For most people the name Pilsen, Czech Republic should be familiar. The city is home to the world-famous Pilsner beer and that’s already a good reason to put Pilsen in your Czech itinerary.
But the city has so much more to offer and you might be actually surprised with all the great things to do in Pilsen. Whether you come here as one of the day trips from Prague or stay a bit longer chances you fall for Pilsen are pretty high.
It took me years and countless trips to the Czech Republic to finally visit Pilsen. Better late than never as I really enjoyed the city, it turned out to be so much better than I expected.
When I arrived it was a summer weekend and the place was vibrant until late night hours. And then, once I started exploring the city, I was surprised by the big number of Pilsen attractions and the stunning architecture around. Pilsen quickly became one of my favorite places to visit in Czech Republic.
Here is my guide to the best things to do in Pilsen, Czech Republic!
Table of contents
- 1 Where is Pilsen
- 2 Why visit Pilsen
- 3 How to get to Pilsen
- 4 How much time for visiting Pilsen
- 5 Where to stay in Pilsen
- 6 Things to do in Pilsen
- 6.1 Explore the center of Pilsen
- 6.2 Admire the main square – Republic Square
- 6.3 Look at Pilsen from above
- 6.4 See the beautiful J.K. Tyl Theatre
- 6.5 Visit the Pilsen Great Synagogue
- 6.6 Visit beautiful train stations
- 6.7 Explore the alternative side of Pilsen
- 6.8 Visit the old cemetery
- 6.9 Tour Pilsner Urquell Brewery
- 6.10 Go underground
- 6.11 Enjoy Pilsen Venice
- 6.12 See unique interiors by Adolf Loos
- 6.13 Visit museums
- 7 Final thoughts on visiting Pilsen
- 8 Travel Resources
Where is Pilsen
Pilsen, the city of around 175 thousand inhabitants, is located in the Western part of the Czech Republic, near the border with Germany. Prague, the capital, is less than 100 km away from Pilsen.
Why visit Pilsen
The main reason why Pilsen is known all over the world is of course the Pilsner beer originating from the city. But the place is so much more than the famous amber liquid and there are more reasons to visit Pilsen than just beer.
Pilsen was founded at the end of the 13th century and quickly became the important trade center in the region. For a brief moment, in the years 1599-1600, it’s been even the seat of the ruling emperor Rudolf II. Still today you can find numerous Pilsen monuments and historical places reminding you about the long importance of the city.
In 2015 Pilsen held the well-deserved title of the European Capital of Culture. For a city of this size, there are still so many great cultural institutions that make Pilsen even more worth visiting.
How to get to Pilsen
Getting to Pilsen is super easy. From Prague, there are frequent train connections (even every 30 minutes), the journey takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. You can check connections and purchase tickets here.
There are also a few Student Agency buses connecting Prague with Pilsen and the journey takes 1 hour. However, the buses depart from Zličín suburb of Prague, away from the center, so the train seems to be a much more convenient option.
How much time for visiting Pilsen
You can easily go to Pilsen as one of the day trips from Prague and still do proper Pilsen sightseeing in these few hours. The city is pretty compact, the main highlights aren’t located far from each other and you can walk to most of the places.
But I recommend staying in Pilsen overnight and enjoying everything the city has to offer, including some great cultural events. Besides, this is such a cool and vibrant city that just hanging around there is a real treat.
Where to stay in Pilsen
There are a few fine places to stay in Pilsen to choose from.
I stayed at Hotel Continental (8.4/10 on Booking) and I can definitely recommend it. It was comfortable, with beautiful historical building and a perfect location right in the center of the old town. You can check current prices and availability here.
Other recommended accommodation options in Pilsen:
- Courtyard by Marriott Pilsen (8.7/10 on Booking)
- Hotel Rango (9.1/10 on Booking)
- Enjoy Inn (8.4/10 on Booking)
- and more!
Things to do in Pilsen
And finally, here are the best things to do in Pilsen so you can plan your day in Pilsen properly!
Explore the center of Pilsen
The central part of Pilsen isn’t very big but it definitely is worth exploring. The place is just the prettiest with beautiful houses and buildings of public use. To be honest I’ve never expected Pilsen to have such stunning architecture and I quickly fell for the place after seeing all the beauty around.
The best way to explore the center is to wander around, preferably without a map. You might find some charming streets and picturesque corners as well as numerous details on buildings that make the place all more interesting.
