In Czech towns and villages, you'll find a simple joy of life. The magic of Prague, the beauty of Český Krumlov, and the lyrical quality of the countryside relieve the heaviness caused by the turmoil that passed through here. Get beyond Prague and explore the country's medieval towns. These rugged woods and hilltop castles will make you feel as if you're walking through the garden of your childhood dreams.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Prague The Czech capital and one of Europe's most romantic cities, boasting a remarkably well-preserved Old Town with top-notch architecture from every era; a sprawling hilltop castle; a thriving New Town packed with slinky Art Nouveau facades; a historic and well-presented Jewish Quarter; inspiring tales from its rocky late-20th-century history; countless lively pubs serving some of the world's best beer; and enough museums, churches, gardens, and other attractions to entertain any visitor.
▲▲ Český Krumlov Charming, picturesque, and popular midsized town huddled under a colorful castle and hugging a river bend in the Bohemian hills, made to order for canoeing, hiking, and people-watching.
▲▲ Kutná Hora Finely preserved yet down-to-earth city, once home to the world's largest silver mine, now best known for an opulent cathedral — built with riches from the mining bonanza — and an evocative chapel decorated with human bones.
▲▲ Terezín Memorial Walled town and fortress near Prague that served as a WWII internment camp and Gestapo prison; today, both house poignant memorials.
▲ Konopiště Castle Former residence of the Habsburg Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Czech bride, with the most lived-in-feeling interior (and most interesting historical tour) of any Czech castle (easy day trip from Prague).
▲ Karlštejn Castle Dramatically situated summer residence of Charles IV, with fairy-tale-esque exterior.
▲ Telč and Southern Czech Towns Telč, with a spectacular main square, makes a good base to see other southern Bohemian towns: Třeboň, with a peat spa; Třebíč, with echoes of Jewish history; and — huddled along the Austrian border — Slavonice, with hiking trails, an artistic community and evocative, never-used WWII fortifications in the nearby forests.
▲ Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) Genteel, architecture-packed spa town where well-heeled Russian and German tourists stroll manicured riverfront promenades sipping icky (but healthy) spring water.
▲ Olomouc Moravian cultural capital and thriving university city, with a grand square (crowned by Europe's biggest plague column), churches, museums, famously pungent cheese, bustling everyday life. Nearby is the country's top Rococo château in Kroměříž.
▲ Wallachia Time-passed, mountainous corner of Moravia, with cute villages, open-air folk museums at Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, and a mountaintop retreat at Pustevny.
Křivoklát Castle Set in a pretty, forested, relatively untouristed countryside, this Back Door alternative to Karlštejn has a nearly-as-fine interior and a lively workshop courtyard in summer (but is farther out from Prague, and has fewer options for English-speaking visitors). En route, the Rückl Glassworks in Nižbor offers traditional Czech crystal manufacturing; nearby Lány — with Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk's grave — is a modern-day pilgrimage site for Czech patriots.
Mikulov Wine Region The Czech Republic's top wine-growing area, with a trio of worthwhile stops within a few minutes' drive: the historical town of Mikulov (postcard-perfect main square and vibrant Jewish sites), the humble village of Pavlov (wine cellars), and the impressive château-and-garden complex of Lednice and Valtice.