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The city of Pilsen

Plzeň is the fourth most populous city in the Czech Republic with around 168.000 inhabitants and it is about one hour’s drive west of Prague. Plzeň is a university town and seat of the Diocese of Plzeň. The New Town of Plzeň was founded in 1295.

Plzeň is spacious city and has one of the biggest market squares in Europe. The city’s layout is rectangular. In the past the important trade routes from Prague to Nuremberg, Regensburg and Cheb converged in Plzeň.

The city has mainly been shaped by two wars. In 1417 it became the centre of the Hussite movement and supported the Catholics in the religious wars that followed. This resulted in several sieges, during one even a camel was captured which still is displayed on the city’s coat of arms. 200 years later the city was heavily affected by the Thirty Years’ War. It took nearly a 100 years to remove all signs of the devastation caused the war. Plzeň experienced a tremendous economic boom by the end of the 19th century mainly due to two companies: Pilsner Beer and Škoda. In 1852 the city’s officials recruited a Bavarian brewer to produce bottom-fermented beer. The beer from Plzeň became known very quickly, especially Gambrinus Beer. Today the brewery is owned by a South African Company. Škoda made Plzeň the Habsburg Monarchy’s centre of weapon production. Today, Skoda does not produce cannons anymore, but it is still the region’s biggest employer.

Visitors to Plzeň cannot miss the tower of the St.-Bartholomew’s Cathedral which is the highest church tower in Bohemia with 102,26 metres. In clear weather it offers a view as far as the Bohemian Forest. There is also a 20 kilometres historic underground tunnel/cellar network, which is partly open to the public.

Things to Do in Plzeň

Plzeň has something to offer all year round: the Smetana Festival for classical music takes place at the end of February/beginning of March. Every year at the beginning of May, the city celebrates its liberation from the Nazi dictatorship by the USA. Plzeň is host of an international puppet play festival every June, and October is the month dedicated to the Pilsner Beer.