Prague is Europe at its most beautiful and atmospheric : One of the greatest beer cities in the world with a surprisingly creative edge – The Czech Republic itself is a treasure trove of enchanted castles, overflowing with Unesco heritage sites and the home of the quintessential Bohemian Lifestyle.
The first time I visited Prague, back in the early ’90s, I fell head over heels in love with this beautiful city. I have been there at least sixty times since then, once for a wonderful three month ‘live like a local’ stay. I can now happily wander comfortably around the city without having to look at any map and I love to visit my favourite Pivo Bars and Hospodas, unashamedly showing off my local knowledge and meagre smattering of Czech to friends. Prague is all the more remarkable given the fact that many historical buildings had to be rebuilt after the US mistakenly bombed it at the end of the second world war.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 travel restrictions, Czech Tourism has announced it is encouraging travellers to ‘Plan Today, Czech In for 2021’ by creating a guide to the top 21 things to do in the Czech Republic next year. Czech Tourism hopes to provide some travel inspiration for the new year from exploring Prague on a shoestring with the ‘Prague Unlocked’ discount scheme to heading off the beaten track to discover the Czech Republic’s EDEN locations. Czech Tourism also launched a campaign this month with Sunshine106.8 to ask people to include the Czech Republic for travel plans in 2021 – This is the radio ad and new video to promote the campaign here in Ireland. #czechin2021
When I returned for my second visit in 1992, I brought a group of twenty people with me, mostly professional types, solicitors, barristers, a librarian and a few judges. I had placed a small classified ad in the back of the Irish Times advertising that I was arranging an all included Opera Tour to Prague for 5 days including flights, hotel, meals and opera tickets, the price was £329 punts and much to my delight the trip was fully booked within a week. There was no direct flight from Dublin at the time so we flew British Airways to Prague with a connection through Heathrow. The atmospheric city of Kafka with its 19th-century lamps and cobbled streets was about to discover the fun loving Irish, hungry for culture, new experiences and yes, great beer. The handsome bridges arching over the lethargic Vltava river were about to meet the quick stepped Irish – laden with crowns and eagerly pioneering to discover this jewel of former communist rule. We stayed in the lovely three star Hotel Bily Lev (Whitel Lion) in Žižkov.
Žižkov was built as a district for workers; there were houses for poor but working citizens. A unique district of the real Prague with many small courtyards, galleries, and narrow streets. In summer the locals would take their tables and chairs outside, they would put their beer glasses on windowsills, play cards, smoke, drink, and gossip. Today as in the old times, there are many little pubs and cafes with their summer gardens, little narrow streets of the old worker’s neighbourhood that has become so close to the heart of Prague. Žižkov used to be on the periphery. Its workers were so essential to the city that one of the first tram lines actually went there.
Beer with me. The Czech Republic (or Czechia for short) has a rich beer heritage; it is the home of the original Pilsner brewing style. Pilsner was first brewed in Pilsen (or Plzeň) in 1842 but back in Prague, the Benedictine monks at the Brevnov Monastery (Břevnovský klášter) had been brewing for centuries of course. Prague is one of the greatest beer cities in the world, the perfect blend of traditional breweries and pubs with modern craft beer bars and brewers.
The Czechs like to say, “kde se pivo vaří, tam se dobře daří” – where beer is brewed, life is good. The Czechs are a nation of brewers and they’re a nation of beer drinkers. The Czech Republic has been number one in the world for beer consumption in Kirin’s beer consumption report for the past 25 years. The average Czech drank an incredible 183.1 litres of beer in 2017, while their nearest rivals the Austrians managed only 106.6 litres per person. Don’t be surprised by this, the beer in the Czech Republic is really exceptional and gentle on the pocket.
I’ve visited the Czech capital fairly regularly in all seasons and they each have their own particular charm in Prague. In summer I’ve mingled with the herds of tourists admiring the pastel-hued buildings of the Old Town Square and in winter, I’ve enjoyed the sprawling space with many off-season delights and superb Christmas Markets. I haven’t missed visiting the Czech Christmas Markets in over 15 years until this year. I have kept Prague and my beloved Czech Republic alive by watching lots of virtual travel videos, old Czech movies and listening to the music of one of my favourite Czech composers, Gustav Mahler
Born in Bohemia on the 7th July 1860 (then part of the Austrian Empire) to Jewish parents of humble origins, the German-speaking Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.
Plan Today for Czech In 2021
Here are the 21 attractions that you can plan for next year. I suggest that you take a few months off and enjoy them all. One life is not enough for Prague as I have discovered over the past twenty eight years and anytime spent there is truly delightful and nourishing and thankfully, the hangovers are short lived but the memories last forever. Here is a terrific video from Czech Tourism showcasing the sights and wonders of the Czech Republic.
