Last summer, Onward Travel co-founder, Kat, moved to Prague with her husband and their dog. She is delighted in June 2017 to welcome a small group of Onward Travelers to her new home city for a very special look at life, culture, gastronomy and art in the Bohemian heart of Central Europe.
The political and cultural capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague, is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. With the sparkling Vltava River snaking through her turrets and castles, orange roofs and hilltop parks, it’s a city that easily casts a spell on her lucky visitors and leaves a lasting, enchanting impression. We’ll embrace the romance, the culture, the jawdropping architectural embellishments, the hearty cuisine and the friendly-once-you-get-to-know-them locals.
Our tour begins with two nights exploring the cobblestone alleyways, artistic inclinations and fairtytale atomosphere of the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage designated town of Český Krumlov. Then the group will spend 5 nights in Prague…expect fine dining experiences and the best local cuisine, in-depth historical experiences and a focus on the enduring appreciation for performing, visual and literary arts that make Czech culture so special. And we’ll even take Ike the dog on the tram (because we can)… You’ll agree that summer in the Czech Republic is pure magic!
Sunday, June 17—Welcome to The Czech Republic!
- Walk the halls and learn about life in a Renaissance manor house
- Arrive at a hotel in the heart of one of the most beautiful towns in Central Europe, Český Krumlov
When you arrive at Vaclav Havel International Airport this morning Kat will be waiting to meet you there with comfortable private transportation and a professional driver as well as a gourmet packed lunch. We’ll hit the road and head a couple hours south to one of the most picturesque towns in this beautiful country, the UNESCO World Heritage designated village of Český Krumlov.
En route to the south we’ll stop for a guided tour at Zámek Kratochvíle, a stunning Renaissance manor house nestled in the Bohemian countryside. We’ll learn about what life was like for the 16th century inhabitants of this magnificent dwelling, and take some time to wander in its fabulous gardens.
Upon arrival in Český Krumlov we’ll check in to our hotel in the pedestrian center, where tiny cobblestone lanes criss-cross one another and modern life fades away. Take the rest of the afternoon to relax, go for a stroll, or find your first half liter pour of delicously crisp and fresh Czech beer.
This evening we’ll gather together for a real Czech feast – the local cuisine is hearty and delicious… think roasted pork and beef, fresh river fish, bread and potato dumplings, potato pancakes, rich gravies, flavorful cabbage and fresh salads. Czechs also really know how to bake a cake! We’ll raise our glasses of beer, or excellent Moravian wine, or the ubiquitous homemade lemonade, with a cheerful Na’zdravi (to your health!) and toast to the week ahead.
Included Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Monday June 18—Life in a Fairytale
- Visit the 13th century Baroque castle dominating the “skyline”
- Don Art Noveau style and pose for photos with your travel buddies
We’ll begin this morning with a walking tour of Český Krumlov, accompanied by a friendly local guide. Together we’ll visit the town’s 13th century Baroque castle, a designated national heritage site, as well as other historical points of interest, all delightfully interpreted for us by our guide. Then we’ll sit down for lunch together at a local cafe.
After lunch a real treat is in store; a visit to one of the hidden gems of the Bohemian Forest region: Museum Fotoatelier Seidel. Contained in the well-preserved Art Nouveau home of its namesake, this museum documents the work and life of Josef Seidel, a 19th century pioneer in the photographic arts, and in so doing offers a unique look at life in the Czech-German-Austrian border region at the turn of the 19th century. Following our private tour we’ll find ourselves in the photo studio, reserved just for us. Let’s don some period costumes, have a little fun, and make some unforgettable photos. Those who would prefer to watch, or set out on their own in Český Krumlov, may of course do just that…
You’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore the cobblestone lanes and soak in the ambiance of this charming town. Perhaps a visit to the National Marionette Museum to learn about the beloved art form, or the Egon Schiele Museum to see the work of the the Austrian Expressionist whose mother was born here in Český Krumlov. Of course, shopping and beer are easy to come across, too!
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Tuesday, June 19 — Hrady a Pivo
- Taste perfect beer in the brewery’s medieval cellar
- Enjoy a drive through a breathtaking UNESCO biosphere reserve
Mid-morning we’ll bid farewell to Český Krumlov and make our way north to Prague. But we have a full day head of us before we reach the capital and our planned activities are about as Czech as it gets: a castle (hrad) and some beer (pivo). These are two of the first vocabulary words anyone who visits the country learns, and for good reason.
First, we will visit the stunning Hluboka Castle, pictured on the cover page of this itinerary. A castle has been on this site since the 13th century, but it was rebuilt in its current Romantic style in the 1800’s. After a private guided tour of the luxurious staterooms we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch together in the gardens.
After lunch we will visit Budvar Brewery – no relationship to the American brewing giant. Even if you aren’t a beer drinker you’ll be amazed at the centuries old brewing process here using water extracted from 300 meters below ground to produce a purely delicious lager beer. We’ll even have the opportunity to taste the beer, as fresh as it gets, in the brewery’s medieval cellars. The bottling line, moving over 2,000 bottles per minute, is a highlight of the tour and absolutely mesmerising to watch. We’ll linger after our tour to enjoy a glass of beer in the on-site tavern.
From Budvar, we’ll make a small detour to drive through the nearby countryside surrounding the medieval spa village of Třeboň. This marshy region has been worked by its inhabitants for centuries, and today the idyllic countryside is packed with over 6,000 small lakes, resulting in an absolutely dreamy atmosphere that is counted as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. We’ll stop for a little afternoon free time in Třeboň where you can enjoy a coffee or a drink, or maybe just take a stroll.
