Pilsen, Czech Republic – Exploring Beer and Culture in the Land of Stories
The European Capital of Culture
Welcome to the Czech Republic, “The Land of Stories.” At least that’s the line from the tourism board – the truth of this former Soviet Bloc region is much more nuanced. Take for example Pilsen, the official home of Pilsner, that light Czech-style golden pale lager that is so well known. This rich and vibrant city boasts an evocative history full of kings, tyrants and a constantly transforming government and people; some buildings are still peppered with bullet holes from World War II, while others hold their centuries-old charm with a boundless grace.
Located in western Bohemia at the confluence of four rivers – the Radbuza, the Mže, the Úhlava, and the Úslava – Pilsen is the fourth-largest city in the Czech Republic, and is home to the popular Pilsner Urquell brewery. As the originator of the Pilsner style, it has played a hand in influencing almost every beer produced since. Throughout the city, beer halls and bars make it easy to imbibe the classic pale lager, and a tour of the famous Pilsner Urquell factory should be near the top of the bucket list for any beer aficionado.
There’s also the Gothic-style St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, whose tower is the tallest in Europe, and the nearby Moorish Revival-style Great Synagogue, the third-largest in the world. This blend of architectural styles is apparent throughout the city, which marries classic red-orange roofs and baroque-style architecture with modern 20th century designs.
The city, however, is not only for architecture and beer aficionados, though they will all be thrilled with the variety of sites to see and taste; Pilsen bursts with a youthful nightlife. A variety of clubs, bars and cafés play lively music late into the night throughout the city, and a vibrant hostel season allows for reasonably priced stays without breaking the bank. In 2015, Pilsen will be named the European Capital of Culture alongside Mons, Belgium, marking the nearly 750-year-old city as a bastion for the arts. Throughout the year, the city will host a cavalcade of events featuring a variety of performances, including light shows, puppet shows, dance festivals and circus acts — not bad for a city with a population under 200,000.Pilsen’s story is one of history and discovery. And it’s that balance between old and new, Eastern Europe and Westernization, that has helped propel the city into the international cultural spotlight. Perhaps it’s time to take another look at this hidden gem of the Czech Republic – its light is shining brighter than ever. Learn more at the City of Pilsen’s official website