The Czech Republic is more than beautiful Prague. Head west and visit the Plzen region, also known as Pilsen, where rolling hills, vast forests, world-class beer and quaint little villages hark back to days gone by.
Urquell brewery – Beer, Urquell and the humble temple
The Pilsner beer was – as the name suggests – invented in Pilsen, where among others the world famous brewery Urquell has been located since 1842.
Visit the building and get all the way around the world of Pilsner beer. Learn all about how to brew beer, how to pour a draught beer perfectly, and taste some of the world’s best lager beer.
Also visit the brewery’s giant basement restaurant, where the food is authentic, rustic and big on portions – and where the service is so legendarily bad and rude that it actually becomes an experience.
You should also visit the small microbreweries in the area, such as Modra Hvezda in the small town of Dobrany, 15 kilometers southwest of Pilsen. Here you’ll get a hand-brewed beer of the highest quality and personal stories from the brewer.
If you’re interested in beer, the town of Zatec 90 kilometers north of Pilsen is also a must-see. The town is famous for its hop production, which for centuries has brought wealth and status to the town.
Visit the town’s hop and beer temple, where the bitter beer ingredient plays a starring role in several museums.
Plzenske Historicke Podzemi
The entire historic inner city of Pilsen, founded in the 12th century, is criss-crossed by underground passages and cellars. Since the Middle Ages, residents have stored beer and food here and sought safety when the city was under attack.
The hundreds of cellars are connected by a maze of passageways where most people can get lost without a guide. Meet at the historic Brewery Museum in the center of Pilsen, where you can take a guided tour down into the underground if you’re not claustrophobic.
Go for a ride
If you have a car available, the landscapes throughout the western Czech Republic are well worth a drive. Rolling hills, vast woodlands and small, idyllic villages make the journey a pleasure, where big city stress and modern times seem far away.
If you’re close to the German border, you’ll find the largest forested areas in Central Europe, where you can lace up your hiking boots and get up close to nature.
If you visit the small villages, take a short walk and see how the Czechs live a quiet life. And if you’re really lucky, you might see a Catholic procession as a new priest is ordained.
PLACES TO EAT IN PILSEN
Meluzina krčma – delicious food in the medieval cellar
Since 1111, the building with Meluzina, located in the town of Domazlice, has been an inn – and the innkeeper has been there just as long, he claims when asked.
And Meluzina, which in Czech means the howling sound the wind makes in the chimney, really is a time warp. Here, in the old medieval cellar, you’ll be served old-fashioned Czech food of the highest quality.
For example, enjoy ghullash soup with sauerkraut and spicy sausages, or tuck into a braised rabbit with traditional Czech dumplings and spinach. And here in the medieval cellar, you are sure to be satiated.
Restaurant Indigo – Czech with an Italian twist
If traditional Czech food is too heavy, Restaurant Indigo in Pilsen is worth a visit instead.
Here you’ll find Czech food in modern interpretations with an Italian twist. Try the excellent aubergine tartare, for example, which gives the aubergine an almost meaty flavor. Or jump on board for risottos interpreted in Czech.
SHOPPING IN PILSEN
Every weekend, the central square of Pilsen in front of St Bartholomew’s Cathedral is transformed into a marketplace. Farmers from the area bring in fresh produce and you can buy everything from leather boots to glass bottles and clothes.
Pilsen Plaza – modern shopping center
Clothes are cheap in the Czech Republic – even branded ones – so swipe your credit card at Pilsen Plaza, for example, a modern shopping center in the city center. Find international chains and local retail concepts side by side, and save lots of money.
HOTELS IN PILSEN
Romantic old-style hotel, just north of the center of Pilsen and close to one of the four rivers that cut through the city. Prices are cheap and the atmosphere is very good.
Hradek u Sušice Chateau
Sleep like a princess in the castle. In the town of Hrádek, 70 kilometers south of Pilsen, you can sleep well in this old Baroque castle. Here you are close to nature and forests, and for less than €90 per night, you can stay in the royal suite, decorated in French rococo style.
The castle also offers a spa, swimming pool and a special kind of mini-golf called adventure-golf.
How to get to Pilsen
Pilsen is located about 100 kilometers southwest of Prague. There are buses and trains from Prague to Pilsen, but the best option is to rent a car and explore the beautiful countryside on your own. Several of the smaller towns are difficult to reach by public transport.