Beer consumption and quality, all the impressive castles, some peculiar festivities, the landmarks, and obviously the people are some of the things the Czech Republic is famous for.
Located in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic is a landlocked country with 10.7 Million people bordering Austria to the south, Germany to the west, Poland to the northeast, and Slovakia to the east. This central location enabled the Czech Republic to have a convoluted but fascinating history, with some interesting and famous peculiarities. The recent increase in tourism has made the Czech Republic even better known.
So, without further ado let’s explore what is the Czech Republic famous for?
10 things the Czech Republic is famous for
All the Castles
The castles are one of the most famous things about the Czech Republic, both because of their huge number, and diversity. Many of these castles are very famous by themselves because they are huge tourist attractions and even UNESCO heritage sites.
The Czech Republic is sometimes called the “castle capital of the world.” There are more than 2000 castles and castle ruins in the country. The huge number of castles and the small size of the country make the Czech Republic the country with the most castles by square meter in the world. Czechia’s location in the center of Europe played a huge role in the construction of all these castles. Today, the surrounding countries are neighbors but in the past, many wars were fought.
However, it’s not only the highest density of castles in the world but there are also some famous ones. With roughly 18 acres, Prague Castle is the most famous as it’s the largest castle in the world by area.
The Czech are famously known for their beer drinking. In fact, with 188 liters of beer per person per year, the Czechs are the biggest beer consumers in the world (ahead of Austria, Romania, and Germany). In terms of total consumption, the Czechs drank more than 2 billion liters, making the top 20 in the world.
To better understand these numbers, this means that every year every Czech drinks more than one pink per day on average. Note that this calculation is per capita, not per drinking-age adult. If we remove all the below drinking age people the numbers would be even greater.
Besides being heavy beer drinkers, the Czechs are also big producers. Czech beer is regarded as some of the best in the world, together with Irish, Belgian, and German beers. Beer production has a long history in the country, having started in Břevnov Monastery in 993.
The most frequent Czech beers are pale lagers of pilsner type, with a transparent golden tone, high foaminess, and softer flavor. In fact, the world’s first pale lager is the Pilsner Urquell which was brewed in the Czech city Pilsen in 1842. The world Pilsner means from Pilsen or Plzen because that’s where they are from.
Interestingly enough, even the famous Duff beer from “The Simpsons” comes from Czechia! But maybe even more fascinating is the fact that in many pubs and restaurants in the Czech Republic, beer on tap is less expensive than practically all non-alcoholic beverages. Some people say that, sometimes, it’s even cheaper than water.
Despite historically being considered a Christian country, the Czech people are one of the oldest atheistic traditions. In fact, since the Battle of the White mountain in 1620, the Czechs have been characterized as generally “tolerant and even indifferent towards religion.” Obviously, the decades of communism have also played a huge role in reducing religious faith in the country.
Today the Czech Republic is one of the least religious societies in the world. If not, the least religious. In 2011’s census, 34,5% declared Unaffiliated, and 44.7% preferred not to answer, leaving only 10.5% to be Roman Christian and the remainder of other religions. Typically less than one in every 4 Czech define themselves as a believer.
Skoda and Tatra
Two of the oldest car companies in the world come from the Czech Republic. Both Skoda and Tatra are among the 5 oldest companies in the world producing cars with an unbroken history.
Skoda was founded in 1895 as Laurin & Klement and it’s the 3rd oldest. In 1925 was bought by Skoda, in 1948 became state-owned and in 1991 was privatized into the Volkswagen group. Today it sells 1.25 million cars per year, in more than 100 countries.
Tatra is even older, and it’s considered the 3rd oldest manufacturer in the world. The company was founded in 1850 but only produced the first motor car in central Europe, the Präsident automobile, in 1897. It is said that Tatra was essential in the production of trucks and tank engines for the German war effort during WWII. Since 1999, Tatra doesn’t produce passenger cars but still produces trucks.
Bohemian glass is one of the most famous exports from the Czech Republic and widely popular as tourist souvenirs. Also known as Bohemia Crystal, it’s recognized globally for its beauty, high quality, craftsmanship, and innovative designs.
Historically, Czechia has been known for its glass and crystal products for a long time. The oldest archaeological finds of glass-making sites date to the 13th in the Lusatian Mountains, Northern Bohemia. Many of the glass-making towns have their own glass museums with items dating to around 1600.
