No longer under the grasp of Communism, the Czech Republic has blossomed to become one of Europe’s up and coming tourist destinations. The Czech Republic is a small country, but it has left a long-lasting impression on the travelers who visit its borders.
But the country wasn’t always as stable as it is now and its locations in Europe means that it has long been fought over by early tribes, large armies, and powerful monarchs. With a long history of battles and wars, the scars that are left behind are quite beautiful because they are castles.
Vítejte – Welcome to the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has become rather well-known for its various castles, all of which are constructed in various architectural styles to reflect the time period and the invaders. With plenty of fortresses to explore, almost every town in the Czech Republic has its own castle. Some castles are in ruins and others have been preserved or restored to their former glory.
With almost 8 million visitors annually, Prague is the most visited city is not only the most visited place in the Czech Republic, but it is also the nation’s capital. But what has made Prague so popular is that it is the perfect city to explore and is often called an Urban Playground. With a landscape that rivals Paris in its beauty, Prague is a place where you can hop in with the tourist crowds to travel out to the quiet streets to explore local cafes. With a magnificent palace and plenty of galleries, it is also the place to go to see Czech culture at its prime.
Culture and Language
While the Czech Republic is in Europe, its centered location between Germany, Poland, Austria, and Slovakia means that it has always been an important area in human history. Groups of people like the Celt and Slavs have all had control over the Czech Republic in ancient times. While big empires like the Morovian and Roman Empire took control by the 1300s.
More modern rulers that have invaded the Czech Republic include the Habsburgs who were Bohemian royalty and a powerful monarchy, as well as Hitler and Stalin. Between all of these rulers, the Czech Republic has had short stretches of time when they were free, before being invaded again. It wasn’t until the Velvet Revolution.
The Velvet Revolution saw, what was once Czechoslovakia, turned into two independent nations with each holding its own independence. With the Czech Republic and Slovakia finally separated, independence gave each country the boost they needed to become more stable. Now, the Czech Republic is considered a leader in Europe and they joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.
With so many influences from other European nations, the Czech Republic has come to develop its own unique culture and identity. While there are many outside influences, many customs and traditions are still celebrated from the past centuries. However, most people will know Czech culture as Bohemian.
Bohemian culture now is often aligned with hippie culture, but it is not quite the same. While Bohemian culture is known for being nomadic, people in the Czech Republic are still very ingrained and tied to interests pursuing art, literary, and spiritual interests.
Another big part of the culture and identity of the Czech Republic is the Czech language. Czech is the official language that is spoken throughout the country and about 96% of the population uses Czech as their main language. While there are not any other official languages, some of the more popular foreign languages spoken in the Czech Republic include German, Polish, Slovak, and Romany.
English is also a language spoken in the Czech Republic, but it seems to be divided by age and location. Older citizens in the Czech Republic are unlikely to speak any English, but younger generations may be able to hold a conversation. You are also more likely to find English-speaking Czech locals in big urban areas like Prague.
Similar to many European countries, the Czech Republic is a part of the Schengen Area which upholds the Schengen Agreement. For US citizens who are traveling to the Czech Republic it is important to have all your travel documents ready prior to your departure. But for US citizens no tourist visa is required for stays that are less than 90 days in duration.
However, you will need to have a US passport with at least 3 months validity remaining. The date of validity must extend 3 months past your intended departure date from the Czech Republic. But it is strongly suggested that you have at least double that validity and it is better to have a passport that remains valid for at least 6 months past your departure date.
There are currently no restrictions for tourists to enter the Czech Republic. However, you should be aware that you must legally declare any amount of money over €10,000 Euros upon your entry and exit from the Czech Republic.
While European countries are often expensive to visit and the Czech Republic’s rather central location within the continent may make you think it will force you to stretch your budget, it is actually quite the opposite. The country overall is rather affordable to visit and the most expensive area within the Czech Republic, by far, is Prague.
But you don’t have to shell out a fortune to visit and explore the Czech Republic and you can plan an affordable spending budget. However, you will need to take the time to plan ahead of time because, similar to any vacation, there expensive and non-expensive aspects to your budget. However, the most important parts of your budget that you can plan for and outline include your airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
One of the parts of your budget that it can be harder to save money on is your flight to the Czech Republic. On average, the cost of a ticket is about $950 US dollars but there are certain times or deal that can lower the price by about $300 US dollars. However, a big factor that determines the price of your ticket is the time that of the year that you visit the Czech Republic.
