The architectural gems of the capital are replicated across the country. In the lesser-visited eastern province of Moravia, for example, you’ll find Telc and Slavonice – the Czech Republic’s most perfectly-preserved medieval and renaissance towns.
The Czech Republic’s charms are not confined to its urban areas. From gentle strolls to serious hikes, ramblers have plenty of options since the Czech Republic has over 600 protected natural areas with countless well-marked trails, many of which take in dramatic castles and attractive wooden churches. And after a hard day’s walk you’re never far away from a refreshing Czech beer, a bread bowl of goulash and a sweet roll of Trdelnik.
It would be criminal to come to the Czech Republic and not visit Prazsky hrad – Prague’s magnificent castle. But you wont be the only one wanting to visit. To see the castle complex minus the crowds, head there at the end of the day.
Although you wont be allowed inside the buildings after 6pm, the grounds stay open until 11pm and are at their most atmospheric when lit-up at night.
'Eyes too big for your stomach' is a phrase that Katherine Price became well-acquainted with in Prague:
“After a long day in Prague, you may think that that thick slab of ham at the market stall looks incredibly appealing. I discovered the hard way what a tourist trap these big hams can be and paid for my greed – they are often incredibly overpriced, as only tourists really buy them, and you'll only get flimsy plastic cutlery to cut into this huge slab of meat. If you don't give up out of frustration at not being able to cut the thing, then it'll be the groans of your stomach of the sheer amount of pure meat you've consumed afterwards.”
Climate and crowds in the Czech Republic: Summer (June to August) has the highest temperatures, the heaviest rainfall and the most tourists.
The months either side – May and September – are good times to visit as the weather is mild and the crowds fewer, though you’ll still pay high season prices.
Winter can be bitingly cold – as low as -15? in the mountainous areas – but outside of the ski resorts, you’ll find the lowest prices and Prague is glorious in the snow.
Festivals in the Czech Republic: The country’s biggest arts and music festival is the Prague Spring Festival at the end of May.
Witches Night – a mixture of Halloween and Bonfire Night – is held on April 30.
For jousting re-enactments and other medieval shenanigans, head to the town of Cesky Krumlov for the Five-petalled Rose Festival that takes place in mid-June.
Prague (PRG), 17km from the city
The Czech Republic has a good-value, integrated bus and train network. The Czech Republic’s roads are in good condition and it is easy to hire cars. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, though Prague’s taxi drivers have been known to swindle the odd tourist – make sure you agree the price before setting off. Bike rental facilities are improving, especially in the big cities and more touristy areas.
A few Communist dinosaur hotels live on in Czech Republic but Prague and the other major Czech cities are also home to some stylish top-end sleeps.
If you’re on a budget, stay in one of the many family-run pensions or, if you’re staying a while, rent an apartment.
In hilly areas, hikers will find numerous mountain huts, which range from rustic chalets to communist concrete bunkers.
Czech cuisine is made up of typically solid Central European fare, with dumplings, potatoes and pork featuring heavily.
Czech chefs excel with their warming soups, including Hovezi vyvar (clear beef soup), cesnecka (a strong garlic soup) and gulasovka (a thick goulash). Vegetarians will find choices limited outside (and to some extent inside) touristy areas.
Czech beers are among the best in the world and absinthe is making something of a come-back in the republic.
In autumn, make sure you try burcak – the Czech answer to French Beaujolais. The arrival in the bars of this sweet, fizzy, Moravian wine marks the start of the vine harvest and is an excuse for a big party.
The Czech Republic has an excellent healthcare system. If you are an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card (www.ehic.org) covers you for most medical care. No vaccinations are required, though it’s worth checking your tetanus jab is up to date.
In some parts of the Czech Republic there is a small risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease – consider insect repellent. The tap water is safe to drink here.In touristy areas in Prague, as in other parts of the world, be aware of pickpockets.
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