Czech Republic

Trip Summary:

Dates:    July 9th to July 14th

Year: 2014

Main Language of Country:   Czech

Capital City of Country: Prague

Transportation Used:   Bus, Taxi, Shuttle Bus

Currency: Czech Koruna (CZK)

Accommodation: Hostels

Number of Photos Taken: 723

Favorite Place: Cesky Krumlov

Average Cost of a Full Meal: CZK 160 to CZK 220

Average Cost of a Night per Person: CZK 250 to CZK 550

Best Foods Eaten: Beef Goulash

Tap Water Drinkable: Yes


Introduction:

The Czech Republic was the last stop on Hilary and I’s trip through Europe. Earlier in the trip we had travelled through Italy, Switzerland and briefly through Germany. The Czech Republic, however, was the longest time that we spent in any of the countries and was one that we were looking forward to the most.

Our first stop in the Czech Republic was in a town called Cesky Krumlov. We were coming from Munich in Germany, and had trouble finding any trains or busses to take us into the Czech Republic, and so instead had to get a shuttle bus.


TIP: The shuttle company that we used was from the site www.shuttlebus.cz. It worked well but was a little bit expensive and we ended up paying 3400 CZK or 140 Euro for the trip.


 

Once we arrived in the Czech Republic, however, we were happy to find that everything seemed to cost quite a bit less than the places that we had been previously (especially Venice and Switzerland).

Cesky Krumlov: (July 9 – 11)

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Cesky Krumlov is a really cool town in the southern part of the Czech Republic not far from the Austrian and German borders. It is like a miniature Prague in that it is smaller and quieter, but still has a lot of the features that makes Prague so appealing, such as the beautiful architecture, great food, and Bohemian characteristics.

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One of the most unique features of Cesky Krumlov is the River Vltava that cuts through the centre of the old town in large sweeping turns. From above the river looks like a giant snake cutting through the centre of town with the castle and buildings of Cesky Krumlov built along the curves of the river’s shores. Actually, the River Vltava that cuts through Cesky Krumlov is the same river that cuts through the centre of Prague 150 kilometers to the north.

Even though there is a lot to see in Cesky Krumlov, it is small enough that you can see it all very quickly. That being said, there are many day tours to Cesky Krumlov from Prague and I feel that with only one day in the town you wouldn’t have enough time to soak in the atmosphere and explore everywhere without rushing.


TIP: The shuttle company that we used was from the site www.shuttlebus.cz. It worked well but was a little bit expensive and we ended up paying 3400 CZK or 140 Euro for the trip.


 

Once we arrived in the Czech Republic, however, we were happy to find that everything seemed to cost quite a bit less than the places that we had been previously (especially Venice and Switzerland).


TIP: We stayed at Hostel 99 during our time in Cesky Krumlov. It’s located just on the edge of the old town and we were able to quickly walk to everything. The hostel was great and during some of the rainy weather that we had during our stay, it was a great place to get out of the wet weather and stay warm. It cost roughly 250 CZK each per night.


 

Therefore, a night or two in the city is perfect. We had two nights in the city was a great amount of time. If you have more time, however, there is a lot to see and do outside of the town as well that we never had a chance to explore ourselves.

Other than just wandering the streets and squares of the town, some of the things that we saw were:

 

  • Cesky Krumlov Castle and Gardens:

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The castle of Cesky Krumlov is one of the main features of the town and dominates an entire bank of the river of the old town. You can wander around the courtyards and through the main access ways of the castle without any admission fees. To go any further, however, you need to pay for a guided tour, which we opted out of.

You can also pay a small entrance fee to climb the castle tower. We decided to do that to get a good view of the city from above. It is definitely worth it and the city looks like a miniature toy set from above with the beautiful bridges and buildings build along the edge of the river.

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Right beside the castle are the gardens, which you can also wander around without paying any admission fees. It is a massive expanse of green spaces, walking paths, fountains, flowers, and a small pond at the end.


Castle gardens of Cesky Krumlov.

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  • Rafting:

There are a lot of rafting tours offered around Cesky Krumlov and we had planned on going on one, but it ended up being quite rainy that day so we opted out of it. If it’s something that interests you, however, there are lots of trips available around town and it can be a good way to get on the river on a warm day. Most of the trips start a little ways above town and you float back into town.

  • Eggenberg Brewery:

On the day that we had rain, we decided to change our plans from doing the rafting trip, and instead checked out the Eggenberg Brewery tour. I can’t compare it to any other brewery tours as this is the first on that I’ve ever been on, but it was quite interesting and didn’t take very long. The brewery is on one edge of the old town near the river so it’s easy to get to if you’re in the vicinity and interested.

Prague: (July 11 – 14)

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The last stop on our Europe trip was Prague, and this is where we caught our flights back to Calgary from. The city has increased in popularity in recent years for tourists and it’s easy to see why as the city has some of the most incredible architecture in Europe.

Even though the city is quite busy, however, you can avoid a lot of the crowds by doing as much of your touring as possible during the early morning or later in the evening. Things like seeing Charles Bridge or walking through the old town are almost impossible with all of the crowds in the middle of the afternoon, but they are significantly less busy early or late in the day. So if you’re planning any photos or want to move more freely, then avoid the afternoons if possible.

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There is a lot to do and see in Prague and we spent a lot of time just wandering all of the streets and exploring different parts of the city. Between the shops, restaurants, bars, squares, and markets, there places to explore are endless. Prague is also full of history, and the architecture everywhere is outstanding, and so the entire city seems to have a special feeling to it that seems part fairy tale and part magic.

