10 Best Spots for Travelling in the Czech Republic with Kids
10 Best Spots for Travelling in the Czech Republic with Kids
It's a pleasure to travel around the Czech Republic with children, as most Czechs are very welcoming towards youngsters and it's unlikely that you'll meet disapproving stares for taking little ones anywhere. The only downside to be aware of is that unlike most European countries, the Czech Republic does still allow smoking inside public areas and many restaurants will be extremely smoky. But there are tons of great things for you to get up to with your kids in throughout the country.
The Museum of Communism (Prague)
Cunningly hidden away on top of a huge and somewhat off-putting casino in Prague's city centre is the beautiful Museum of Communism. Like all Eastern European countries, Czechoslovakia was communist for more than forty years and this wonderfully designed museum attempts to recreate every day life under the regime for their visitors. This isn't a political museum and there's little sign of the horrors of the communist regime - making it an ideal introduction for children to the recent history of the Czech Republic. There are model school rooms, living rooms, even shops and every area of the museum is designed to be a real world recreation - making it easy for kids to imagine what living in old Czechoslovakia was like. The Museum of Communism is an excellent attraction and its central location makes it the perfect spot during an unexpected rain shower too. Plan on spending around an hour here. You can check out their English website here.
National Marionette Theatre Puppet Making (Prague)
Marionettes are ubiquitous in the Czech Republic and there are puppet shows around every corner. Czechs are big believers in taking children to the theatre and puppet shows are a huge cultural event and are most kid's first experience of going to a real theatre. Marionettes are a source of pride to most Czechs and are generally hand made. What better way to give your child a taste of Czech culture then than to let them take part in the National Marionette Theatre's puppet making workshop. The course itself will take about an hour and children will work under a professional marionette artist to make one of the fifteen traditional forms of Czech wooden puppet. You'll also be given a full demonstration on how to use the marionette properly - making your kids almost professional puppeteers themselves. Times and prices vary, depending on the size of the group, so you'll want to check out the National Marionette Theatre's website here for more info.
Czech Easter Festivals (around the country)
Easter traditions in the Czech Republic are fairly unique. In the week or two preceding the holiday, small markets will appear in every town or village selling traditional Easter goods. These include long willow sticks used for symbolically beating women and girls to improve their fertility, hand painted eggshells and a huge assortment of sweets and cookies. These Easter markets are a fantastic way to experience first hand some of the oldest traditions in Czech culture. Markets generally contain several workshop themed stalls where customers can paint eggs or braid their own willow-sticks, as well as plenty of great food and drink stalls. Whilst all towns will have their own Easter markets, arguably the best ones are in the more traditional southern Moravian area of the country. The arrival of Easter itself will be celebrated with parades, traditional folk music and special cakes, so this is really a must see occasion if you want a taste of the real Czech Republic. Dates vary depending on when Easter falls.
Czech Museum of Silver (Kutna Hora)
Kutna Hora is just a short trip from Prague and was a huge medieval silver mining community, so it's no surprise that there's a silver museum in the town. Silver was a very important part of Bohemian culture and the word dollar even comes from an old Bohemian word. While the museum itself is fairly interesting it might not hold small children's attention for more than a half hour or so. The big draw of the museum is the mine tour that comes at the end. You'll all be kitted out with hard hats and protective coats before you descend underground to walk through the mines. Kids find this fascinating and it's really the best way to understand how silver was found and brought up to the surface. It's not great for children under five, since you need to descend six flights of stairs and there is a point in the tour where your guide will turn off all the lights - which could be a bit scary. For the older ones though, a tour through genuine silver mine (not to mention getting to wear all the gear) is hugely entertaining. Check out the museum's website here.
Prague Castle (Prague)
Prague Castle has towered above the Czech Republic's beautiful capital for more than a thousand years and you might be in for a bit of a surprise if you're comparing this castle to most of the other major European castles. Prague Castle is more of a home like experience than you might imagine, and there are plenty of opportunities for kids to shoot bows and arrows and crossbows, to make soap, even to hold falcons and other birds of prey. The highlight of the castle is Golden Lane - a cramped, tiny street full of medieval houses that now contain shops, displays and galleries. Obviously, some of the most important events in the country's history have taken place here, including the great defenestration of Prague, so there's no shortage of educational opportunities, which are helped greatly by the clear and concise English information boards scattering the complex. For the best experience, skip the official tours and explore the Castle yourself. You can find the castle's webpage here.