Spring and fall are the best times to visit the Czech Republic, which makes the months of March, April, and May more expensive. In the fall, expensive prices will begin in September and go until November. But the absolute highest tourist peak and most expensive months in the Czech Republic are June, July, and August. These are the summer months when the temperatures are warm, and the weather is clear.
These are also the dates when things tend to get booked quickly, so you will want to start looking at making accommodation arrangement shortly before or after you book your airline ticket. Like many other countries, the Czech Republic offers tourists plenty of accommodation options like hostels, hotels, and private rentals.
Hostels are very popular in the Czech Republic because they are very affordable. In smaller towns a hostel dorm room may cost a mere $7 US dollars per night, while in big cities like Prague, you should expect the price to rise up to $18 US dollars per night. Some hostels may have private rooms but most people who want to share a double room will turn towards budget hotels.
Budget hotels are another great option that give you a little more privacy and required less shared space between guests. Most budget hotels will start their nightly rates at $25 US dollars per night but in Prague you should expect rates to start at $30 US dollars and then they may go up. However, these prices do not reflect any meals. Some hostels do have breakfast service, but you should expect to pay about $9 US dollars more per night if you want a daily breakfast.
Airbnb is another option if you want to secure a private rental for your time in the Czech Republic. But travelers should be aware that the vast majority of Airbnb listings are only located in Prague. Other listings may be available for other large cities, but you should expect fewer options. Most Airbnb listings have nightly rates that start at $65 US dollars and increase from that price point.
While some people want Airbnb to be able to cook their own food, it is a safe assumption that you need to still budget food and drink for the duration of your trip. One way of exploring the local Czech culture is by trying their cuisine. Czech cuisine is very traditional, and it is based on hearty meals of meat and vegetables.
One popular dish in the Czech Republic is a marinated sirloin steak, which the locals call svíčková na smetane. This dish is served with a side of carrots, cranberries, and whipped cream. Another favorite meat is vepro knedlo zelo, which is a roasted pork with dumplings and cabbage. A minced combination of beef and pork is another dish, which is called sekaná pečene.
Goulash or guláš in Czech is another staple dish, which is more often found during the winter months. Soups also take the spotlight in the colder months and Czech cuisine packs them full of delicious meats and fresh vegetables.
While the meals are not very fancy, they are still packed with flavor. You can buy an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant for about $5 US dollars, but most travelers will choose to go dine at a mid-range establishment. Mid-range meals cost about $13 US dollars. Nicer restaurants can be very expensive in big cities like Prague and you could pay anywhere from $30 US dollars to more than $100 US dollars for a meal.
The price of most meals does not include any drinks. If you would also like to budget for alcoholic drinks during your trip you should expect to pay about $4 dollars per drink. Some local products cost less, and you may be able to find a beer for less than $2 US dollars. But alcohol is not overly expensive either and, in most establishments, you won’t spend more than $5 US dollars.
While a budget breakdown is always helpful, adding up all the little expensive can be tedious. For a better picture of how much you’ll spend in the Czech Republic, we have also broken down the budget into a daily spending estimate. Budget backpackers should expect to spend as much as $80 US dollars per day but with strict budgeting, you can lower that to about $40 or $50 US dollars per day.
A more moderate budget means that you could spend anywhere from $100 to $200 US dollars per day in the Czech Republic, while anything over the higher amount would equate to a luxury vacation. Like many countries, the Czech Republic has the option to save money or go all out and spend your cash in fine and expensive establishments.
How to Get Around
While Prague is the most visited place in the Czech Republic, that doesn’t mean that travelers aren’t interested in traveling around the country. The final part of your budget will be the cost of transportation if you choose to adventure throughout more of the Czech Republic. The most popular ways to get around include train, bus, and local transportation.
While trains and buses are functional and reliable in the Czech Republic, they aren’t always the most modern in terms of the vehicles and cars used to transport passengers. But trains and buses are easy to use and affordable. Longer trains rides in local areas will cost about $2 US dollars for a one-way ticket. Shorter rides cost even less and a, unlimited pass that is valid for 23 hours costs just $5 US dollars.
However, if you are traveling between cities, you should expect to pay more. But still, most train tickets between cities will still cost less than $15 US dollars. You can also save money by buying your train ticket in advance online.
