Visitors to the Czech Republic (Czechia) won’t want to skip Prague, but a Czech road trip is an ideal way to discover the delights of Czech towns and villages beyond Prague.
There’s more to the Czech Republic than Prague
Sure, Prague is lovely and a visitor could spend months just exploring this one city.
But, as beautiful as Prague is, but there is much more to see in Czechia!
The following are a few examples of what awaits when you tour the Czech Republic beyond Prague.
Charming towns and villages
Once off the main highway, it’s easy to discover charming Czech towns and villages. Many will appear right along the road. Others will require passing through a bit of commercial-industrial sprawl before you discover the beauty that of the city’s historic heart. In either case, follow the signs that point to the city center to discover the best of the Czech Republic’s towns and villages.
Here are a few of the particularly charming places I discovered on my mini Czech tour.
Český Krumlov is not an undiscovered gem and you will have (too much) company as you wander the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage city. But there’s a reason people come here: Český Krumlov looks like a village is straight out of a fairy tale.
Not far from Český Krumlov, the medieval streets that wind through the heart of Tábor offer an architectural treasure-trove of elaborately decorated Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. It’s a great city for aimless wandering. This South Bohemian city is also an important historical site as a base of the Czech Hussites, with a museum and monuments related to that history.
Small in size but filled with charm, Telč is an Italian Renaissance beauty in southwest Moravia. As the best example of Italian Renaissance architecture north of the Alps, the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With surrounding fish ponds and lots of color, entering Telč is like stepping into a picture postcard from times gone by.
Farther east, the beautiful Moravian city of Kroměříž is filled with history, architecture, and flowers. The town square is as picturesque as they come, but the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for its splendid chateau and gardens. There’s a lot to enjoy here.
Central Europeans have long been drawn to Luhačovice for its healing mineral springs. But this Moravian spa town oozes charm right along with its salty spring water. With interconnected garden paths and a wealth of folk Art Nouveau architecture, there’s plenty to win over everyone. And that’s without mentioning the tasty waffle cookies . . .
Castles and chateaus galore
No Czech tour would be complete without visiting a castle or chateau. Fortunately there are plenty to choose from throughout the country. (While the ones pictured here are all open for tours of the interior, there are also picturesque ruins for those who would rather just imagine life in the past.)
These are the castles/ chateaus in Kroměříž, Lednice, Valtice, Hluboká, and Raduň. Click on the images to learn more.
Orchards, vineyards, breweries and more
Wine, beer, and liquors have been part of Czech culture for centuries. After all, pilsners are named for the Czech town of Plzeň (Pilsen)!
Today those traditions continue – and are expanding – with the production of fine wines, specialty liquors, and craft beer.
Vineyards and tasting rooms
Wine has been produced in this part of the word since the Roman Empire. Visitors seeking the best Czech wines should head to southern Moravia, where most of the country’s finest wines continue to be produced.
(You can sample a few Moravian wines at the Castle Gate wine shop in Valtice.)
Slivovice and other liquors
While fine wines were popular with the wealthy, everyone with access to a fruit tree could indulge in a little homemade brandy. And fruit trees – especially plums – grow everywhere in the Czech Republic!
While every Czech likely knows someone who still makes their own fruit brandy, visitors can tour factories like Rudolf Jelínek where the opportunity to compare types of fruit brandy is part of the experience.
While every Czech likely knows someone who still makes their own fruit brandy, visitors can tour factories like Rudolf Jelínek where the opportunity to compare fruit brandies is part of the experience.
Not just pilsners
Of course, the Czech Republic is famous for its beer. The first pilsner (the original Pilsner Urquell) was first brewed here in 1842. You can still order a Pilsner Urquell today, but there are lots of other options too, as the craft beer craze has come home to the Czech Republic.
Craft brewers like those at Panský mlýn can be found throughout the Czech Republic. Of course, while many brewers are experimenting with a variety of beers, traditional pilsners are still found everywhere.
