What began as a 4-week TEFL Certification turned into a 15-month love affair with the Czech Republic.
I had the good fortune of visiting Prague, the city of Spires and ‘the heart of Europe’, according to many.
Three things made me stay longer than I had originally planned:
getting a reputable teaching gig, making great friends with expats and locals alike, and the exciting opportunities for learning and growth that the Czech Republic has to offer.
Prague alone is brimming with history and quirky fun facts, which I’m a sucker for, an absolute geek if you get me going. The countryside and surrounding towns are equally beguiling.
The following are trips I’ve taken and can personally recommend. If you’re visiting Prague, allow yourself at least an extra day to explore more than just the capital city. You won’t be disappointed.
Best Trips Outside of Prague – In 1 Day
Visit the small town of Kutná Hora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to see one of the most impressive Gothic churches, St. Barbara, as well as the Cathedral of Our Lady and the historical Italian Court. Then walk ten minutes to Sedlec Ossuary, a church filled with artistically arranged bones.
Terezin Concentration Camp
Terezín is a fully preserved concentration camp used as transit camp during the Nazi Occupation. Once called the Jewish ‘Ghetto’ with a prison in The Small Fortress, over 150,000 Jews were held, overworked and tortured before being transported to Auschwitz or Treblinka.
Plze?: Pilsner Urquell Brewery
Imagine Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets barley and hops. Enter through the famed, double-arched gate pictured on every Pilsner Urquell’s label and take the brewery tour with a sliding wall – ceiling to floor -showing a film projected along a 30-foot crescent wall. You’ll pass over stepping stones through the “purest” water used in beer brewing, and of course you’ll be treated to a tasting in the end. If you don’t want to wait that long for a sample, buy a can of Pilsner from the vending machine in the entrance lobby.
Although quite touristy, Karlštejn Castle is worthwhile and historically interesting. If you’re not keen on taking the tour of the castle, don’t bother going. You can find all the same food and souvenirs back in Prague, but I recommend the tour.
?eský ráj, literally meaning “Czech Paradise”, is an outdoor junkie’s dream. Walking, rock climbing, bicycling… you could probably even take a hang glider up there if you have one. Explore the region for castles, castle ruins, Shire-like dwellings, rock dwellings, or go mushroom picking.
Máchovo jezero (Mácha Lake)
A section of the Mácha Lake hosts a small water park in the summertime, called Stare Splavy Aquapark, with slides and huge inflatable playgrounds that children and adults alike lark around. It has a beach for sunbathing, food stalls, umbrellas for hire, and is a great spot for people watching.
Best Trips Outside of Prague – 2 or More Days
The town of Karlovy Vary attracts many visitors throughout the year to partake in the mineral water, drinking from ornate porcelain spa cups with built-in straws. Many people visit for relaxation and spa treatments. It’s also famous for an annual film festival, as well as the location where James Bond Casino Royale was filmed. Stroll the colonnades sipping the water’s healing powers and take in the stunning architectural surrounds.
Loket, meaning “elbow”, is named due to its location on a bend in the Oh?e River. It’s a sleepy little town and provides a well-deserved break for big city dwellers. For nice, decently priced accommodation, try the Lazy River Hostel with friendly service.
This fairy tale-like town was my absolute favorite destination outside of Prague. Besides the castle presiding over the town, there are unique shops and delicious restaurants and pubs on the river. In the summertime, rent a raft to float the river, stopping off at a couple of quiet riverside watering holes for a beer. I can recommend Hostel 99, located at the entrance to town with staff who had intended to stay a weekend then never left.
For fresh mountain air, go hiking around Špindler?v Mlýn in the summer or go skiing in the winter. Few foreigners make it this way, but it’s a peaceful mountain getaway with a variety of restaurants and friendly locals.