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Perhaps you’ve seen photos of one of the most iconic Czech structures – the almighty Ještěd, which is a radio tower and a hotel. Or, without knowing it, you took a glance at Liberec through a TV screen by watching your popular TV show or a movie.
The Jizera Mountains in the North of the Czech Republic have a lot to offer. The whole North of the country is famous for its glass-making tradition, which concentrates to Jablonec and surroundings in the form of costume jewelry.
Today we’re going to have a look at some more or less known places in the Jizera Mountains that are connected to glass and costume jewellery, as well as those that are interesting purely for their beauty and the status of an undiscovered gem.
The following describes a few spots that I visited on a sponsored trip with Visit Jizerky. You can use this information as a 3-day itinerary in the Jizera Mountain region or as inspiration for a few day trips from Prague.
Jablonec nad Nisou
The Czech glass-making tradition spans the whole region, with specialty costume jewellery concentrated in Jablonec.
Under the Communist regime the jewellery made in the state-owned Jablonex company became known worldwide.
Those times are long gone and the industry had to completely reinvent itself. It has since risen from the ashes and is on its way to regain its fame, but this time based on small local producers.
In the city of Jablonec with its name originating from the Czech word for apple tree, you will discover the following attractions:
Jablonec costume jewelry, glass and Christmas decorations
Already in the 19th century Jablonec nad Nisou called itself world’s center of costume jewelry. Only in Jablonec can you see a wide variety of costume jewelry in one place.
For the most memorable experiences with glass and costume jewelry be sure not to miss:
Křehká krása (‘Fragile Beauty’)
A yearly exposition of the best creations, made in the city of Jablonec nad Nisou and the entire glass region, takes place every summer. It lasts for 4 days and is quite amazing. I don’t get it how it’s possible that not too many people know about this event.
The exhibited jewelry include the ‘normal’, wearable pieces as well as intricate pieces of eye pleasing glass art.
The exhibition is also a trade fair meaning you can buy different creations ranging from costume jewelry to Christmas decorations, all for low prices.
A diverse program accompanies the exhibition, where you can expect to experience things like a showcase of how glass is shaped to musical performances and fashion shows.
In 2019 a Czech Beauty Pageant was one of the organizing partners, and they featured a catwalk of swimsuit models, obviously. :D
The ticket costs only 60 Czech Crowns (€2.3 or $2.5), with free entry for kids. This ticket also includes free entrance to the Museum of glass and costume jewelry! I can highly recommend visiting the Museum too, it’s interactive and interesting. It’s easy to spend a few hours there, if you like reading all descriptions. :)
In 2020 the Fragile Beauty exhibition will be held from August 6 to 9. See more info on their website (in Czech only).
Permanent Trade Fair at Palace Plus
If you visit Jablonec outside of the Fragile Beauty dates, then you should visit Palace Plus in order to experience the best of Jablonec costume jewelry and glass. It’s located in a building not far from the Volt Brewery (mentioned below) and Jablonec reservoir.
Palace Plus houses a permanent exhibition of products for sale from the local Union of glassmakers. There are new pieces added every week and you can easily find real gems for low prices. Again, the assortment covers not just glass and costume jewelry, but also Christmas decorations. All handcrafted in the region.
Kids and craft enthusiasts can have fun in a local workshop, where there are thousands of beads available for making your own bracelets, necklaces, earrings… The prices are based on weight and are very affordable. My bracelet, made from 3 colors of beautiful glass beads, cost only 20 CZK (less than a dollar or a euro).
See more info about Palace Plus on their website (in Czech only).
Also there are some impressive glass installations in the city. The locals are proud of their bijouterie and glass, so locally made pieces are often used as outdoor decorations. Right next to the Volt brewery (mentioned below) you’ll find a unique art installation with frames covered in glass ‘diamonds’, all beautifully lit in the evening.
New City Hall
There’s more to the eye-catching building of the functionalist architectural style at the main Square (Mírové náměstí, Peace Square) than just a beautiful view from its tower. For example a paternoster lift.
It’s a lift with no door that goes in a loop up and down without stopping. If you’ve never taken such a lift before, embrace the challenge and hop on, there are not many left around the world.
Also the meeting rooms of Jablonec City Hall hide a myriad of beautiful details typical of the 1930’s functionalist style. The Viennese architect Karl Winter paid attention to the smallest things – e.g. the masterfully made ceramic light switches.
From the New City Hall tower you’ll have a nice overview of the Peace Square, the Old City Hall as well as the hills with their watchtowers surrounding Jablonec.
You can visit the City Hall in the summer months for just 20 CZK (less than 1 dollar / euro).