Natural areas perfect for wandering
I spent most of my time exploring Czechia’s towns and villages, but the Czech Republic offers lots of options for anyone wanting to get outdoors. Hiking and biking are particularly popular, and trails can be found throughout the country. Whether it’s a hike through rugged mountains or a lazy bike ride through rolling fields and vineyards, there’s certain to be something to please you.
(Lake Lipno is within the heavily forested Šumava region of Southern Bohemia.Although it’s actually a man-made reservoir, this beautiful lake is so expansive that it is sometimes called the South Bohemian Sea.)
Plan your Czech tour
There are plenty of Czech towns and villages to visit beyond Prague. Whether you’re seeking charming villages, unique architecture, history, or outdoor adventure, you can easily find it on a road (or train or bus or bike) trip beyond Prague.
- Czech Tourism has a useful website for planning your trip.
- I’m not sure who runs the UNESCO Czech Heritage website, but it has loads of travel information related to Czechia’s twelve UNESCO sites and links to Czech tourism bureaus.
Getting around the Czech Republic is generally pretty easy, although having access to an automobile – or heading off on your bike – provides far more flexibility than relying on trains or intercity buses.
Rail and bus travel
Both passenger rail and intercity bus routes connect major cities throughout the Czech Republic. However, smaller towns and villages may be hard to access using either system.
Rail service is generally not at the same level as in neighboring countries like Germany, as trains often lack amenities like wifi and air conditioning that many European travelers expect.
Although the routes appear to be more limited, intercity bus services are a good option for moving from Prague to another region of the Czech Republic. Premier services offer a comfortable ride with all the amenities one would expect – including wifi.
Driving in the Czech Republic
The cities of Czechia are reasonably well connected by train, but having your own vehicle allows you to get to places far from the railroad station. And a Czech road trip is a great way to explore the countryside.
We rented our car when we were ready to leave Prague to avoid driving in the city. (Prague has a complicated road system with lots of one-ways, too much traffic, and ongoing road construction. And no one needs a car in Prague because the transit system is good!) It’s easy to head out of town from the airport like we did, but any rental location outside the core city should be manageable.
Beyond Prague, Czechia’s roads are good, if narrow and not always clearly signed. Driving is generally easy if you avoid pedestrianized city centers. (Most city centers allow cars and have parking, but can be tricky to navigate. Signs clearly mark those where vehicles are prohibited.)Standard European highway symbols are used throughout the country to mark one-ways, parking zones, etc. so there is generally no need to read Czech to get around. Google maps also works well, although Google can’t always figure out where the parking areas are once you reach your destination!
Before embarking on your Czech road trip, be sure you have a Czech highway sticker. Your rental car will likely come with one, but if not, they can be purchased at most gas stations and post offices.
Czech Republic has zero-tolerance for drivers under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
Biking in the Czech Republic
If you are interested in exploring Czechia at a slower pace, consider traveling by bicycle. Many parts of the country have well-developed bike trails. Some areas, like the gently rolling landscape of the Lednice -Valtice UNESCO World Heritage site are actually best accessed by bike.
With trail systems throughout the country, it looks like it would be easy to book a bike tour or plan an independent trip.
Lodging is available in all but the very smallest of towns. However, popular tourist cities and recreation areas will book up well in advance during summer vacation, festivals, and holidays. Czechs love to get out into nature and explore their own country, so even areas not well-known to foreign tourists may be fully booked by Czech tourists.
While larger towns will have a variety of international chain hotels, small hotels, inns, guesthouses (pensions), and apartments are more common and often offer a much better experience.
You can find reviews, prices, and even online booking for some properties (not all) on TripAdvisor and/or Booking.com. (Affiliate links) Airbnb is a good option for booking private apartments and homes. (Use this link to save on your first Airbnb booking.)
I spent over two weeks touring the Czech Republic this summer.
After a detour to Vienna, Slovakia, and Krakow, I returned to the Czech Republic on my own to attend the TBEX meeting in Ostrava and traveled for a several days as a guest of Czech Tourism, the Moravian-Silesian Region, the Zlin Region – Eastern Moravia (website partially translated from Czech), and Zlín and Luhačovice (in Czech). While I appreciate the gracious hospitality of my hosts, all opinions expressed here are strictly my own.