My love for Prague is well-documented, but have I convinced you for my love for the greater Czech Republic?!
There are so many little gems of the Czech Republic–many that are overshadowed by the stunning, famous Prague. Most tourists overlook the rest of the country as they focus on Prague or push through to another bigger city, such as Budapest or Vienna. However! There are several places to visit within in a day’s trip from Prague, so you can have your cake and eat it too (i.e. visit Prague but also get a taste of the rest of this charming, lovely country!).
Karlovy Vary, or Carlsbad, is a famous little spa town about two hours away by bus or car from Prague. Karlovy Vary, once most famous for attracting German visitors, now is a hit with Russians and has a distinctly different flavor than Prague. Most of the signs are in Czech and Russian, and sometimes English. In addition to the water, known for having health properties when you drink it, Karlovy Vary is a gorgeous little city on its own. Make sure to taste the water, visit the many colonnades (where you find the water spouts), “splurge” for a fancier hotel (at such a bargain it won’t feel like a splurge) and if you really want to fancy it up, book some of the famous spa treatments while you’re there. If you have a car and can drive to Karlovy Vary, you MUST stop at Loket, with its gorgeous medieval center and majestic castle, only about fifteen minutes away!
If another city in the Czech Republic could gain as much fame as Prague, that could be the absolutely charming, adorable town of Česky Krumlov. This fame means you might have to occasionally battle some crowds, but they’re easy to escape and plan around. See my posts Going Medieval in Česky Krumlov and Boating in Česky Krumlov for ideas on how to keep busy in this cute little place. This little city is about three hours away from Prague, not too bad for a long day trip, or, since it’s so amazing, worth a night or two.
If you go to Prague, chances are you’ll try the country’s most famous export, Pilsner Urquell. Pilsner Urquell also makes my favorite (and less famous) beer, Kozel! The factory tour, located in the town of Plzen (Pilsen) is about an hour from Prague on a train. The tour is really fascinating and includes a visit to the cellars, cellars that have been storing beer for hundreds of years. The town itself is also worth a visit, just a short walk from the factory and with a beautiful cathedral and historic square.
Just forty-five minutes away from Prague, through the Czech countryside, you’ll find the awesome, medieval castle, Karlštejn, and its accompanying little village. You can see the castle looming from the train station, and a twenty-minute walk through the village and a short hike up will get you inside it’s walls. It’s quite touristy, but also quite cool. You’ll find traditional mead to sample, and an old-timey blacksmith to watch, and several different types of (delicious) sausages to try! Plus, gorgeous views from an amazing castle.
Another short train ride away from Prague lies another famous day trip: the town of Kutna Hora, famous as the sight of the “Bone Church,” the Sedlec Ossuary. That’s right, a church built out of bones! While that church is worth a visit, if you continue walking into the town afterwards, you’ll find the glorious St. Barbara’s Cathedral. It was built by the same architect as the cathedral in Prague and it’s massive, amazing, and, like all good cathedrals, boasts some killer flying buttresses. After you’re churched out, make sure to visit the adorable little center of Kutna Hora itself, handily located on your way back to the train station.