A city traditionally of industry and beer, Pilsen (Plzeň) is keeping true to its roots while moving decidedly contemporary. Chosen as one of the European Capitals of Culture in 2015, upgraded buildings, new cultural venues and the enjoyment that came from a lively events calendar have luckily remained and there’s lots to see and do, both old and new here today.The city dates back to 1295, and at one time was the third largest in the country, after Prague and Kutna Hora. Lucky for beer lovers the world over, the ruler at the time, King Wenceslas II endowed the city with the right to brew beer. The city flourished mainly due to its location at the confluence of four rivers (Úhlava, Úslava, Radbuza and Mže) which meant it was a perfect crossroads for trade, especially goods coming from the direction of what is now Germany. A couple of fires in the 16th century destroyed much of the town centre which was curiously rebuilt by many Italian architects and builders. Baroque also played a big part in the city’s style, and the tourist information bureau offers a cool map that plots out a walking tour of the town to take in some of the best preserved buildings.
But it was the 19th century and the launch of two famous brands that brought Pilsen true renown: Škoda Works and the Bürgerbrauerei, today’s Pilsner Urquell. Škoda Works was the largest engineering enterprise in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.