Plzen's historical underground was built between the 13th and 19th century. It consists of two or three level cellars, used for preserving food, for manufactures, for malt-houses , wine-vaults and also for technical purposes as galleries bringing water to the water supply tower and as sewage and wells.
Archeological research delivered many subjects of the everyday-life in a medieval town like ceramics, glass and wooden products, some of them are exhibited in the public part of the historical underground.
Since the 16th century water pipes were added to deserve the 4 corners of the town by fountains.
In the end of the visit you'll find a large water mill used to pump the water in the tower a few meters away.
You can visit the Underground only with a guide with a choice between czech, german or english for 50 krones. Helmets are mandatory, but you won't complain about wearing them as the ceiling gets pretty low from time to time.
If you are lucky enough to get our guide , you'll have fun with the way he spits out his explanations in no-time including jokes without any emotion although he was very friendly.
Indeed the spire towering above St Bartholomew is the highest of former Czechoslovakia, with 331 ft.
From the top you can enjoy a nice view over all of Plzen , making the 4th city of Czech republic look small.
Almost all tower bells were destroyed by fire when the spire was struck by lightning in 1835.
Town hall & St. Mary's Plague monument
Across St Bartolomew church on the town square you'll find the town hall, with the St Mary's Plague memorial.
This statue was built in 1681 , just one year after Plzen was saved from the Plague
In 1714 the statues of St. Bartholomew, St. Wenceslas, St. Frantisek Xaversky, St. Ruzena, St. Antonin, St. Roch, St. Barbora and St. Florian were added around the memorial.
In Belgium we have a zillion breweries, therefore we did not visit Urquell's.
The museum shows the barrils were beer was contained and the ice packs to keep the golden liquid from heating up.
Although heer has been brewed in Plzen since 1295 , coinciding with the year the town was founded, the genuine and world famous "Pilsener" is connected with the name of The Burghers Brewery built in 1842.
Since its conversion in 1958 from its previous usage as a malt house , this is the only Brewery Museum in the Czech republic.
One thing I certainly hadn't expected when I came to Plzen was that the city is home to the world's third-biggest synagogue! As of then, I had only seen German synagogues which are usually off-limits to visitors for security reasons. Sadly, there still seem to be idiots who haven't learned anything from history so that synagogues such as the one in Berlin have to be guarded 24-7.
Well, I don't want to talk about that in here as this is a tip about Plzen's synagogue. The giant building doesn't look too much like a synagogue from the outside, rather like a neo-gothic cathedral. In fact, it was finished in 1893 in a style quite similar but had to be changed in order to better distinguish it from churches. According to a brochure, the style is called moorish-roman, and looking closer at it, you might also believe it to be in Spain. The synagogue looks splendid from the outside and is also really interesting from the inside. Take a look up to the ceiling and you'll find some oriental-looking parts which were the main changes made after the interceptions of the city council. Take a look at the benches and you'll discover that every bench is marked with a Star of David. Not having been inside a synagogue before, these and other details made the visit really interesting.
Some more facts about the history: Built between 1888 and 1893, it served as the main synagogue for Plzen's Jewish community between 1893 and the Holocaust. After World War II, the synagogue was given back to the community, but closed again only 30 years later during Communism. It slowly dilapidated until after the end of Communist reign in Czechoslovakia, the synagogue was reopened and begun to be renovated. On September, 20th, 1998, the first service was held again and since then the synagogue is used regularly. Apart from services, several other cultural events take place in the rooms of the synagogue.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Under the old town
Large parts of Plzen's old town are connected by tunnels and cellars. Even now, not every part of this underground labyrinth has been explored. I was told that during the last 10 years several yet unknown parts were discovered...
Plzen's underground tour gives you an insight into this rather untypical view of the city. However, the tour is not nearly as interesting as it could be. You are given a 30-minute walking tour through some rather unspectacular areas of the labyrinth. In showcases next to the paths objects that were found underground are displayed - mainly pottery. What is missing however are some unique qualities of the Plzen underground. It would have been more interesting to tell about how the cellars and tunnels were used in daily life. This is only mentioned briefly. Similarly, the tunnels have been made more convenient for walking through by building a concrete floor and illuminating them with lamps - the original atmosphere is thereby destroyed. Another minus: You're not allowed to take photographs underground.
All in all, I wouldn't really recommend the tour.
