Located on the Petrov hill in the center of the city is the imposing Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, one of the Czech Republic’s most important national monuments. The site of the present cathedral began as a Romanesque chapel in the 11th-century that was later expanded to include a crypt and a basilica, the remains of which can still be seen today. The interior is mostly Baroque in style, while the two impressive 84-meter-high towers home to the church bells were added in the early 20th century in Gothic Revival designs.
Among the many fine spa resorts around the Czech Republic,is the lovely town of Karlovy Vary, a spa city in the Karlovy Vary Region of the Czech Republic. Besides its spa, the area is also one of Europe’s most prominent glassmaking centers, an industry that has thrived here for more than 150 years. Thanks to the skills and craftsmanship of the local glassmakers it employs, it is widely considered one of the world’s leading manufacturers of decorative glass.
Šumava National Park, which sits along the border with Germany and Austria,is one of the largest natural spaces in the Czech Republic. The park is home to a massive mountain range covered by extensive forest and crisscrossed by thousands of kilometers of hiking trails. As one of the most diverse national parks in Europe, Šumava is also home to glacial lakes, a large population of lynxes, peat bogs, and centuries-old primeval forests. There are stunning viewpoints everywhere within the park, but the lookout tower on Poledník mountain and the top of Plechý Hill that sit over a massive glacial lake, are particularly worth a mention.
Spread across the Czech Republic are also a number of fascinating locations dedicated to preserving the remains of those slain in war or killed by diseases such as the terrible plagues that gripped Europe in medieval times.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the small town of Sedlec, home to the famous ‘Bone Church’, the Gothic All Saints Chapel. Here in the Sedlec Ossuary, the curious will be rewarded with a chance to see the remains of people who died between the 14th and 16th centuries displayed in rather chilling artistic fashion, including coats of arms, chandeliers, chalices, and bells.
A similar effect was created at the Brno Ossuary where the remains of some 50,000 people were found stacked in heaps in archways and used as decorative displays and ornamentation.