Buses are another transportation option in the Czech Republic and like trains, their local fares will often cost less than $2 US dollars for a single ride. But longer bus rides are still affordable and there are bus routes where trains may not go. Buses also give you the option of traveling across borders. A bus ticket from Prague to Vienna costs about $25 US dollars, while travelers going to Berlin will pay about $30 US dollars.
Top Cities to Visit
When most people think of cities in the Czech Republic, their mind immediately goes to Prague. While Prague is more than worthy of a visit, there are other cities to visit too. Here are the top cities to explore in the Czech Republic.
Prague is by far the most visited place in the Czech Republic and once you touchdown in the city, it is easy to see why. The magical appearance of the streets and buildings almost puts you in a trance with its beauty. Here, you can explore the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge to get a taste of Prague and the Czech Republic’s culture. The Old Town Square is another hotspot, which has always been the center of historical events in the country. Today, the square is still booming in popularity and it has become a mega tourist area. But appearance isn’t everything and stepping off the streets and into cafes or restaurants is another great way to explore Prague.
Bohemians once owned Cesky Krumlov, which today stands as a well-preserved Medieval town. A large castle overlooks the town and the nearby Vltava River provides a serene landscape. With cobblestone streets and 18th century buildings, Cesky Krumlov brings Czech history to life. The timeless appeal of this little town makes it very popular with visitors.
Absolutely bursting with color, the Karlovy Vary has its own hot spring, which is said to contain special healing powers. The town has now become somewhat of a spa resort after nobles in the 13th century began to take vacations to the area. The rich architecture reflects the taste of the nobles, but most has been rebuilt and little original locations remain due to numerous natural disasters. Yet, people chose to build again, and this is still a hotspot even after so many centuries have passed.
Kutna Hora is a place in the Czech Republic that has had a strong influence from Germany, which is reflected in its Gothic architecture. The town was originally centered around the monastery, but a boom in silver in the 12th century helped the area grow and develop. Now, some of the most visited places include the Cathedral and Ossuary, which is filled with human bones.
Plzen has made itself famous because it is where the Pilsner beer was invented. While the name is not spelled the same, the beer is named after the town, which is known for its impressive architecture, cathedral, synagogue, and town hall. With the original Pilsner Urquell brewery still standing, many people come to visit Plzen.
Points of Interest
Nestled throughout the country in the cities and towns are also points of interest that eagerly await tourists. Here are the Czech Republic’s most visited and must-see points of interest.
Once the home of Charles IV, who was a Holy Roman Emperor, Castle Karlstejn is located just a little way outside of Prague. The castle has become a popular day trip for tourists from Prague because of its beauty. With three terraced levels, the castle includes a storehouse, home, and exterior fortress. The three different towers housed different people with the Big Tower reserved for God and a chapel.
While Paris is famous for its catacombs, the Czech Republic has a very different way of displaying the bones of those from past centuries who died from plague or war. The Sedlec Ossuary is filled with human bones, which have been arranged into chandeliers and bells or even used as chalices. Most of the bones are dated back to the 14th and 16th centuries, so no one has recently been put on permanent display. But the Ossuary is open to the public and many dark tourists find themselves attracted to Sedlec.
Recently made into a UNECSO Geopark, the Bohemian Paradise is an area in Eastern Bohemia in the Czech Republic, which is famous for its beauty. Inside the park there are large rock formations that take the shape of pillars, which were formed thousands of years ago. Now, visitors can explore the region and access areas by bridges, trails, and paved roads. Also included in the area are a few castles and small towns.
With a huge remodel and renovation project having been recently completed, the Hluboká Castle is one of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful sites. The castle’s mostly white exterior was modeled off of Windsor Castle and the Gothic Tudor style is absolutely stunning. Inside the castle there is a collection of art and outside, the gardens are a popular spot due to the hedge maze.
Get Out and Go
While the Czech Republic is small in size, nothing in this country will disappoint you and it is well worth a visit to explore this Bohemian playground. With plenty to explore, the Czech Republic is a place that has mostly stayed true to its past. Instead of modern metropolises, you can explore past centuries by visiting any of the numerous Czech castles.
While tourism is growing, you can still experience the Czech Republic without the hordes of people and relax in the calm atmosphere of a Medieval town. But with modernity catching up, you can also make your way around Prague and hop from the new to the old to the perfectly restored architecture. There is also something to do and see in the Czech Republic, so get ready for a grand adventure.
Visit the Czech Republic’s official tourism website.