Geography and Climate
The Czech Republic, located in Central Europe, borders Germany in the west, Poland in the north, Slovakia in the east and Austria in the south. The country covers 78,884 square kilometres (31,553 square miles). About 53 percent of the land is used for agriculture, 36 percent is covered by forest. Historically, the country consists of three main regions, Bohemia in the west, Moravia in the east and Silesia in the north-east.
The country offers a colourful variety of natural scenery, including rarities such as caves, sandstone formations or canyons. The highest peak is Sněžka (1,602 m) in the Krkonoše Mountains. There are many other mountainous regions suitable for winter sports, as well as for hiking and climbing. The longest river, the Vltava (the Moldau, 430 km), is well known for its many dams and artificial lakes. You can also visit romantic fishponds, the largest of which is Rožmberk (489 hectares) in South Bohemia. Mineral springs are an important natural resource. They are often used for therapy in the many popular spa towns, such as Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně.
The Czech Republic has a mild continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. Maximum temperatures reach 32 to 35 degrees Celsius (usually in July), the summer average is about 24°C. The lowest temperatures range from -12° to -20°C. January is the coldest month with average temperatures around 2° to -2°C.
The Czech population of about 10.5 million lives mostly in small towns and villages. The capital and the biggest city of the Czech Republic is Prague with the population of about 1,300,000 million.
The official language is Czech. It belongs to the West Slavonic family of languages. Many Czechs are able to communicate in English, older people often speak German. The Czech Republic is considered one of the most dynamically advancing country of the former Eastern Bloc.
The Czech Republic and above all its capital, Prague, have been among the centres of European culture for centuries. The country is the birthplace of some of Europe's leading composers and writers, including Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček and Franz Kafka. Throughout the year, there are many cultural events. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the International Prague Spring Music Festival are internationally renowned.
Architectural gems are countless. You will find hundreds of centuries-old houses, impressive palaces, churches, castles and chateaux with valuable artistic collections. Among the most precious landmarks, protected by UNESCO, are the urban reserves of Prague, Český Krumlov and Telč. Several open-air museums of folk architecture are scattered across the country.
History in Brief
70,000 BC The first evidence of human settlement.
28,000 BC An advanced Stone Age culture in South Moravia creates the Venus of Věstonice, one of the world oldest ceramic artifacts.
4th century BC Celts settle in Bohemia.
1st century AD German tribes settle.
5th century Slavonic tribes drive out the Germans and settle.
623 - 658 The Frankish merchant Samo unites Slavonic tribes, his army drives out Frankish invaders. Samo's Empire dissolves after his death.
830 - 907 The Great Moravian Empire is formed. According to legend, Přemysl and Libuše found the new Czech dynasty, the Přemyslids. Christianity is introduced by Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius. Towards the end of the 9th century, the foundations are laid for the first Czech state.
924 Prince Wenceslas I (Václav I or St.Wenceslas) rules the Czech lands until his murder in 935.
1029 Prince Břetislav unified Bohemia and Moravia under his rule.
1063 The first bishopric is established in Olomouc.
11th and 12th centuries The first evidence of Czech language in written texts.
1212 The Golden Bull of Sicily, issued by Emperor Friedrich II, gives the Czech state the status of a hereditary kingdom.
1306 King Wenceslas III (Václav III) murdered in Olomouc. The end of the Přemyslid dynasty.
1316 Charles IV (Karel IV) born in Prague.
1344 Archbishopric established in Prague, Arnošt of Pardubice becomes the first Archbishop.
1346 Charles IV becomes Czech King.
1348 Charles University, the first university in Central Europe, opens in Prague.
1355 Pope Innocent VI crowns Charles IV Emperor of Rome, Prague becomes capital of the Holy Roman Empire.
ca 1400 Charles's son Wenceslas IV (Václav IV) is criticised by the Czech preacher John Huss (Jan Hus) who calls for a major reform of the church.
1415 John Huss is burned as a heretic in Constanz (today Germany).
1419 - 1437 Hussite rebellion led by commander Jan Žižka against the ruling class and against the Germanisation of the Czech lands.
1458 - 1471 George (Jiří) of Poděbrady is the last ruler of Czech nationality.
1526 Ferdinand I of Habsburg is elected Czech King. The Habsburgs rule Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia until 1918.
