2020 has been a difficult year to travel, but that doesn't mean we can't dream of future trips. And the Czech Republic is certainly dreamy. Start planning your 2021 trip now with our full travel guide...
Getting there: Regular direct flights from the UK to Prague, the Czech Republic’s capital, by Ryanair, British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Smartwings and Airlingus take approximately two hours.
Getting around: The Czech Republic’s compact size and comprehensive public transport network means getting around the country is efficient and reliable. In most towns and cities, bus and train stations are typically found next to one another.
Getting around by bus: Buses visit most places in the country, so they make an excellent public transport option. They’re mostly state-run but are supplemented by private carriers such as RegioJet, with tickets reasonably priced. Tickets can be bought from ticket offices or directly from the driver (bear in mind they will have limited change), but for long-distance journeys look to book in advance.
Getting around by train: The Czech Republic’s train network is also extensive, comfortable and affordable. The state-run Czech Railway operates two types of train: the slower osobni trains stop at every station along their routes, while the faster rychlik and spesny trains only pause at major towns and cities. Private carriers like RegioJet and Leo Express boost the network further. While tickets can be bought on the day, it’s better to buy them in advance. The good news is that train fares are fixed, meaning you will always pay the same price, no matter when you book.
Hiring a car: Both major and local car rental companies operate from Prague Airport and most major cities, so it’s easy to hire a car in the Czech Republic. Roads are generally safe and in a good condition, but bear in mind you need to be 21 years old and have held your licence for two years to hire a car. Book in advance to get the best rates.
Head to the Czech capital and you’ll soon discover Prague is a city full of surprises. Take a stroll through its labyrinth of cobblestone lanes and secret courtyards and you’ll discover everything from hidden gardens and charming cafés to epoch-blurring architecture in gothic, baroque and renaissance styles. Prague also brims with big-ticket landmarks, too, with the Old Town Hall’s Astronomical Clock a medieval icon and fairy tale-like Prague Castle lording over the entire city. The Vltava River lazily cuts through it all, intersected by plenty of historic bridges, the most famous of which is the gothic Charles Bridge. But the real allure of Prague is the prospect of exploration among its varied neighbourhoods. It’s limitless and an aimless wander could have you bringing the pages of Franz Kafka alive in the Jewish Quarter or admiring the church domes of Vinohrady gorgeously glinting at sunset.
You can also fly direct from the UK to the city of Brno in the South Moravian Region. Bustling Brno is bursting with energy and creativity, which can be appreciated in its bars and restaurants, architecture, art galleries and museums. History buffs should head up the two historic hills. On Petrov hill, the 11th Century Cathedral of St Peter and Paul is perched. Listen out for the bell ringing at 11am, while learning the story of how Jean-Louis Raduit de Souches rang the bell an hour early to trick the Swedish Army. Over at the top of Špilberk Hill, its namesake castle awaits exploration. Learn how the castle operated as a harsh prison during the World Wars or climb up to the casemates for spectacular views.
Ostrava in the Beskid Mountains is another great city option with direct links to the UK. Remnants of the city’s industrial heritage remain to this day and you can explore the old mine shafts that pockmark the city, visit the Michal Mine to see the mining areas and coal faces, and climb to the top of the viewing tower at the City Hall for views across the industrial skyline.
Winding down in the Czech countryside makes for a soul-soothing trip to the Czech Republic. The rolling emerald landscapes of South Moravia are made for a laid-back escape, one that’s best enjoyed on two wheels zipping past its wildflower meadows and regal country estates. But in a country known for its beer, Moravia is a bucolic patchwork of sun-dappled vineyards and the region’s Wine Routes comprise 1,200km of marked trails you can pedal. The routes vary in difficulty, but all take in historic villages and cellars which once served the great and the good of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so you can try some of the finest Czech tipples before you return to the day job.
For a real slice of the Czech Republic, escape the crowds and head off-grid. Many of its lesser-known jewels have been highlighted by EDEN (European Destinations of Excellence), an initiative aimed at shining a light on alternative destinations which focus on sustainable tourism. Head east for the leafy hiking trails and organic spa culture of the Jeseníky Mountains, while many of the cycling routes which intersect the unspoiled woodland and fields of Lipensko are disabled-friendly. Other pockets of pristine EDEN-honoured Czech countryside still lie undiscovered by most travellers – once you visit for yourself, you’ll leave wondering why.
2020 has been a very stressful year for many of us, so rejuvenating at a spa is very tempting. The spa town of Marianske Lazne, with its green-cloaked hills, beautiful architecture and natural springs makes for a fine start. The spas use water from the fifty health-giving spas to treat ailments, and also offer relaxing pamper sessions. Be sure to make the most of the surrounding nature. Strolling in the flower-filled parks, listening to the bubble of the springs and trickle of the fountains will be soothing for both the body and the mind.
Another popular spot for a relaxing stay is Karlovy Vary in the West Bohemian Spa Triangle. This ancient spa town has had many famous visitors, from Beethoven and Mozart to many of today’s Hollywood stars, and it’s easy to see what attracts them. With pastel-hued buildings nestled between forests hiding luxurious spa stays, hot springs emerging from the ground and a historic centre with a grand theatre, you’re in for a rejuvenating stay.
If you’re in the capital, then stay at Mamaison Residence Downtown Prague. Just a six-minute walk from the busy boulevard of Wenceslas Square and 15 minutes from the Vltava River, it’s in the beating heart of Prague, yet the calm inside has you feeling otherwise.
