Pilsen (Plzen in Czech) is the fourth largest city in The Czech Republic. It is the administrative center of the Plzen Region; one of the 14 administrative regions of this country that lies in the heart of Europe. The West Bohemia, Radbuza, Mze, Uslava and Ohlava rivers all flow into this area, where they merge into the Berounka River giving this area an undisturbed and contemporary veneer.
Most tourists think of beer when Plzen is mentioned. This is due to the over 170 year old legend of Pilsner Urquell. Pilsner is well known all over the world but it is far from the only thing this historically and culturally rich area has to offer. Herein is a comprehensive guide on some top tourist destination you should visit while in Pilsen.
1. ZOOLOGICAL AND BOTANICAL GARDENS
Plzen Zoo and Botanical gardens is the second oldest zoo in The Czech Republic. It was officially opened in 1961 in Lochotin. However, it had been in existence at another location in Plzen from the 1920s.
This 21 hectare garden is home to over 1300 animal species (nearly 7000 individuals), which is the largest in the country. In 2014, it was ranked as one of the main attractions of the country. The collection of exotic animals includes Indian rhinos, Liberian hippos, giant tortoises, cheetahs, lemurs, giraffes, Siberian tigers and Snow leopards.
This destination provides you with a surreal wildlife experience where animals and plants are appropriately placed in their natural habitats. The zoo is open from 8 am to 6 pm.
Additionally, you can visit the Dino Park, which is a part of the zoo but is open from April to October. You are free to take photographs but pets are not allowed into the park. The zoo also has several complementary amenities such as the Kiboko African Restaurant, traditional fast food restaurants, Old Bohemian pub and Souvenir shops.
2. CATHEDRAL OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW
The Cathedral of St. Bartholomew was originally known as the Church of St. Bartholomew. It is a magnificent gothic style church located on the northern side of the Main Square. This church dates back to the late 13th century when it was first established.
It is a National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic and has the highest church tower in the whole country at 103 meters tall. Its most recent reconstruction took place in 1987 but it still bears its historic appearance.
3. THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE
The Great Synagogue happens to be the 2nd largest synagogue in Europe. It was originally designed by Fleischer, a Viennese architect as a granitic gothic style synagogue. However, this design was not approved by City councilors as they felt it would compete with the aforementioned Cathedral of St. Bartholomew. It was redesigned in 1890 by Emmanuel Klotz and construction was completed in 1893.
This awe inspiring place of worship bears an interesting mixture of various architectural designs including Russian orthodox, Indian as well as Arabic architecture. The most recent restoration took place from 1995 to 1998. It has a large central hall that is used to host various concerts and its walls don numerous photographic exhibitions.
4. MEDITATION GARDEN (Monument to the Victims of Evil)
The Mediation Garden is the best place to go if you seek to clear your mind. This former fruit garden was converted into a meditation garden following a vow from a political prisoner named Lubos Hruska. Hruska spent over 10 years in various prisons during the Czechoslovakia communist regime and converted his garden into a memorial upon his freedom. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
There are other interesting places you can visit in Pilsen including Radyne Castle, Franciscan Monastery, Loos interiors, Patton Memorial Pilsen, Brewery Museum, Plzen Historical Underground, Puppet Museum, AKVA TERA, Techmania Science Centre and the Ethnography Museum of the Pilsen Region.