The Czech Republic's western province boasts surprising variety. Český Krumlov, with its riverside setting and Renaissance castle, is in a class by itself, but lesser-known towns such as Třeboň in the south and Loket in the west exude unexpected charm. Big cities like České Budějovice and Plzeň, the EU Cultural Capital for 2015, offer great museums and restaurants.
The Czech Republic’s easternmost province, Moravia is yin to Bohemia’s yang. If Bohemians love beer, Moravians love wine. If Bohemia is towns and cities, Moravia is rolling hills and pretty landscapes. Once you’ve seen the best of Bohemia, head east for a different side of the Czech Republic.
Among Czechs, Moravia’s capital has a dull rep; a likeable enough place where not much actually happens. There was even a hit movie a few years back called Nuda v Brně (Boredom in Brno). The reality, though, is very different. Tens of thousands of students ensure lively cafe and club scenes that easily rival Prague's. The museums are great too.
If you’ve been hiding a designer dog or an ostentatious pair of sunglasses in your luggage, then Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad in German) is your chance to give them both an airing. This fashionable town is the closest the Czech Republic has to a glam resort, but Karlovy Vary is still glam with a small ‘g’.
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 birthplace of one of Europe’s finest brews, in České Budějovice they take their beer very, very seriously. The town’s original brewery supplied the Holy Roman Emperor back in the 13th century, and now the town’s namesake Budvar lager (the original and authentic Budweiser) goes head to frothy head with Pilsner Urquell, from Plzeň to the west.
The 20th-century Czech poet Jan Skácel (1922–89) bequeathed Mikulov a tourist slogan for the ages when he penned that the town was a 'piece of Italy moved to Moravia by God's hand'. Mikulov is arguably the most attractive of the southern Moravian wine towns, surrounded by white, chalky hills and adorned with an amazing hilltop Renaissance chateau, visible for miles around.
Yesterday’s travel secret may now be a burgeoning tourism hot spot, but that’s OK because Telč’s appeal is too special to be dissipated by a few tour buses. Surrounded on three sides by medieval fish ponds, the pristine town square is precisely separated from the modern part of town.