If you're looking for charm, good prices, and a central location perfect for exploring Europe, the Czech Republic is the place to visit. While most tourists head to Prague, the country has much more to offer in the form of historical towns, stunning natural spaces, and architecture right out of a fairy tale.
The Czech Republic is home to over 2,000 castles; plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites; and an epic skyline full of medieval bridges, towers, and spires everywhere. Whether you're here to relax, explore the outdoors, or visit the country's legendary Christmas markets, chances are you won't be disappointed.
Plan your sightseeing with our list of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic.
Prague is full of architectural magic: Baroque palaces and Gothic cathedrals mixing in with Cubist and Art Nouveau buildings all around the city. Prague's Dancing House is an ode to modern steel and glass architecture, while its 600-year-old astronomical clock is one of the most stunning structures in Old Town.
Some of the best views of Prague are actually from above: the medieval Charles Bridge Tower and the Old Town Hall Tower over the main square offer views of red rooftops and the main Christmas market in winter. There's also the view from 9th-century Prague Castle, which sits up on a hill, and it's the largest castle complex in the world according to the Guinness World Records.
A cultural and historical hub, Prague is home to over 100 museums, including the one dedicated to local writer Franz Kafka, the National Museum with a collection of over 14 million items, and the more unique Museum of Communism. You also shouldn't miss the 12th-century Strahov Library, considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
2. Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is a smaller, more intimate version of the Czech capital and a great starting point to explore the south of the country. The city's Old Town center and its cobblestone streets and artsy stores are great to discover on foot.
Český Krumlov's castle is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument and one of the highlights of the town, but it's the castle tower and its amazing views over the town that attract the most visitors.
The Czech Republic's only Baroque theater is here. Built in 1682, it still maintains all its original mechanical stage pieces and decorations. Tickets don't come easy, though - there are only two public performances per year.
In summer, visitors also come to Český Krumlov for water fun, especially rafting and tubing down the Vltava River.
3. Karlovy Vary
A spa town since the 19th century, Karlovy Vary is home to many hot springs that are supposed to have restorative properties. Spas and wellness centers abound here, offering everything from classic massages to cupping to curative baths.
Colorful neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance buildings give Karlovy Vary a unique architectural look that can't be found in other cities around the Czech Republic. Add to that the impressive mill colonnade (home to five of the biggest hot springs in town) and Karlovy Vary is a photographer's paradise.
The Moser Museum, dedicated to the famous Czech glassmaking tradition, is also worth a visit.
For the best views around, take the funicular to the top of Friendship Hill, then climb the Diana Lookout Tower. There are marked trails you can use to make your way back down into town for even more beautiful sights along the way.
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which has been running every summer since 1946, attracts Hollywood stars and over 100,000 movie lovers every year. The five-day festival showcases over 200 films from all over the world.
Just 13 kilometers from Karlovy Vary is the 12th-century Loket nad Ohri castle, worth a visit for its turbulent history that includes a two-century-long stint as a prison. Visitors can tour the castle to see original residences, a massive collection of porcelain and firearms, and an iron meteorite that fell on the village in the 1400s.
4. Kutna Hora
Most visitors arriving in Kutna Hora are there to see the Sedlec Ossuary, a Baroque chapel decorated with the bones of over 40,000 people who perished during the Black Death and Hussite Wars in the 14th and 15th centuries.
St. Barbara's Church nearby is a Gothic masterpiece and a UNESCO World Heritage site also worth a visit.
Once a thriving silver mining and processing area, Kutna Hora is now home to a few historical places that preserve that royal past. Visitors can head down into a medieval mine or visit a mining museum that recreates the life of miners in the 17th through 19th centuries.
The Italian Court palace nearby once served as a royal mint center and today is a museum of coin minting. Visitors can mint their own coins to take home, and visit the royal chapel within the palace.
After a guided tour, you can wander off into the cellar of the palace for a unique exhibition on the dark side of Kutna Hora, including medieval criminal records, cases of witchcraft and arsonists, and interrogation and torture instruments.
