After the quaintly contrived elegance of the West Bohemian spa towns, the rugged blue-collar energy of Plzeň comes as a welcome relief. The capital of West Bohemia has authentic industrial credibility as the home of the Skoda Engineering Works and as the original source of Pilsner beer. Workers the world over are especially pleased with that last fact.
As the country’s fourth-largest city, Plzeň’s gritty suburbs sprawl across the surrounding hills, but at its heart lies a spectacular old town square wrapped in a halo of tree-lined gardens.
A lively student population ensures the town’s pubs provide many opportunities to sample Plzeň’s heritage as the original fountain of eternal golden froth. A varied programme of music and arts allows you to feed your soul as well as quench your thirst, and excellent museums cover everything from Pilsner to Patton.
Plzeň may not have the immediate and elegant extravagance of nearby Karlovy Vary or Mariánské Lázně, and it takes hold rather more slowly. But after a day of imbibing the city’s raffish charm (and its most famous liquid export), you won’t be missing the crowded bus parks, the pushy tour groups or the surface gloss of the spa towns at all.