Pilsen is one of very few Czech cities that have English names different from the original. This small group includes also Prague (Praha) and Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary). In English, the name Pilsen is used interchangeably with Plzeň, as it is in the case of Karlovy Vary/Carlsbad. Prague, on the other hand, goes in English usually only by its non-Czech name.
The English name of Plzeň is identical with the German name of the city. Having an English name which is different than the native one may be regarded as a sign of importance of that city. Minor cities usually do not have such such names. And even many major cities do not have distinct names in English, especially when the native name is easily pronounceable by English speakers.
Many beer fans will associate the name Pilsen with pilsner beer. And rightly so, because this type of pale lager was invented there by Josef Groll in the mid-19th century. It is still brewed there by the famous Pilsner Urquell brewery, in Czech known as Plzeňský prazdroj. Unlike the Budweiser beer from České Budějovice, pilsner is a generic term and not a protected geographical indication. Therefore, pilsner beer can be produced also elsewhere by other breweries.
Things to See in Plzeň
The Pilsner Urquell brewery, which made the city famous, can be toured. The brewery offers several types of tours which can be booked by groups and individuals. The address of the brewery is: U Prazdroje 64/7, very close to the main train station. As a matter of fact, the street takes its name from the brewery. Touring one of the most famous breweries in the world is certainly a great attraction for beer fans. More information about the tours can be found on the brewery’s website.
As many other Czech cities and towns, Plzeň has a picturesque central square. Its name is Náměstí Republiky, which means „Republic Square“. The most important landmarks there are the Gothic Cathedral of St. Bartholomew from the 13th century, and the Renaissance city hall from the 16th century.
Náměstí Republiky is one of the larger squares in Czechia. Like several other Czech central squares, it also features a Baroque plague column. It is located in the northwestern corner of the square. In the remaining three corners, you will find modern fountains designed by Ondřej Císler.
To get to Náměstí Republiky you might walk from the main train station (Plzeň hlavní nádraží). It is not far, but the area around the station is not particularly pedestrian-friendly. A more convenient option is taking the tram line 1 or 2 from the train station. There is a tram stop on Náměstí Republiky and the trip from Plzeň hlavní nádraží typically takes about two minutes.
The building of the main train station is quite a sight in itself. This impressive Art Nouveau edifice was designed by Rudolf Štech and completed in 1907. The architect co-financed the construction work and as a result of this, he fell into debt. Tragically, he committed suicide because of this burden in the following year. The building of the train station is a Czech cultural heritage site.
The Great Synagogue (Velká Synagoga) is perhaps the most recognizable architectural landmark of Plzeň. It was built at the end of the 19th century and it is the second largest synagogue in Europe (after the one in Budapest). Its design is so eclectic that it’s difficult to classify it into one architectural style. It combines Neo-Moorish and Neo-Romanasque elements, while the onion domes resemble the ones in Eastern European Orthodox churches. Parts of the synagogue are still used for prayers by the local Jewish community, whereas the central hall is used for concerts and exhibitions. The Great Synagogue is located not far from Náměstí Republiky and the address is: Sady Pětatřicátníků 35/11.
The Pilsen Historical Underground (Plzeňské historické podzemí) is a fascinating network of underground tunnels connecting cellars and wells, dating back to the Middle Ages. It can be toured with a guide and a tour takes about 50 minutes. More info can be found here.
The Plzeň Zoo is the second oldest zoological garden in Czechia and was founded in 1926. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions of the whole Plzeň Region. The zoo boasts such species as e.g. Liberian hippos, Siberian tigers, Komodo dragons, Indian rhinos, Sudanese cheetahs, giant tortoises and many more. The zoo is located in the northern part of the city, and the address is: Pod Vinicemi 9.
If you are going to Plzeň and would like to plan your stay, please have a look at PlzenGuide.com. You will find there more detailed information about the city’s attractions, popular events, recommended restaurants, hotels and much more.
Getting to Plzeň
There is no international airport in Plzeň for a simple reason: the airport in Prague (PRG) is very close. Train journey from the main train station in Prague (Praha hl. n.) to Plzeň takes about 1 hour 30 min. From the airport in Prague, you can get to Plzeň by public transportation in a little more than 2 hours, but it requires changing buses/trains. If you rent a car at Prague airport, you can get to Plzeň in about 1 hour.
If you’re coming from Germany, there is a train from Munich to Nýřany and in Nýřany you can board a bus going to Plzeň. The total journey time in this case is approx. 4 hours 30 minutes.
Detailed information about where to check connections and book tickets, as well as travel advice, is on this page.
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