It’s also totally worthwhile to just spend some time strolling around Jablonec and observing how functionalist styled buildings are mixed in with the Art Deco styled ones. You can walk all the way from the city center to the Church of St. Anne, which is a bit deceiving since it’s not a church anymore, but an exhibition space.
Since we don’t have a sea in the Czech Republic, it’s fun to at least pretend we do. :) The Mšeno Reservoir in Jablonec is nicknamed Jablonec Sea and even though its size doesn’t compare to a sea, it’s still an awesome recreational spot.
Gradually sloping shores offer nice beach areas and you’re welcome to swim there. All three reservoirs connect into one and have their specific swimming areas. Including a nudist beach, or so I heard. :)
We took our blankets and had a nice little picnic on one of the main beaches in the evening. And we were the only ones there, on a warm August night!
Where to eat in Jablonec
Try e.g. the Půlměsíc Grill & Pasta (meaning Half-moon). The cuisine is expertly created from local ingredients and you can also find a vegan meal or two. We came here for the lunch menu and were very satisfied with our meals.
Where to stay in Jablonec
How about staying in a brewery? Volt, the Jablonec brewery, which is located right by the Jablonec Sea offers not just beer but also accommodation.
Our room was fine, it didn’t lack anything but it was a bit basic. The main perk, however, is the location. The breakfast in Volt’s beautiful restaurant was excellent and well prepared.
Prague to Jablonec Transport
To get to Jablonec from Prague in the most direct way, just hop on a bus at Prague’s Černý Most bus station. It only takes an hour to get there.
To reach the neighboring city of Liberec, make use of an intercity tramway!
About 3-4 times an hour a tram goes between the two cities. The whole tram track, which is 12km long, has been in operation since the 50’s. In the future an extension is planned to fully cover the Jablonec city center.
I have a sweet spot for Liberec. I’ve been there a few times, usually just for quick visits, but each time the city has really impressed me. I think the main attractions – the Liberec City Hall and Ještěd are the two main reasons.
So if you ever make it to the Jizera Mountains, nicknamed Jizerky by locals, you should visit Liberec city too and spend at least a day there. The main places to visit in Liberec are:
Liberec City Hall
It’s impossible to overlook it. The moment you enter the Liberec Square of Dr. E. Beneš, you’ll gasp in amazement. And perhaps even lose your breath once you walk inside the Neo-Renaissance building. That’s how stunning it is.
When you climb the 183 steps leading to the very top and pass through an old attic smelling of wood, you’ll see Liberec the way birds do. Underneath you’ll see the Square and next to you the Neo-Gothic Church of St. Anthony the Great will make an appearance. You’ll be surely amazed by all the greenery running through the city and, of course, the sight of the main star – Ještěd, proudly perched atop a hill!
This City Hall is not the original one. Look down at the Square from the tower and you’ll be able to discern a pattern from the cobblestones marking the borders of the old City Hall. Once its capacity was no longer sufficient, the new grandiose City Hall was built on the side of the Square, and the old one was torn down.
Liberec Coffee and Cafés
Liberec is the proud home to one of the best coffee roasters in the Czech Republic named Nordbeans. Not only does Nordbeans operate their roaster from there, they added a small café too, both are only a short walk from the city center.
We had the unique opportunity of learning just how much of an art the roasting of coffee beans can be. I won’t go into the details, as I could hardly convey everything that goes into it and all the things that can go wrong.
Nordbeans supplies the best cafés around the country with their masterfully roasted beans. In Prague it’s e.g. Kavárna co hledá jméno, Eska from the Ambiente chain, Vnitroblock, Cafefin and Coffee Room in Vinohrady…and many others.
This is the café belonging to Nordbeans where you can have the best and most freshly roasted beans straight from the source. Add homemade pies, cakes and sandwiches and you’re in a café heaven.
A café and bar serving excellent breakfasts and, unlike other popular breakfast cafés in Liberec, they open their doors at 8:30 am on Saturday.
The best time to visit this cafe is in the summer, when you can sit on the terrace, which is located across a small road from the actual café. The waiters did good running across the road and back with each little order.
We didn’t have time to make it to Mikyna, but it’s one of the most famous Liberec cafés. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and can’t wait to visit on my next trip to Liberec. :)
Liberec is rich with modern design gems, if you look closely enough. The Czechs from the North are skilled, you know. Even though a few local projects were started by people not born in Liberec, but who decided to move there.
A team of skilled locals from Liberec and the surrounding areas create pretty balloon skirts, hoodies, T-shirts, dresses…
This little shop full of Czech-made fashion and accessories cannot be left out, especially if you enjoy shopping at Etsy. This is the same, just in the form of a brick-and-mortar store.
One of the most iconic buildings in the whole country, Ještěd has adorned the hill of the same name just outside Liberec since the 70’s. It is primarily a communications tower, but also a unique hotel with a restaurant.
