The Czech Republic’s capital remains one of the most beautiful eastern European cities, with iconic sights such as the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle and elegant Wenceslas Square. The best way to explore is to walk; the city is famous for its street musicians, and many of the city’s churches hold concerts and recitals. Alongside the Old Town, the Jewish quarter is dotted with synagogues, historic buildings and traditional cafes. Pop into U Rotundy (urotundy.cz), which serves up hearty Czech staples – pork knuckle, dumplings – and excellent local beer. Visit Letná Park at sunset for gorgeous views across the city, and in the evening take a glass-topped boat trip along the Vltava to see the city’s elegant buildings picked out in warm, golden light. No trip to Prague is complete without a visit to a cellar bar – the modern city is built on top of the old, creating a network of caves, tunnels and cellars. Try U Sudu (Vodickova 677).
Where to stay: the Innside by Meliá is situated on a quiet street and has a young, hip vibe with crisp unfussy bedrooms and a buzzy restaurant and bar. Doubles from £103 room only, melia.com.
Around 45 miles from Prague, this small town in Central Bohemia punches well above its weight thanks to its wealthy past. In medieval times, the nearby silver mines saw Kutná produce a third of all Europe’s silver, leaving a legacy of imposing Gothic churches, a stunning Baroque Jesuit College and the 13th-century Italian Court, a sprawling palace that once contained the royal mint. dip into Hradek, the town’s museum of silver, and brace yourself for the macabre Sedlec Ossuary, where bones and skulls are worked into the fabric of the chapel. For traditional dishes – dumplings and roasted pork – head to Dacicky (dacicky.com), with its long trestle tables and tremendous portions; or for something more contemporary try Factory (factorybistro.cz) for excellent burgers, pizza and pasta.
Getting there: one hour 20 minutes from Prague by train.
Where to stay: the quirky MuzeumLega has comfortable rooms with small kitchenettes and Lego sets, a sunny garden and free entry to the adjoining museum, home to the largest private Lego collection in the world. Slightly surreally, the spooky ossuary is right next door. Doubles from £70 room only, hotel.muzeumlega.cz
As beautiful as Prague but less crowded, Cesky is located among the rolling hills of the South Bohemia region. Bisected by the sinuous Vltava river, the city escaped bombing during the Second World War, leaving a perfectly preserved Old Town. The cobbled streets and elegant main square are lined with houses in sugar-almond colors (powder blue, mint green, egg-yolk yellow) and dominated by the grandiose 13th-century castle. The 162-step climb up the castle’s tower is worth it for the amazing views, and the 17th-century baroque theater housed within its walls is one of the most complete in Europe. Pair history with art with a visit to the Egon Schiele Art Center, and indulge in a long lunch on a riverside terrace; the Vltava restaurant (restoreacevltava.cz) serves classic Czech dishes with stunning castle views.
Getting there: two hours 50 minutes from Prague by train.
Where to stay: the Bellevue is a mid-16th century Cesky institution, with a brick-vaulted wine cellar, charming summer garden and chic modern rooms. Doubles from £110 B&B, bellevuehotelkrumlov.cz.
Also known as Carlsbad, Vary (as the Czechs call it) is best known for the thermal spa waters that have made the town a popular resort since the 19th century, and the elegant colonnades that run beside the river. The best way to familiarize yourself with the town is to follow the “Becher Drinking Cure”; buy a porcelain “sipping cup” from one of the spas and drink from each of the 13 springs located around Vary. For a quicker overview, take the funicular up to the Diana Observation Tower which gives spectacular views over the city – or hike up, and reward yourself with a soak in the thermal waters at one of the town’s many spas. Counteract the healthiness with a visit to the oldest café in town, the Elefant (cafeelefant.com) which has been serving up lipsmacking cakes for over 200 years.
Getting there: two hours by train from Prague.
Where to stay: made famous by its starring role as the Hotel Splendide in Casino Royalethe fin-de-siècle elegance of the Grandhotel Pupp can be seen everywhere from the Grand restaurant to the Czech country-house bedrooms. Doubles from £118 B&B, pupp.cz.
The Czech Republic’s second-largest city, Brno boasts an excellent night life, thanks to a large student population, and a fascinating mix of architecture, from modernist buildings by Mies van der Rohe to the medieval Spilberk castle, home to the city’s museum. The city is renowned for its coffee, with cafes on every corner of the Old Town’s picturesque streets; local drinks turkish, the Czech version of espresso, often standing at the counter, like Italians. But it’s in the evenings that Brno really comes alive. Kick off with a visit to The Bar That Does Not Exist (barkteryneexistuje.cz/bar), where rare bottles fill the shelves; follow up their killer cocktails with hearty steaks at Pavillon (pavilionsteakhouse.cz), or lighter veggie dishes at the popular Soul Bistro (soulbistro.eatbu.com).
Getting there: two hours 30 minutes from Prague by train.
Where to stay: Brno’s most upscale place to stay, the Grandezza has formal but comfortable rooms and offers a good buffet breakfast. But it’s the location you stay for; book a room overlooking the square, where the lively fruit and veg market takes place each morning. Doubles from £113 B&B, grandezzahotel.com.