An amalgamation of Czechs, Germans, Slovaks, Jews, Italians, and even the French, the Czech Republic has a long history of being an impressively blended society. This little landlocked country, though often best known for its capital city of Prague, has so much to offer tourists that are looking for a completely unique Eastern European experience. Here’s a taste of what you can experience off the beaten path in the Czech Republic.
This sleepy little UNESCO World Heritage Site is quite a unique find for its architecture. Built in the mid-14th century, it is practically a time capsule of the Renaissance and its Gothic precursor. Situated in a precarious holding in its heyday, this castle and quaint town was a stronghold to gain control of the political and economic advantages of controlling access to and resources in this densely forested area. Because it was built with ponds surrounding it’s castle and village for protection, the town has never grown beyond its original size, and is a near perfect specimen of authenticity - a castle, a market square, a church, and meticulously detailed buildings. Definitely spend an afternoon wandering this town. One night’s stay should allow you to see every angle of Telč.
2. Brno & Moravian Wine Country
The often overlooked city of Brno is a huge opportunity for any traveler that wishes to have an authentically Czech experience without the crowds. Not nearly as popular as Prague, the second largest city in the country provides an equally historic experience and is a quick bus trip from wine country. With some of the oldest theaters in the world still in operation, Brno is a bustling cultural hub just waiting to be explored. While you’re in the area, there are dozens of vineyards ranging from family-run to full scale operations. Often described as a piece of Italy in Moravia, this area of the Czech Republic is said to be kissed by the sun. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, take the day and rent a bike to get between vineyards. The four villages you will want to visit are Mutěnice, Dubňany, Ratíškovice and Milotice.
The city of Zlín should have been nothing more than small provincial town if not for Tomáš Baťa, a cobbler with a dream. Inspired by Henry Ford and his assembly line, Bat’a mirrored the innovator’s business model with the mass production of footwear. More than just a factory, the entire city of Zlín was designed to be an all encompassing campus for Bat’a’s workers. Reminiscent of the style of modernist architect, Le Corbusier, the city’s layout is a model “garden city” where communities are self contained by greenbelts. This city planning model has a very distinct look and almost feels trapped in time. With the best intentions, Bat’a’s city design blurred the lines between work and home, but was intentionally crafted to bring workers closer to nature and feel less stifled by the manufacturing environment. Be sure to check out the Museum of Shoemaking for a full history of this fascinating little town.
When was the last time you had a massage? How about a whole spa retreat for 3-7 days? The luxurious side of Czech culture is a focus on healing, health and wellness. With dozens of spa cities all around the country, it’s not hard to find a place to truly unwind and connect with the natural beauty of the landscape. Luhačovice is near the border of Slovakia and boast seven hotels where visitors can stay for a few days or even longer depending on their specific needs. This isn’t just a fun getaway, but a real opportunity to take advantage of the healing properties of the local mineral and sulfur springs said to be beneficial to respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as help with obesity, diabetes, and movement disorders. Whatever you’re looking for, there are doctors on site to assess and provide expert treatment recommendations to all weary travelers.
While Prague is certainly a must-visit city, the Czech Republic is full of extraordinary cities and hidden gems worth exploring as well.