A historic jewel at the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic packs a sizeable punch for such a small country; from its majestic castles to its medieval towns its elegant spa resorts to its scenic national parks. It is also, lest we forget, the birthplace of some of the world's finest beer.
Most visitors to this Central European country limit their sightseeing to the culture-crammed capital, Prague. Romantically named ‘The City of a Thousand Spires’ Prague boasts some of the finest churches on the continent, dotted amongst cobbled lanes, classical opera houses and medieval bridges – and all watched over by a formidable fairytale castle. Its blend of ancient monuments, interactive museums, green parkland, fine restaurants, subterranean breweries, bustling markets and lively jazz clubs ensure there isn't a dull moment in this bohemian city. Yet Prague is just one of the Czech Republic's many draws.
Day-trippers from the capital will find plenty of attractions within easy reach. Karlovy Vary – or Karlsbad as it is often known – is a picturesque spa town famed for its hot springs, which have been soothing aches and pains since the 14th century. Karlštejn is a giant Gothic castle hidden among wooded hills, and the sworn protector of the Bohemian crown jewels. Kutná Hora is a mediaeval silver-mining city, famed for its church interior made from the bones of more than 50,000 people. And Plzeň (also known as Pilsen), the 2015 European Capital of Culture, boasts a pretty old town and a wealth of fascinating museums, and gave the world the famous Pilsner beer.
Away from the capital in the west, you'll find an even more to get excited about. The eastern region of the country, traditionally known as Moravia, is the only corner of the Czech Republic in which wine production comprehensively outstrips beer production. Vintners here produce exceptional bottles, and when combined with the rolling green hills, traditional food, and spirited cities like Brno and Olomouc, makes for a great escape.
Meanwhile, the northern border of the Czech lands is home to the snow-capped mountains of Krkonoše and the towering rock formations of Český Ráj (translation: Bohemian Paradise) while the central and southern regions lay claim to Český Krumlov – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps the most beautiful town in the entire country (though it’s fighting stiff competition from nearby Telč) – and the wild forests of Šumava National Park. And all throughout the country there are enough beautiful castles, idyllic spa towns and eye-catching natural features to last a lifetime.
Yet for all this, the Czech Republic is far more than the sum of its sights. Aside from all of the things to see, drink and eat, it has a unique blend of tradition and modernity. Here the tell-tale signs of an ancient landscape combine with its nation of proud and forthright people, keen to take a significant role on Europe's main stage. It may only be a small country, but the Czech Republic packs one hell of a punch.