- Historical Travel
Although the maur peaks on the 2 towers seem to belong more to a mosque, this is indeed a Jewish Synagogue.
According to the tourist office guide booklet this would be the 3rd largest synagogue in the world, but feel free to comment on this as I'm doing some research on this matter myself.
At the time of our visit it was closed, same story from 2 other VT members , Mustertal & Desert-Princess, so get informed if u wanna see it inside.
St Bartholomew church
This gothic church was built between the 13th and 16th century and only kept a few baroque remainders due to many changes over the past centuries.
It now dominates the town square with its huge tower, providing a nice view over the city --> see the corresponding tip
Plzen's old town
Most sights are located directly in or next to Plzen's old town. The old town is an area of perhaps 1 square kilometer, roughly circumscribed by Americka, Klatovka, Tyrsova and Anglicke Nabrezi. The central square of the old town is Namesti Republiky (Square of the Republic).
Apart from visiting the sights (see other tips), you do well spending some time just walking around and enjoying the views of some beautiful art nouveau houses or stopping at one of the numerous street cafes.
- Historical Travel
St. Bartholomew's church
The Gothic church of St. Bartholomew's, built in the late 13th century but changed several times in later years is the centre of the centre of the centre, so to speak - it's located in the middle of Namesti Republiky which again makes out the centre of the old town which again is situated in central Plzen. While the church's interior is not without charme (but unfortunately off-limits during the day), the best thing to do is climbing up the spire. From up there, you have a marvellous look on Plzen and its surroundings. You can see the old town, a little further away the famous brewery and the giant Skoda factory, and in the vicinity of the town the hills of Bohemia. It may be good to have a local with you who can show you what is where as there are no plaques or such.
The entrance to the spire is the little door next to the main entrance of the church. Be prepared to climb quite some steps and mind your head as the ceiling is low in many areas of the climb.
Entrance fee: 20Kc for students, slightly more for non-students.
- Historical Travel
It is one of the oldest and one of most valuable buildings in Plzen, touching the 13th century, Premysl dynasty. Construction still has early gothic traces, but later, in 1611, instead of ruined chapel new one was added, and second one was added later, at the same 17th century.
The church was closed at time a visited Plzen, but it is worth visiting it, it is told, there are beautiful baroque altar inside and other valuables.
City gardens and remains of wall
The city gardens were formed at the beginning of 19th century, they are around old town, at the site, where defensive city wall stood (still some remains left). Gardens around Plzen old town are split into a few parts: 5th May, Safarik, Krizik, Kopecky, Smetana and Petatricatniku gardens. You could see here monuments for famous Czech people (eg. Smetana), fountains, city maps and information.
Oldest fragments of city wall are from about 1300, some others are from 18th – 19th centuries. Actually (the same as in my hometown Vilnius) there are examples of defensive wall incorporation into houses. Fragments of walls you could see walking around city parks.
The Square of the Republic, or Namesti Republiky in Czech, is the actual centre of the old town. Wherever you go, your steps will some time or the other lead you to this nice square surrounded by renaissance and art nouveau buildings. In the middle of the square, there is St. Bartholomew's church (see another tip). On its lower end, Plzen's splendid town hall is located. Sometimes, Namesti Republiky houses handicraft markets.
Unfortunately, parts of the square are under construction at the moment so that you won't be able to enjoy its full beauty unhindered.
State Research Library
Building of State Research Library was formerly used as monastery for Dominican nuns. Jakub Auguston constructed it at 1711 – 1714. Later, in 1782 city administration purchased it for educational purposes. More adds were made at 1804-1809, when Philosophical Institute were constructed in Classical Louis XVI style.
The part of building could be seen from the part of Smetanovy gardens; the sculpture for B. Smetana is nearby. B. Smetana was famous Czech composer (1824 - 1884), the most important his work, probably, is symphonic poem “Vltava”.
Pilsner Urquell brewery
When visiting Plzen travelers usually want to visit Pilsner brewery, I am not exception ;) A representative building is located a bit outside old town, it was designed by H .Zapal in 1917. Some parts of brewery are older. Brewery Gate is from 1892, and water tower from 1888. Despite its industrial purpose, complex of buildings look quite nice.
Here is possible to take excursion about beer brewing process, to get more information about beer, its types, and so on. My recommendation is to reserve excursion of beer-brewing some time before, as I made mistake and haven’t participated in it.
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