Pick and choose! That’s what you do when you have three days left to delve into Prague’s history. The next best thing would be to extend your holiday so you don’t miss out on anything. As the latter was not an option for us, we chose the former and fit in Kutna Hora, Karlovy Vary, and Cesky Krumlov into our packed itinerary.
Taking day trips from the city of Prague is pretty easy. You can travel by train or by a hired vehicle. The drive takes you through the beautiful Czech countryside with its small villages and charming towns.
Cottage style houses with lace curtains at the windows periodically line the streets, giving a glimpse into everyday country life. The houses have little gardens outside with a profusion of flowers and fruit trees.
Then there are those liberal expanses of green meadows, rolling hillsides, and blue lakes that dot the landscape. See? You already have a picture in your head about what it looks like. Only, the reality is so much better.
Kutna Hora – This was our first trip out of the city. Distance from our hotel (the Radisson Park Inn) was 65 km and we comfortably covered it in a little over one hour in a hired 12 seater.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Kutna Hora was a silver mining town which now has the famous Sedlec Ossuary or Bone Church.
The gothic church is unique and has an impressive collection of around 70,000 human bones joined together to form stunning art displays, including a massive chandelier that hangs from the ceiling.
Everywhere you look, you have hundreds of vacant eye sockets staring back at you. It can get either creepy or fascinating depending on your disposition.
This is apparently the only Bone Church in the world where you will find art made from human bones. More on its history can be found here – https://sedlecossuary.com/
The other attraction in this town is the Cathedral of St. Barbara. This church is built in the signature Gothic style and is dedicated to the miners.
Our trip to Kutna Hora also included a tour of the Czech Museum of Silver, a 250-meter medieval mining tunnel. I skipped this tour due to claustrophobia but my friends who went down the tunnel found it to be quite an enjoyable experience.
The Chocolate Museum which is within walking distance from the mines is only just a little shop selling a limited variety of chocolate and can be easily skipped. Instead, one can walk down the pretty cobbled streets and sample some of Prague’s best beer and pastries.
Interesting fact – Major parts of the Hollywood movie, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables were shot in the little town of Kutna Hora.
Karlovy Vary – Our second-day trip was at a distance of 2 hours (126 km) from Prague City.
With twelve hot thermal springs, Karlovy Vary or Carlsbad in the West Bohemian regions of Prague is understandably known as the Spa Town. Packed to the brim with tourists, every little souvenir shop here sells spouted ceramic containers which are then bought by tourists and used to fill the sulfurous spring water that apparently has healing properties.
The town itself is in the center of the lush Tepla valley and has an impressive baroque architecture with tall colonnades that surround the spas – very reminiscent of its past cultural glory.
Recently, many luxurious hotels and tourist-friendly restaurants have sprung up on either side of the springs. About 100 meters from the hot spring, is the 17th century Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The church houses a baroque tabernacle which was declared a national monument in 2010.
We also visited the Jan Becher Museum, where we acquired some true blue knowledge of the origins of Prague’s famous Bercherovka herbal liqueur, which I confess I knew nothing about until I visited Karlovy Vary.
The short tour ended with a liqueur tasting session which predictably led to all of us buying a whole lot of Bercherovka. The rest of the holiday sure was merry.
Our last stop in Karlovy Vary was the famed Moser Glass Museum.
The tour included a visit to the factory where we saw skilled workers bringing to life beautiful designs in colored glass.
Exquisite finished Moser crystal pieces are displayed for sale in the adjacent shop. More glass figurines and art pieces are exhibited on the grounds of the museum.
Every intricate design is hand-made and hand engraved with extraordinary precision and expertise.
Cesky Krumlov – Our third visit out of the city was to this beautiful renaissance town that is 175 km south of Prague city. Took us 2 hrs, 30 mins to get there, but the long drive was worth it when we laid eyes on the stunning panorama that awaited us.
In the midst of the 11-hectare garden lies the 13th-century castle which according to tourists guides is the main attraction here. But the spectacular views that surround the castle beat the castle tour unless of course, you’re a die-hard history buff. I’m not, so I spent most of my time taking in the views.
The castle meanwhile, has a chapel, and spacious suites carefully preserved to remind visitors that royalty once lived there. There is also a unique masquerade hall on the ground floor – quite easy to imagine masked royals swirling on the dance floor, engaged in romance, intrigue, and scandal.
Thanks to our charming guide Bianca, we got to taste some authentic Czech food at the Svejk Restaurant – a small cozy place just a few steps down the road from the castle. We had the roasted pork ribs with piquant honey marinade, the duck with rosehip sauce, red cabbage, and home-made dumplings. Washed it all down with glasses of rose wine and dark beer. Truly an amazing ending to our four day Prague itinerary.
Travel Tips: There are some stories and legends only the locals know, so it’s a good idea to have a local guide around to make things more interesting.
Also, do stop at one or two local supermarkets on the way. It’s the best way to pick up local beer and wine unique to the region.
You always have the option of staying overnight in any of these places, but if you don’t want to, you can make it back by evening and live it up in Prague City.