You can get to the top using a cable car (which is ideal) or you can walk from a parking lot near the top, or drive all the way up (the parking spaces on the very top are very limited and almost exclusively reserved for hotel guests.)
At the top it’s mainly about enjoying the views of the greenery all around you. Walk around the whole parameter of the tower and stop by a statue called the Little Alien (Malý Marťan) by a Czech artist Jaroslav Róna, who created the statue there over 10 years ago.
The extraordinary timeless design of Ještěd pervades its interior too. You just have to see it with your own eyes! The restaurant/café follows Ještěd’s semi-circle design and the big windows let plenty of light in. There are mostly classic dishes served there, such as apple strudel. :)
A few years back I spent a night in the hotel. It was an amazing experience. Their retro wallpaper even magnified the feeling that we were in a spaceship and would soon take off from the Earth to go high enough to reach the stars.
Even the buffet breakfast at Ještěd Hotel was wonderful. In a typical Czech fashion, a pear brandy was available for those who might need it first thing in the morning. :D
If you can, spend more than just one day in Liberec. Walk through the city center all the way to half-timbered Waldstein houses (Valdštejnské domky), which are the oldest buildings in the city. Continue across the Paper Square (Papírové náměstí) covered with graffiti, and, if time allows, spend a half-day at Babylon Aqua Park or iQLandia.
Sometime in the near future, I plan to spend a longer amount of time in Liberec, and I’ll report back on my newer findings. ;)
Where to eat in Liberec
You can have some yummy meals at Omam Bistro. The lunch menu is very interesting, and you can choose from 3 delicious options, one of which is usually vegan. International flavors permeate the menu every day and keep the taste buds entertained.
Where to stay in Liberec
After a night spent in the brewery of Jablonec, you also can count the sheep and spend the night in an Old Bakery in Liberec. :) The hotel Stará Pekárna is located about 15 minutes away (on foot) from the Liberec city center.
The main building features a few rooms, plus there’s one that can be entered from the street – which is where we stayed. The hotel was really nice.
Frýdlant City and Frýdlant Panhandle
The third town to visit, when discovering the Jizera Mountains, is Frýdlant which is a lot smaller than the others.
The largest town of both Northern panhandles of the Czech Republic has 8,000 inhabitants, a River named Smědá, flowing through it, and is only a stone’s throw away from the Polish border. Therefore a trip to Frýdlant can be easily connected with a visit to Poland.
Some Frýdlant’s must see destinations are:
Frýdlant City Hall
This city hall is beautiful too. It’s the work of the Viennese architect named Franz von Neumann who also designed the Liberec City Hall. Unlike the Neo-Gothic Liberec City Hall, the Frýdlant one was built in a Neo-Renaissance style and is also substantially smaller.
The City Hall’s wooden attic is adorably decorated with kids’ paper creations. Its chimes, with two alternating melodies, playfully mark every full hour. Just try not to be right by the speaker when the full hour strikes. :)
From the top of the tower, you’ll have a lovely view of the T. G. Masaryk Square and the whole town of Frýdlant with the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross as one of the main landmarks.
A castle and a chateau can be spotted on a nearby hill. In the past historical castles were often rebuilt into chateaus. But this castle is situated in such a way on the hill that an extension couldn’t be carried out so they built a whole new Chateau right below it.
This City Hall is also not original but the preceding city hall has been marked with cobblestones in the pavement of the Square, just like in Liberec.
A City Museum can be found in the Frýdlant City Hall and it’s full of historical artifacts such as a historical short bed (the kind that was used by servants), salons for the townsmen with their rich decorations and historical clocks. And a lot more.
Historical City Center
The town’s center is practically comprised of the Square and the streets leading away from it. On the Square you’ll find beautifully restored houses, a fountain with a statue of Albrecht of Valdštejn (the most important local historical figure), plenty of benches and mainly a lot of open space, which uniquely doesn’t serve as a parking lot, as is unfortunately the case in many Czech cities.
Meaning ‘a little hospital’ in Czech, Špitálek is a unique little museum, which originally served as a home for the sick and disabled citizens and was managed by the Church. Its inhabitants, called ‘Špitálníci’, were provided with shelter and food, and in return they just had to pray.
Institutions of such type were common in the 13th century and this particular Špitálek hosted only 6 people.
After the reconstruction in 2012 a small museum was established with interactive expositions not just about Špitálek itself but also about the history of Frýdlant region, complete with archeological findings. It’s a truly interesting place to visit, so if you make it to Frýdlant, be sure to stop by.
Frýdlant Nativity Scene (Betlém)
Frýdlant can boast one more unique sight – a mechanical wooden nativity scene placed in a small half-timbered house. This nativity scene comes from the 19th century and took 60 years to create!