Most of the central part of Pilsen is surrounded by a pleasant park – a perfect place to relax. In one section of this green space, between Dřevěná and Zbrojnická streets, you can see the remnants of the old city walls, dating back to the medieval times.
For me, the most impressive buildings in Pilsen’s center were the West Bohemia Museum (built in 1893) and Burgher’s Hall (from 1901). But you will surely find more impressive structures around, just let yourself discover the place at your own pace and follow your intuition around.
Admire the main square – Republic Square
The main square of Pilsen – Republic Square (Náměstí Republiky) is one of those picture-perfect squares you can find in Central Europe, with rows of beautiful pastel townhouses surrounding the place. It’s fairly large and each of the buildings you will find there is unique and eye-catching.
The Republic Square is dominated by St.Bartholomew´s Cathedral. Its origins date back to when the city of Pilsen was founded at the end of the 13th century. The cathedral, both inside and outside, is a great example of Gothic architecture.
What makes it more interesting is the fact that in the Middle Ages churches weren’t usually built in the main squares yet this one was. When admiring the cathedral be sure to find a little angel at the grid – the legend says you need to touch it and make a wish.
Behind the cathedral, you can find the true gem of Republic Square – the Town Hall. This Renaissance masterpiece was built in the mid-16th century and has served its purpose ever since. The building is beautifully decorated with sgraffito showing the city emblem and Czech rulers
When visiting Republic Square you will quickly notice three modern fountains painted yellow that don’t really fit the place. They are the recent addition to the place, made in 2010 when Pilsen was chosen to be a European City of Culture in 2015. They are abstract versions of greyhound, angel, and camel – you can find all of these in Pilsen’s emblem.
The fountains are located in the three corners of Republic Square. The fourth one is occupied by St. Mary’s plague column from the end of the 17th century. It commemorates the plague from 1680 and was erected as thanks for saving the city.
If you visit Pilsen on the weekend you might enjoy the farmers market that takes place on Republic Square on Saturdays from 8 to 12 in the morning. You can taste and buy fresh products made by local producers: cheese, meat, bread, honey, wine, and more.
Look at Pilsen from above
While you are at Republic Square don’t miss the panorama of Pilsen from above. The Tower of St.Bartholomew Cathedral with a height of 102,6 meters is the highest tower in the Czech Republic and is available to visit.
You need to climb 301 stairs to get to the top but it’s definitely worth the effort as the view from up there is really beautiful. You can see the center of Pilsen from above as well as farther parts of the city and beyond. If the weather is nice you might even see the Šumava mountains located on the border with Germany (unfortunately I wasn’t that lucky).
Going up the cathedral tower and admiring the city from up high was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Pilsen.
See the beautiful J.K. Tyl Theatre
I must admit I’m a fan of checking out theatres in the former Habsburg Empire as they usually are similar and equally beautiful, doesn’t matter if it’s in Vienna, Krakow, Chernivtsi, Cluj-Napoca or Zagreb. Fortunately the J.K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen didn’t disappoint and it’s just as magnificent as its siblings from other cities.
It was built at the very beginning of the 20th century, opened in 1901, and today it operates on three different stages (the main theatre, the new stage, and the small stage). You can enjoy here different kinds of performances: opera, drama, musical and ballet.
If you are interested in seeing a fine show when visiting Pilsen don’t miss this place!
Visit the Pilsen Great Synagogue
The Great Synagogue is one of the top Pilsen attractions, the second-largest synagogue in Europe (after the one in Budapest), and the third-largest in the world.
Before World War 2 the city had a large Jewish population and five synagogues. The main one was the Great Synagogue, built in Moorish-Romanesque style in 1893. It’s located a short walk away from Main Square, near the theatre.
Unfortunately during my trip to Pilsen, it was closed due to the reconstruction but I’m ready to return to the city just to see the synagogue inside – based on the pictures it’s simply stunning.
Visit beautiful train stations
When you arrive in Pilsen by train don’t go to the city right away. Instead, take a moment to admire the beautiful train station the city has. It’s actually one of the most impressive train stations I’ve ever seen (another common feature in the former Austria-Hungary).
The current building (that looks more like the opera than the train station) dates back to 1907 and is a great example of art-nouveau architecture. What you can admire today is the reconstructed version as the building was badly destroyed during the 1945 bombing. Still, it looks just like the original one.
The main train station isn’t the only impressive railway building you can find in Pilsen. The Jižní předměstí is much smaller but equally beautiful. It was built in 1919-1921 in the neo-renaissance style and today works not only as of the train station but also as the cultural center with numerous events taking place there.
