The Czech Republic is a well-travelled destination for its remarkable cultural heritage, natural beauty and top class services. In the last few years it has also been recognized as an international travel hotspot with new hotels opening up around Prague on a regular basis.
Czech Republic is a country that is surrounded by seven countries. The Czech Republic has an eye on Europe and offers travelers with a wide range of travel opportunities. Read more in detail here: latest travel restrictions for europe.
Did you know that Czech wine has been recognized with awards? Or that you may be treated to a traditional roasted goose feast if you arrive on November 11th?
Whether you’re a travel adviser or a travel enthusiast (or both! ), this interview with Michaela Claudino, Director of CzechTourism USA & Canada, is sure to teach you something new about this Central European nation. We cover a wide range of topics related to travel in the Czech Republic, a well-known yet underappreciated location that should be on everyone’s European bucket list.
(SH) Scott Hartbeck: What is the most important thing to know about the Czech Republic before visiting?
Michaela Claudino (MC): Given its size, the Czech Republic is remarkably diversified (roughly the size of South Carolina). We have 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over 2,000 castles and chateaux, and more than 30 spa towns, but we also have a fantastic outdoors, with over 25,000 kilometers of hiking and bike paths. But you just wanted to talk to me about one issue, right? Then stop referring to us as “Czechoslovakia” and “Eastern Europe”:)!
SH: Is there anything new in the Czech Republic that we should be aware of?
MC: There are a few new hotel projects in Prague, mostly. Several hotels spent time and money upgrading their premises throughout the outbreak.
The rehabilitation and extension of the Marriott Hotel Prague has resulted in the addition of 123 additional rooms and suites, bringing the total number of rooms and suites to 416. Guests may enjoy views of the old town spires from many of the new rooms, which include balconies and patios. The Artisan, a contemporary, sustainable Czech culinary experience employing high-quality local products and fresh seasonal ingredients, including herbs produced in the restaurant’s own “urban cultivator” and an open plan “theatre kitchen,” is part of Marriott’s renovation.
A few new five-star hotels will also open, including the Hyatt’s Andaz Hotel Prague, which will begin taking bookings in March 2022. Andaz Prague is a premium lifestyle hotel situated on Senovázné Square, in the heart of Prague’s historical center. Only four Andaz Hotels by Hyatt are located in Europe: one each in Vienna, Munich, London, and Amsterdam. The fifth will be held in Prague.
In the old Art Nouveau Grand Europa Hotel in Wenceslas Square, W Hotels Worldwide wants to open. Because of the epidemic, the opening has been postponed, although it will most likely happen in the second half of 2022.
Finally, the former Intercontinental Hotel in Prague is receiving a comprehensive restoration and will be renamed the new Golden Prague Hotel, which will be operated by Fairmont. Renovations are scheduled to last until the end of 2022.
The Hotel Alaman, Ritz Carlton, and Hard Rock Hotel in Letna might all be new additions in 2023.
Autumn in a Czech vineyard. (Photo courtesy of CzechTourism)
SH: Since it’s October, is there anyplace in the Czech Republic that’s recognized for its beautiful fall foliage?
MC: Many people are unaware that Prague is one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, greenest cities. Because grassy and forested areas account for 56 percent of the city’s total area, you may simply visit one of the numerous parks and enjoy the scenery without leaving the city. Petrn, Letná, Divoká árka, and Stromovka are among the most popular parks.
Czechs are keen hikers, as previously said, and the Czech Republic boasts over 25,000 miles of color-coded, signposted trails. If you want to be closer to Prague, go to Bohemian Switzerland, which is about an hour north of the city. If you have more time, go to Moravia in the Czech Republic’s eastern region to see some of the country’s most famous wineries.
Climbing up some of the treetop paths in the Krkonose mountains, South Bohemia, or Central Moravia is another fantastic option to experience the autumn colors and panoramic vistas.
SH: The Czech Republic is known for its fantastic beer, but isn’t Czech wine also worth trying? Is there a specific type or vineyard that you would suggest to someone who is new to Czech wine?
MC: There are two wine areas in the Czech Republic: Bohemia and Moravia. Bohemia is a region closer to Prague that produces just 5-10% of the country’s wine.
Moravia is located in the southeast of the Czech Republic, bordering Austria, and produces 90-95 percent of the country’s wines. Wine judges from all over the globe have awarded silver and gold awards to Moravian wines, which are regarded a national treasure. At the famous international competition “Mondial des Pinots,” Moravian Pinot Noir just received the world’s best title. In general, white wine is growing greater popularity than red wine. Art Muller-Thurgau, Gruner Veltliner, Welschriesling, (Rhine) Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay are among the best grapes. We also produce less than we consume, so a trip to Moravia to taste the region’s exquisite wines may be the only way to do so!
The landscape of Bohemian Switzerland, Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of CzechTourism)
SH: Where will I go and why will I go if I want to have the finest experience in the Czech great outdoors?
MC: Are you a hiker, a biker, or a combination of the two? Do you prefer undulating hills and ponds than mountains? The Czech landscape is incredibly beautiful. You may visit caverns and rock towns, as well as mountain peaks and observation places! Places like the fairy-tale beauty of the Bohemian Switzerland National Park, the gorges of the Adrpach Rock City, and Punkevn Cave in the Moravian Karst are places you will never forget and be pleased to return to. The icy northern nature of the Boubn Forest in umava is exhaled, whereas the pleasant, almost Mediterranean character of the scenery in the Palava Bio Reserve may surprise you. Choose from over 25,000 miles of recognized hiking paths in the Czech Republic.
SH: What would be a Czech festival event that everyone should attend at least once in their lives for travelers who prefer planning their journeys around festivals and special events?