The Czech Republic's second largest city doesn't get a lot of attention, but there are tons of interesting things to do in Brno if you know where to look.
Brno's city center is dominated by the towering Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, a great reference point for exploring the Old Town and its beautiful Gothic and early Baroque architecture.
While Brno can't compete with Prague when it comes to the massive number of museums, the city has some unique options to offer. Stop by the Museum of Romani Culture, go underground for a tour of the 10-Z nuclear shelter, or visit the Brno City Museum inside Špilberk Castle.
Brno is also home to Europe's second-largest ossuary, located under the Church of St. James, as well as a famous system of underground tunnels and cellars known simply as "Labyrinth under Vegetable Market."
With a happening café culture and plenty of outdoor markets to discover, Brno is a great place to explore on foot. For more adventure, it's possible to take a day trip out to Moravian Karst, a stunning karst landscape home to over 1,000 caverns and gorges.
6. Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Sandstone mountains, rock labyrinths, and deep valleys and ravines make Bohemian Switzerland one of the most stunning natural destinations in the country. The park is best known for being home to Pravčická brána, the biggest sandstone rock arch in Europe at 16 meters tall and almost 27 meters wide.
The park sits right against Saxon Switzerland National Park in Germany, and trails crisscross from one country into the next for the ultimate hike.
Among the other big attractions in Bohemian Switzerland National Park are the gorges of the Kamenice River, where a ferryman will row you away among the narrow sandstone passageways and next to waterfalls.
The fifth largest city in the country is better known for the 94-meter-tall Ještěd Tower, which sits at the top of its namesake mountain. The concrete tower was originally meant to be just a TV transmitter, but it now also houses a hotel and restaurant.
More adventurous travelers can hike up to the tower, but it's also possible to take a cable car to the top of the hill. Once here, you'll be rewarded with stunning open views over the Lusatian Mountains. In winter, the hills around the tower transform into over nine kilometers of slopes for skiing and snowboarding.
Don't let Liberec's small size fool you - there's plenty to explore here. Spend some time at the iQLANDIA planetarium and science museum to meet the first humanoid robot in the Czech Republic, walk the themed pavilions at the botanical garden, or explore the ancient Frýdštejn Castle.
8. Špindlerův Mlýn
A ski resort in winter and a hiker's paradise the rest of the year, Špindlerův Mlýn sits near the Krkonoše mountains and national park. Špindlerův Mlýn is the most important winter sports center in the country, with 11 ski lifts and 25 ski slopes for all skill levels. Non-skiers can try cross-country skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding or ice climb a frozen waterfall.
Summer visitors can try a 120-meter zipline above the Labská dam, explore the cycling paths (the longest route, between Harrachov and Žacléř towns, is 71 kilometers long), or take on the hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails that cross throughout the area.
The tiny town of Telč is best known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site town square. A mix of colorful Renaissance and Baroque houses with high gables and covered in sgraffito line up the plaza here.
Telč was once a medieval water fortress surrounded by moats and gates. While none of that survives today, there are still fishponds surrounding the chateau at the end of the square. The chateau sits where the original Gothic castle once stood and can only be accessed via a guided tour. There's a local history museum and a lavish chapel within the palace grounds.
Back on the square, visitors can climb the tower of the nearby Holy Ghost Church for great views over the fairy-tale rooftops. An even more magical view of Telč can be had from the outskirts of town, where the 34-meter-high steel Oslednice lookout tower offers not only a view of the town but also the roof of Roštejn Castle in the distance.
This small historic village is made of 17 Baroque farms containing over 100 buildings. Set near the protected Blanský Forest, the original buildings date back to the 1200s, though most were reconstructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
While the place looks very much like an open-air museum, the farms are permanently inhabited, though some of the buildings have been set up as cultural attractions. In addition to the farms, there's also a blacksmith shop and a small chapel here.
In April, a major "building of the Maypole" festival is celebrated here, and an old Bohemian fair takes place in the village during July.