Charming castles and curious chateaux
In 2021, CzechTourism will be showcasing lesser-known castles and chateaux around the Czech Republic. We all know how spectacular the likes of Prague Castle and Karlstejn are, but there are over 200 unique regal locations to be uncovered off the beaten track, from the ‘open-air textbook of architecture’ Hradec Kralove to the delicate flower gardens of Kromeriz. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Castles-and-Chateaux
Wonderful ‘workcations’, a new normal we can get behind
One thing COVID-19 has taught us is that the need to be in an office every day from 9-5 is not as necessary as it seems. In need of a change of scenery from your office / bedroom hybrid? The Czech Republic is an ideal destination for ‘workcations’, with its central location, great value restaurants and bars and tranquil scenery. Rural Bohemia and Moravia are the perfect places to stay for month-long experiences – both have excellent transport connections and plenty of holiday house options. https://www.czech-holiday-houses.com/
Explore the Capital on a Shoestring with ‘Prague Unlocked’
Prague City Tourism and CzechTourism are offering discounts on visitor attractions and experiences with the ‘Prague Unlocked’ scheme. When booking with the scheme’s accommodation partners, travellers receive vouchers based on group size and duration of stay. These vouchers can be used on some of Prague’s best attractions including the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague Zoo and guided city tours. www.pragueunlocked.eu/
Discover your own personal EDEN
Take the road less travelled and find your own personal paradise. Discover the Czech Republic’s European Destinations of Excellence, offering more authentic, sustainable and meaningful experiences. Hike through the wild beauty of Bohemian Switzerland’s rocky National Park, revitalise both the body and mind at Luhacovice’s traditional spas or sip on local wines from the vineyards of Moravia. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/EDEN
Revitalise in Europe’s medical spa capital
The Czech Republic is home to more than 30 spas located across the country’s diverse landscapes. The Czech Republic’s spa offering boasts some of the oldest and most spectacular in Europe. The country’s spa industry is home to top balneology experts, highly qualified medical staff and the highest number of certificate holders among EU member states. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Medical-Spas
Cycle along 40,000km of unforgettable Czech trails
The Czech Republic is criss-crossed by a staggering 37,000km of cycle routes. With constantly improving facilities along the way including restaurants, bike servicing centres, accommodation and information boards, it has never been easier to enjoy the iconic Czech landscape. From the 370km Elbe Cycle Route and the fascinating Iron Curtain trail, the longest EUROVELO route, to Moravian Wine Trails, there are routes for all ages, capabilities and interests. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Cycling-experiences
Discover the best kept wine secret of Europe
South Moravia is the Czech Republic’s largest wine region, accounting for 96% of the country’s vineyards. In addition to wine festivities, festivals, and harvest, you can, for example, journey along one of the many wine trails and enjoy the picturesque scenery by either foot or bike. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/a-south-moravia
A magical Czech Winter: markets, skiing and fairy tale castles
Capture the yule-tide spirit at Prague’s world-famous Christmas market or the fairy tale, UNESCO-listed Český Krumlov. Chase thrills amongst the snowy peaks of the Krkonoše Mountains and find the country’s longest ski slopes and best resorts, topped off with breath-taking views. https://www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/winter
Czech’s young, happening cities: Brno, Ostrava and a different side of Prague
Discover the Czech cities that have undergone a fundamental transformation in recent years. Visit Ostrava, the steel heart of the Czech Republic, the stylish capital of Moravia, Brno, and Prague’s Bohemian district: Art District 7. Creativity has no limits there. Life there is real and people are real, too. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Destinations
Celebrate spa season in some of Europe’s oldest spa towns
Every May, the Czech spa season kicks off with a host of ceremonies to open the spa season in West Bohemia. Experience the official opening of the springs in Marianske Lazne, where traditional costumes and a series of cultural events take over the ancient town. In Karlovy Vary, guests can witness the blessing of the mineral springs, complete with a centuries old parade led by the city’s founder Emperor Charles IV on horseback. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Wellness-In-Out-of-Spas
Complete Czech’s UNESCO trail
Can you ‘Czech’ out all 14 UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic? Home to over twice the world average, highlights include the Historic Centres of Prague, Cesky Krumlov and Telx, the stunning Modernist Villa Tugendhat in Brno and the two most recent additions: The Krusnohori Mining Region and the National Stud Farm at Kladruby nad Labem. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Things-to-Do/Category-Group-Pages/Cultural-Heritage/UNESCO