Canoeing in Cesky Krumlov
UNESCO site Cesky Krumlov is renowned for being one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, but more importantly for parents - the town is pretty much traffic free, meaning kids can wander around with impunity. Cesky Krumlov is also where Czechs come to get on the river and your best bet is to join them. You'll find plenty of canoe rental places in town and they'll get you sorted out with everything you need, including life jackets for everyone. As long as you keep close to the banks you'll find the water is shallow and safe for all. As you canoe through town you'll get a good view of all the sights, but do stop before you reach the main castle, as the river there gets deep and fast. Obviously this is best done in the summer months, but even the little ones will like the experience of riding their own canoe through town.
Pilsner Brewery Tour (Plzen)
Hold up, we're certainly not suggesting that you take your kids drinking, but beer forms a central part of Czech culture. Czechs drink more beer than any other country in Europe and everyone believes that Czech beer specifically has health benefits - this is probably the only country in the world where a doctor will actually prescribe beer for health ailments. There's no better way to get an insight into this side of the Czech character than to go on the wonderfully designed tour of Pilsner Urquell's factory. With panoramic cinema shows, an interactive museum and a close look at how beer is made and the history of beer making - you'll learn how beer came to be so special to the Czechs. The tour is fascinating and educational too. Alcohol will not be served to guests under 18 and the displays and tour are appropriate for children (ours were fascinated by the model that shows beer from ingredients to liquid). Tours take place in English three times a day, and you can check out times on Pilsner's website here.
The Army Museum (Brno)
Another fantastic museum based just outside the city limits of Brno in Orechov is the Army Museum. Sure, most boys will be into looking at uniforms, guns and tanks, but Brno's Army Museum (unlike its Prague based brother) has plenty more to offer. The museum is based in the location where the heaviest fighting to free Brno went down in 1945, and you can walk through underground tunnels, learn about freedom fighters, and even have a ride in an original WWII armoured transport vehicle. There's a paintball ground too, as well as plenty of refreshment stops, and a small zoo on the grounds as well, so there's a little something for everyone. Even if you're not into military history, the Army Museum is both a shrine to recent Czech history and offers a fully interactive experience that children will love. Their Czech only website is here, click on mapa prijezdu for directions.
Vystaviste is an old Prague fairground site, located at the far end of the city's largest park, Stromovka. The grounds are a treasure hunt for little ones and big ones alike, with plenty of hidden attractions. In the late spring there's a funfair - complete with rides and cotton candy, whilst during the rest of the year there are revolving exhibitions. There's an observatory as well as a building containing an historical panorama to be discovered, but maybe the biggest draw (especially if it's cold or raining) is Morsky Svet (Seaworld) which is home to a large aquarium with over four thousand different marine species. There are plenty of sensory experiences here, including a chance to pet stingrays and an array of child centred activities and workshops take place on weekends. Once you've had your fill, you can take a stroll around Stromovka Park and enjoy the variety of playground equipment and large open areas. You can easily spend you day at Vystaviste if the weather's kind.
Don't be put off by the rather dilapidated entrance of this special little place about a half hour from the centre of Prague. Rodas is a small, family run farm and candle factory, which might not sound like the most interesting place to take your kids, but you really don't want to miss this. Not only is Rodas a working candle factory, but they also let your kids take part in every step of the process, and by the end of your visit you're going to have your very own hand made candles. All the safety gear you'll need is provided for you, but since this is a hands-on activity, you might want to make sure that they're wearing old clothes. The small farm (where you can handle sheep, pigs and goats) will be fabulous for those too small to make candles - and there's even an opportunity to get paraffin hand wraps. Plan on spending the day, since you'll need to wait for your candles to be ready. Check out Rodas's web page here.