A few months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the gorgeous West Bohemia thanks to Czech Tourism. The main purpose of my trip was to enjoy the historic spa towns, which you can read about here! However, I really enjoyed discovering so many cultural hidden gems from castles and museums to nature reserves and chateaus.
Krušovice is a small town on the way from Prague to Karlovy Vary. The special characteristic of this town is its beer tradition; there you can try a hundred-year-old beer that honors the inhabitants with its name – Krušovice! In U Lípy Restaurant, you can try this fantastic beer while you taste a delicious traditional dish in a welcoming atmosphere. U Lípy feels like a warm home, because at lunchtime, some of the locals gather as a big family, and even if you are a tourist, you can feel their unity.
The Becherovka Museum, in the heart of Karlovy Vary, will take you through the more than 200-year-old history of the most famous liqueur of Czech Republic. You can discover the secrets of the production while you learn about the items, machines, and select ingredients that are used in the process to obtain this herbal liqueur. At the end of the tour, you can taste the four different variants of the Becherovka liqueur, brought directly from the distillery in the outskirts of Karlovy Vary. You may finish your visit in any of the charming stores of Becherplatz where, in addition to the liqueurs produced by the distillery, you can also buy numerous items and souvenirs to take home with you!
Moser Glass Factory
The Moser Glass Factory is one of the main attractions in Karlovy Vary, and one of the most unique factories in the world. They are dedicated to creating incomparable glasses, vases and other ornaments and jewelry, all of them made of crystal, handcrafted and decorated by talented artists. The factory offers a tour in which it is possible to visit a spectacular museum with well-preserved pieces that have been used by the high society throughout history – from Queen Elizabeth of England to the current kings of Spain, and Pope Benedict XVI! The tour allows you to see firsthand how the workers melt and blow the hot glass, which is a rather a difficult job because of the high temperatures environment and the precision that it requires. You can also buy and bring home some of these beauties from the factory gallery-shop, which are ideal gifts for special occasions like weddings, anniversaries or holidays parties.
Not far from Karlovy Vary lies the medieval fortress of Loket Castle, with its beautiful prism tower that served as a military fortress during the reign of Přemysl Otakar II. It was also used during the reign of the Lucemburks, and for important state negotiations. Nowadays, the castle has become a permanent museum where you can admire authentic armory and porcelain collections. Perhaps the most impressive part is the collection of torture instruments in the prison cells area, an exposition that will definitely leave you with goose bumps! Starting from the chambers in the basement of the castle, you can climb up their highest tower and have an incredible 360 ° view of the town and its stunning surroundings.
St. Florián Restaurant & Brewery
The town of Loket was also granted the right to malt, brew and serve beer. The local brewery, known by the name of St. Florián, restored this tradition in 2006 and has since brewed beer on the premises of the original ancient malt house. Here you can find a beer bar where you can taste the quality of the locally brewed beers. Beer tasting includes pale lager and deliciously dark 11-13 °C beers. The tour of the brewery also features an exposition of nearly 1,300 spa drinking cups. This collection has been inscribed in the Guinness Record Book as the most extensive in the world, a clear illustration of the West Bohemia and Czech Republic character.
The Chateau of Bečov nad Teplou
The town of Bečov nad Teplou lies on the Teplá River Bank, between Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně. The premise of this small town is its castle complex that belonged to the Beaufort-Spontin family. The medieval castle of the complex was founded at the end of the 13th century and connected with the Baroque stately home, which was gradually modernized over the years. In addition, you can find a third, Renaissance-style building as another part of the complex. The Roman reliquary of St. Maurus, recognized as one of the most valuable reliquaries in Europe, was found in this chateau in 1985! You can now see an impressive exhibition inside well-preserved interiors from the 19th century where they have all the pieces of the original collection from the house.
The Boheminium Park is a miniature park located in Mariánské Lázně since 1995. The exhibition in the open countryside provides an inspirational stroll through more than 50 noteworthy sites from all regions of the Czech Republic. You will see the replicas of the most important castles, chateaus and buildings of the country, and also monuments of a technical nature such as wind and water mills, a fleet of Czech airplanes, historical trains, and even a moving cable car! The circuit is almost 1.5 km long and every year grows by 3-5 new models. Since 2005, the park expo has been known as Boheminium, derived from the historical name of the region where is located: Bohemia.
Kladská Nature Reserve
Kladská area is one of the most charming places I have ever seen! This nature reserve is located only 10 km from Mariánské Lázně. It has a network of paths that take you deep into the forest where you will find yourself surrounded by trees and hedges as if it were a fairy tale land. Finally, you reach the lake area where it is possible to enjoy stunning views. However, the most important section of the Kladská Reserve is its peat bogs around the lake which is abundant with flora and fauna. The reserve also has a small museum where you can learn about natural phenomena and the animals and plants that inhabit the area before starting the walk.
The older Baroque building from the 17th century was rebuilt between 1820-1833 by Prince von Metternich of Winneburg. The chateau is a unique demonstration of a provincial residence in the style of Viennese Classicism and the Empire Style, which is perfectly embedded into a large natural landscape of the park. During the life of the prince, the castle received large amounts art pieces, collections of coins medals, porcelain, weapons and a library with unique manuscripts and first editions! These are now on display, along with other curiosities related to the life of Napoleon Bonaparte who was a political ally of Prince von Metternich.
Bernard Farm is a cultural center not far from Mariánské Lázně where you can experience many different aspects of the West Bohemia culture and tradition. The complex offers a wide variety of creative courses to learn how to make traditional handicrafts from pottery, clothes design, candle making, woodwork, stained glass production and other skills. During interactive tours, you can see exhibitions displaying agriculture, ancient carriages and a model of a blacksmith’s workshop with moving parts, as well as a handicrafts museum where local artists exhibit their art. In the local restaurant, you will have the opportunity to taste famous Czech specialties that won’t disappoint!
There is so much more to the Czech Republic than beautiful Prague, and I highly recommend exploring the charming spa towns in West Bohemia!