A local caretaker turns a mechanical crank, which controls a group of strings connecting everything. Once released, you can watch in awe as the nativity scene starts moving. Each of the 300 little figures has their own task, which they fulfill diligently. A train rides by, horses plow the field and much more, providing an entertaining sight for people of all ages.
Frýdlant is also famous for its brewery and the Albrecht beer, which it produces.
The Frýdlant Panhandle and its unknown spots
If you have a car, you can also take a drive around the Frýdlant surroundings and explore scenic areas where you’ll hardly meet anyone but locals.
First, stop in a little town called Hejnice. Its Basilica of the Visitation of Virgin Mary hides a little treasure. Whether you’re religious or not, or whether you believe in St. Valentine, a person of this name in fact truly existed in Italy. And part of his remains can be found in the Hejnice Basilica (to the left of the altar).
Libverda Spa Town
Do you love spa towns too? The Libverda Spa Town, or Lázně Libverda in Czech, is a small municipality in the Frýdlant region, where they cure everything from cardiovascular diseases and musculoskeletal disorders to stress or obesity.
We stopped at their adorable promenade, tasted the healing spring water, bought a typical Czech spa wafer and continued on our way.
Right outside Libverda you’ll come across a restaurant named The Giant Barrel (Obří sud). Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like – a large barrel with a few tables inside. :)) There’s a stunning view of the Jizera Mountains from here too, but it stayed hidden to us due to heavy storm clouds.
Pagan Rocks (Pohanské kameny)
Another attraction of the Frýdlant panhandle hides in the nature near the Višňová village. It’s a cluster of boulders, of which one has two deep ridges on top.
According to a local legend a devil’s carriage traveled in through the area and created the ridges.
Do you find that hard to believe?
Well, be careful! A local skeptic also didn’t believe the story and one evening walked to the rocks. Noone has seen him since.
In any case, the Pagan Rocks are a pleasant place to visit. The walk there from the nearest road is about 15 minutes. It’s short and easy and leads through nature; ideal for families with children too!
The village of Višňová features quite a few examples of half-timbered houses typical for Frýdlant.
In Poustka u Frýdlantu, in a village within Višňová, you can find a Craft Path (Řemeslná stezka).
A small path is lined with hand carved wooden statues representing the craft professions that have been characteristic of the region since the Middle Ages. Each contains an educational tidbit of information, usually about the history of the said profession and an interactive element. :)
Again, this is great fun for all ages. We didn’t have any kids on our trip, yet we had a lot of fun at the path.
A small village named a ‘small village’ in Czech. Víska lies near Višňová and features plenty of half-timbered houses. A lot more could be found here before 2010 whene disastrous floods wrecked the village.
The prettiest half-timbered house no. 36 had to be unfortunately torn down completely. You can find photos of it here as a memory, as well as a large Oak tree that locals consider to be protection from even worse flood wreckage.
Because most of the day we had to deal with heavy rain, we didn’t get to discover anything other than gastronomy in Černousy. A restaurant called a Chateau Court (Zámecký dvůr) serves delicious Czech specialties and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Where to eat and sleep in Frýdlant
Antonie Hotel belongs to the most luxury options in the region. The wellness and spa hotel is located about a 5-minute ride away from Frýdlant city center. The rooms are minimalistic and beautiful. The main strongpoint of the hotel lies in its wellness and gastronomy.
It features one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had in a Czech hotel. Such a variety of all imaginable breakfast items, especially fruits and you even have the chance to make your own smoothie, which is definitely not a standard practice in the Czech Republic. Plus, if weather permits, you can enjoy it all from a terrace.
The Hotel is located in a beautiful environment above the city, surrounded by residential houses and nature. The part with wellness includes a natural biotope pool located outside of the main hotel building. It’s possible to access it via an underground tunnel too.
It’s impossible not to notice what looks like a spaceship on the hotel’s front. It’s actually just a unique meeting room, all set in wood, where small meetings, important dinners or even wedding receptions can be held.
Prague to Frýdlant Transport
There is no direct train or bus going between Prague and Frýdlant. If you can, bring a car or rent one, it’ll be the best way to get around Frýdlant and discover all the interesting spots.
If you can’t drive, the best is to take a bus to Liberec (mentioned above) and then another bus to Frýdlant. The journey takes 2 hours in total.
The Jizera Mountains region provides a number of options for trips, be it if you’re just passing through the area or choose it as a vacation destination.
Have you ever discovered any other areas in the Czech Republic other than Prague? What was your favorite part? Have you ever heard of Ještěd?
Thursday 14th of November 2019
Well, up until now I didn't know I needed to go there. Now it's definitely on my places to visit list! :D