1583 Emperor Rudolf II moves his residence from Vienna to Prague, boosting the city's cultural and architectural development.
1618 Angry citizens throw imperial administrators from the windows of the royal palace, sparking the Thirty Year's War (1618 - 1648). The time that followed is also known as "The Age of Darkness", because the Czech language and culture as well as the reformed church were suppressed.
1st half of the 18th century The highlights of Baroque architecture were built in the Czech lands and Slovakia.
1781 - late 19th century The national revival movement. Leading Czech writers and scientists call for the restoration of Czech culture and literature written in Czech. Czech patriots demand autonomy for the Czech lands within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Similar demands come from Slovakia.
1918 Czechoslovakia is established as a common state of Czechs and Slovaks. Tomáš G.Masaryk elected first President.
1938 As a result of the Munich Pact, Czechoslovakia loses parts of the Czech lands to Germany. Slovakia becomes an autonomous state ruled by fascists.
1939 - 1945 The Czech lands - Bohemia and Moravia - are occupied by Nazi Germany.
May 1945 Prague is liberated by the Red Army. The western Allies liberate West Bohemia, as far as the demarcation line agreed with the Russians.
1948 In a free election, the Communist Party receives 38 percent of the vote, and the country becomes a socialist republic.
1968 Warsaw Pact tanks crush "Prague Spring", an attempt to reform Communism, led by Alexander Dubček.
1977 The civil rights group Charter 77 is established.
1989 The "Velvet Revolution" overthrows communist rule. Václav Havel is elected President.
1993 Following Slovakia's calls for independence, Czechoslovakia splits up into two separate states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic on January 1.
2004 The Czech Republic joins the EU
2007 The Czech Republic signed the Schengen agreement. Inhabitants of Schengen countries can travel freely in these countries without having to go through border checkpoints. However, they still need to have their passport or other ID with them.
Hints for Visitors
How to get there
Located in the heart of Europe, the Czech Republic can be easily reached by almost any means of transport. ČSA, the Czech Airlines, operates direct flights to 50 countries, while aircraft from 27 foreign airlines land at Ruzyně International Airport in Prague. Direct express trains link the Czech Republic with the capitals of ten European countries. Regular bus services connect Czech cities as well as spa towns with numerous European destinations. An ever expanding network of highways and motorways enables motorists to reach almost any location in the country easily and comfortably.
Inhabitants of the European Union require a passport or other form of valid identification in order to enter the country (valid also for non-EU countries as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Visitors from other countries must have a passport which is valid at least six months after the arrival date and in some cases a visa. The Czech Republic has signed agreements on visa-free travel with all European states, and with the USA, Canada, Israel, New Zealand and Japan.
The Czech crown (koruna česká - Kč or CZK) is equivalent to 100 hellers (haléř). The following denominations are in circulation: Notes: 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 Kč. Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Kč.
The average exchange rate of the crown to the Euro and US dollar is approximately: 1 EUR = 27.00 CZK, 1 USD = 24.00 CZK (January 2015). Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, shops and restaurants.
The Czech Republic is located in the same time zone as continental Western Europe and much of Eastern Europe. It uses the Central European Time, i.e. GMT + 1 hour. Summer daylight saving time is in effect from the last Saturday in March until the last Saturday in October (GMT + 2 hours).
The working day usually starts at 8.00 a.m. and finishes at 5.00 p.m.
Most shops are open from 8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. There may be a lunch break of 1 to 2 hours in smaller stores. On Saturdays usual opening hours are from 8.00 a.m. to 12.00 a.m.
Department stores are generally open until 7.00 p.m. on weekdays, and until 2.00 or 4.00 p.m. on Saturdays. Late-night shopping is available on Thursdays until 8.00 p.m. Some shops open even on Sundays.
220 volts, 50 cycles.
Official public holidays in 2015
January 1- New Year's Day
April 6 - Easter Monday
May 1 - International Labour Day
May 8 - Victory Day - End of World War II
July 5 - Feast of St. Cyril and St. Methodius Day
July 6 - Religious reformer Jan Hus was burned at the stake for heresy in 1415
September 28 - Czech Statehood Day / St. Wenceslas’ Day
October 28 - Foundation of Czechoslovakia (1918)
November 17 - Day of Struggle for Freedom and Democracy
December 24 - Christmas Eve
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day/ St.Stephen's Day