Article: Pilsen Beyond The Beer
A Discovery Of Pilsen’s Other Sights
It was a typically hot Czech summer´s day when we headedin August to the city of Pilsen for a visit to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery.
After a 1.5 hour train journey in a non-air-conditioned train in 34˚C (94˚F Fahrenheit) heat, followed by the brewery tour, we were pleased to find that Pilsen was not too big and very easy to explore. You can walk from the brewery to the main square, called Republic Square, within 10 minutes. After we crossed the busy road near the brewery, we walked along Pražská street. Pilsen right away felt more relaxed and less crowded than Prague. Walking towards Republic Square, just before Perlová street, we saw the old water tower on our right. The tower looked more like an old church tower or a guard tower. It was in fact part of the earliest water system of Pilsen and used to supply the fountains at the main square with water.
From the water tower we continued our exploration along Pražská street and soon saw the big Republic Square.
Set within the square was the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew. The religious site was built in gothic style over a period of several centuries starting from 1295, the same year in which King Wenceslaus II formed the city of Pilsen. The large spire of the cathedral reaches a height of 102.6 metres, making the cathedral one of the biggest buildings in the Czech Republic.
At the time of our visit there was a stage set up in front of the cathedral with a band rocking the centre of Pilsen. In front of the stage were several rows of seating facilities set up where people were enjoying the music, sun and atmosphere. You could see some kids playing with their parents at the water fountains and some food and drink stalls provided refreshments and snacks for the festivities.
Other than the stage and stalls, you could also see several historic buildings set around the square. There was the famous town hall where in February 1838, the brewers of Pilsen had spilt 36 undrinkable beer barrels in front of it. It had an old clock at the top of the building and underneath you could see some old paintings and writings on the facade.
On a building at one corner of the square was a goddess like statue powerfully overlooking the square.
Pilsen also has a few museums. One of them is the Puppet Museum located at Republic Square. At the interactive museum you can learn on three levels about the history of the puppet theatre in the area of Pilsen.
Following the square, we quickly had a look at the Great Synagogue which is one of the biggest synagogues in Europe. The building was built in the late 19th century with red and white stones in Moorish-Romanesque style. At the time of our visit, the synagogue unfortunately kept its greatness hidden because there were some restoration works being carried. The synagogue only survived during the 2nd world war because it was used as a storage facility by German soldiers. Nowadays it acts as a venue for concerts, due to the good acoustics inside of the building, and it is used for exhibitions.
Aside of beer and historical buildings, Pilsen also has a Zoo and Botanical Garden at Lochotín Park containing over 1.300 species of animals, a variety of plants and even a Japanese meditation garden.
Between 1 April and 31 October you can also visit a separate DinoPark featuring life sized moving models of the prehistoric reptiles and special 3D movies shown at their on-site cinema.
During the train journey to Pilsen we met Gary from England who lived in the Czech Republic for many years. He was full of ideas and quite inspirational and he also recommended to us the PUB which is a chain of pubs located in Pilsen, other cities in the Czech Republic and in some cities in Europe. What makes this pub so special is that you can tap your own Pilsner Urquell beer at your table without any waiter. A monitor with different language settings (Czech, English, German and Romanian) checks how much beer you had and the only time when you need a waiter is when you would like to pay or order food or other drinks. The machine even allows you to split the bill between different people. Although if you are there with a group of people, you might want to watch how much you have otherwise you could end up paying for the others.
Pilsen gave us the perfect change of scenery from our 3 week stay in Prague and if you are planning to visit Pilsen then you should definitely go beyond the beer and explore it for a few hours.
Good to know: The city of Pilsen has a great app for the sights in Pilsen. It was also designated by the European Union as European Capital of Culture in 2015. This means that the city of Pilsen will present a series of special cultural events during the year.
– Click on the picture to see the entire picture-
Location of restaurant next to the Water Tower: Pražská 17, 301 00 Plzeň, Czech Republic
Address of Republic Square: Náměstí Republiky 23, 301 00 Plzeň, Czech Republic
Location of the Great Synagogue: Sady Pětatřicátníků 35/11, 301 24 Plzen, Czech Republic
Note: There may be entrance fees for the Saint Bartholomew Cathedral and the Great Synagogue
Details of the Puppet Museum (In Czech: “Muzeum Loutek”)
Note: Details checked January 2015!
Tuesdays to Sundays: 10:00hrs to 18:00hrs
Adults: CZK 60
Children: CZK 30
Family ticket: CZK 150
Address: Naměstí Republiky 23, 301 00 Plzeň, Czech Republic
Details of the Zoo and Botanical Garden with DinoPark:
Note: Details checked January 2015!
April to October: 08:00hrs to 19:00hrs (last entry 18:00hrs)
November to March (DinoPark is closed during these months): 09:00hrs to 17:00hrs (last entry 16:30hrs)
Note: The entrance fee cannot be paid in Euro or by credit card so presumably they only take Czech Krona for payment.
Summer (Apr to Oct)
Adults for the Zoo only: CZK 140
Adults for the DinoPark only: CZK 90
Adults combined for Zoo & DinoPark: CZK 210
Children/students for the Zoo only: CZK 100
Children for the DinoPark only: CZK 60
Children combined for Zoo & DinoPark: CZK 140
Winter (Nov to Mar – Zoo and Botanical Garden Only)
Adults: CZK 90
Children/students: CZK 60
Parking (payable at main ticket office: CZK 50
Address of the Zoo, Botanical Garden and DinoPark: Pod Vinicemi 9, 301 16 Plzeň, Czech Republic
Details of the PUB
Tip: Reserve a table especially at the weekend.
Address of the PUB in Pilsen: Pražská 77/1, 301 00 Plzeň, Czech Republic
How to get to Pilsen:
The best way to fly to the Czech Republic is to the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague.
Pilsen is about 90km (56 miles) west of Prague. A car journey takes about an hour to drive.
The easiest way to Pilsen is from Prague’s main station “Praha hl.n.” which is short for “Praha hlavní nádraží”. The train station in Pilsen is right by the brewery. Trains leave every hour.
The direct train journey takes approximately 1.5hrs and is about 30 minutes longer than the bus.
Approx. price per adult incl. return journey: CZK 210
From Praha-Zličín station, the yellow Student Agency buses (you don’t have to be a student to use the bus) take you to Pilsen Plzeň, CAN (central bus station).
Approx. price per ticket return: CZK 200