Saturday, 10 January 2015

PLZEŇ (PILSEN), Czech Republic.

Located part way between Prague and Nuremberg lies the Czech city of Plzeň, known in English and German as Pilsen.  It's a small industrial city with a pretty historic centre and makes an interesting day trip from Prague. 

Plzen's main square - Náměstí Republiky - unfortunately under miserable weather!

Upon entering Plzeň you'll be met by lots of communist-era apartment blocks – I must admit the edge of town is rather unattractive.  Don’t turn back though, because the centre is lovely.  The city has been awarded the title ‘European Capital of Culture 2015’, a title which is shared with the city of Mons in Belgium.

The centre is very pleasant to stroll around - there's some very pretty and colourful buildings (though not quite comparable with picture-perfect Prague).  There's a large square in the middle of Plzeň, dominated by the grand St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral which has the tallest tower in the country at a height of 102 meters.  The city hangs on to its gritty industrial edge, offering an authentic window into everyday Czech life.

Most people who have heard of this city will know it for one thing - beer.  It's the home of Pilsner Urquell and Gambrinus.  There are a number of museums dedicated to beer, such as the Pilsner Urquell brewery which offer tours and beer tasting. Beneath the city lies a network of underground tunnels which date back as far as the 14th century.  The tunnels are open to the public to explore (with an entry fee) and offer visitors an insight into Plzeň’s long history.  Tours are available in a number of different languages, including English. 

Getting to Plzeň is easy; it's roughly 1 hour 30 minutes on a cheap train from Prague's main central station.  Although the tourist attractions are mostly located in walking distance in the compact historical centre, there's a good tram system which connects most corners of the city.  

The Czech Republic is much more budget-friendly than its neighbours to the west.  Plzeň is best visited as a day trip from Prague; it’s a small city which can be easily explored in half a day.  

Plzeň is a real working city, with a gritty charm and great beer. 

Elis Griffiths. x

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