It's more comfortable taking the train to Plzen than the bus. A fast train from Prague whisks travelers to Plzen in just under 2 hours without you having to witness the mayhem caused by Czech drivers. Trains between the two cities are just as plentiful and fit almost every schedule. The train costs 147Kc second class. To get from the train station to town, walk out the main entrance and take Americká Street across the river; turn right onto Jungmannova, which leads to the main square.
The bus trip from Prague takes 1 1/2 hours, and it tends to be cramped. It costs 90Kc one-way. If you do take the bus, head back into town along Husova to get to the square.
Thanks to the government's highway-building scheme, Plzen has moved closer to Prague -- or at least it seems that way. A once treacherous 2-hour drive on a narrow two-lane highway has been replaced by an easy 45-minute cruise on the Hwy. D5, which leaves Prague from the west. Once you get to Plzen, dump your car in a paid parking lot or use pay parking on the street.
Trying to be as visitor-friendly as possible, the City Information Center Plzen, námestí Republiky 41, 301 16 Plzen (tel. 378-035-330; fax 378-035-332; www.icpilsen.cz or www.plzen.eu), is packed with literature to answer your questions. It is open daily 9am to 6pm.
If you're an American or speak English, being in Plzen in early May is quite an experience. Unlike most of the rest of the country, which was liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet Red Army, Plzen was liberated by U.S. troops. Soldiers under the command of Gen. George S. Patton took the city on the morning of May 6, 1945. The city still marks the liberation with a big festival in the first week of May, when Czechs drive around in old U.S. army jeeps, everyone seems to be dressed up like a GI, and the city goes on a 5-day bender.
In mid-August the city hosts a modest music festival called Jazz on the Streets, highlighted with several concerts by top-name Czech musicians.
Anxious to capitalize on its beer heritage and always happy to celebrate, Plzen has started its own Oktoberfest, called Pivní slavnosti (Beer fest), which takes place in the end of September and beginning of October.
For more details on festivities for all events, contact the City Information Center Plzen (details above).
Plzen's old core is centered on námestí Republiky. All of the sights, including the brewery, are no more than a 10-minute walk from here.