Plzeň (Pilsen) is a city in western Bohemia in the Czech Republic. About 90 kilometres (56 miles) west of Prague, it is the fourth most populous city in the Czech Republic.
The city is known worldwide for Pilsner beer, created by Bavarian brewer Josef Groll there in 1842.
Plzeň is a centre of academic, business, and cultural life for the western part of the Czech Republic. The University of West Bohemia in Plzeň is well known for its Faculty of Law, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Faculty of Applied Science in particular.
Since the late 1990s the city has experienced high growth in foreign investment. In 2007, Israeli mall developer Plaza Centers opened the Pilsen Plaza, a 20,000-square-metre (220,000-square-foot) shopping mall and entertainment centre featuring a multiplex cinema from Cinema City Czech Republic.
Plzeň produces about two-thirds of the Plzeň Region GDP, even though it contains only 29.8% of its population. Based on these figures, the city of Plzeň has a total GDP of approximately $7.2 billion, and a per capita GDP of $44,000. While part of this is explained by commuters to the city, it is one of the most prosperous cities in the Czech Republic.
The Škoda company, established in Plzeň in 1859, has been an important element of Austro-Hungarian, Czechoslovak and Czech engineering, and one of the biggest European arms factories. During the Communist era (1948–1989) the company's production had been directed to the needs of the Eastern Bloc. Disarray in the era after the Velvet Revolution, and unsuccessful efforts to gain new Western markets, resulted in sales problems and debts. After a huge restructuring process the company now has just two principal subsidiaries: Škoda Transportation (locomotives, underground trains and trams, which have been sold to Portland, Oregon; Tacoma; Seattle and Sardinia) and Škoda Power (turbines) now owned by the UK company.
Many foreign companies now have manufacturing bases in Plzeň, including Daikin and Panasonic. There has been much discussion of redeveloping those large areas of the Škoda plant which the company no longer uses.
Plzeň also has the biggest distillery (Stock) in the Czech Republic.
The most prominent sights of Plzeň are the Gothic St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, founded in the late 13th century, whose tower, at 102 metres (335 feet), is the highest in the Czech Republic, the Renaissance Town Hall, and the Moorish Revival Great Synagogue, the second largest synagogue in Europe, after the Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest. There is also a 20 km (12 mi) historic underground tunnel/cellar network, among the longest in Central Europe. Part of this network is open to the public for tours of about 750 metres (2,500 feet) in length and down to a depth of 12 m (39 ft).
Built in 1532, the former water tower was integrated into the city's fortification system at Prague Gate. Another storey was added in 1822 in French Imperial style. The Gothic portal (dating from the 1500s) was added in 1912, coming from another house that had been demolished. Above the portal there is a commemorative plaque dedicated to Dr Josef Skoda (a professor at the Vienna University), who was born next door on 10 December 1805.
Plzeň is also well known for the Pilsner Urquell (since 1842) and Gambrinus (since 1869) breweries, currently owned by South African Breweries. A popular tourist attraction is the Plzeňský Prazdroj brewery tour where visitors can discover the history of beer. The pilsener style of beer was developed in Plzeň in the 19th century.
Plzeň was a European Capital Of Culture in 2015, along with Mons, Belgium.