Last updated on July 20th, 2023 at 02:19 pm

When we were little, we thought that Bohemia glassware – or Bohemia crystal as we heard it being called – was something that came straight from a magical world. But, wait. How come two children growing up in Greece – so far from the Czech Republic in pre-low-cost airline times and the explosion of international travel – even knew the existence of Bohemian glass?

Well, it was those glass cabinets that were present in every Greek household’s living room. Those cabinets that usually lay hidden in the darkness, far from the reach of tiny children’s hands which could potentially damage the treasures displayed behind their glass doors.

Those treasures were items of Bohemia glassware, often the most valuable pieces to be found in a Greek home. And we only got to enjoy fleeting glimpses of them, for fear that even our startled stares might cause a crack on this oh-so-fragile beauty.

Maybe it was exactly this scarce time we spent in the same room as our mothers’ and grandmothers’ precious Bohemian crystal that made it feel so unreal as if belonging to a magical realm.

Oblivious though we were at the time, this magical world was very real, waiting for us a little over 2000 kilometres away. And, once under the Bohemia crystal’s spell, there was no way to escape. As if by an appointment long overdue, several decades later, our travels would bring us to the heart of this world of glistening magic. The Crystal Valley in Liberec.

This photo shows elaborate green vases made of Bohemia crystal standing on a short wall of a church.
When we were kids, Bohemia crystal made our imaginations run wild

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The Crystal Valley in Liberec

If you haven’t heard of the Crystal Valley in Liberec before, you’re not alone. Before planning our first trip to this lesser-known part of the Czech Republic, we hadn’t either. And, as it turned out, typing Crystal Valley on Google Maps didn’t help much. The Crystal Valley was nowhere to be found. Was it a mythical place, after all, existing only in fairy tales?

Nestled in the embrace of North Bohemia, Liberec is a region known for its glassworks, among other things. It’s home to the fifth-largest city in the Czech Republic, also named Liberec. The city of Liberec is the perfect base from where to explore the charms of the Crystal Valley.

Read our guide about Karlovy Vary, yet another important glassmaking region in Bohemia!

The Crystal Valley is a stunning stretch of land that extends from Kamenicky Senov to Turnov. Apart from its natural beauty, the Crystal Valley is also an area steeped in history and culture.

It is there that Czech glass was born centuries ago, making the area famous for the talent and craftsmanship of local glassmakers and the wonders they created out of the precious Bohemian crystal.

Yet the Crystal Valley isn’t just a memory of the past. In the Crystal Valley, you can still visit glass factories and workshops, buy superb Bohemia glassware and learn the history of Czech crystal in well-curated museums and exhibitions.

Read our detailed guide to Liberec here!

This image shows the main square in Liberec, dominated by the impressive City Hall.
The picturesque city of Liberec

Bohemia Glassware Through The Centuries

A Brief History of Bohemia Crystal

Bohemia has been famous for its top-quality glassware since the Renaissance. The term Bohemian crystal was first used in the 16th century to set Czech glass apart from any other glass made in the rest of the world. What made Bohemia glass stand out was the fact that it was tougher and more transparent than the rest.

Soon, Bohemia glass became a favourite of the wealthy and the royals who commissioned sparkling glassware to adorn their mansions and palaces. From engraved champagne glasses and elaborate flower vases to fine jewellery and dazzling chandeliers, there was no limit to the imagination of glassmakers and the desires of wealthy clients.

In the 19th century, the first glassmaking schools appeared in Bohemia, while the region launched large-scale exports of Bohemian glassware. During the Communist era, glassmaking was never halted in Bohemia as it was considered the very symbol of an entire country, a reason for the Czech Republic to be known at an international level.

This image shows a shelf with wine glasses made of Bohemia glass. They have different shapes and a colourful detail on their stems.
Hand-cut wine glasses made of Czech crystal

Bohemian Glass Today

Nowadays, items made of Bohemia crystal continue to be sought-after products. In the Crystal Valley, there are glassworks that cater to the needs of the global market. They produce everything from affordable souvenirs that anyone can bring back home as a gift to large-scale projects for high-end clients and international institutions.

The Crystal Valley is dotted with Bohemia glassworks big and small. A road trip across this unique world made of glass is the best way to get acquainted with this century-old craft. There are several essential stops to add to your itinerary.

