Day Trip from Prague: Beer, Baroque, and Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice
Olga Hayes, MIR’s Senior Private Journeys Specialist and native of St. Petersburg, recently spent some time in Czech Republic. She and her husband Ray spent a day exploring the town of Ceske Budejovice, home of the original Budweiser beer.
When people think about Czech Republic, they usually picture its capital, Prague, and the two most famous smaller towns, Ceske Krumlov and Karlovy Vary. But there are many more interesting and charming places in this old country. One of them is Ceske Budejovice.
A Bohemian Beauty
With a population of less than 100,000 people, Ceske Budejovice is known as the capital of the South Bohemian region of Czech Republic. The city was founded in 1256 by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. Since then it’s been a part of the complicated history of this Central European country.
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A day trip from Prague sounded like a very good idea for me and my husband. And visiting Ceske Budejovice turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!
We left Prague in the early morning and after two hours of driving through farms and fields, we arrived at the town. The historic part of it is very well preserved, and doesn’t have a “touristy” look. Quite the opposite – it feels real and alive, with very few tourists and the normal everyday life of locals to be seen. We crossed the bridge over the Vltava River and enjoyed a few hours walking around this charming place.
The narrow streets were almost empty in the early afternoon on a weekday. Most people were at work, and the kids were at school. The Old Town has an assortment of architecture ranging from Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque, to 19th century art nouveau.
Stop by the Central Square
Every small old European city seemingly must have a Central Square. The one in Ceske Budejovice is called Ottokar II Square. It’s really large – much bigger then you might expect in such a small city.
Adjacent to the convent is the Salt House, built in the 16th century as a granary,and later used as an armory. Today it’s a motorcycle museum.
Recommendation: Try Traditional Goulash Here
We enjoyed lunch at Masné krámy, a restaurant that occupies a 14th century meat market – it was fun to have traditional goulash with different types of knedliki (dumplings), including sweet ones for dessert, and great local beer inside such a place. I recommend it to everybody!
Czech Pride: Budweiser Brewery
Most Czech food is not really “unique” – it reminds me of the food of many surrounding countries. But local beer is a subject of national pride. Budejovice has been well known for breweries since the 13th century. Budweiser Bier was made specifically for the Holy Roman Emperor, starting in 1256! If you like beer, you should go to Ceske Budejovice and take a tour of the Budweiser Budvar Brewery, founded in 1895. If you don’t like beer – take this tour anyway.
I don’t drink beer, but I was really impressed – I could never have imagined how complicated the process is and how much history, and even politics, could be involved in the centuries of beer brewing!
The brewery has legal rights to market its beer under the Budweiser name in much of Europe. The American lager was originally brewed as an imitation of the famous Bohemian one, but then developed its own identity. According to my husband, Czech Budweiser is better than the American one.
The tour starts with a walk around the factory grounds. A hundred years ago about 150 people worked at the brewery all the time. On our tour we saw only three employees – and one was our guide.
Most people especially like the tasting part – everybody was allowed to taste freshly made beer before it was bottled. The room was in a basement, and was very cold – 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 Fahrenheit).
Beer is made in one building but bottled in another one. Then it goes straight onto the railway cars.
A lot of tourists visit the factory every year and learn about the pride of Czech Republic. A small museum shows old machines that were used about 100 years ago, and the souvenir shops offer souvenirs connected to the beer theme.
And – of course – everybody wants to take a picture with the famous beer bottle.
Travel to Czech Republic with MIR
MIR is an award-winning company with over 30 years of travel experience in this area of the world, providing a superior edge in on-the-ground operations.
You can visit Prague and Cesky Krumlov, a beautifully preserved UNESCO-listed medieval town on MIR’s private train journey, New Year’s in Vienna by Private Train.
Or, sample original Budweiser in Ceske Budejovice with the help of our custom and private journey specialists.
MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we’d love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.
Top photo: Olga admires a baroque side chapel at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic. Photo: Ray Hayes
PUBLISHED: November 17, 2017