Ruins, towers, and castles rediscovered: Top 50 Czech tourist attractions reflect a year of slow travel

Restrictions and closures took a heavy toll on visits to Prague Castle and other bastions of traditional tourism.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 17.05.2021 15:21 (updated on 17.05.2021)

Restrictions on both the entry of foreign tourists and the opening of major sights affected this year's list of the most-visited places in the Czech Republic. While traditional tourist attractions saw a drop in visits, solitary destinations in natural settings saw more interest than in previous years according to newly released data from state agency CzechTourism.

In a rankings upset, the top attraction nationwide was the cable car on Prague’s Petřín Hill, used by 1,014,300 visitors, according to CzechTourism figures.

Prague Zoo was second, with 851,600 visitors last year, and the AquaPalace in Čestlice came third with 536,900. These three sights experienced a drop in visits between 42 and 55 percent.

Prague Castle, which normally tops the chart, had an 80 percent drop in visitation last year, ranking fourth with 512,800 visitors. Sights such as Prague’s Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, or Old Town Square are not included on the list, as there is no way to track admissions.

"Travel restrictions have been the hardest for Prague, of all the regions in the Czech Republic, and the losses in tourism in Prague exceed CZK 80 billion,” Jan Herget, managing director of CzechTourism, said.

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“The overwhelming part of inbound tourism took place in Prague. Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, about seven out of 10 visitors to Prague were from abroad, and the composition of visitors to Prague's monuments corresponded to this,” he added.

Cable car in Petřín Hill. (photo: DPP)
Cable car in Petřín Hill. (Photo: DPP)

“Of the top 50 most-visited tourist destinations in the Czech Republic, Prague Castle recorded the largest year-on-year drop in attendance, with 80 percent. The [Petřín] cable car carried half as many passengers to Petřín than in 2019, and the Petřín Lookout Tower welcomed almost 70 percent fewer visitors,” he said.

The coronavirus restrictions, which completely closed most monuments, museums and other tourist attractions and destinations for several months, mixed the numbers of visitors and the order of the most popular sights.

“Many sites have seen both absolute and percentage drops in traffic, while other sites have taken the opportunity to be rediscovered.” Herget said.

"The places that attracted more visitors last year than in 2019 include Kámen Castle in the Pelhřimov region; Kašperk, the highest castle in Bohemia; and the lookout tower in Velká Deštná in the Orlické Mountains, which newly opened at the end of 2019 and was a hot news for visitors last year,” Herget said.

Kašperk, the highest castle in Bohemia (photo via iStock).
Kašperk, the highest castle in Bohemia (photo via iStock).

Many of the leaders in specific categories were well-known. The top reverential memorial was the ossuary (so-called bone church) in Kutná Hora–Sedlec with 123,800 visitors, down 74 percent; the top tower was the Petřín Lookout Tower with 234,200 visitors, down 67 percent; top museum or gallery was Prague’s Veletržní palác with 160,600 visitors, down 43 percent; the top military memorial was the National Memorial to the Heroes of the Heydrich Terror with 36,800, down 71 percent, the most visited architectural structure was Vila Tugendhat in Brno, with 38,100 visitors, down 35 percent.

Schwarzenberg shield in the ossuary at the Cemetery Church of All Saints. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
Schwarzenberg shield in the ossuary at the Cemetery Church of All Saints. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

Already mentioned leaders include Prague Zoo in the zoo and botanical garden category, Prague Castle in the castle and chateau category, and the Petřín cable car in the technical and science category,

Prague Zoo's groundhog tries to get its orientation. (Photo: Prague Zoo, Petr Hamerník)
Prague Zoo's groundhog tries to get its orientation after a long 2019 to 2020 nap. (Photo: Prague Zoo, Petr Hamerník)

In the “other” category, Prague’s Old Town Hall was at the top with just 101,300 visitors, down 85 percent. This wasn’t good enough to make either the top 10 for Prague or top 50 for the Czech Republic. It normally makes it into the top 10 nationwide, and was number eight in 2019.

Other tops attractions in 2020 were a bit more obscure. the top religious location was Svatý kopeček in Mikulov with 278,900 visitors, up 7 percent; top nature spot was the Edmond Trail (Edmundova soutěska) in Bohemian Switzerland with 254,500 visitors, down 15 percent; top folk attraction was the Wallachian Museum (Valašské muzeum) in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm with 227,800 visitors, down 37 percent. The top personal memorial was for Jan Žižka z Trocnova in Borovany with just 10,500 visitors, up 4 percent.

The Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square can't be set ahead an hour. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
The Astronomical Clock in Old Town Hall. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

Before the coronavirus crisis, tourism accounted for 3 percent of Czech GDP, employed over 240,000 people, and generated a turnover of CZK 300 billion. Due to more than a year of restrictions on tourism caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, inbound tourism fell by almost 75 percent last year, while domestic tourism fell by 28 percent despite a very strong high season.

In total, 11 million fewer guests came to accommodation facilities in the Czech Republic in 2020 than in the previous year. In the first quarter of this year, only 282,000 guests were accommodated in Czech hotels and boarding houses, which represents a decrease of 91 percent, and even 96 percent of foreign clients.

Prague City Tourism jointly with CzechTourism are preparing a campaign aimed at foreign markets from June to mid-August to help boost tourism in Prague.

“At the same time, CzechTourism signed an agreement with Prague City Tourism and Prague Airport on joint support for inbound tourism. CzechTourism is primarily helping to negotiate direct flights to Prague and the Czech Republic,” he said.

Most visited attractions in 2020, visitor numbers, and change from 2019:

  • 1.Petřín cable car, Prague: 1,014,300 visitors; -55%
  • 2.Prague Zoo: 851,600; -42%
  • 3.Aquapalace Praha, Čestlice: 536,900; -47%
  • 4.Prague Castle: 512,800; -80%
  • 5.Zoo Zlín: 506,000; -26%
  • 6.Dolní Vítkovice, Ostrava: 493,100; -64%
  • 7.Safari Park Dvůr Králové: 450,900; -17%
  • 8.Ostrava Zoo: 419,500; -28%
  • 9.Zoo Plzeň: 372,400; -26%
  • 10.Aqualand Moravia, Pasohlávky: 367,700; -54%

Source: CzechTourism

See the entire list of 50 attractions here.

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