Walk around the village to find an exhibit on early-20th-century farm life, then visit the ceramics workshop to get a customized souvenir - anything from your own mug to an address plate for your door can be created here using traditional Southern Bohemian techniques.
Near the village, at the top of a small hill, there's also the "Holašovice Stonehenge," a modern megalithic circle of giant stones created by a local builder. Although originally meant as a curiosity, it offers one of the best views over the village and a great place to sit back and relax.
11. Šumava National Park
Šumava National Park is home to the largest primeval forested area on the continent. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with glacial lakes, lush green mountains, and raised peat bogs, the park remains mostly wild and untouched. As a result, hiking here is a unique experience, no matter if you're taking to the forest trails or heading to the lookout tower at the top of Poledník mountain.
Šumava covers a massive 680 square kilometers and offers everything from hiking to cycling to cross-country skiing routes. Just outside the borders of the park there's also Kašperk Castle and Černé jezero, the deepest natural lake in the country.
Olomouc sits right on the Morava river, full of random little cobblestone streets perfect for exploring on foot. The city is home to a number of historical monuments, including the 35-meter-tall Holy Trinity Column, built in part to celebrate the end of the plague, and six Baroque fountains that were once the main water source for the town.
Other prominent buildings include the neo-Gothic Saint Wenceslas Cathedral and the town hall with its astronomical clock.
Olomouc is also home to a number of unique museums, such as the open-air Folk Architecture Museum (which tells the history of crafts and farming through historic buildings and tools used in the trades), the interactive science museum Fortress of Knowledge, and a railway museum.
The Olomouc castle and the nearby Olomouc fortress are also great sights, and both are surrounded by beautiful green spaces perfect for a relaxing stroll under the sun.
The surprising flavors of Moravian cuisine - including the famous ripened curd cheese Olomoucké Tvarůžky - are another reason to visit Olomouc.
13. Krkonoše National Park
In addition to being the oldest national park in the country, Krkonoše National Park is also home to Sněžka (Snow), the highest mountain in the Czech Republic at 1,602 meters. Filled with stunning, postcard-worthy hiking and biking trails, the park is also a paradise for skiers and snowshoers.
For adrenaline-seekers, there's also sledding, snowtubing, and even ice climbing under the supervision of a guide.
The park sits against the Poland border and the Karkonosze National Park on the polish side, so those up for some major hiking can easily start in one country and end in the next.
Located against the Morava River in the Zlín Region, this picturesque historical city is best known for the Kroměříž Castle and its gorgeous gardens, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The castle has been used extensively in movies, including to film scenes for Amadeus (1984), Immortal Beloved (1994), and Angélique (2013).
In addition to exploring the extensive gardens, you can also tour the castle itself, including the 84-meter Chateau Tower, the old library, the chateau art gallery, and more. Climbing the tower also gives you stunning open views over the city.
The Church of St. Moritz, one of the largest Gothic structures in the Czech Republic, is nearby and worth a visit. So is the local museum, which has exhibits on the history and culture of the area, and the Muzeum, dedicated to singer-songwriter Karel Kryl, with stunning exhibits featuring a mix of music and art.
Filled with colorful townhouses and a stunning column and fountain from the 17th and 18th centuries, the Kromeriz Town Square is great for a walk.
15. České Budějovice
Located about 150 kilometers south of Prague and just 25 kilometers away from Český Krumlov, České Budějovice deserves a visit, at least for an afternoon. The city's old town square is flanked by colorful Baroque buildings.
Just a few steps away is the 72-meter-high Black Tower. Climb to the top for a great view over the main square and its red rooftops.
Since the city sits at the confluence of the Vltava and Malse rivers, there's also a lot of waterfront to explore here.
Less than 12 kilometers from České Budějovice is Hluboká castle, considered one of the most stunning chateaus in the country. Although the original property dates back to the 13th century, the current neo-Gothic look comes from renovations done in the 1800s. Visitors can walk through the castle's extensive English gardens, climb the tower for beautiful views of the countryside, or tour the château's chambers and halls. Scenes from the movie Underworld: Blood Wars were filmed here.