As a jumping off point for exploring the wonderful world of Western Bohemia, you couldn’t pick a more perfect place than Pilsen. But before you get too comfortable in this bona fide brewery town, let us whet your appetite for adventure with five unconventional Czech getaways.
A short trip north from the city centre will bring you to the leafy green refuge that is Lochotínský Park (also known as Lochotin). Simple on the surface, but with a whole lot of history behind it, this peaceful place of recreation is actually the oldest of its kind in the area; a fine location for a Pilsen-themed picnic after you’ve stuffed your basket full of local produce from the farmers market in Republic Square.
If you’re afternoon calls for something more active, there’s a wealth of entertaining ways within the immediate vicinity to keep both little and larger visitors occupied. Between the unusual plant life of the botanical gardens and the furry, feathered and fishy creatures waiting to be discovered at the Česká řeka zoo, there’s little chance you’ll be at a loss for what to do. Of course, if the kids are really playing up, you can always threaten to feed them to a T-Rex at the DinoPark.
Church of the Nine Ghosts
Thrill-seekers searching for a new scare will want to take a special trip out of town to the tiny village of Lukova, located on the outer rim of the Plzeň region’s border. There, they’ll soon find themselves on the steps of the church of St George’s, where a truly unique congregation awaits.
On first glance, this long since abandoned building appears to be occupied by ghosts, some of whom sit silently in the dusty pews and others who stand frozen in time in the aging aisles. But far from being lost souls come to life, these ghoulish figures are actually part of a spooky installation created by local artist, Jakub Hadrava. His mission? To bring funding to the ailing church (when it was under threat from being torn down) and to leave a lasting reminder about the parish’s past. An eerie, yet enchanting, day out.
Stroll, bask and bathe away the hours in stunning mountainside surroundings in the outstanding spa town of Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad), safe in the knowledge that you’ll be following in the footsteps of inspirational greats such as Edison, Freud, Twain, Kipling and more. With more than 160 hot and cold springs within its borders, as well as a host of intriguing historical features and inviting eating opportunities, there’ll always be something to revive your spirit if the distances travelled starts to take effect.
Though the valley which surrounds the town was once a land of impenetrable forests and muddy marshes, it has since been transformed into a paradisiacal world worthy of its many natural and manmade wonders. A must for romantics, particularly in the warmer months when the scent of flora from the woodlands floats down from the hillsides.
Extraordinary in its appearance, thanks to the mix of influences that have guided its construction over the aeons, this remarkable castle to the south is a day-trippers delight. Beginning life under the tutelage of the Kings of Bohemia, it has been passed between the hands of royals and upper nobility since as far back as the 13th century.
Thankfully, many former residents have left tokens of their ownership behind, meaning there are plenty of old-school trinkets to peek at as you pass through the 140 rooms, explore the 11 towers and stroll through the galleries, gardens and Gothic alcoves of the magnificent estate. And don’t be alarmed if you get a little déjà vu on arrival, as Hluboká’s most recent reconstruction has been modelled on none other than Windsor Castle.
1 hour 55 minutes
We don’t often let whimsy cloud our judgement when it comes to recommendations, but we’ll make one huge exception for the fairytale realm of Cesky Raj. The mere fact that this diverse domain also goes under the name ‘Bohemian Paradise’ should give you some indication of its uniqueness, but if you need more convincing, perhaps stories of crumbling clifftop castles (Trosky), dragon slaying prince’s (Bajaja) and mysterious rock towns (Hrubá Skála) will sway you.
Aside from its overwhelming beauty, there’s all the action packed activities one could ever dream of within reach. Between rock climbing and rafting, hiking, biking and horse riding, you’ll be in the midst of adventure before you can even say ‘Once upon a time’.
2 hours 5 minutes