At Pacinek Glass, you can wander around a glass garden that seems to have sprung out of the pages of a fairy tale, while a guided tour of Lasvit Ajeto Glassworks will take you to the depths of the glassmaking process, from the ever-burning ovens to the relaxing ambience of the glassmakers’ pub.

In the quaint town of Jablonec nad Nisou, the Museum of Glass & Jewellery gives valuable insight into the history of glass art and a glimpse of the largest collection of glass Christmas ornaments in the world.

This image shows glass Christmas ornaments hanging on a wall in the Museum of Glass & Jewellery.
Christmas never ends at the Museum of Glass & Jewellery

The Future of Bohemian Glassware

Apart from its contribution to the Czech economy, Bohemia glassware is an indispensable part of the country’s cultural identity, too. Czechs know that well and they strive to continue their glassmaking legacy by encouraging young people to be trained at Bohemia’s esteemed glassmaking schools.

Although a glassmaker’s life can be lonely and difficult at times, their craft is of the utmost artistic value. This is why Bohemia glassware is on the radar of the rich and famous, with luxury brands around the globe making sure that Bohemian glass artists won’t go out of business any time soon.

This image shows Bohemia glassware - whiskey glasses - on a shelf.
Glasses made in Bohemia

Bohemia Crystal & Sustainability

Being able to travel to Liberec to explore the history behind Bohemia glass was a blessing for us. The shiny objects we only caught glimpses of through semi-closed doors during our childhood now spread before our stunned eyes, taking any form imaginable.

However, apart from living proof that dreams and fairy tales do come true, our trip to the Crystal Valley holds a very special place in our hearts for yet another reason.

Bohemian glassware is the epitome of sustainability. And, for us, sustainability isn’t just a trend that will soon wear off to be replaced by the next one. It’s a cause we’re very passionate about. Czech glassware promotes sustainability by being one of the pillars of North Bohemia’s local economy.

Apart from small-scale Bohemia glassware producers – whose efforts to support the local economy are not to be overlooked – there are also companies, like Lasvit, that undertake large-scale glass and lighting projects for top-tier clients around the world. The Dubai Opera, the Four Seasons Hotels and several other prestigious names are only a few of Lasvit’s clients.

As a result, companies like Lasvit not only make the Czech Republic known across all four corners of the world but also create a sustainable business model that will never cease to boost the local economy. This is achieved by employing local glassmakers and keeping the production within the borders of Bohemia instead of looking to base their thriving business abroad.

Moreover, institutions like the Union of Glass & Fashion Jewellery Producers make sure the rights of local glassmakers are safeguarded, thus helping this century-old craft stand the test of time.

It’s no overstatement to say that the Crystal Valley should set an example to the rest of the world on how to preserve old traditions, without turning a blind eye to innovation and progress. Because, if there’s a recipe for sustainability, it’s exactly this. The perfect marriage between old and new, always with the utmost respect towards the environment and the well-being of locals.

This image shows Bohemia glass bowls with glass jellyfish inside.
Bohemia glassware is a synonym for art and quality, but also for sustainability

Why Visit Liberec & The Crystal Valley

The Crystal Valley in Liberec, this sparkling world made of Bohemia glass and graced with jaw-dropping natural beauty, is a speck of land in Central Europe worth visiting at least once.

Lying less than 100 kilometres from Prague, Liberec and the Crystal Valley carry the very essence of the Czech Republic in the dramatic rocks that adorn the gorgeous countryside and the reflections on the glass masterpieces that the talented hands of locals have been crafting for centuries on end.

Yet, apart from the rare natural charms and the indisputably rich culture, there’s another reason to visit Liberec and the Crystal Valley.

Contrary to what we thought when we were kids, Bohemia crystal is real. You can touch it. You can feel it. But it’s also magical. As magical as we thought it to be when it resided silently in those old-fashioned glass cabinets in our childhood homes. And, being able to step inside a magical world made of glass doesn’t happen every day, does it?

So, what are you waiting for? The enchanting world of Bohemia glassware is yours to discover!

Watch Our Liberec Travel Documentary

IMAGES: Katerina

Disclosure: This article about Bohemia glassware in the Crystal Valley (Liberec) was sponsored by Visit Czechia and Traverse Events as part of the #Czech30 campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Czech Republic. Yet, all opinions are our own, as always.

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