From romantic medieval architecture to riotous nightclubs and beer gardens, Prague is the ultimate European destination for soaking up history by day — and downing a few pints by night.
For those wishing to explore ancient European history by day, and let loose in one of the world’s most beautiful cities by night, look no further than the Czech Republic. Only 20 years old as a modern country, the Czech Republic’s roots trace back for centuries, when the country was born from the ancient lands of Bohemia and Moravia. Not that history is all you will experience in the Czech Republic. In fact once you are finished absorbing the past and all its rich tapestry, the excitement of Prague awaits. One of the world’s most cultured, beautiful, and lively cities, Prague is renowned for its eclectic music scene and incredible arts scene. With some of the world’s trendiest and most avant garde clubs and restaurants, arguably the world’s finest beers and, of course, some the most beautiful people on earth, Prague is a must-see for the traveller wishing to experience the best life has to offer.
Currency: Czech Karuna (CZK)
Government: Parliamentary Republic
DID YOU KNOW?
- Many North Americans use the term “bohemian” in a way that would lead you to reminisce about Puccini, the rock band Queen or simple-living nomadic people in baggy clothing and sandals. But the term actually comes from the name of the Celtic tribe Boii, and the term Bohemian essentially meant Czech by the end of the 19th century.
- Moravia was among the first regions of continental Europe to undergo the Industrial Revolution, yet it still remained much less urban. Instead of industrial infrastructure, Moravia is home to gorgeous vineyards, orchards, fields full of organic produce, and scenic mountain vistas and cute little villages. Even the regional capital, Brno, is renowned for its small-town charm.
- The Czech Republic’s first brewery was built in 1118. Today, there is a Brewery in every city in the Czech Republic.
- Despite its small population, the Czech Republic has 72,075 players officially enrolled in organized hockey. The country is a member of the “Big Six”—the unofficial group the strongest men’s ice hockey nations, along with Russia, Finland, Sweden, Canada and the United States.
- The first walled buildings on the territory of today’s Czech Republic date to the 9th century, in what was then the Great Moravian Empire.
The climate in the Czech Republic is very similar to that of the northern United States and Canada. Summer (June to August) receives the highest temperatures and heaviest rainfall. The cold, bitter winter months of December, January and February often see temperatures reaching as low as -5°C in the cities and -10°C to -15°C in the mountainous areas (-30°C at higher altitudes). Spring (late March to May) brings changeable, rainy weather, and sometimes flooding. Autumn is also variable but temperatures can be as high as 20°C in September.
The Czechs have a grand, glorious history that spans 1,500 years and includes some of the most famous kings and grandest achievements in all of Europe—if not in the entire world. Much of what is now the Czech Republic was known as Bohemia at various times in history, named for the Boii tribe that lived in the area during the 2nd century BCE.
In more modern times, following the collapse of Austria and Hungary, the Czechs entered into a union with the Slovaks to form Czechoslovakia. The Slovaks were fellow Slavs, although they were linguistically and culturally distinct.
Following World War II, Czechoslovakia fell under the domination of the Soviet Union. Although Czechoslovakia was under communist rule, it remained prosperous, at least compared with the rest of its Warsaw Pact neighbours. However, it did start to fall behind the West economically until, in 1989, the “Velvet Revolution” saw the break-up of the Warsaw Pact, followed by the breakup of the Soviet Union three years later. From this, in 1993, that which we know today as the Czech Republic was born.
Founded around 880 CE by prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid dynasty, the Prague Castle is thought to be one of the largest castle complexes in the world. It served as the seat of Czech princes and later kings, as well as the Prague bishop. Today, the Prague Castle is the seat of the Czech president and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well, a number of priceless art relics, historical documents, and the Czech crown jewels are stored there.
Absinthe, the wormwood drink of artistic bohemians such as Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde,Franklin Roosevelt, Aleister Crowley and Frank Sinatra has many origins, but its roots are perhaps most famous in the Czech Republic. The Czech bohemians are responsible for the “fire Ritual,” in which absinthe is poured into a glass and a sugar cube on a slotted spoon is placed over the glass. The sugar cube is then soaked with absinthe and set on fire. The cube is dropped into the absinthe, setting it ablaze. Then water is poured over the flame until it goes out. It’s certainly something to look for on your trip to the Czech Republic but, as always, experience in moderation and stay safe!
Olomouc is the historical capital of Moravia, and Renaissance and Baroque-style buildings line the streets in this beautiful little town. With a town square that rivals the majesty of Prague’s, the Czech Republic’s oldest university and more beautiful old churches than one could possibly see in a day, Olomouc provides a wonderful opportunity to explore the country beyond the bustle of Prague.
MORAVIAN WINE AND BIKE TOUR
The Czech Republic’s excellence in the beer industry is well-documented, but what’s often overlooked is its incredible vineyards and wineries. For the adventurous wine lover, perhaps a bike ride through the beautiful country roads that lead from Prague to Vienna (Austria) might be a good idea. Week-long treks wind their way through scenic and picturesque villages, stop at local wineries and give travellers a chance to meet and spend time with locals, and to truly experience what it is like to live in the region. A wine lover’s trip of a lifetime!
ALCHYMIST GRAND HOTEL & SPA AND CHATEAU MCELY
Some travellers have moved on from their backpacking days and have a desire to live in more luxurious confines. Perhaps your journey to the Czech Republic started off with a bike tour of Moravia, and some rest and relaxation are just what your weary bones require. Either way, a romantic forest getaway might be just what you’re looking for. Splitting time between the Alchymist Grand and one of the world’s top luxury “small” hotels, you will experience the life of kings and queens.
As day turns to night, Prague’s scammers ready themselves for the scores of tourists enjoying the cities nightlife and who are completely unaware they’ve been marked by those who disguise themselves as beautiful girls, harmless hawkers and friendly taxi drivers.
Grab a beer and join the firework-toting revellers on the Charles Bridge in Prague, for one of the greatest New Year’s Eve parties in the world.
Our brave rallier Pamela MacNaughtan plays hostess to a drunken stranger, takes a wrong turn out of the Czech Republic and discovers that anything really can happen on the Mongol Rally.
The Mongol Rally is about camaraderie, pushing yourself as hard as you can, and maybe losing your mind in the process—that is, if you haven’t already lost it at the wild and wacky Czechout party and Festival of Slow!
What happens when you put two strangers who can’t drive stick behind the wheel of a manual car in Prague? They get stopped by the police. Pamela and Charlie find themselves breaking the law before the Mongol Rally even begins.
Scam City’s assistant producer, Meg Barnard, warns that Prague may be a beautiful city, but it’s also home to beautiful and brazen pickpockets.
Filming a television show like Scam City brings plenty of real-life risk. Assistant producer Meg Barnard shares a scary story of babes, bouncers and bribes on location in a Prague bar.
Setting the scene in Prague for the premiere of Travel+Escape’s new series, Scam City, required some creative planning—and a bit of James Bond style. Assistant producer Meg Barnard shares a few show secrets.
Scam City is a hot new show on Travel+Escape that crosses the globe to expose the biggest tourist scams and con games in the underbelly of some of the world’s most popular cities. Host Conor Woodman answers questions about what it was like to film in Prague.
Sweet pastry filled with marzipan and whipped cream, delicate finger sandwiches, corn soup with plump dumplings — these are just some of the traditional foods people feast on during Carnival. Temptation alert — read with caution!
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