A fascinating day trip to Prague takes you on a discovery of Pilsen, called Plzen in Czech, a pretty town to the west of the Czech capital. Famous for the beer that bears its name and from which two-thirds of the beers drunk around the world today are derived, in 2015 Pilsen was named the European Capital of Culture, an accolade that recognises the city’s rich artistic and cultural heritage.
Climb the highest church tower in the Czech Republic, visit the third largest synagogue in the world, walk down a long corridor of underground passages, be enchanted by puppets and marionettes from bygone days – these are just some of the experiences that will make your trip to Pilsen magical. All, of course, washed down with rivers of frothy blond beer.
Pilsen’s main square is dominated by St Bartholomew’s Cathedral, a Gothic church that boasts the highest bell tower in the Czech Republic. 300 steps. The effort will be rewarded with a breathtaking view, which on clear days can reach as far as the Šumava Mountains, some 70 km away.
Inside the church, admire the beautiful stained glass windows, the statue of the Virgin Mary of Mercy (dating back to the second half of the 14th century, it is one of the most important Gothic monuments in the Czech Republic), the imposing Calvary from 1833 on the main altar and the famous Sternberk Chapel on the south side.
Another interesting religious building to visit is the Great Synagogue in Pilsen . Built in 1888, big it really is: it is the second largest synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world. It could have been taller, if the city administration of the time had not imposed limits on its height so as not to obscure the nearby cathedral.
A long labyrinth of corridors, cellars and shafts excavated in the 14th century beneath the city pavement winds its way through the city of Pilsen. 800 metres of these underground passages are open to the public. It is an exciting journey into the city beneath the city to discover the everyday life of medieval Pilsen. It is not recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia, and for everyone the advice is to bring a waterproof jacket to protect yourself from the humidity!
Pilsen’s two most famous museums will delight the youngest visitors. The Puppet Museum traces the rich history of the city’s puppet-making tradition while at Tecmania, the Czech Science Museum, complex physics and mathematical principles are explained in the form of interactive games.
History lovers, on the other hand, cannot miss the Patton Memorial Museum, where breathtaking filmed reconstructions and more than a thousand documents and memorabilia from private collections recount the crucial moments at the end of World War II.
Pilsen’s main tourist attraction is the historic Pilsner Urquell brewery (Plzeňský Prazdroj in Czech), a name inextricably linked to that of the city. For all beer aficionados it is a cult place, but it will also fascinate the merely curious.
It was here, in 1842, that the world’s first blond lager was brewed by Josef Groll, a style of beer that was later named ‘pils‘ after the town. It was a real revolution in beer production: find out why during an exciting tour at the end of which you will have the unique opportunity to taste an unfiltered and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell, tapped directly from oak barrels. You can also experience the thrill of riding the largest lift in the entire Czech Republic!
The tour of the Pilsen Urquell brewery covers the entire production chain, allowing you to get to know and appreciate how this world-famous beer is brewed. The tour is divided into several sections:
The second brewery in Pilsen is Gambrinus, which is also open to tourists with an interactive museum where you can learn how to tap a beer correctly and taste a blonde in a traditional Czech brewery located in the former brewing room.
If you would like to learn more about the history of beer in general and about brewing in the city of Pilsen, you can visit the interesting Brewery Museum in the historical city centre. After your visit, you can round off your beer-themed day with refreshments at the nearby Na Parkánu pub, also owned by Pilsner Urquell, with décor inspired by Czech taverns of the 1920s.
Pilsen is about 90km from Prague and is easily reached by train and bus. Those who prefer to rent a car can reach Pilsen in less than an hour and a half by taking the E50.
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