The Czech Republic was once the wealthy medieval Kingdom of Bohemia and later a major Habsburg territory. An early 20th-century republic and then part of the Soviet Union, it is now a thriving EU member. Its capital, Prague, is complemented by some of Europe’s most beautiful, untouched, small towns. Prague mingles Bohemian Gothic, Renaissance and Habsburg Baroque churches, monasteries and palaces. Along with Art Nouveau and distinctive cubist buildings, these form a townscape uniquely balanced between unity and diversity. Its grandest space is Wenceslas Square. From the medieval Powder Tower, Charles IV’s Coronation Route passes Old Town Square with its town hall’s ornate medieval astrological clock and the Gothic Týn Church. It then winds past fine monasteries to cross the Vltava by the great Charles Bridge. This is protected by its Old Town Bridge Gate. The Route then continues up through Hradčany district to Prague castle. Within its walls are Peter Parler’s masterpiece, St Vitus Cathedral, and the medieval Royal Palace. Also here are St George’s Basilica, the Golden Lane, the Royal Gardens and Renaissance Belvedere.
Bohemia’s verdant landscapes are dotted with historic towns. They include Telč, Český Krumlov, České Budějovice, Kutná Hora and Tabor. Founded in the 13th century and largely untouched since the 17th, they have distinctive Bohemian Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, grand palace-castles and colourful townscapes. They centre on fine market squares. House façades are richly decorated with frescoes, sgraffito, and stucco decoration and Baroque sculptures. The towns garnered riches from silver mines. Most have medieval castles converted into Renaissance and Baroque palaces with lustrous interiors. Telč palace has the Golden Hall with a magnificent coffered ceiling and a grand classical Marble Hall. Český Krumlov’s Rožmberk Palace has a theatre with Baroque stage sets. Hussite Tabor has a magnificent late Gothic town hall with Central European stepped gables. Kutná Hora’s distinctive Bohemian Gothic Cathedral-Church of St Barbara resembles a giant marquee. Its unusual roof line appears ‘swept up’ into three pointed spires. Its Miners’ Chapel has interesting 15th-century frescoes depicting labouring miners.