Next to the Jižní předměstí station I also found some of the most beautiful townhouses in Pilsen which is another reason why it’s worth visiting this part of the city too.
Explore the alternative side of Pilsen
In 2015 Pilsen hold the title of the European Capital of Culture and therefore the city got a few new creative spaces, the most important being DEPO2015. Once the bus depot, today this is the main venue for events, workshops and all kinds of cultural activities.
When I visited the place it was a lazy Saturday morning but there were still plenty of people hanging around, enjoying this unique artistic space. I also spent there a bit too much time at DEPO2015, checking all it has to offer.
Not far from DEPO2015 you will find another cultural space – Papirna. The former paper factory got its second life and today it’s the venue for concerts, workshops, exhibitions, and more. Unfortunately, during my visit, there was not much going on but I still liked the vibe of the industrial place with the cultural edge.
Another cultural center you can find in Pilsen is the mentioned above Jižní předměstí train station. For a city of that size, Pilsen really has a lot to offer for travelers seeking cultural activities. The European Capital of Culture title was well-deserved!
Visit the old cemetery
This was my random find when visiting Pilsen that I stumbled across when I was going from the Papirna towards the main train station. St. Nicholas Cemetery is the small, old cemetery that is home to some beautiful centuries-old graves of well-known citizens.
It was first mentioned in 1406 but many of the tombs are from the 18th-19th century. The cemetery is fairly small since it’s been closed since 1902 and after changing the place into the park only the most valuable graves remained in part of the cemetery. If you like visiting old graveyards this is definitely a place not to miss in Pilsen.
Tour Pilsner Urquell Brewery
Pilsner is one of the most popular beers in the world that inspired the majority of beers you can today find all over the world now (all pale lagers with “pils” in the name). Originally this beer comes from Pilsen, from the local brewery that was founded in 1842 however the brewing tradition in the city dates back to the end of the 13th century.
When visiting Pilsen a trip to the brewery is a must. You can wander around the grounds, eat and drink in the local restaurant or buy Pilsner souvenirs. It is also possible to tour the brewery and learn more about the history and production of Pilsner beer. Click here for details and to book the tour.
It is also possible to visit the Brewery Museum located in the city center, in the original brewing house from the 15th century.
With a length of almost 20 km, Pilsen underground is one of the largest you can find in the Czech Republic. You can go for a tour that covers a bit under a kilometer of the underground passages and will take you through the labyrinth of corridors, cellars, and wells while showcasing the centuries-old artifacts from Pilsen’s history.
The tour starts at the building of the Brewery Museum and takes around one hour. It’s a great way to learn more about the history and past of Pilsen.
Enjoy Pilsen Venice
At the edge of the center, there is a section of the park with a small lake. That’s the so-called “Pilsen Venice”, the former millstream that was redesigned for recreational purposes and is one of the most charming parts of the city.
It’s always been a favorite place for locals to spend time in, in the 19th century it was even possible to rent a boat to enjoy the stream.
Today this part of the center is perfect for relaxing, either in the park or at one of the cafes or restaurants. You might also find some interesting outdoor art around.
The Pilsen Venice is conveniently located on the way from the Pilsner brewery to the Brewery Museum so you can easily stop there during your Pilsen sightseeing, relax a bit and enjoy this pleasant area.
See unique interiors by Adolf Loos
Adolf Loos was one of the most important architects at the beginning of the 20th century and the precursor of modernist architects. Among other places where he used to work, he also designed a few interiors in Pilsen.
Today you can visit eight apartments that were designed by Adolf Loos and not only see his unique and extraordinary work but also learn more about the pre-war Jewish community of Pilsen and their everyday life. The apartments can be visited with the tour organized by the tourist info point (located on the main square).
Besides well-known museums connected to beer and brewing, Pilsen offers more exhibitions that are worth visiting. In total there are around 20 museums in the city so the chances you will find something interesting for yourself are pretty high.
Some of the Pilsen museums worth checking include the Museum of West Bohemia, the Gallery of West Bohemia, the Museum of Ecclesiastical Art, the Puppet Museum, Ethnographic Museum of Pilsen or Patton Memorial Pilsen.
Final thoughts on visiting Pilsen
As you can see above Pilsen offers definitely much more than just the beer experience. The city is beautiful, vibrant, and full of attractions that will keep you busy for a few solid hours.
It is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Czech Republic so when you plan your trip to Central Europe don’t skip Pilsen. You might be surprised and enchanted with the city as much as I was!
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