Although its current form was enshrined in 1993, the two lands of Bohemia and Morovia that form the modern Czech Republic have a rich heritage at the vanguard of Europe’s dramatic history. Straddled by Germany to the west and Poland to the east, the new republic has been heavily influenced by the old Soviet east as well as its Slavic roots. Nonetheless, you can sense the new fondness for Western Europe in its cosmopolitan centres of leafy boulevards, towering medieval churches and spiky Gothic castles. So, grab a beer and indulge yourself in this exciting republic at the crossroads of Europe.
Flights to the Czech Republic from London take you into Václav Havel Airport, which is close to the capital city of Prague. Standing in the middle of the iconic Old Town Square, you’ll notice Prague’s wonderfully flamboyant Gothic architecture, from the pointed towers of the Church of Our Lady to the Old Town Hall. Be sure to admire the Prague Orloj, a medieval masterpiece of colourful artisanal craft and interlocking moving parts. Take a daytrip out to Karlstejn Castle, a majestically imposing Gothic fortress set on a craggy peak overlooking the Bohemian countryside. This unique complex houses the royal regalia of the Bohemian kings of old, including the ancient, lop-sided crown of St Stephen. If you’re looking for a relaxing retreat, away from the urban bustle, the rural village of Karlovy Vary in western Bohemia is well worth exploring. The natural hot springs and spurting geysers have proven popular with visitors seeking a chance to unwind.
History and architecture
The highly decorative Charles Bridge in Prague – with its evocative statues craning over pedestrians – leads to the largest castle in the world and the jewel in the Czech crown. Indeed, Prague Castle – towering triumphantly over the Vltava River – is a stronghold at the heart of Central Europe’s history. The site has been used for centuries by warlords, kings and conquerors to project their power, with the mixture of architectural styles attesting to the castle’s vital role. The impressive St Vitus Cathedral is a must-see, its dark towers containing a vast interior of solemn beauty.
The Czech Republic boasts the finest beer brewed in all of Europe. Test this bold statement by heading to Prague’s Beer Museum, sample the region’s native brews and get your night going. Those of a stronger palate will enjoy the Absintherie, while the Stredoveka Krcma is a medieval tavern in a unique setting. Prague has a world-class reputation for fantastic nightlife with a very enjoyable club scene. Karlovy Lazne is a firm favourite among visitors and locals, featuring five levels of fun-filled revelry.