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TIP: We stayed at Advantage Hostel for 4 nights while we were in Prague. The hostel itself was nice, but it was located so that it was about a 20 minute walk to the edge of the old town, and then another 20 or 30 minutes to get to the castle. Doing the walk the first couple of times wasn’t bad, but when we wanted to head back several times throughout the day, the time really added up. Therefore, I would recommend that you find accommodation as close to the old town and castle as possible. As a guideline, our hostel was between 450 CZK and 550 CZK per night.


 

We had two full days in Prague and we decided to spend one full day exploring the old town, and the other full day at the castle. These are the two main parts of the tourist centre of Prague and each one deserves at least a full day to visit.


TIP: We were completely occupied with things to do within the city during our stay in Prague, but if you have time and are looking for something to do outside of the city you can check out things like the nearby Kunta Hora Bone Chapel.


 

  • Old Town:

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The old town, also called Prague 1, is the historic centre of Prague and is where most of the action happens. In the middle of the old town, you will find the Old Town Square which would be the centre of the historic centre. Are you getting confused yet?

The Old Town Square is lined with shops, restaurants, and bars and within the square you will find performers throughout the day. The square makes a good reference point while you’re exploring the old town and whenever we got a little bit lost, we would just find out way back to the square to get our bearings once again.

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On one side of the Old Town Square is the astronomical clock. You can’t miss it, and each hour the clock goes through an animation with small figures and pieces that move around. You’ll know when the clock is about to strike the hour, because there will be a crowd that gathers around the clock to watch the animation. The clock is really cool and worth checking out, especially when you find out a bit of its history and how long it’s been operating for!

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TIP: You can also pay a small admission fee to climb to the top of the clock tower. If you time it right and can watch the sunset from the top of the tower you won’t be disappointed. You get a great view down onto the Old Town Square, as well as out to the hill that the castle sits upon.


 

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Also nearby to the Old Town Square is the Church of Our Lady before Tyn whose towers and spires dominate the other side of the square opposite the astronomical clock. When we were in Prague, we were really lucky as the 2014 World Cup final was being played. We watched the final match at a pub nearby the Church of Our Lady before Tyn, which was a lot of fun.

Just north of the Old Town Square, between the square and the River Vltava, you will find the Jewish Quarter, or Josefov, of Prague. Before you go, however, it’s worth reading a bit about the history of this area of Prague as it’s really interesting and will allow you to appreciate your visit to this area.

South of the Old Town Square, you will eventually come upon Wenceslas Square. Dominating the one end of the square is the National Museum of Prague, or the Národní Muzeum.

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On our visit in 2014 the museum was just being prepared to be closed for construction. They did, however, have a classical string concert held within the main lobby of the museum each night which we decided to get tickets for and it ended up being really awesome. If they still put on these concerts, it’s a cool experience and definitely worth checking out.

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TIP: Even though it’s just outside of the old town of Prague, another cool building to check out would be the Dancing House which is only about a 10 minute walk from the National Museum. There isn’t much to see except for the unique architecture, but it’s right along the River Vltava so it gives you something to look for as well if you’re walking along the river.


 

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Besides everything that I’ve briefly mentioned above, there are endless amounts of museums, towers, churches, streets, and squares to discover in Prague so having at least a full day or two to explore is essential.

  • Prague Castle:

The other main section of the city to explore would be the Prague Castle which also takes at least a full day or two to fully appreciate. The castle is just across the River Vltava from the old town and there are many bridges that span across the river.

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By far, the most famous of the bridges is Charles Bridge. The bridge is a wide, gothic bridge built out of stone and along each side of the bridge are large statues. The bridge is one of the most famous sights in Prague and during the afternoon it is almost uncrossable with the amount of people crossing it. Therefore, if you want to see it or take any photos, you are best to visit it early in the morning or later in the evening.

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Once you’re on the opposite side of the Vltava River from the old town, there are again an endless amount of churches, streets, alleys and towers to explore, as well as things like the Lennon Wall if you’re interested. But the main attraction here, is the Prague Castle that sits on top of the hill.

The castle itself is massive, and you can enter the castle or the gardens without any admission fees. If you want to go into any of the buildings within the castle, however, you need to get tickets.


TIP: There are several different options for tickets that you can get when you visit the castle and the ones that we decided to go with were for “Circuit B” which cost CZK 250. If you’re a student, however, they offer discounts on the tickets.


 

The tickets that we opted for gave us access to the St. Vitus Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and the Golden Lane. I can’t really speak for the difference between the Circuit A, B and C tickets that you can get as I don’t know what is offered in the other circuits, but the four places that we saw with Circuit B were really cool and took us most of the day to fully explore.

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TIP: Just like everything else in Prague, the castle tends to get very busy in the peak of the afternoon, so it’s worth being there when it first opens to get at least a few hours to look around without large crowds everywhere. The castle itself opens at 6:00AM, and the buildings that you access with the tickets open at 9:00AM.


 

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The Golden Lane and St. Vitus Cathedral were especially worth checking out. There is also a garden behind the castle that you can retreat to if you want to get out of the busy crowds for a little while and it makes a great place to eat your lunch if you packed one.

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Conclusion:

The Czech Republic was the last stop on Hilary and I’s journey through Europe after being through Germany, Switzerland, and Venice. Even though the country is becoming increasingly more popular (especially Prague) and is quite busy, it still feels like it is just off of the beaten path of the typical destinations throughout Europe. Part of that is likely because it’s in Eastern Europe and because of it’s history and architecture.

Even though Prague seems to get all of the attention, the rest of the country that we saw was beautiful and I think that there is a lot to explore outside Prague as well if time allows. So, if you’re looking for somewhere that is full of places to see and things to do, but is less expensive and over-trodden like other places in Europe, then the Czech Republic might be a great place to include on your next trip.


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