Some of the most famous produces of Bohemian Glass (or Czech Glass) are:
- Moser – the most luxurious Czech brand
- Ruckl – known for selling to Queen Elizabeth II
- Crystalex – the largest Czech producer, owner of the Bohemia Crystal trademark
Even Daniel Swarovski, founder of the famous Austrian company Swarovski was born in Bohemia and only moved to Tyrol to take advantage of hydroelectricity for his innovative glass-cutting machine in 1892.
Velvet revolution and divorce
The velvet revolution and the velvet divorce are the two most important political happenings in the Czech Republic in the last decades, at the time in Czechoslovakia. They both happened smoothly, quickly, and most importantly, non-violently.
From 17th November to 29th of December 1989, a series of non-violent student demonstrations, strikes, and general protests against the communist party ended with 41 years of one-party rule in Czechoslovakia and the subsequent dismantling of the command economy and conversion to a parliamentary republic. Private markets, democratic parties, elections, and a new constitution followed, and Václav Havel became the President.
The velvet divorce is the unofficial name of the separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which happened during the early 1990s. The name was given as an obvious reference to the velvet revolution and to show that it was equally bloodless and peaceful. Both nations wanted to make their own independent direction, negotiated, and agreed to a friendly separation that took effect on January 1, 1993.
Despite this separation, the countries always kept amicable relations and are now both European Union partners.
Weird Easter festivities
This may not be the most famous thing about Czechia on this list, but it’s so out there you won’t forget it easily. So, we had to include it!
During Easter Sunday, Boys (sometimes even men) take willow twigs, braid them into whips, decorate them with colorful ribbons, and on Easter Monday morning gently use them to whip girls (and women) while chanting “Hody, hody doprovody, dejte vejce malovaný, nedáte-li malovaný, dejte aspoň bílý, slepička vám snese jiný…”, a rhyme requesting eggs from the girls in return.
This is mainly a pagan tradition called pomlázka, which is the name of the whip. This centuries-old tradition is supposed to bring luck, health, and fertility to the girls. The girls typically decorate the eggs during Easter Sunday to give to the boys. So, remember girls getting whipped is a good thing…. in the Czech Republic… during Easter.
Oh, but there are other uncanny traditions in Easter in Czechia. Apparently, they like to cook lamb on Easter, but not real meaty lamb… the Czech bake a lamb-shaped cake (called beránek). The recipe seems quite simple, but you can even buy them at pastry shops to try… Somehow this seems normal after the whipping thing…
It’s possible to find the pomlázka and the decorated eggs and the beránek in Czech markets around easter. They sure make a nice souvenir. Though, I’m not sure about using the whips back home…
The Czech Republic has quickly become a favorite travel destination in Europe. Prague, obviously, plays a big part in this, but there are many other tourist attractions spread out the country, both human-made and natural landmarks.
As we mentioned above, the Czech Republic is particularly famous for its castles, but you’ll also find iconic bridges, churches, and cathedrals, and many others. Many of these are UNESCO heritage sites making them even more popular, but all of them are impressive and fun to visit.
Some of the most famous landmarks in Czechia include:
- Prague Castle – Considered the biggest castle in the world
- Astronomical clock in Prague – 15th-century clock, located in Prague’s town hall
- Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen – where the pilsner beer was brewed;
- Sedlec Bone Church – Church decorated with bones;
- Holy Trinity Column – huge column with golden details.
Famous Czech people
You may be wonder if you ever met a Czech, or even if heard of any famous czech people. Yet, For such a small country, the Czech republic surely has produced quite a few famous people, from sportspeople and artists to scientists and politicians.
As always, it’s the people who make their country great, and the Czech republic surely is an interesting one. Let’s name a few famous ones:
- Franz Kafka – One of the major figures of Literature of the 20th century. Wrote “the Metamorphosis”, “the trial”, and “the castle”. (He was born in Prague, but he was German-speaking. Prague was part of the Austrian Empire at the time).
- Oskar Schindler – the German industrialist (born in Moravia) who saved 1200 Jews by employing them in his factory. If you haven’t yet, watch the movie “Schindler’s list.”
- Miloš Forman – film director, screenwriter, actor, and professor. His most famous films are One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus,
- Gregor Mendel – born in Brno (Austria-Hungary at the time), he was a meteorologist, mathematician, biologist who gained posthumous recognition as the founder of the modern science of genetics.
- Sigmund Freud – born in Moravia (Austria-Hungary at the time), he was a neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis; We have explored more about him here.
- Antonin Dvorak – Famous composer, one of the first to achieve worldwide recognition
- Several Tennis Players, like Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl, and Petra Kvitova
- Ice-hockey players, Jaromír Jágr and Dominik Hašek. Jágr is one of the best players of all time, and Hašek one of the best goalies.