MC: That’s a tricky one… it really depends on your particular preferences and interests, but I’d say anything that has to do with music.
Every year, Prague hosts the world-famous Prague Spring international classical music festival, which takes place in one of Prague’s most stunning Art Nouveau structures (the Municipal House), but we also have Colors of Ostrava, a multi-genre music festival that is one of Central Europe’s biggest. The event takes place in the highly special surroundings of Doln Vtkovice, which functioned as a hub for black coal mining and raw steel manufacture from 1828 until 1998.
We have several classic folkloric events, such as Moravia’s Ride of the Kings, a 200-year-old custom that is on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural treasures. This parade, which takes place in May in the tiny town of Vlcnov in Moravia, is a colorful, ceremonial equestrian procession of lads dressed in traditional folk costumes.
I would suggest attending Design Blok, a festival that presents new designers and artists, to individuals who are not interested in customs and folklore and are searching for something more modern. The Prague International Design Event is Central Europe’s largest and most selective design and fashion festival. Designblok features the work of Central European designers and manufacturers, including new items from prominent Czech businesses as well as prototypes by young designers and design studios.
Prague is located in the Czech Republic. Christmas Market at the historic plaza of Stare Mesto, Tyn Church, Bohemia. (Image courtesy of emicristea/iStock/Getty Images Plus)
SH: The last time I went in the Czech Republic was for Christmas, and I had a fantastic experience. What do you believe the nicest part about visiting the Czech Republic in the winter and offseason is?
MC: The basic answer is that there are less people (although that is relative today), off-season costs, and you can take in all of the cultural activities despite the fact that you may not be able to spend as much time outdoors owing to the colder weather.
Fall is typically an excellent time to come since certain wine festivals are still going on in September. It becomes a little chilly in October, but it’s still a terrific time to view some of the foliage we mentioned before and enjoy some culture, such as the Signal Festival, which features video mapping across Prague. The Czech Republic commemorates St. Martin’s Day in November. According to Czech legend, St. Martin rides into town on a white horse in early November, heralding the first snowfall of the year. The traditional feast of roasted geese, served with a side of red cabbage and dumplings in most Czech restaurants, is one of the highlights of the festivities.
By mid-November, winter has arrived, and if the mountains have not received their first snowfall by November 11th, St. Martin’s Day, it is considered bad luck. December may be the most beautiful and finest time of year to visit Prague provided you don’t like the cold. The Christmas season in Prague is quite amazing!
Old Town Square, which becomes the major hub of pre-Christmas activities, hosts the most popular and biggest markets. The market, which is dominated by a massive Christmas tree that is picked each year from a different area of the Czech Republic, attracts thousands of visitors every winter. Mulled wine, delicious sausages, and bratwurst are all on the menu. They may also appreciate a display of traditional arts and crafts, such as sword forging, or listen to Christmas songs while enjoying the complete extra program. From Saturday, November 27th through Thursday, January 6th, the markets will be available to the public on Wenceslas Square and Old Town Square.
SH: What is the first thing you eat when you go back to the Czech Republic?
MC: Because I have a sweet taste and a fondness for Czech pastries, my first stop is usually an excellent bakery.
Kolace are yeast-based Czech pastries that are commonly filled with fruit, but may also be filled with cheese and topped with poppy seed (my fave), apricot, or prune. By the way, did you know that the Czech Republic is a major producer of poppy seeds?
Fruit dumplings are also a favorite of mine, particularly in the summer. Dumplings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and they’re usually savory and eaten with traditional meals like roasted duck with sauerkraut or svickova, a beef sirloin with a creamy sauce. But I still love the sweet ones, which are packed with seasonal fruit like strawberries or apricots and dusted with powdered sugar, melted butter, cinnamon, or shredded gingerbread.
Karlovy Vary is a Czech spa town. (Photo courtesy of CzechTourism)
SH: Obviously, ancient and beautiful Prague need no introduction, and an increasing number of Americans are recognizing that Cesky Krumlov is about as charming a medieval village as Europe has to offer. So, what’s the next hotspot that we’ll fall in love with?
MC: Yes, most people’s itineraries include Prague and Cesky Krumlov. So where do we go from here? Depending on how many days you have, you may either remain in Bohemia and visit places like Pilsen, which is most certainly the most American town in the Czech Republic (liberated by American troops during WWII), home to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, and also has Europe’s third biggest synagogue. You may travel a little farther west to Karlovy Vary, Marianske Lazne, or Frantiskovy Lazne, one of the three spa towns newly added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
If you have more time, go to Moravia in the eastern Czech Republic and stop in at a few attractive towns along the road, such as Telc or Trebic. Don’t miss Brno or Olomouc after you’ve arrived in Moravia. Brno is the Czech Republic’s second-largest city and the cultural sister to Prague. It is home to the one-of-a-kind Villa Tugendhat, a modernist masterpiece constructed by German-American architect Ludwig van der Rohe.
But a true hidden treasure is the town of Olomouc in Central Moravia, which I affectionately refer to as “little Prague.” The city is a marvel of medieval architecture, with cobblestoned streets, beautiful churches, and stately mansions. There’s even an Astrological clock — similar to the one in Prague, but much newer.
SH: Last but not least, what is one Czech word that everyone should know before visiting?
MC: I’m inclined to say “jedno pivo, prosim,” which translates to “one beer, please,” but you should be able to say:
Thank you – Dekuji (dye-ku-yi) Welcome – Prosim (pro-seem) Hello – extremely casual – Ahoj (Ahoy) And possibly “I don’t know Czech” – Nemluvim Cesky (nem-loo-veem-chehs-kee)
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The “travelpulse” is a travel site that provides an overview of the best travel offers in Europe. The site also has a section for Czech Republic.
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