Customised Holiday in Czech Republic

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The City of a Thousand Spires has seen it all. Centuries of Bohemian kings, classical composers, invading Nazis, Soviet tanks and Velvet Revolutionaries have passed over Prague's cobblestones, and the spires survived it all, creating one of Europe's most romantic and beautiful skylines. Stroll the Charles Bridge at dusk or row a boat down the Vltava River to discover what makes this Baroque jewel so alluring.

While the city centre is a mélange of stunning architecture, from Gothic, Renaissance and baroque to neoclassical, art nouveau and cubist, beyond the medieval lanes of the Old Town and the Castle District, there’s an entire other cosmopolitan city to explore. Search out the riverside parks, lively bars and beer gardens, music clubs, opera, museums and art galleries. Harness Prague’s excellent public-transport system to explore emerging suburbs such as Žižkov, Vinohrady, Smíchov and Holešovice. You’ll be guaranteed cheaper prices, a more local ambience.

Around Prague
The area surrounding Prague is the ancient land of Central Bohemia and is dotted with some of Europe's most beautiful castles, such as the majestic Karlstejn Castle where you can play a round of golf on a championship course. Also spectacular are the impregnable Ceský Sternberk Castle, the hunting lodge of Konopiste (A castle converted to a hunting lodge), and the interior of Krivoklát Castle. The castle at Orlík overlooking the wide expanse of the Vltava may be the nicest of them all. As much as these sites testify to the country's beauty, there are also monuments that reflect its suffering. Witness the remains of the village of Lidice, which was leveled by the Nazis in a reprisal attack during World War II; and Terezín , the "model" Jewish ghetto, the so-called Paradise Ghetto, where a cruel trick duped the world and left tens of thousands to die. Also worth exploring is the medieval mining town of Kutná Hora (with the macabre "Bone Church" a mile away in Sedlec). You can also enjoy a glass of wine at the Renaissance Lobkowicz Château, the center of Czech winemaking in the most unlikely of places, Melník.

All the destinations described here are easily accessible from Prague by car, train, or bus. Some may not have accommodations, so they are best visited within a day.

The ancient land of Bohemia makes up the western two-thirds of the Czech Republic. Some other places of interest in Bohemia are-

Karlovy Vary
This fashionable town is the closest the Czech Republic has to a glam resort, but Karlovy Vary is still glam with a small ‘g’. Well-heeled hypochondriacs from Germany, Austria, Russia and, increasingly, Arab nations make the pilgrimage to try to enjoy courses of ‘lymphatic drainage’ and ‘hydrocolonotherapy’ – all activities that should be outlawed under several international agreements. If you’re really keen to discover the dubious pleasures of a steam inhalation session or a sulphur bath, you’ll need to make a prior appointment. If not, there’s good hiking in the surrounding hills, and a busy arts and entertainment programme. Sample the tepid mineral-rich water on offer, or just have a drink at the riverside cafés. In our opinion, a beer or a coffee is a better option than the sulphurous gunk everyone else is sipping on.

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.

České Budějovice
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).

The town’s main square is one of the largest in Europe; elegant arcades radiate to streets filled with lively bars – the ideal spot to sample the town’s amber gold. Near the river, urban order is abandoned and the austere lines of the main square dissolve in a charming labyrinth of narrow lanes and winding alleys. The town’s industrial suburbs now sprawl across the plains of South Bohemia, but its historical heart retains the laid-back appeal of the simple brewing town it used to be.

Český Krumlov
Crowned by a spectacular castle, and centred on an elegant old town square, Český Krumlov is a pocket-sized Prague. Renaissance and baroque buildings enclose the meandering arc of the Vltava river, housing riverside cafés and bars.

A Unesco World Heritage Site, Český Krumlov has become the Czech Republic’s second busiest tourist town after Prague. Visit in summer and it may feel like a theme park, with street performers punctuating every corner, and tour buses overwhelming the car parks. But come a few months either side of July and August and the narrow lanes and footbridges will be (slightly) more subdued and secluded. Here you can rent canoes, rafts or rubber rings for some fun on the river.

In the region of Moravia, eastern part of the Czech Republic, there are countless numbers of interesting places having great charm for the foreigners thanks to its individuality.

Despite having a population of less than 400, 000, Brno behaves like the cosmopolitan capital it is (ie of Moravia), and stately boulevards and parks give it an almost Parisian air. This vaguely Gallic ambience is further enhanced by a population with contagious enthusiasm for caffeine, chat and culture, which they energetically bring to life in the city’s cafés and bars. With an array of excellent galleries and museums, a brooding castle fortress Brno is equidistant from Prague, Budapest and Vienna making it a good hub to discover the three Eastern European Gems.

Unspoilt by modern buildings and surrounded on three sides by medieval fish ponds, the pristine town square is precisely separated from the modern part of town. Strolling across the narrow bridges under the imposing gates is like time-travelling to the heart of the Renaissance. Inside, the square does not disappoint with a grand array of façades, covered arcades and walkways and the beautiful Water chateau. Park yourself with a good book and a glass of Moravian wine at one of the cafés on the square and you’ll remember all over again just why you like to travel.

centre is the largest historic preservation zone outside Prague, and its cobblestoned streets are lined with majestic cathedrals and grand palaces. In 2000, the Holy Trinity Column, which was erected in the early 18th century, was added as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Olomouc has always been a centre for education and culture and the rich schedule of festivals means that you stand a good chance of one being in progress, no matter what time of year your visit occurs. The festival calendar includes the largest beer festival in the country, the International Organ Music festival (Sep. - Oct.), and the ten-day city festival in late June.

Despite its fascinating history and great beauty, you won't find the crowds of tourists that are so common in more famous destinations. It's a real living, breathing Czech city, with 1000 years of history and the vibrant, youthful energy of a university town.

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