The Cedar Rapids area’s Czech population arrived in the early 1900s, coming for available farm land and plentiful industrial and meat packing jobs. During this time a small business district began to spring up next to the official downtown. This area served the immigrant population consisting of meat markets, grocers, and everything you would find in a small town and it existed next to the official downtown.
Over the past few decades, revitalization of Czech Village and New Bohemia has brought this area new life and there is plenty to explore!
Start your day with a coffee and kolache! Cafe Saint Pio offers a quaint sanctuary to sit and savor a homemade pastry or quiche.
Stroll along 16th Avenue including past the Clocktower, and over the Bridge of Lions to snap photos of the various murals throughout the district.
Turn left onto 3rd Street SE and pop into Brewhemia for a coffee. Look down at the sidewalk to see if you spy any familiar Czech names. Across the street at NewBo City Market and throughout the neighborhood, you’ll see restaurants, record, vintage and book stores and a variety of small businesses.
Back over the bridge, you can’t miss the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and its signature red roof! Plan for plenty of time to discover and explore the permanent Faces of Freedom exhibit and ever-changing traveling exhibits. The 1800s Sleger Immigrant Home is a fascinating look into the life of five generations of one family in Cedar Rapids. Before you are on your way, visit the Museum Store for beautiful ornaments and other special keepsakes.
Friday through Sunday, stop for lunch at Lion Bridge Brewing Company for a Czech Pilsner. The beer hall features 8-12 of their own beers and a selection of sandwiches and beercentric foods. In warm months the patio is a delight. If you don’t make it for lunch, stop in Wednesday – Sunday late afternoon and into the evening.
After lunch take time to shop throughout the Czech Village at locally-owned small businesses including Czech Cottage where you will find gorgeous Czech garnet jewelry, hand cut crystal, hand decorated eggs. Other village shops of interest carry plants, outdoor gear and clothing, antiques, vintage finds, and much more.
Dinner at Rodina is the perfect bookend to your day. Rodina is Czech for family, and you’re sure to be impressed with their upscale Midwest comfort food.
Top the evening off back across the river, with a show at CSPS Hall. Built by the immigrant organization Česká-Slovanska Podporujici Spolku, or Czech and Slovak Prudential Society, for a century the building served as a vibrant community center. Now it hosts small touring musical acts, art exhibits and more.