Explore two stunning world heritage cities in central Europe.
Prague is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The Czech Republic’s capital is steeped in centuries of history, yet it is a confident 21st century city with a dynamic music scene. Excellent transport links make Prague a very accessible destination.
Where to stay
There is a very good choice of HI Youth Hostel® accommodation in the city, so you can be sure of a great place to stay. All five HI Hostels in Prague are within easy reach of public transport, top visitor sights and great nightlife!
The River Vltava divides the city into two distinctive halves, linked by the beautiful Charles Bridge. Stroll across it to admire the statues, enjoy stunning city views and musical entertainment!
The right bank is home to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage listed historic centre, the Staré Město. Adults can enjoy a cool beer in the spectacular main square, Staroměstské náměsti. Admire the Jan Hus monument, enjoy the animated performance on the Astronomical Clock, climb the Town Hall tower. Explore the Josefov district, once the city’s Jewish Quarter with its beautiful synagogues, town hall and more.
High on the steep left bank is Prague Castle, protected by a sheer wall. Look out for the John Lennon Wall on your way up to the castle. Explore the castle, the Old Royal Palace and quaint Golden Lane – and take in the wonderful views. Don’t miss the huge and richly decorated Cathedral (the country’s largest church) or the Basilica of St George.
Food, drink and nightlife
Alongside international cuisine, you can still find traditional bars and restaurants. Snack on a bramborák (potato pancake with bacon), hearty soups or tuck into the more traditional knedlo, zelo, vepro (roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings). The Czech Republic is famous for its excellent light and strong dark beers.
Festivals and events
- May-June: Prague Spring International Music Festival
- June: Sonisphere hard rock festival
- June – July: Prague Proms
- November-December: Prague International Jazz Festival
- November-January: Prague Christmas Market
- December: New Year’s Celebrations
- February: Bohemian Carnival
- May: Khamoro World Roma Festival
Recommended trips from Prague
Český Krumlov: Take the bus or train from Prague, and follow the Vltava River some 170km south to this medieval town, also UNESCO World Heritage listed. This fairy-tale town boasts a spectacular castle with stunning views high above the town, an elegant town square with a beautiful cathedral and town hall, plus many narrow lanes lined with cosy restaurants and bars. And it is all within easy reach of the HI Hostel in Český Krumlov, located in a 13th century house.
Třebíč: Located around 145km from Prague, this UNESCO World Heritage listed town was built around the 12th century St Procopius’ Basilica. This beautiful cathedral features a rare ‘botanical’ rose window with a 700-year old wooden ceiling in its crypt. The town was an important centre for Jewish culture in the region, and the well-preserved Old Jewish Quarter is a fascinating maze of narrow lanes, dark corners, little squares, synagogues and town hall. The HI Hostel in Třebíč is the perfect base for exploring this fascinating town.
If you have time to explore another cultural gem, take the overnight train to Kraków in southern Poland…
Poland’s ancient royal capital Kraków is an architectural gem, and its wealth of stunning monuments has earned it a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Excellent transport links make it easy to reach from across Europe.
Where to stay
There is a very good choice of HI Youth Hostel® accommodation in the city. There are five HI Hostels in Kraków, all well-located for visitor attractions, great nightlife and easily reached by public transport!
The city is split by the River Wisła, although most areas of interest are on the north bank. It has long been a university centre and has a youthful feel and lively nightlife!
At its heart is the stately Old Town – Stare Miasto – enclosed by a green belt which follows the course of the old city ramparts. Rynek Glówny is the great central square packed with wonderful monuments. Do not miss the gargoyle-decorated Sukienice (cloth hall), the ancient copper-domed St Adalbert’s Church; climb the town hall tower for views over the city. Hear the haunting melody of a lone trumpeter at Mariacki Church, played each hour to commemorate the watchman who was killed by an arrow when he tried to warn of invasion.
Climb Wawel Hill and see where Poland’s rulers lived and governed for more than 500 years. Explore the magnificent cathedral and ascend the Zygmuntowska Tower for far-reaching panoramic views across the city. Continue south into the Kazimierz district and explore the remains of the Old Jewish Quarter.
Food, drink and nightlife
Sample traditional dishes like pierogi (stuffed dumplings), barszcz (spicy beetroot soup) and placki (fried potato pancakes). In the Kazimierz district try traditional Jewish fare such as jellied carp and gefilte fish. At night, check out the pubs, bars and clubs playing a wide variety of music.
Festivals and events
- Kraków Festival – various events throughout the year
- July: Jewish Culture Festival in the Kazimierz district
- August: Pierogi Festival – celebrates the dumpling!
- November: All Souls Jazz Festival
- December: New Year’s Eve in Kraków
- May: Kraków Juwenalia – students rule the streets!
Recommended trips from Kraków
Oświęcim: take the bus 70km west of Kraków to spend a thought-provoking day at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage listed museum, it contains many national memorials, moving testimonies to the suffering of inmates and shocking displays of the hair, shoes and other possessions taken from prisoners.
Wieliczka: just a 15km bus ride from Kraków is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This has been worked since the 13th century and many of the galleries and caves have been adorned with sculptures carved in the salt by the miners. Be wowed by the magnificent Underground Cathedral complete with altar and wall decorations!
Częstochowa: around 100km from Kraków, this is the spiritual heartland of Poland. Millions come to the see the Black Madonna and the Monastery of Jasna Góra. The HI Częstochowa Hostel is the ideal base for your trip.
Wrocław: around 145km from Kraków, this delightful town is located on the Odra River. Enjoy the stunning architecture reflecting the city’s many cultural influences. Do not miss the magnificent market square, the beautifully preserved ecclesiastical district or the UNESCO World Heritage listed Centennial Hall – a masterpiece of early 20th century architecture. The HI Hostel in Wrocław is the perfect place to stay!
Zakopane: when you have had your fill of city culture, head 350km south to Zakopane in the beautiful Tatra Mountains. Base yourself at the HI Hostel in Zakopane – hike in summer, ski in winter, ride the cable car or simply chill out and admire the views!