Boutique bolthole Mezi Plutky in Moravia-Silesia offers a tranquil escape in the eastern edge of the country. With only four rooms, all Scandi chic in style, and no set time for breakfast, the focus is recharging your batteries. Strolls in the landscaped gardens, lake swimming and soaking up the panoramic views of the surrounding Beskydy Mountains make it easy to refresh.
If you’re staying awhile, the comfortable suites at EA Wenceslas Square Apartments are not only centrally located to make the most of Prague, but well-equipped for exploring the rest of the Czech Republic, too. Access to a private car park means jumping into your hire car for self-drive adventures is hassle-free, while Prague’s main bus and train terminals are within a 20-minute walk.
The roots of the Velvet Revolution may have been in the underground music scene, but Czech Republic’s rock stars of today can be found in North Bohemia. Unique formations can be found all across the thick forest of Bohemian Switzerland National Park, with Pravcice Gate a particular highlight. Walk the dense network of walking trails lacing the rugged mountain ranges of Krusné and Krkonose, the latter home to Snezka (1,602m), the country’s tallest peak, and the sandstone wonders of Bohemian Paradise.
The landscape of South Bohemia is far gentler than its northern sister. Its rolling hills appear softly whipped by an ice-cream scoop, majestic chateaux feel ripped from a fairytale story and the mountains of Sumava National Park are ideal both in summer (walking) and winter (skiing). This rural patchwork is speckled with time-honoured towns and villages, with UNESCO-listed Cesky Krumlov boasting both a well-preserved medieval centre and baroque and renaissance architecture.
Diversity is the trump card for the Moravia and Silesia region in the east. There are sun-drenched vineyards, the UNESCO-protected gardens of Kromeríz and the gritty charm of Ostrava, while unique nature exists in the caves of the Moravian Karst (five of which you can visit on a tour). To explore the ancient traditions of Moravian Slovakia and Moravian Wallachia visit the timbered houses and try local delicacies (we recommend gingerbread Stramberk ears) of Stramberk, seemingly unchanged for centuries.
Dedicate a whole day to Prague, beginning with a coffee and croissant in elegant Café Louvre, Albert Einstein’s favourite coffeehouse. Make your way to the Old Town Square where you can tick off the iconic Astronomical Clock and climb the Old Town Hall Tower for panoramic views of the city. Then, stroll past the pastel-hued facades of Celetná, one of Prague’s oldest streets, pausing at the cubist House of the Black Madonna to view its exhibitions celebrating Czech cubism.
Head over historic Charles Bridge and make a beeline for Kampa Island, an oasis of calm in the heart of the city and Prague’s answer to Venice. Feel your pulse slow as you wander beside the bubbling millstream and along its idyllic lanes – for the best views, you can hire a rowboat or embark on a traditional rowboat cruise along the Vltava River. Stop for lunch at the former 15th-century brewery U Karlova Mostu, where you can enjoy tasty Czech specialities overlooking the river. Spend the rest of your afternoon exploring the sprawling grounds, palaces and towers of Prague Castle, which looms large over the entire city.
Head back down the hill and across the river to Municipal House for dinner, where the immaculate nature of the French restaurant’s art nouveau decor is akin to dining in a museum. If there’s one on, stay for a concert in the building’s stylish Smetana Hall.
Start the day with a coffee and an omelette at Café Slavia, a Prague institution which has been the traditional meeting place for some of the greatest Czech writers of old. Then, hop in your hire car and drive an hour north to the Bohemian Paradise nature reserve and Hrubá Skála chateau. From there, you can walk a 3.5km-long forest trail to Valdstejn Castle, built by the Bohemian lords of Wallenstein, pausing when the trees give way to reveal the region’s unusual rock formations.
Explore the gothic Valdstejn Castle’s courtyards, palaces and exhibitions, before lunching at the Pub at the Castle. Wash your meal down with some raspberry beer – a local speciality – before returning to Hrubá Skála chateau via the Gold Route, which takes in the U Lvicka (Lion’s View) clifftop viewing point overlooking majestic rocky pinnacles rising up from the forest below. If you have time, make the 20-minute drive to Drabské Svetnicky, a fortress ruin carved into the sandstone that also serves up panoramas of the surrounding verdant countryside.
Drive back to Prague, where an evening of great food at La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise is on the cards. This Michelin-starred restaurant offers modern twists on traditional Czech dishes and all food is locally-sourced with a menu influenced by the seasons. If you fancy carrying on your evening back in the capital, finish your weekend in the most Czech way possible: enjoying a craft beer or two in a pub.
The largest of the Czech Republic’s four national parks at nearly 700 sq km, there’s ample room for you to soak up its glacial lakes, peat bogs and spruce and beech forests.
Rare and elusive wildlife such as otters, lynxes and peregrine falcons have long been isolating in this wilderness of thick pine forests and otherworldly rock formations.
Just an hour’s drive north of Prague, this protected nature reserve of remarkable sandstone towers and pinnacles is filled with plenty of hiking trails.
Airport measures: Keep up to date with entry requirements to the Czech Republic, as well as up-to-date information regarding coronavirus precautions at Prague Airport here.
Health insurance: For any long-stay trip in the Czech Republic, comprehensive medical insurance is required with a local insurance company. Find a local quote here.
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