Pilsner Urquell was the first pilsner beer and was invented in the town of Pilsen, Czech Republic (Czechia) in 1842. If you travel to Pilsen, you can do a tour of the Pilsner Urquell brewery and learn all about the history of pilsner. Or you can come for Pilsner Fest and join thousands of other people in celebrating this beer.
The city of Pilsen is just over a 1 hour train ride south-west of Prague, so can be done as a day trip if you like. But I recommend staying a few days as you’ll find many things to do here. Below is a bit about pilsner and some other ideas of what to do.
The History of Pilsner & Pilsner Fest
If the name Pilsen (spelled Plzeň in Czech) sounds familiar, that’s because this is where the pilsner style of beer was invented. In the early 1800’s beer in this area had gotten so bad that they dumped it all and needed to restore their reputation. So in 1842 they hired a German named Josef Groll to create a new beer. He created a new lighter lager which was bottom fermented at cold temperatures (unlike ale which is top fermented at a warmer temperature).
This pilsner became known as Pilsner Urquell. And in early October of each year, thousands of people gather at the brewery to celebrate this beer at what’s known as Pilsner Fest. There are food vendors, live music, and of course lots of beer.
Pilsner Urquell Brewery
Although Pilsner Fest is held only once per year, you can come visit the Pilsner Urquell Brewery anytime. I’m a big fan of brewery tours as well as the beer they give you at the end of the tour. And this brewery has quite a bit more history than most.
While you are here, consider stopping by the pub & restaurant in the former fermentation cellar. Na Splice has a pub atmosphere but is also regarded as one of the best restaurants for traditional Czech food in Pilsen. After being closed for a while due to Covid, click here for the latest updates on open hours and menu.
Brewery Museum & Underground Tour
Another great place to stop is the Brewery Museum. It is located near the city center. It will introduce you to the history of pubs in Pilsen, tell you the story of beer from ancient times to the present, and learn about different methods of beer production. You will also see a late Gothic malt house, an original malt kiln or so-called paint roller. And of course the tour ends with a glass of Pilsner Urquell beer. They also brew the Gambrinus brand of beer here, which is one of the most popular beers in the Czech Republic.
But one of the coolest parts about here, is that you can also take a guided underground tour. This labyrinth of tunnels were built in the 14th century and are nearly 20km long.
Other Restaurants & Bars
I’ll work on a more comprehensive restaurants list in the future, but these are some of the great places to go eat and drink while you’re in Pilsen.
Bikers Bar: An underground biker themed bar that admittedly might not be for everyone. But if you want inexpensive beer and to meet some interesting people, this is my favorite spot in town. Location
U Salzmannů: This is a restaurant in a hotel, so it attracts mostly tourists. But it’s the oldest hotel and restaurants in Pilsen and is a great place to try things like beef goulash, pork knee, or wild boar. Location