Mountains are best explored on two wheels
With a wealth of diverse landscapes, favourable conditions and varying terrain, the Czech Republic makes for an adrenaline filled mountain biking trip. Ideal for clearing your mind after months of lockdown. From the top-rated Peklak bike park and resort in Ceska Trebova, to the mountain bike mad locals of Trutnov trails, mountain biking is a way of life in the Czech Republic. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Things-to-Do/Cycling-experiences
Uncovering a Bohemian Paradise: UNESCO Geopark and Krkonose
For centuries the Bohemian Paradise area has attracted painters, writers, artists, and dreamers of all kinds. Discover this unique combination of bizarre rock formations, deep pine forests, majestic castles and sublime villages of timber cottages, losing yourself for a moment in the labyrinth that is the Bohemian Paradise area. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/bohemian-paradise-walk
Saddle up for the world’s oldest horse race in East Bohemia
The Grand Pardubice Steeplechase, one of the world’s oldest horse races, is held every second Sunday in October at the Pardubice Racecourse. Known as the world’s most difficult race, the Czech equivalent of the Grand National is an insight into one of the country’s most unique traditions. East Bohemia is famous for its horses, so you’ll discover more at the UNESCO Heritage Site Kladruby, famous for its breed of carriage horse the “Kladruber”. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/pardubice-velka-pardubicka
Learn the secrets of South Bohemia, a historic gem
Home to a diverse variety of cultural and historic gems, South Bohemia is the land of fairy tale chateaux, ancient forests and rural farmland. Live as Czech noble families once did in the glittering ballrooms and gothic spires of Hluboka Castle. Soak up the tranquil silence along the banks of the glistening Lipno Reservoir or ascend into the leafy canopies at Lipno tree walk. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/South-Bohemia
The Czech Republic from tee to green
Tee it high and let it fly, the Czech Republic is Europe’s most underrated golfing destination. From the Kyle Phillips-designed, soon-to-be completed PGA National Czech Republic on the outskirts of Prague, to the European Tour-designated Albatross Golf Resort, the Czech Republic is bursting with fantastic courses, breathtaking scenery and welcoming hospitality. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Golf
Europe’s gold standard of brewing tradition
The Czech Republic is home to one of Europe’s oldest and proudest brewing traditions. Take a sip of history at the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, where the world’s first pilsner lager was brewed in 1842. The city of Pilsen also hosts an annual microbrewery festival that is something of a pilgrimage for beer lovers across Europe. Still thirsty? Head to Budejovice and explore the Budweiser Budvar brewery (the original Budweiser), where Czech lager has been lovingly crafted for 125 years. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/News/2014/05/n-enjoy-czech-beer
A festival for every kind of fan
The Czech Republic has a packed and extremely diverse annual festival schedule. From one of the country’s most important cultural celebrations, Prague Spring, and the globally recognised International Music Festival Cesky Krumlov, to completely unique events against stunning backdrops such as the Colours of Ostrava music festival and Hrady CZ. Whatever you look for in a festival, you will find in the Czech Republic in 2021. www.visitczechrepublic.com/summer-festivals
Beautiful buildings for architecture adventurers
The Czech lands have long been an important centre of architectural and urbanistic experiments. Whether it’s Art Nouveau, Modernist or Gothic, the Czech Republic’s diverse architectural offering is a genuine marvel. Head to Brno, a living gallery of functionalism and explore the UNESCO-protected Modernist classic that is Villa Tugendhat for just a small taste of the country’s architectural excellence. www.visitczechrepublic.com/five-functionalism-beauties
Explore one of the biggest Jewish heritage collections in Europe
Many Jewish sites have been preserved in the Czech Republic, attracting tourists from all over the world. The Jewish Cemetery, Klausen Synagogue, Old New Synagogue, and the Jewish Ghetto in Prague, as well as the unique Jewish quarter in Třebíč (registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List) offer rich history, beautiful traditions and important lessons to be learned. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/Jewish-Heritage
Fall in love with the industrial heart of the Czech Republic
The beating coal, iron and steel heart of the Czech Republic, Ostrava is the city that kickstarted the industrial and technological development of the country. The industrial architecture of mining towers, furnaces and the iconic skyline of the Vitkovice Ironworks are an unforgettable experience. The Colours of Ostrava Festival is a huge music festival that takes place in the shadow of the steelworks, highlighting the city’s transition from industrial, to cultural powerhouse. www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US/ostrava
For more details on 21 for 2021 please visit www.visitczechrepublic.com
On social media look for #czechin2021