My husband Charlie and I recently explored three towns in the Czech Republic whose scenery, architecture, and to-do possibilities made it well worth stepping outside of Prague.

Ceske Budejovice

Pronounced CHESS-keh BOOD-ya-VITZ-eh, this is the town otherwise known as Budweis. Founded in 1265 as a fortress town at the intersection of the Vltava and Malse rivers, it is home to Budvar Brewery, which makes the original Budweiser lager (known as Budvar in Europe and Czechvar in the states). Nine bicycle routes wind through the town; one scenic path along the Vltava runs all the way from Germany to Austria.

At the center of town is Přemysl Otakar II Square, a wide cobblestone expanse anchored by a fountain. Restaurants, small stores, and a few hotels line the square, while colorfully painted homes and tiny shops nestle together on the winding side streets. There are fewer English speakers here than you’ll find in Prague, but a good attitude and Google Translate will get you far.

Visit the farm market on Saturday. Rent a bike and ride along the river. Check out the dragon gargoyles on the Baroque town hall building. Visit Hluboka Castle, built in the 13th century by the Kings of Bohemia. Do what we did and hire a guide to teach you the art of Nordic walking as you hike through the wooded castle grounds. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale.

Highlights

EXPLORE
Hluboka Castle http://www.zamek-hluboka.eu/en/ 

Nordic Walking: Developed by cross-country skiers for warm-weather training, hiking with Nordic poles raises your heart rate, uses more muscle power, and can be done by nearly anyone. Guide Pavla Mrázková will rent you poles, teach you how to use them, and point out sites along the way. Her business is called Poradna Zdravi a Linie. http://www.zdravi-linie.cz/nordicwalking.html https://www.facebook.com/zdravialinie

Budvar Brewery: Open for tours. http://www.budejovickybudvar.cz/en/prohlidky/prohlidky-pivovaru.html

SHOP Galerie Zlate Rybky: A fine-art ceramics gallery featuring the charming work of Sark and Barbora Hanzálková, Libor Hanzálka, and their friends. www.zlaterybky.cz https://www.facebook.com/pages/Galerie-Zlaté-rybky/294173880792932 T

he Blue Lion Pivoteka: “Pivoteka” means “beer store.” You will need to know this. Look for the Czech translation of “Blue Lion beer store” on the sign: U Modreho LVA Pivoteka. http://pivoteka.eu/clanky.php?id_clanku=2 

Cyklospeciality: a chic bike boutique with beautiful handmade Pashley bikes from Britain. https://www.facebook.com/cyklospecialitycb http://www.cyklospeciality.cz/clanky/c-budejovice/

EAT
La Raclette:
This “dining club” offers a full menu in addition to raclette, a Swiss specialty involving melted cheese, meat, potatoes, pickles, and vegetables all cooked on a personal grill at your own table.  Exposed brick walls, wood ceiling and tables, plus knowledgeable and attentive staff keep things cheery and fun. http://www.leraclette.eu 

Víno s Láskou (Wine with Love): A cozy and friendly wine store, bar, café, and deli. http://www.vinoslaskou.cz

Hotel Budweis: The patio has outdoor dining and a view overlooking the Malse River and the Dominican Monastery. http://www.hotelbudweis.cz

Cesky Krumlov

Everywhere you look in this Renaissance-era town you see a postcard-perfect view. Say it like this: CHESS-key KROOM-loffNamed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town has more than 300 protected buildings, including colorful burgher houses and a lovely castle (the second-largest in the Czech Republic). The fact the area has a peaceful history means the architecture and city plan have remained mostly intact, making it a time capsule of a medieval urban development.

Because of its picturesque qualities you will definitely find tourists here, although few Americans. It’s worth the trip! Wander the town and stop at one of the many cafés overlooking the meandering Vltava River. Rent a canoe or kayak and see the town from the water. Take a guided night tour. Attend one of the many festivals, including a medieval festival held every June.

Cesky Krumlov also has a rich arts life. There are seven museums, five music festivals, theater festivals, a large open-air auditorium, plus many galleries and shops.

Highlights

EXPLORE
Infocenter: Ask a question, send an email; these folks will help. http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/kpr1045.xml

State Castle of Cesky Krumlov http://www.castle.ckrumlov.cz/docs/en/zamek_oinf_sthrza.xml

GET ARTSY Revolving Auditorium: See a production of Robin Hood or The Three Musketeers under the stars on the castle grounds? Yes, please. http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/atr397.xml

Egon Schiele Art Centrum: An international art center housing work by artist Egon Schiele and other rotating exhibits. Includes studios for working artists. http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/atr5.xml

Five Petaled Rose Celebration: Swordplay! Costumes! A night fire parade and historic market! Fans of Game of Thrones, take note. http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/mesto_histor_kosvit.xml

EAT Barbakan Tavern: This place is far more charming than its limited website lets on. We took an afternoon break on their terrace for cappuccino and a view of the valley. The interior feels like you’ve traveled in time; it’s full of nooks and crannies and would be perfect for resting with a beer on a cool evening or damp day. Krcma is Czech for “tavern.” http://www.krcmabarbakan.cz/en/index.html

Slavonice

This quiet town dates to the 12th century and is about midway between Prague and Vienna.  Say it like this: slah-vo-NITZ-eh.
You’ll go snap-happy taking photos of buildings covered with intricate sgraffito—etched designs that range from geometric patterns to detailed depictions of mythological characters and historic events. Slavonice was declared an urban conservation area in the 1960s; its people have been great caretakers of their ancestors’ craftsmanship.
Eat some zmrzlina (ice cream) by the fountain on Peace Square. Check out the view from the top of City Tower. Explore the underground passages. Stretch out with a hike or a bike ride; Slavonice is popular with cyclists and is connected to a network of multi-use trails.

Highlights

EXPLORE
Video tour http://youtu.be/CjDgPphu5No

Tourist Information Centerhttp://www.slavonice-mesto.cz

HIKING & BIKING
Prague-Vienna Greenwayhttp://www.greenways.by/index.php?content&id=93&lang=en

Museum of Border Fortifications: See the inside of 1930s and Cold War bunkers, many of which were combat-ready until 1989, when the Velvet Revolution helped bring the end of communism.  A 2.5-km trail with informative signs adds detail. http://www.i.slavonice-mesto.cz/muzeum%2Dpohranicniho%2Dopevneni/ds-4435/p1=26104

Underground passageways: We did not get a chance to explore these, but they would be worth a trek. http://www.czechtourism.com/c/slavonice-underground/ 

EAT & SLEEP
Restaurace Appetito: Delicious garlic soup and Czech specialties http://www.restauraceappetito.cz

Hotel Besidka: We didn’t spend the night, but this boutique hotel has won regional hotel awards and definitely looks worth checking out. http://besidka.cz

City Tower http://www.i.slavonice-mesto.cz/mestska%2Dvez/os-7511/p1=25047

For more information on visiting the Czech Republic—http://www.czechtourism.com/home/

 

—by Therese Maring, a writer, traveler, and friend of European Market