Now we’re really on our way to Prague, but since we’re going to be driving right by one of the best restaurants in the country we have to stop for dinner. Restaurant Goldie, in the heart of the town of Tabor, has been gathering accollades left and right for its inventive farm-to-table take on traditional Czech cuisine, including a spot in the Top 10 Restaurants of 2017 in the country’s top food publication.
When we get to Prague tonight we’ll Czech in (sorry) at our home for the next five nights Design Hotel Jewel, a small, family-owned, boutique four star hotel in the heart of the city.
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Wednesday, June 20—Intro to Praha
- See the Czech capital through the eyes of a local guide
- Watch the sun set over Prague Castle from your dinner table
After breakfast we’ll set out with a great local guide to get to know Prague. Of course we’ll visit the city’s “greatest hits” such as Old Town Square with the wonderful Astronomical Clock, Charles Bridge, and the castle complex that looms over the city from Letna Hill. But our guide will also take us off the beaten path and show us things that most tourists never see or notice. During the tour, we’ll stop for lunch at the fabulous microbrewery restaurant at Strahov Monastery.
Mid-afternoon we’ll return to Design Hotel Jewel where you can enjoy a few hours of downtime before dinner. Have a rest or a wander, do a little shopping (the hotel is in a great location for shopping), or keep practicing your Czech beer drinking skills.
Early evening we’ll reconvene for a drink at the hotel bar before we head out for dinner at one of the most exciting restaurants in the city, Ginger & Fred, located on the seventh floor of the iconic Dancing House building. The structure was designed and built in the 1990’s by famous local architect Vlado Milunić and international superstar Frank Gehry. Gehry nicknamed the building Fred and Ginger, as in Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, because of the way it resembles two dancers. But it was the “Dancing House” that stuck for the building, and “Ginger & Fred” for the restaurant. We’ll enjoy a delicious and artistic, fine-dining meal here tonight with gorgeous views of the Vltava River and the castle as the summer sun sets.
Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Thursday, June 20—All About Puppets
- Learn about the art of puppetry and make your own puppet
- Laugh and toast over authentic Italian pizza and wines
There is a large and beautiful cemetary near Kat’s apartment in Prague, and while walking there one day she came across the most fabulous and ornate crypt dedicated to a family of obvious high esteem, all of whom boasted the same profession. She pulled out her google-translate equipped phone to see what these people did, fully expecting bankers, merchants or maybe famous writers, but no, this was a family of puppeteers. This anecdote says a lot about how important this traditional art form is to local identity.
This morning we’ll head to The National Marionette Theater for a puppet workshop. We’ll learn how to operate the marionettes, get a backstage tour of the theater, and everyone will make their own puppet to take home with them. People travel from around the world for the week-long puppet making workshops at The National Marionette Theater, and this opportunity is a real treat.
After our workshop the afternoon is yours to spend as you wish. We’ll meet for an early dinner at one of Kat’s favorite spots, an Italian place right around the corner from the hotel. You’ll love the authentic Neopolitan pizza and great Italian wines (Czech food is really very good, but a little break from it never hurt anybody). After dinner we’re headed back to the National Marionette Theater to see some puppetmasters in action, performing their grand opus: Don Giovanni. The slapstick humor is perfect for puppets, and this opera was written and premiered in Prague by Mozart when he lived here.
Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Friday, June 22—A Memorable Day Trip
- Go deep down in to a Medieval silver mine below the town streets
- Marvel at an ornate cathedral decorated with human bones
Today we are going to vist a very interesting little town and another UNESCO World Heritage site about an hour east of Prague, Kutná Hora. In the 14th century, after silver mines were discovered here, the town was incredibly wealthy and considered the second-most important settlement in the country after the capital. During that time an amazing Gothic church was built here, The Cathedral of St.
Barbara. With its soaring buttresses and medieval frescoes, the cathedral is a sight to behold.
A church named for St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners, is no coincidence in this silver mining town, and after we see the cathedral we’ll visit the Silver Museum where we’ll learn about the interesting history of silver mining here, and those who are up for it can descend underground to see what the mine was like 700 years ago.
Enjoy free time to explore this pretty little town and have some lunch. This afternoon we’ll hop over to the nearby town of Sedlec, where a monestary has existed since the 12th century. Today, one of the most visited sites in the Czech Republic is located here: The Sedlec Ossuary, a small chapel ornately decorated with the bones of many thousands of people, mostly victims of the plague. While macabre, it is beautiful and certainly unforgettable. We’ll arrive back in Prague late afternoon. Spend this evening in the city as you like.
Included Meals: Breakfast
Saturday, June 23—The Bohemian Opera
- Raise a glass on Kat’s balcony overlooking the city
- Get dressed up for opera in a simply gorgeous Baroque theater
Enjoy this Saturday in Prague however you want — visit the absolutely fabulous Kafka Museum or the must-see Mucha Museum, explore the state rooms of the castle or blend in with the locals at one of the city’s fantastic Saturday farmers’ markets.
Our last night in Prague will be spent the most appropriate way there is – at the opera! And Czechs dress for it… no need to pack an evening gown, but we’ll have fun meeting up in our dressy attire this afternoon. Before the opera, we’ll all go to Kat’s apartment for a farewell cocktail party and dinner beginning in the late afternoon. Stand on the big balcony and look out across the gorgeous rooftops, and toast to your fellow travelers. Then we’ll make our way to the absolutely gorgeous Baroque gem, the Karlin Music Theater, for the world-class opera rendition of Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet. The opera will be performed in the original French with Czech and English subtitles, and it’s sure to be fabulous.
Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Sunday, June 24—A Fond Farewell
Whatever time you need it today we’ll schedule an included taxi transfer from the hotel to Vaclav Havel Airport or to the central train station if you wish to continue your European travels. “Na Shle!”
Included Meals: Breakfast